Are Iran and Israel Headed for Their First Direct War?

So far they’ve fought in the shadows, through proxies, assassination squads and cyber-virus attacks. That may be about to change.


Comments: 225

  1. Thank goodness none of this matters to the United States.

    What happens in Israel, Syria and Iran is none of my concern. Let them live together in peace - or not.

    The citizens of this country are not well served by permanent war. Wars that are ill-defined and lack an end goal. Wars that have no exit.

    The first step in ending the wars is not entering into additional wars. Let the rest of the world worry about their own security. Let's use our massive, extremely expensive, war-machine to protect the borders.

  2. WillT26 - This is 2018 not 200 years ago. Security in the Middle East impacts the world. And, lest we forget, diplomacy should be the first and foremost projection of American and allied efforts. Sending the military limits, not maximizes, our options.

  3. Wrong! A strong and healthy Israel is vitally important for both the USA and the so called Judeo-Christian civilization. With all its faults and with its currently (disgustingly) rightwing politics, Israel is the only (almost) Western-style democracy in the Middle-East. We must support and defend Israel.

  4. What about supporting humanitarian efforts, both helping with the constant outflow of displaced migrants, and financial support for organizations that help in many ways.

    By all legitimate measures, our borders actually seem pretty secure these days. Further explosions of migrants throughout the ME, and the world, are a much bigger threat to 'our borders' than those caravans moving at snail's pace north to Mexico City. Last I checked, that place is not part of the US. Sheesh.

  5. Interesting and informative article, Mr Friedman, but there are at least two glaring omissions in your analysis. How will tearing up the nuclear agreement with Iran affect the Iranian leadership? And how can John Bolton's strident call for regime change in Iran induce them to seek a peaceful resolution with Israel. None of this bodes well for either the region or the world. Fasten our seat belts? Head for our bomb shelters is more like it.

  6. There is nothing that the West can do to make Iran want to seek peace with Israel other than regime change. If they wanted to have a prosperous economy and peace with their neighbours they would stop funding, arming and training proxy forces throughout the Middle East and just make peace.

    Its hard for us in the West to comprehend that some people/leadership prefer to have conflict in order to win using violence but c'est la vie.

  7. One can trace all of the current Middle East power plays to the first President to stand in front of a "Mission Accomplished" banner. That misbegotten war has unintended consequences that will last many lifetimes. And while those consequences may be unintended they were not unforeseen.

  8. The origins of the issue go far far back before the ' Mission Accomplished' scenario. I could list dozens of examples, but you can do your own research.

  9. How odd in retrospect: “mission accomplished” smashed the secular government of tyrant Saddam Hussein and unleashed religious revenge of the Shia majority against their Sunni oppressors. Odd because W used the context of 9/11 where radical Saudi Sunnis attacked America. Yet here we are, holding hands and arming Saudi Arabia, here we are assisting the massacre of Yemen. Odd to witness the Sunni Al Qaeda, Sunni ISIS mayhem and terror and widespread blame for terror to Iran and shielding Saudi Arabia.
    Al Qaeda and ISIS have distracted the world from the plight of Palestinians who are all Sunnis yet we read about Hezbollah a Shia organization cooperating with Sunni Hamas. Interesting.
    Most interesting: Iran and Russia allied in Syria. Only 10% of Russian Muslims are Shia. What is Putin’s motive regarding his domestic policies? Syria is primarily Sunni as is Turkey yet we are led to believe that Iran is doing little to defeat Sunni ISIS in Syria but is instead looking to Israel?
    Israel’s problem is Palestinian oppression. Israel seizes Palestinian territory, builds a wall, and has an air war against ghettoized Palestinians who do not have an airport? Shouldn’t we be focused on the Palestinians? Try surveying all Muslims and ask: What is the number one problem in the Middle East? Theocracy or Palestinians?

  10. Nonsense.

    This goes back to the birth of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

    This goes back to Zionists, jihadists and crusaders.

    This goes back to Arabs, Europeans, Kurds, Persians and Turks.

    This goes back to colonialism and world war.

    This goes back to fossil fuels.

    This goes back to vertebrate mammal primate apes.

  11. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/15/opinion/war-syria-iran-israel.html

    April 15, 2018

    The Real Next War in Syria: Iran vs. Israel
    By Thomas L. Friedman

    Iran’s elite Quds Force is trying to use Syria as a base to pressure Israel. Israel is not going to stand for it.

    [ There is no shred of evidence that this is true, that Iran is trying to use Syria as a base to pressure Israel. Why try to provoke a war? Why not write to encourage peace? ]

  12. I guess we all must be misinterpreting the intentions behind the annual "Death to Israel" rallies, organized by the government and attended by thousands, in Tehran!

  13. Iran wants Israel destroyed. Iranians chant "Death to Israel."

    Iran has paraded a missile with the sign 'Death to Israel' attached to it during a huge military parade

  14. How come this column does not mention Saudi Arabia? They will not likely stand by while Iran occupies Syria. Very possible we will see a shooting war there with many countries involves. As usual the middle east is a tinder box and America needs to step up or we may find ourselves with WW3

  15. This has been brewing for a long time. Why now? I guess the Iranians figure they have Assad in hand with Putin keeping the rest of us occupied. This is where tump is a wildcard. He will not back down from Iran or Putin on this. Trump already wants to bomb Iran's nuclear program and a land war in Syria pitting Israel and Iran as the opponents will be the perfect excuse.

  16. It’s easy to understand Israel’s unease about Syria as an Iranian launch pad. It’s also easy to see that Assad won’t survive a full scale Israel-Iran war. Syria will become simply a no-man’s land between the Israel-Iran hot war, run by gangs and mobsters. Iran’s nuclear capacity will be bombed into dust. Russia isn’t going to sit and watch, and the Allies won’t watch Russia bomb Israel.

    Good chance for WW III, eh? All begun by Iran lighting the match.

  17. "Iran claims it is setting up bases in Syria to protect it from Israel, but Israel has no designs on Syria; it actually prefers the devil it knows there — Assad — over chaos."

    In other words, Mr. Friedman, you're suggesting that Israel might interfere in Syria on Assad's behalf?

  18. There was a time when kings were honorable, and they would sometimes agree to single-handed combat--just the two of them--to settle disputes with a minimum of bloodshed.

    So here's my idea. Trump could offer to settle his many, many disputes as a sumo wrestler. It's easy to visualize, no?

  19. Understood these two are not at the best of terms.

    However we must ask why is this our problem?

  20. Nuclear fall out knows no borders. You can’t just hold your breath and hope for a good outcome. More like WW3 than a regional conflict. John Bolton gets to go into hiding with the rest of these war hungry vermin.

  21. It would be a tragedy if the US took any more military action in the Mideast. I used to support Israel. Not anymore. Their treatment of the Palestinians is unconscionable.

  22. When the Palestinians stop building tunnels into Israel and stop attacking Israel, Israel will leave them alone. Don't forget that Israel completely pulled out of Gaza amny years ago.

  23. Are you aware of what the palestinians teach their children in school?

  24. Thanks Mr. Friedman for your update about "what's really going on" in the Middle East.
    A dangerous situation indeed. Israel will fight to the death to defend itself. And perhaps this Suelieman character cannot be contained. Maybe Russia can have some influence on Iran. Hard to say.

    My heart goes out to the Iranian people who don't want these wars anymore than the citizens of the US want continued wars.

    In the meantime ny seat belt is securely fastened.

  25. I think this article is written assuming that Israelis have honest intentions. They take any opportunity to show their military might. What about Nethanyahu's and Trump's political problems, how do they mix in with your story?

  26. ...it's that 'shiny object' concept yet again.

    That seems to be wearing thin. The Syria attack captured the news cycle for the better part of 24 hours, Saturday / the weekend, when many of the regular news shows are generally repeats from Friday.

    Monday morning with Cohen's hearing soon to take place, the focus will be back on trumpolini and his band of thieves.

    They couldn't even get that right.

