A clash between Israel and Syrian and Iranian forces close to the Jewish state’s northern border threatens to open a new phase in the multi-front Civil War that has pitted an alliance of Syria. Iran, and Russia against a coalition of Kurdish and Arab rebels backed by the United States and an alliance of moderate Arab states. ISIS and Turkey are also players in the complicated conflict.

Iranian drone violates Israeli airspace

The escalation started when an Iranian drone, apparently copied from a captured American model, violated Israeli airspace and was shot down.

Israel launched a series of air strikes at both Syrian and Iranian targets in retaliation. An Israeli F-16 was shot down, the first such casualty since the early 1980s. The pilot parachuted to safety and was recovered by an air rescue unit.

Israeli air defense batteries moved to the Syrian border

Besides launching air strikes, Israel has moved air defense batteries to the border with Syria. The batteries would defend Israeli territory from the surface to surface missiles launched by Syria, Iranian, or Hezbollah, a terrorist army supported by the two countries. The air defenses have also proven effective in intercepting ground to air missiles launched against Israeli aircraft.

What happens next?

The next step will be determined by whether the Syrian, Iranian, Russian alliance chooses to deescalate against Israel or not. Iran has vowed to destroy Israel. Its nuclear weapons and missile programs are designed to accomplish this goal. However. Neither Syrian nor Russian interests would be served by a massive Israeli intervention in the ongoing conflict.

Russia would like to establish Syria as a client state that will help the former super power’s imperial ambitions. Neither Syria, which has been depleted by civil war nor the Russian forces in the region, could stand up to an Israeli attack. The goals of those two countries are more limited than that of Iran.

American interests may or may not be served by Israeli intervention.

The original goal of the United States in Syria, to destroy the ISIS Islamic State, have been all but met. America would like to see the current Syrian regime, run by Bashir Assad, replaced with a more moderate, presumably democratic government. However, experience in countries such as Iraq has proven that such a goal in a Middle Eastern country may be better articulated than accomplished.

However, at the very least, Israel, the United States, and the moderate Arab states would like to see Iranian influence in Syria expunged. An Israeli attack might help to accomplish that objective.