  27. Remember Friedman's and Israel's cheer leading for a U.S. attack on Iraq, Israel's big enemy at the time, when every reasonable analyst knew there were no WMDs in Iraq. Let us not be led into attacking Iran to protect Israel. Nuclear armed Israel is entirely capable of protecting itself. All our misguided interventions in the middle east solve nothing, and Americans become targets of hate.

  28. Israel warned us against Iraq invasion, US official says
    Chief of staff of former secretary of state reveals that large number of senior Israeli officials warned Bush administration that invasion of Iraq would be destabilizing to region. 'The Israelis were telling us Iraq is not the enemy

  29. Israel played no role in either Iraq wars. Whether you are talking about the Persian Gulf War or the more recent one, Israel stayed neutral in both of them. They didn't even fight in the first one despite the number of chemical attacks Saddam Hussein did at them. Overall, neither Iraq wars were done for Israel.

  30. Israelis never viewed Iraq as a serious threat to its existence. Never. A danger, yes, but not an long-term threat, scud missile attacks notwithstanding. It was never a strong country. It's military has never been a concern. Since its 1978, It has been Iran that Israelis have viewed as an existential threat.

  31. Always keep in mind during the prelude to a large-scale war that many members of the media and political class, from both parties, take great enjoyment and pleasure in watching American troops march into battle. I'm not accusing Mr. Friedman of this but detached language like "round 1" and "fasten your seatbelt" are troubling. War is fun for many people as long as bombs are dropping over Westchester and Bethesda.

  32. Mr. Friedman correctly recognizes, as many of us do, that Israel will be forced to respond to ANY provocation from Iran and its proxies (Hamas, Hezbollah, et al.) that is threatening in the least.

    The weakening Iranian economy may enable young Iranians to take to the streets (as they have done a time or two in the recent past). This certainly bears a watchful eye from all of us in the West.

    As much as the US remains the Great Satan and Israel remains as the Little Satan, internal politics in Iran may determine how long Iran chooses to cast its lot with the Russians in Syria.

    This may be an opportunity for the Islamic Republic to fall without the US, its Allies, Israel, et al. directly intervening in Teheran.

    We certainly live in interesting times.

  33. Iran's presence in Syria and its seemingly blank-check support for Hezbollah are proof, if any were needed, that Iran is a bad actor. It does not follow from this that the Iran nuclear agreement should be abandoned, but it does mean that Americans should not look through rose-colored glasses at Iran. There is a tendency since Trump's election to see Iran that way. It is wrong. Our evil, corrupt president's enemy is not our friend. Our previous, non-evil president's non-enemy is also not our friend.

    Also, Friedman rationalizes Iran's actions in Lebanon in terms of internal politics. To dismiss the insane, fanatical hatred of Israel by the jihadist Iranian leadership as a driving cause of Iranian behavior in Syria and Lebanon is to dismiss an important fact, and to dismiss it is to lose the big picture.

  34. The evangelicals are just itching for a war between Israel and Iran. They will insist the US enter to protect Israel and Russia will enter to protect Iran. And the Christians won’t actually go to war, they are praying for Jesus to return and take them away. Somebody needs to take them away if they think they are capable of causing the second coming just because they want it to happen.

  35. You've got it wrong. It isn't the evangelicals; it's the Israel lobby in the U.S. They'll push the U.S. into war with Iran in Syria. Just you watch.

  36. How is it devout Christians believe their all-knowing God won’t notice they have rigged the situation to bring on the Rapture?

  37. There is no honest power broker in Middle East.
    The Sunnis,the Shias and the Israelis are all to be blamed in equal proportions . Add to this , the festering resentment of the Palestinians in being driven out of their homelands and being left in a limbo for decades.
    All this has been a catalyst for the upsurge in radical Islam and its terror offshoots.
    The result is that the entire world is paying for the intransigence of the few .

  38. Although not specifically mentioned here, Saudi Arabia and Israel have crawled into bed together in their mutual fear of Iran. Whether that fear is justified or not is beside the point. Both nations want Iran out of the picture.

    Israel has a tremendous military force, no doubt. Saudi Arabia has the money to bankroll the conflict. Add to this equation, Saudi Arabia has a new leader that is much more liberal and is more willing to ally with Israel if such an alliance is to the benefit of the Kingdom. The Palestinian issue has become an inconvenience. They have outlived their usefulness to them.

    As far as US leadership is concerned, we have an incompetent commander-in-chief whose administration is collapsing under its own weight of corruption, deceit and internal conflict. He's too busy fending off the FBI and his past sexual conquests. Something to do with the rule of law.

    It's all there folks. Now think about this. If the lid blows, there is no way Iraq can stay out as it is basically an Iranian proxy. Ditto Lebanon. They have literally tens of thousands of missiles at the ready.

    The Middle East has been marching toward a colossal Sunni/Shiite war for years now. That's why all these proxies have been put in place as opposing sides jockey for power.

    If Syria-Iran-Israel blows, the entire region blows. That's what we are dealing with here. Throw out your old maps. The cartographers will have much work to do.

  39. Remind me of Friedman's stance on regime change in Iraq. Wasn't he an advocate of what turned into a disaster? Israel knows how to care of itself.

  40. “But what is Iran doing in Syria?”
    Invited by Syria to fight ISIS, which was created by the US invasion of Iraq. You know the war you supported.

    Why are the Saudis in Syria with US support backing al Qaeda and other rebel terrorist groups such as the Army of Islam, who were holding hostages in cages in Douma?

    Why is the US supporting the Saudis bombing of Yemen causing massive famine, where we are supply arms such as cluster bombs. Yemen is facing the worlds worst famine, where millions could die.
    https://www.cnn.com/2017/11/09/middleeast/yemen-famine-saudi-arabia/inde...

  41. Could it be the Oil Banking and Defense Industries entanglements and corruption that binds America to a Medieval Theocratic Tyranny? How pervasive is the corruption?

  42. Iran will probably help Syria be whole again and regain territorial integrity after 7 years of civil war.
    After that there is the question of Syrian territory occupied and annexed by Israel to be settled. The international community has done nothing to bring about an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Golan Heights. One can hardly expect peace between Syria and Israel as long as the occupation continues. Maybe Iran's presence in Syria will eventually help promote a permanent peace in the Middle East.

  43. And The Trump Regime has been looking for an excuse to target Iran. And any old " reason " will do. Trump, Pompeo, Bolton and Mathis. The four horsemen of the Mideast Apocalypse. A chance to saber rattle and rally the Base. After all, what's a little death and destruction compared to losing the Midterms ??? Know the phrase " No guts, No glory " ??? Not applicable here. More like " No Brains, No Chance ". For Everyone. Seriously.

  44. "Unless Suleimani backs down, you are about to see in Syria an unstoppable force — Iran’s Quds Force — meet an immovable object: Israel."
    the article by Mr Friedman made salient points, but like so many op-eds and posts it takes only the last sentence to discredit itself in its entirety. as of now and foe the foreseeable future Israel is both unstoppable and immovable.

  45. The Quds force is far from unstoppable, more like puny especially far from their supply chain. It would be costly but they would be eliminated.

  46. I disagree. Hezbollahs seasoned fighters would most likely destroy IDF land forces as they did in Lebanon a decade ago. Israel’s advantage would be AirPower, which may be neutralized by Russian defenses. The US would of course be dragged in as Israel’s cats paw. Bad all around. Everyone breathe and back off.

  47. And into this hellish mix we have every assurance that the Trump administration is preparing to walk away from the Iran nuclear agreement of 2015. It would seem that Iran is baiting Donald Trump to do just that so that it can throw off the fetters of the agreement that stops it from developing a nuclear device.

    The quiet but looming force in the area is Israel, whose prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, directly lobbied the American Congress to defeat, if it could, President Obama's leadership in the six-nation coalition that took the growl out of the Iranian muzzle.
    But Trump, with the hawkish John Bolton and the Muslim-hating Michael Pompeo are set to direct American "foreign policy," the unhappy region is apparently getting ready for a real-time dress rehearsal for something we once thought not possible or credible in our lifetime: World War III.

    Israel has every right to defend its territory from foreign attack but this also gives a wayward American administration the "cover" it seeks to embed itself more deeply into a situation in which it simply cannot win. Perhaps this is really Israel's problem and they should solve it without American intervention, for, if Trump sends in U.S. troops, Israel won't, leaving us to, once again, fight others' battles.

    The wild card here is Donald Trump, a completely unstable individual whose currency is chaos at home and incoherence abroad. Once the Iran deal is dead, Israel can attack Iran preemptively. How does Trump respond?

  48. Respond to Israel defending itself, that would be either nothing or support.

  49. Do you really think Iran is fettered by Obama’s popcorn string handcuffs?

  50. Trump will respond by following orders issued by his trusted advisor and son-in-law, and by his major campaign donors , like in a Banana Republic .

  51. Mr.Friedman, your dispatches from the Middle East are both fascinating and frightening.We did not know that the Quds Force under Suleimani had such expansionist intentions.This adds to the toxic mix which is the Middle East.It is tragic that the young people in Iran and Syria have lived in war and turmoil for the first part of the 21st century and even now what do they have to look forward to.

  52. Janet ; Here is another of Tom Freidman`s articles on the situation in the Near East.

    In 2003, NYT`s journalist Thom Friedman counted 25 members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations saying, “if you had exiled them to a desert island a year and half ago, the Iraq war would not have happened”.

    The conclusion is that Only Israel benefited from the Iraq invasion. Ie It ended Iraq`s support for some measure of justice for the indigenous people of Palestine. Now these same people are pushing the US to do the same to Iran.

    It is time to change the US election campaign funding laws so that a lobby can no longer game the system & thereby control Congress against the interests of the nation.

  53. Mr Friedman I was not aware that you were a military analyst. Do you really think that Qasem Suleimani is not aware of Israel's air power. Notwithstanding the occasional air strike by Israel, I don't believe that there will be a major confrontation between Iran and Israel in the near future. Iranians are playing the long game and are very good at it.

  54. Not so sure you are right.
    I will say that about Putin.
    Just like China is behind North Korea Russia is behind Iran and these two countries can play a very long game.

  55. That long game is what Israel is willing to fight to disrupt, hence the point if this editorial.

  56. You might also mention that the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds are setting up to use eastern Syria to strengthen their war with Turkey, our NATO ally. The Kurds' goal is to unite all Kurdish lands into one Kurdistan. That includes parts of eastern Syria, northern Iraq, a significant portion of Turkey & a corner of Iran. If the Kurds enter into a war with Turkey, the NATO treaty demands that the United States ally with Turkey against the Kurds - the people who did the heavy lifting in driving ISIS from Mosul, Iraq and Rakka, Syria (which Trump takes total credit for, of course).

  57. If I recall, the State Department of the US counseled H. W. Bush not to destroy the Iraqi Republican Guards after the ill-fated invasion of Kuwait. They cited four basic reasons and HW let them free after they crossed back into Iraq. As we all know, the GOP couldn't forgive HW, and we ended up with Clinton. Later, HW's son GW "corrected" his father's mistake and the subsequent war fairly immediately caused three of the four predictions to come to pass. The fourth, the destabilization of Turkey because of the Kurds, is now finally happening as Beartooth describes.
    One of the earlier predictions, the reawakening of the millennium-old Shiite-Sunni conflict is now in full motion. Now that we have built up the power of Iran by removing Iraq, the real battle will be between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Trump seems bent on making certain that both sides will be nuclear armed as soon as possible.
    As far as I can see, any conflict with Israel pales in importance compared to the Shiite-Sunni conflict to come.

  58. Alrighty, another Middle East war , and with our new Trump Doctrine no diplomacy world view I'll be willing to bet there will be more American boots on the ground than any other country in the West, being we no longer have friends west of Jerusalem. Add that to our 2 to 3 trillion dollar war debt and 35 thousand American casualties we racked up the last 17 years.

  59. "Israel and Iran are now a hair-trigger away from going to the next level — and if that happens, the U.S. and Russia may find it difficult to stay out".
    That sounds ominous, I hope US will stay out of this impending WWIII. The strikes launched by the United States, Britain, and France against three chemical weapons storage and research facilities may not be enough reassurance for Israel, Israel is concerned about the Iranian buildup across its northern frontier. Iran is building a military infrastructure in Syria to create a land corridor to Lebanon to counter Israel, adding Iran's ability to strike quickly to deter Israel from attacking its nuclear facilities. There are enough reasons for Israel to worry about Iran, let Israel deal with Iran. USA should stay out of this mess.

  60. "Israel and Iran are now a hair-trigger away from going to the next level"

    It is only Israel that is on a hair-trigger. They took Friedman to the border and they foamed at the mouth for his benefit.

  61. The corridor you mention serves 2 purposes: 1. Advance Iran's objective to choke and destroy Israel , and 2. Build an oil pipe into and thru the Mediterranean going to Europe.

  62. How can an educated American criticize another country for wanting to extend its influence in its neighborhood?

    That said, I agree that Iran should not be exacerbating regional tensions by extending its military capabilities along Israel's border with Syria (like the US has been doing in trying to bring its missiles up to Russia's European border!). Israel's reaction is predictable, and there can be no other interpretation than that Iran means it as a threat.

    Although Iranians have generally celebrated Iran's victories in Iraq and Syria against ISIS, I doubt very much that they would support provoking a war with Israel. Everyone would suffer greatly, for no discernible gain.

    Iranians want to live in peaceful coexistence with their neighbors. I hope President Rouhani is able to prevail over his more aggressive colleagues in the government and military.

  63. Iran doesn't want peace but they can not afford an attack from Israel so they will not provoke Israel anymore than they have.
    That isn't being pro peace.
    It's being smart.

  64. In 2015, I wrote extensively as to why I was skeptical of the nuclear deal struck between Iran and six world powers, which included the US. I explained that those accusing President Obama of having failed to prevent a nuclear war in the short term were wrong, but so were those who failed to recognize that the treaty would increase instability and conventional wars. The entire treaty, while successful in attempting to limit nuclear war in the short term, rested on an unsupportable assumption that Iran's leadership was monolithic and unified when it was, (and remains), highly factionalized. I am no foreign policy expert, but it seemed obvious that the treaty gave expansionist elements in Iran's military, and specifically Suleimani and the Quds Force, a clear path to engage in massive conventional wars that would engulf the region. When I wrote about it here in the Times it was as welcome as a person at a house party who tries telling a bunch of self-congratulating people (who don't want to hear it) that while they may have stopped a gas-main leak, they've done it by starting electric fires burning inside the walls. The fact that the warmongering John Bolton is now National Security Advisor makes things infinitely worse. I take no solace in having been right, though reneging on the Iran treaty, however flawed, will only make things worse. Still, America needs to stay out of this. No matter how we intervene in the region it never seems to serve our interests, nor bring stability.

  65. Perhaps WWIII has already begun, driven by the long-standing Shia - Sunni rivalry in the region. Is it a matter of time until the major powers outside the region get dragged in to protect this or that regional interest?

    In a saner administration, the U.S. might have the patience to try multi-lateral diplomacy and finesse our way out of the region. That seems to have been Obama's path. He saw the no-win situation for what it was. And he could confront Putin in other venues where it mattered. With Trump, Bolton, and Pompeo, who knows what will happen?

  66. Surely you’re joking...multilateral diplomacy ? Have you missed the last 9 years ? We’ve been played for fools. This will be handled in a different way now- one that the thuggish regime in Tehran understands better

  67. .Start to worry when the armies mass around Megiddo

  68. The Gingham Dog and/or the Calico Cat wanting the U.S. to get into it with them. The only difference is that eating each other up will take forever and use up a lot of the resources we in this country need to help ourselves. Jimmy Carter as president has been severely criticized, but the only intervention that ended at the least in a cold peace was with his help, and it has lasted to this day. It may be an oversimplification of the current situation between Israel and everybody else there, but it's something. The next best thing is to invest in energy sources as alternatives to fossil fuels and state a determination to intervene only as peace broker and only when all of them announce a sincere intention of wanting peace.

  69. https://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/05/opinion/l-iraq-s-weapons-a-vital-inqu...

    Iraq's Weapons: A Vital Inquiry

    To the Editor:

    Thomas L. Friedman feels that it is not necessary to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to justify the war but only to ''preserve the credibility of the Bush team, the neocons, Tony Blair and the C.I.A.'' *

    No, Mr. Friedman, finding those weapons is necessary to preserve the open societies you claim are worth defending from the ''terrorism bubble.''

    Such societies will ultimately be more damaged by lying governments than by any amount of terrorism.

    You cannot defend an open society by rendering that society no longer open.

    * https://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/04/opinion/because-we-could.html

    JANE H. GRANT
    Pound Ridge, N.Y., June 4, 2003

  70. And your exact point is relative to the article??????

  71. This has little to do with WMD. Iran openly admits it is seeking to engage Israel, and already has attacked (in February, by armed drone) at least once.

  72. Actually Jane, I think the concluding paragraph from the 03/06/04 column spot on:

    "But my ultimate point is this: Finding Iraq's W.M.D.'s is necessary to preserve the credibility of the Bush team, the neocons, Tony Blair and the C.I.A. But rebuilding Iraq is necessary to win the war. I won't feel one whit more secure if we find Saddam's W.M.D.'s, because I never felt he would use them on us. But I will feel terribly insecure if we fail to put Iraq onto a progressive path. Because if that doesn't happen, the terrorism bubble will reinflate and bad things will follow. Mr. Bush's credibility rides on finding W.M.D.'s, but America's future, and the future of the Mideast, rides on our building a different Iraq. We must not forget that."

    Whether Iraq could have worked out differently we will never know, but I don't think Bush's failures disprove Friedman's analysis.

  73. There is something much bigger then meets the eye going on here. If Iran gets defeated in Syria which they will if they go up against Israel this could lead to many new developments. Firstly it would mean the fall of Assad and Russia would have to reconsider its plans for having a base in Syria. The Kurds would emerge as an Independent State. Hezballah would lose its major benefactor and thus be weakened. And lastly the people of Iran would see the Quods force lose their standing and may feel empowered enough to overthrow the evil powers ruling over them. Israel does need the backing of America,France and Britain but once and for all Assad, the Ayatollahs in Iran and there benefactor Russia will be handed a crushing defeat and Iran will not get its hands on a nuclear weapons. This isn't wishful thinking but can happen if there would be a clear plan between the democratic countries and Israel. The world can't let evil triumph.

  74. But who is the evil one here. Is it the nation transplanted by UN and stupid English Balfour or the native descendant of the Phillistines. Review your history on British and French Colonialism of ME, Africa, Vietnam, Indonesia, China, et al.

  75. Good strategy. Start maneuvers to allow the other side to cannibalize their current amigos.

  76. Unfortunately Henry, this would be yet another 'slam dunk' fail in warfare - Afghanistan? It all sounds great on paper and we have the biggest and the best guns, but you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Ensuing chaos and enduring warfare are the likeliest outcomes to the Israeli slam dunk plan. Unless we all go nuclear of course, then all bets are off.

  77. "After all, even before this, many average Iranians were publicly asking what in the world is Iran doing spending billions of dollars — which were supposed to go to Iranians as a result of the lifting of sanctions from the Iran nuclear deal — fighting wars in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen."
    Excellent point. Suleimani certainly does not represent the wishes and desires of the Iranian people.

  78. My hope is that the powerful creativity and intelligence of the Iranian people--women and men-- will someday be set free from a brutal, militaristic theocracy bent on the destruction of the Jews.

  79. A war between Israel and Iran in Syria may be limited, if it remains in Syria and if Russia and the United States do not intervene. As a result of 9/11, The U.S. has been fighting wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Syria. The first two have been limited wars, but the one in Syria threatens to be a war which draws in at least four nations--Israel, Iran, Russia, and the United States and become unlimited.

    The great military theorist and historian, Carl von Clausewitz, declared that the first rule of war should be for the political leaders to establish their aims. Donald Trump is reluctant to think about war aims, let alone announce them. Congress should demand that he do so.

  80. Just saw Jodi Ernst addressing the Syrian issue, although not this specific threat. She danced round holding Trump's feet to the fire. Don't expect anything out of this self centric lackeys.

  81. "Donald Trump is reluctant to think about war aims, let alone announce them."

    The US has been in Syria long enough to destroy the place, and Libya too. That has been years. Did we EVER have war aims? Do we in Afghanistan after 17 years?

    The problem is not the one man. The problem is The Blob which has elevated the method of war everywhere without any articulable war aims.

    We have a much bigger problem than just one man.

  82. It seems that one aim of such long engagements is war itself - the military-industrial complex tips its hat.

  83. Ever since I can remember the ME has been in chaos, so it would seem after over almost half a century that chaos is the policy choice. In addition the process is turning nation states back into tribal areas, reversing the British and French initiatives in making them nation states in the first place. Why nothing ever gets solved is no one is interested in solving anything. Weak tribal states is the goal, one day we will get there.

  84. If Iran and Israel go to war, Israelis will support every possible measure to defend its cities and fields. Iranians, long wary of foreign involvements and the mounting death toll of Iranian soldiers in Lebanon and Syria, may find completely unacceptable the loss of far more treasure and life fighting an enemy so far from their borders. Taking on Israel in an offensive war is not the same as defending Iran against the invading armies of Saddam Hussein. In attacking Israel directly, the mullahs are gambling not only with considerable military losses; they will be risking a regime change led by their own citizens.

  85. They are already at war.

  86. Although I am appreciative of the information and insight that Friedman presents about the military confrontations between Israel & Iran within Syria, the rest of the column is overblown. The two sides can engage in this military sparring for a long time, without either one (or any other power) feeling especially compelled to see it escalate. Elements in Iran may well aspire to greater dominance in the Arab world (where the real fight is generally between Shiite & Sunni factions) by some maneuvers against Israel, but there is nothing of great value to be gained by Iran or Suleimani in a winner-take-all conflagration. Israel may be fearful of Iran developing nuclear arms & moving them closer to Israel (remember Netanyahu's UN speech, with the graphic of an old-fashioned bomb & lines drawn across it for progress toward an Iranian nuclear weapon), but the reality is, none of that does much for Iran. Iran's target is certainly most Middle Eastern capitals, but Jerusalem is on the bottom of the list, not the top. Sparring with Israel has indirect purposes for Iran, and that's what this column obscures with its hyperventilating.

  87. The War was and is Sunni vs Shia. The United States has exploited this for Natural resources and to maintain our economic power. The Interesting development is the Israelis. They, if everyone should by now understand, will bend to no one when it comes to their own national security are a back channel ally to which many countries are going to behind the diplomacy. Rest assured that Israel will not let Iran call the shots in Syria and they most definitely will attack Iran when they attain a nuclear weapon. That latter is a near certainty.

  88. Because the U.S., British and French attack on Syria to punish its regime for its vile use of chemical weapons — and Russia’s vow to respond — is actually just the second-most dangerous confrontation . . . Israel and Iran have begun quietly trading blows directly, not through proxies, in Syria."

    That is incorrect, in a way that misses the real danger.

    The US, Britain, and France attacked, but there has not (yet) been any response. The danger sits there as potential. It is not over.

    Will we get away with it? We kept the attack small to try to slide by. The Russians have said they will respond, but not how or when. The British are freaking out in expectation of a cyberattack on their infrastucture, and claim a Russian sub stalked one of theirs. Will it blow over?

    Likewise Israel has been killing Iranians (again) but Iran has not hit back (yet). Will Iran kill any Israelis? Will there be actual fight back? That is the same question as with Russia.

    So why is the possibility Russia will fight back so much less dangerous than that Iran will fight back? Friedman is just more sensitive to any harm to Israel?

    So far it is all one way. Russia and Iran both have just taken it. No fight back, just words.

    What will happen? Anything? When?

    That remains an open question, and not just whether Israel will be one of the targets.

  89. Russian submarines ALWAYS try to stalk those of the NATO countries.

    The end of the Cold War did not stop THAT practice.

    It's a cat-and-mouse game every time a missile carrying submarine leaves port...

    And since ALL NATO submarines carry missile in one form or another, as many of them as can be tracked WILL be tracked.

    And rest assured, we do the same to the Russian and Chinese fleets of submarines...It is the essense of submarine warfare these days.

  90. It has always been a bitter irony to me that the same people who are so distressed by Iran are mostly the same ones that handed Iran its greatest strategic victory in a thousand years by championing the overthrow of Saddam.

    The most formidable military strategist the US has faced, Qassem Suleimani, since General Giap 50 years ago, had to have been in a state of shock as the US removed Saddam and the Republican guards and installed a virtual client of the Quds force, Nouri Al- Maliki.

    Thus, without firing a shot, Suleimani was able to enter Iraq and establish training and intelligence links. A bitter wonder indeed.

  91. Suleimani fired many shots.
    He is responsible for hundreds of dead American soldiers.

  92. They are going step by step to achieve everything they planned 20 years ago.

    It's their Project for a New American Century, and since we are living through it, you might as well read up on it.

    https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2008/1/27/444438/-

  93. My own sense is that if a war happens, even as proxies in Syria, we in the West might be treated to the hilarious prospect of Israel going to war with the Saudis and other Sunni powers, such as Egypt, as allies. Make sure you stock up on popcorn.

    One of Tom’s articles on this subject saw Syria as the prodding-ground for this antipathy, where Israel and Iran might poke at one another in a manner very like a safety-valve, without either needing to commit itself to serious war. If however the remnants of Sunni tribal powers that survive Assad’s chemicals and Russia’s attacks can survive in defensible enclaves anywhere near the Golan Heights, it’s quite possible that some Shia-Sunni equilibrium will be established. If that happens, isn’t it more likely that the safety-valve will survive as well and all-out war avoided? Ultimately, this would be in Russia’s interests as well, since extreme pressure on such tribes, at some point, will send out the most extreme among them to wherever ELSE they might wage jihad – such as the sympathetic elements of the Russian Federation.

    Consider as well Iran’s strategic interests. Israel has no designs on them or on Syria. To spark major confrontation when Iran’s real enemies are major Sunni states, which would sit on their hands and gleefully watch Israel pulverize Iran’s military capacities in Syria, would not redound to those strategic interests.

    I suspect we might see a sophisticated face-saving exercise by Iran, and not actual war.

  94. Hope you are correct but this assumes that Iran is a rational actor. War might well be a diversion from internal problems.

  95. I don' think Turkey would standby Iran's expansion into Syria which would put Iran on 2 borders with Turkey when presently it is east only. Would Turkey reciprocate and allow Israel to expand its bases there? Israel would need to expand its launching sites as a deterrent.

  96. The Turkish border with Iran today is fairly short and relatively easy to defend by a well-trained and disciplined Turkish Army.

    Also, even though there are political difficulties with the West, Turkey IS a member of NATO, and that fact will not go unnoticed in either Damascus or Tehran.

  97. Don't forget that Erdogan, a few days ago called for an all out war against Israel of ALL Muslim nations....

  98. Iran I spoke clearly involved in Syria in order to spread its influence and cause trouble with Israel. The Israelis are clearly justified in being concerned about Iran's presence in Syria.

    Mr Friedman should have noted that Israel has the capabilities to hit Iran hard - not only Iranian forces in Syria but Iran itself.

    It doesn't get much attention but Israel has been substantially beefing up its fleet of submarines over the past few years. These submarines can spend considerable time in the Persian Gulf.

    I doubt the IDF has been investing in these subs in order to study deep sea coral.

  99. Israel has six submarines and they are sorely needed in any full on war to protect merchant shipping to Israel which is dependent on shipping to survive.

  100. They need them for defense against the submarines that the Arabs have.

  101. The submarines are part of its nuclear (second)strike force. Another reason for wondering about the hysterical Israeli reaction to any change in the Middle East that it does not control.

  102. One of the more frightening aspects of any war between Iran and Israel is the fact that it will once again involve the U.S., since Israel continues to be viewed as an ally and a significant amout of its foreign aid and military hardware is supplied by this country.
    And should Israel rise to defend itself, which doubtless it will -- that will involve the U.S. all the more deepely in a Syrian conflict that shows no sign of stopping.

  103. Let me ask this question, N. Smith...

    Why shouldn't the United States be supportive of the Israeli response?

    After all, wasn't it Barack Obama's detachment and fear of "doing something stupid" that has allowed the situation in Syria, with the assistance of Iran, to metastasize into the mess that we are currently facing?

    One thing HAS changed, and it should be important to the calculus of both Syria and Iran, and to a slightly lesser degree of Russia...the current President of the United States is more willing to act than the last one.

  104. The United States has no history of fighting for Israel.
    Why mention it.

  105. It seems to me that Mr. Friedman's narrative offers more, not less, argumentation for retaining the Iran nuclear agreement intact. Demolishing it would greatly and still further exacerbate the regional instability which is already more than unstable enough.

  106. You mean putting off Iran's desire to build a nuclear weapon for 10 years to destroy Israel and thereby murder another six million Jews, in return for allowing it in the meantime to develop its ICBM warhead delivery capabilities unfettered, $150 billion in cash supposedly owed the mullahs no questions asked, and no restrictions on nuclear research and modernizing its centrifuges that can be reset quickly to generate enough fissile material to build a nuclear bomb? And whatever restraints Iran is under now, expire in ten years? That nuclear agreement?

  107. Glad to see some coverage of this at last in the NYT; not sure why it has ignored this til now. An additional unknown is just what Russia will do to aid Iran in Syria (and Lebanon to some degree). So it’s not just Iran that Israel will have to face but Russia as well.

    And the US should indeed care about this unless they wish to see the Middle East be controlled by Iran and Russia. I’d hope it would also care about its ally Israel as well as other moderate Arab countries in the region.

  108. The real answer to all Middle East problems is to stop the money by:

    1. Stop relying on oil. If the West didn’t need it, these countries won’t be worth fighting for. Invest in renewables and nuclear.

    2. Invest in technology. Qantas just started flights from Perth to London. If I could do Sydney to London direct then the dollars flowing to Emirates, Qatar Airways etc and the corresponding stop over spending would disappear.

  109. No investment is necessary to avoid Dubai or Qatar. Change planes in Singapore or India. They’re fully up to the job.

  110. The media needs to focus more on real issues and real events as opposed the Baby Trump's histrionics and weak ego.

  111. Both Iran and Russia have very weak domestic economies and precarious international financial positions. This is the leverage point where US power should be focused.

    The proper US response in Syria is to augment its insurgent war against both ISIS and Assad regime forces so as to force Iran to spend even more money in Syria. The US, by arming and strengthening insurgent forces of the 70 percent of Syrians who are Sunnis and detest Assad and his Iranian backers, could dramatically increase the cost to both Russia and Iran of sustaining their presence in Syria.

  112. That's an effective idea, indeed. The sad part is there is a real war there. People are dying. Lives are being destroyed. Families are tearing apart. Refugees are fleeing to other countries. Yet, we are talking about who should defeat whom and how.

  113. "the 70 percent of Syrians who are Sunnis and detest Assad"

    While 70% of Syria is Sunni, they do not all detest Assad. Some are on his side.

    Which ones side with Assad? The secular ones. The ones we like best.

    Which ones hate him? The jihadi crazies we fight everywhere else, but arm and help in Syria.

    What is the split among Sunnis? Near half. And the other 30% sees Assad as their only protection from Sunni extremists.

    This helps explain why a large part of Assad's army is Sunni, and why the Sunni population of his capital is peaceful.

    The idea that all the Sunnis hate Assad is jihadi propaganda funded out of Saudi Arabia, the same place that paid for bin Laden to attack us.

  114. The Sunni population of Syria has been reduced significantly via govt- and Iranian-directed killing and expulsion.

  115. First off, Israel does not share a border with Syria. The Golan Heights is internationally recognized as being an intrinsic part of the latter country. Israel has been occupying that region since 1967 and has no more lawful claim to it than it does to Gaza or the West Bank. In any case, I'd be awfully surprised if the Quds Force actually did take on the Israelis. Iran is used to attacking Israel via their running dogs in Lebanon. The Israelis would make mincemeat of them in a direct combat situation (even if Hezbollah jumped into the fray) and wouldn't need to unleash their nuclear arsenal to do so. Russia would steer clear of the whole business and the U.S. would have no reason to intervene except for a few supportive tweets by The Stable Genius on behalf of his friend, Bibi.

  116. You neglect to mention why the Golan was occupied. Did Israel instigate a war against Syria or did it nearly loose a war that was instigated by Syria? Prior to the "occupation", the Israelis were subjected to sporadic missile attacks which were launched from the Golan. They grew tired of it.
    Don't confuse the Palestinian issue or the occupation of the West bank or Gaza with the occupation of the Golan, presently justified on grounds of security. Assad, or previously his father, never cared for the Palestinians and therefore, never had any justification to wage war in the first place. Neither Netanyahu nor Trump were in power when this situation took hold decades ago.
    Lastly, ask the average Druze - Christian natives of the Golan - in which country they would rather live. The Golan should remain in Israel until there are better times in Syria.
    Having the Iranians in Syria - now - is a clear and present danger to the entire region.

  117. Of course Israel has a border with Syria. If you discount the Golan, there's the armistice line from 1949.

  118. Before the Six Day War, Israel had no intentions to occupy the Golan Heights. The only reason they did was because during the that war they were attacked from that land. They felt that the only way to prevent further attacks was to annex it so that they wouldn't have to live in that fear anymore. Either way, Israel won that war and the land is now legally their's. Keep in mind that the winner of the war gets to decide what happens to to the land especially if they won it. However, Israel is more than willing to give it back to Syria in exchange for peace and knowing that no further attacks will be done from that land again either by their military or even from Hezbollah. One of the biggest fears is that there is a hill in the Golan Heights that overlooks everything to the west and can be used as a launch pad for either the Syrian military or Hezbollah to make attack at Israel. One suggestion was that Israel keeps the land includes that said terrain to make sure that will never be the case as Resolution 242 never said that Israel must return all of that land to begin with. One other thing is that land is full of Druze who fear that returning to Syria would mean that they would lose the freedom that they have under Israel, so in a way, they may not want that land to be returned to a country that once oppressed them. Seeing what happened after Israel did unilateral withdraws of both the Good Fence in 2000 and the Gaza Strip in 2005 shows that they can't do this again.

  119. Mr. Friedman may have it backwards as to which state (s) is belligerent. Iran isn't using Syria as a base, the West is, as a stepping stone into Iran. His argument appears counter-factual. And what does he mean by "the real next war in Syria?" There is a real war there right now, waged by the US, UK and France, with Israel playing a very central but largely covert role. If Mr. Friedman included the larger strategic plan that is driving US operations there--a "re-zoning" of Middle East real estate and a drive to energy hegemony--his argument would be self-amortizing.

  120. I think we can now better understand why Iran signed the nuclear deal.

    Giving up on nuclear and gaining relief from sanctions allowed them to build out their conventional forces, and it's helping to fund operations in Syria now.

  121. So Iran would be worse off if Israel had no nuclear monopoly?

  122. Another brilliant move by Obama, along with agreeing that Iran could forbid any inspections at any location they decided to label a "military instillation". Just sparkling.

  123. You forgot Iraq which now is Shia Muslim and allied with Iran. So to begin with it will be a war between Israel and Iran and Iraq. Strangely enough Israel supported the invasion of Iraq. I don't think the Iranians see Israel as other than the US. Since the Iranians refused to accept the dictator US had given them, the Shah of Iran, the US has continuously punished them. First by supporting Iraq and Saddam Hussein in the war against Iran. Even giving Iraq weapons of mass destruction, i.e. chemical weapons to use against Iran. Second by numerous sanctions. As Mr. Friedman said buckle up for WWIII. Time for both Iran and Israel to cool down and start communicating with each other. Remember as a starter that there are Synagogues in Iran but not in Saudi Arabia.

  124. The piece specifically refers to Baghdad as one of the capitals that Iran controls, but that doesn't necessarily mean that Iraq would join in an Iranian confrontation with Israel.

  125. Iran allows synagogues but calls for Israel’s destruction and repeatedly opposes negotiations between Israel and the Paledtinians

  126. Israel warned us against Iraq invasion, US official says
    Chief of staff of former secretary of state reveals that large number of senior Israeli officials warned Bush administration that invasion of Iraq would be destabilizing to region.

    Yitzhak Benhorin| Published: 01.09.07 , 10:22

  127. I knew if we did strike Syria when President Barack Obama was President about the Chemicals used against the people there that our troops would be at risk because of possible boots on the ground.

    President Donald Trump did strike with Missiles there on Friday, April 13, 2018 before Midnight Eastern Time.

    But while we are experiencing a quick resolve where now we are going forward with our allies when it comes to chemical weapons. If a country has them or not there's still the nukes. But there is no justification for either type of weapon. Unless, the U.S. and it's Allies are attacked. Sometimes we won't know that because it's always preventable with Diplomacy. That of which there is no patience for countries that side with one another to attack the U.S. and it's Allies. There is no time to stop a war unless both sides and all sides agree that weapons of mass destruction have no place now at the hands of ISIL and terrorist countries.

  128. " Unless, the U.S. and it's Allies are attacked. Sometimes we won't know that because it's always preventable with Diplomacy."

    And how did "Diplomacy" work at Pearl Harbor? Maybe not "always"?

  129. Iran the biggest occupying power? How do you figure that? The only countries they have any military presence in are those that literally invited them. Definitely not the definition of occupying power I'm familiar with.

  130. Don’t kid yourself. The “invitations” were issued at gun point.

  131. Iraq invited Iran to occupy it? Yemen invited Iran to occupy it? The Syrian people invited Iran to occupy their country? You really believe this?

  132. That was my reaction to the word "occupying" as well, that it's misleadingly hyperbolic.

    We disastrously occupied Iraq after illegally invading it and destroying its economy and civil government. Israel has literally and virtually occupied land taken by force in 1967, resettling much of it with its own growing population.

    Military forces of an allied neighbor nation that enter and remain by invitation of the host government (even one as despicable as Assad's) cannot honestly be referred to as occupying the host country.

  133. We still need to be friendly with Iran. We have held this grudge against them for far too long. Every time we get a Republican presidents want to destroy diplomacy with Iran. Just because we once had a revolution doesn't make it the path for freedom or good government.What happened to our state department? There seems to be very little communication in our world. Fear leads to war and everybody loses in wars even the retailers that sell the weapons for profits.

  134. Dennis:
    You have missed the point. The only loses are imposed on the ordinary people, and the grunts who lose their lives.

    The arms manufactures who pay the politicians make fantastic money.

  135. We’re not the ones holding a grudge.
    “Friendliness” with a regime that regularly holds “Death to America” rallies will be both unrequited and exploited. The Iranian regime proudly defines itself as our enemy. Unfriendliness on our part has nothing to do with it.

  136. Israel would have been better off with chaos in Syria than an Assad victory. If Assad lost, the various rebel groups would pick up the fight -- fighting between themselves -- and it would be too difficult for Iran to establish a reliable and secure foothold in Syria. And it would have lost a direct connection to Lebanon.

  137. Too late. Iran already has a secure foothold in southern Syria and has already declared war on Israel on 3 fronts.- in fact, years ago.

    Most of the above posts are truly frightening in their ignorance of the Iranian motives for hegemony and war against the "infidel". Perhaps the economic downslide in Iran alluded to by Mr Friedman will diminish Iranian illusions of grandeur, despite the boost provided by the billions in sanction relief.

  138. Who is responsible for the escalation of Iran/Israel tensions? IMO, the current administration’s unconditional support for unfettered Israeli expansion has emboldened Israel to adopt a more aggressive military policy, which necessitated Iran to respond, in the manner you describe, to a perceived existential threat to their internal security.
    To wit, the administration’s opposition to the Iranian nuclear treaty, recognizing Jerusalem as the legitimate capital of Israel, and the appointment of John Bolton, a long-time advocate for Israeli expansion, to head the NSA.

  139. Where is Israel expanding, please?

  140. "Every Muslim who does not want to fight Israel is violating religious law..."

    Mohammad Dehghan - Member of the Majlis Executive Committee

    "The destruction of Israel is the idea of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and is one of the pillars of the Iranian Islamic regime. We cannot claim that we have no intention of going to war with Israel!"

    Ahmad Alamolhoda - Member of the Assembly of Experts

  141. What an outrageous contortion of history and motive.

  142. Mr. Friedman, the situation is exactly as dangerous as you describe. But how did it get to this situation? Are Iran's 'forward defences' not the direct result of U.S. foreign policy that tried to weaken and finally conquer Iran through the falling dominoes of Iraq, Libya, Syrian and Afghanistan?

    U.S.-Israeli foreign policy is based entirely on misinformation. Israel's top military brass and security chiefs have stated repeatedly that Iran is not the 'existential threat' claimed by vote-seeking Netanyahu, and that the Iranian regime is 'rational'. This would reinforce the argument that Iran's build-up of forward defences is designed purely to deter an Israeli attack.

    But you are right, Mr. Friedman, if Israel seeks to destroy Iran's 'forward deterrents' there is an increasing possibility of a much wider war. To repeat the abhorrent phrase used by Nikki Haley at the U.N., Iran's defences are also 'locked and loaded', strengthened by over 4 decades of U.S.-Israeli-Saudi animosity beginning with the Iraq's Western-supported Iraqi invasion of Iran in 1980. Iran is the victim, the U.S. and Israel are the region's clear aggressors.

  143. Iran is the victim? Never a more laughable statement has been uttered. Iran is a major source of the area's problems.

  144. Hamid Varzi we the Israelis know already that we will attack your country badly and preparing ourselves for the war you and Iranians should know it
    There is no way Israel will turn back

  145. Over 100,00 missiles stockpiled in Lebanon
    and now a forward 'deterrent' base in Syria
    and the words 'annihilation of Israel' from Iran's leadership. To Israel there is an existential threat and they have the right to initiate actions that mitigate those threats.

  146. The simple solution is not to elect hardliners or in particular republican/radical right wing extremists.

    President Obama asked Congress to initiate war measures in Syria in 2013 and was denied by the republican controlled body.

    Israel's hard line extremist right government has for years been pushing house by house Palestinians out of their land.

    Once a proper two state solution between Israelis and Palestinians ( with both sharing Jerusalem ), then most of these questions and problems will go away.

    Israel will be able to build up to hard borders, which will expand for all of the other surrounding countries, allowing a peace to settle in.

    The further we get away from that idea the closer we get to war between the US and Russia, which will ultimately end in all of our destruction.

  147. The simple solution is not to elect hardliners or in particular republican/radical right wing extremists.

    President Obama asked Congress to initiate war measures in Syria in 2013 and was denied by the republican controlled body.

    Israel's hard line extremist right government has for years been pushing house by house Palestinians out of their land.

    Once a proper two state solution between Israelis and Palestinians ( with both sharing Jerusalem ), then most of these questions and problems will go away.

    Israel will be able to build up to hard borders, which will expand for all of the other surrounding countries, allowing a peace to settle in.

    The further we get away from that idea the closer we get to war between the US and Russia, which will ultimately end in all of our destruction.

  148. "Israel's hard line extremist right government has for years been pushing house by house Palestinians out of their land."
    Please sir, provide proof of that asertion.

  149. Palestinians leaders have become very wealthy. Arafat had a net worth of $1 billion, Abbas $100 million, Abu Marzouk $2-3 billion, Khaled Mashaal, $2.6 billion. It literally pays not to make peace.

  150. This has zero to do with “Palestinians” yet as usual, your comments are on them. It’s clear you have no idea of what the issues in the ME are and sad to say those who “liked” your comment lack that knowledge as well. Hint; Iran wants to control the entire ME. They don’t care one whit about Palestinians or arguments over Israel’s border.

  151. For whatever reasons, justified or not so justified, or, whether it's a direct confrontation between Iran and Israel, or a larger war among several powers and their proxies, the consequences remain the same- large scale destruction of life and property, displacement, and a new cycle of violence adding to new uncertainties and instability.

  152. The Abrahamic religions fail to understand basic universal laws. Which were known to ancient wisdom which taught:
    "Hatred is never appeased by hatred."
    “All beings fear violence, all fear death. Using oneself as a criterion, one should not kill or cause death” (Dhammapada v. 129)"
    "Winning, one begets hostility
    Losing, one lies down in pain.
    The calmed lie down with ease,
    Having abandoned both victory and defeat.
    --Dhammapada 201"
    “One who repays an angry man with anger makes things worse for himself; not retaliating, one wins a battle hard to win.”

  153. Thanks. Your grasp of the Buddhist philosophy is really commendable.

  154. President Obama used to quote MLK's "long arc of history" to suggest perseverance. After all, the Berlin Wall did come down. And the truce in N Ireland is still relatively intact. Alas, the world has also witnessed the openings and closings of China and Russia.

    The lesson is simple. Making peace is hard work and requires constant maintenance while making war is - for the lack of a better word - easy and can happen anytime when the world doesn't actively try to avert it.

    So Iran v. Israel is nothing shocking or even new. After all, the current Saudi Arabia regime seems to signal it may tolerate Israel by saying the latter has the right to exist. For Iran, making Israel a target could convince the masses that the Shiites are the real Islam and the Sunnis are the infidel. This is nothing new when you look at half the world away in the last century. The National Chinese would rather fight Communist Chinese and not the invading Japan.

    But Iran v. Israel is really the tree as opposed to the forest of worldwide mayhems. With the election of Trump, the globalists have lost. The selfish nature of humanity has reared its ugly head.

    Alas. unholy alliances are just temporary and paranoid enmity is forever arising. With recent technological advances, the destructive power increases exponentially and the cost and manufacturing difficulty decrease exponentially. Maybe WWIII is at the horizon. After that, humanity is no more.

  155. In other words you're telling us we will be dragged into the Syrian conflict even further by the Israelis, who will be acting in their best interest at the expense of ours. This may explain why our CIA has been funneling arms and sophisticated weapons to the Islamic rebels for years, because we would rather weaken Iranian influence in Syria than see a Sunni ISIS caliphate- the exact same strategy we used in Afghanistan with al Qaeda. How did that turn out? Of course none of this would be happening now if we hadn't invaded Iraq, Irans natural counterbalance, under cover of a lie to obtain access to their oil. Here's a suggestion: Let's get out of the Middle East and get back to rebuilding our country. That area of the world with it's dozens of competing tribes and religions will never be an area we can control. Our foreign policy strategy is based on a twentieth century post WWII mentality, not of today's geopolitical reality.

  156. The stumbling block to accomplish your goal is, of course, Israel. What happens there? Wherever in this article by Mr. Friedman you see the word "Israel", merely substitute the words "United States" and it becomes rather clear.

  157. True, but then we would lose all our customers buying billions of dollars worth of weapons, which would hurt the defense industry. In addition to oil, we perpetuate war(s) for profit. The only President who could think geopolitically was Obama. The Republicans and the defense contractors could care less about geopolitics.

  158. Friedman's analysis makes sense as far as it goes. Friedman does not squarely address the central moral issue. The mullahs want no Israel, no Jewish state.

    I'm not making the day to day decisions about survival in the face of such immoral hostility, so I don't presume to advise the Israeli government. But I would ask people of good will to recognize the moral asymmetry. Israelis may wish for a better government in Iran, but they wish no ill on the Iranian people. And I would ask those expressing hostility toward Israel if they truly understand the threat that Israel faces. If the answer is, in all honesty, yes - then I ask why it is that you have no objection to the existence of 56 Islamic Conference states, but you oppose the existence of one Jewish state? And I ask people of good will to take the preceding question into account in evaluating commentary on this situation.

  159. Most of us do not oppose the existence of the State of Israel. What we oppose is Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian and Syrian land and Israel's violations of Palestinian human rights.

  160. So how do you justify the inhumanity towards the Palestinians driven from their homes in " Israel " with no right of return ?

  161. When GWB stood on the aircraft carrier under the sign "Mission Accomplished" he wasn't meaning the mission of making Iran the biggest influence in the Middle East. Rather he was talking about the democracy which was supposed to engulf Iraq. Well, we all know the results as we see the messy situation in that region. The unintended consequences of even well-intentioned actions can be surprising and deleterious.

    Fast forward to the now and here. DJT similarly has repeated and uttered these very same words, "Mission Accomplished." The only difference is that the context is Syria now. And, once again I am not sure what mission was accomplished. But I am sure that ten years or more from now, there will be yet another conflagration whose origins can be traced to this.

    I always wonder at the imagination of these folks in power who take strong actions completely forgetting the gale force winds that invariably sweeps it away. But I am even more struck by the chorus of pundits and followers who steadfastly stand by their man. Haven't we all learnt anything from past history?

  162. Surely neither Iran nor Israel will benefit from an all-out war, adding more fuel to the ongoing conflict in Syria.
    Tom Friedman blames the “ego-power play” by Iran’s Quds Force leader Qasem Suleimani for tensions with Israel. The commander wants “to extend Iran’s grip on key parts of the Sunni Arab world and advance his power struggle with President Hassan Rouhani.”
    Unless military clashes between Iran and Israel stop inside Syria, there’s a risk that they spiral out of control.
    Concerned by the permanent stationing of Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed troops on its border, Israel has a track record of conducting independent strikes inside Syria. The strike last week on a Syria air base used by Iranian forces could trigger a retaliation from Tehran, which would only encourage Israel to act decisively by wiping out Iran’s “entire military infrastructure” in Syria. Althought this might strengthen Russia’s position in Syria, Putin may not want to shoulder the burden of propping up the Assad regime alone.
    It comes as no surprise that Suleimani and Putin had fallen out with each other. Iran and Russia don’t have a warm relationship, due to Iran’s historical grievances against Russia since the tsarist era. A partition of Syria might make it easier for Russia to maintain its sphere of influence.

  163. One correction : The conflict between Israel and Syria is NOT at Israel's boarder ; it is now called " Israel's frontier ." Because Golan is in Syria and Israel is trying to annex Golan illegally .

  164. After WW2, and because of WW2, the United Nations was created to prevent military aggression between countries and international laws created to govern military actions and temporary occupations.

    Now, 70 years later, the United Nations and international laws are being systematically circumvented, by those very nations that built these preventive structures and signed the agreements. If we allow this to continue, there will be colossal death and destruction and we'll have nobody but ourselves to blame.

  165. Unfortunately , the US media including the NYT refuse to explain the underlying plan for the Middle East destabilization : THE GREATER ISRAEL PROJECT . The next target is Iran . I just hope the USA does not get sucked into Bibi's next war .

  166. Certainly projecting outcomes in the Middle East is based on those in control today, and that will change soon. The biggest two players are Assad and Bibi. At some stage Israeil will be forced into some truce agreement with the PLO. Conditions in the area will not allow it to continue its intransigent non peace position today. Assad is like Castro was during the Cold War days, a puppet, and is no longer a player with Russia's presence. The true unknown is Iran, how far will they go? Or maybe the next flare will be how much longer will the U.S. and Russia allow Israel its little bombing raids within Syria. I don't think Putin/Assad will allow this to happen too much longer. The price of oil may soon get higher, real fast.

  167. I know many will always look to Israel as their personal scapegoat, but in reality, Israel isn't the reason to why the Mid East is in such as mess. The real reason is because of their own internal problems. Unfortunately, the Arab Spring didn't really bring democracy to the region, just regime changes instead. The reason to why Israel had to defend their borders was mainly due to another possible attack by Hezbollah, which is just another form of counter-terrorism. In doing such, they can prevent a number of future attacks that they would do on them. Ironically, Syria has more evidence of using state sponsored terrorism than Israel does yet groups such as BDS tend turn a blind eye to that. The truth is that what's going on Syria feels more like a stalemate in that there are no winners here. Even if Assad gets overthrown, that might not even spell the end for authoritarianism for Syria, but rather a military coup instead with a different dictator in charge. Until democracy actually comes to Syria and possibly the rest of the Mid East, nothing will ever change there. For the record, Israel played no role in what is going on over in Syria either nor do they question its borders let alone want to overthrow its government either. Nonetheless, they don't want to stop Hezbollah before they can take out them, so every safety precaution is important for them to do so.

  168. I see the risk. The opinion is prefaced on one big "if" though. If Suleimani retaliates against Israel, we might witness a broader escalation between both nations. Political hostility to conflict with Israel along with domestic financial instability suggest the Suleimani might only be posturing.

    Military experts like to conduct war. That's what they do. However, that doesn't mean Suleimani is off the leash yet. Yes, there's a risk but I think we're being a bit paranoid right now. Speculating about potential wars leads to war more often than actual events.

  169. Ok, so the grand bargain is: with Russia and Israel's help, buttressed by pressure on the Iranian nuclear deal from the US, Germany and France: (1) Iran is ejected from Syria, (2) we tacitly accept Assad's continued control of Syria as long as he doesn't embarrass us by using chemical weapons or too many barrel bombs against civilians, (3) Russia gets to puff out its chest as kingmaker and keep their bases in Syria, (4' we keep cleaning up ISIS in Syria with our forces there (the presence of which keep Assad and the Russians honest), (5) the Saudis,Gulf Arabs, Europeans and Russia agree to fund some reconstruction in Syria, (6) in connection with stabilizing things, Syria agrees to take back some of the less threatening refugees languishing in Jordanian refugee camps (starting with the Christians who have been stranded there), which takes some pressure off of Jordan, hopefully buttressing stability there, as well as perhaps some refugees from Europe, helping moderate politicians against their ultra-nationalist foes.

    Still, regrettably, no answer to the Kurdish-Turkish conflict in northern Syria, but you can't have everything, and serving up a major defeat to Iran's most militant elements while stabilizing Syria are pretty good things.

    Now, does the Trump administration have the statesmanship capabilities to engineer this, without being accused of Russian collusion?

  170. How do you imagine ousting Iran from Syria?

  171. Obviously Trump will be accused of collusion if he plays golf, but fortunately he doesn't care.

    This analysis seems to me right, but incomplete. The solution in Iraq is the traditional one: the Sunni north is the sphere of the Ottomans and the Shite South the sphere of Persia. The bargain includes that, and Kurdistan and the northern oil fields must be part of that.

    But Iran really doesn't care about Israel. It is concerned about nuclear Pakistan on its border and the Farshi-Pashtuni conflict in Afghanistan.

    The deal is that Iran gets out of the West, and
    we divide Iraq a la the US in 1787 with a Second Amendment to protect the two regions. Then we make the Biden division of Afghanistan which Mark Landler says we are doing. That means the US, Russia, and Iran create a stable Farshi north and giving the Pashtuni to Pakistan.

    But there is the final question. Is Israel going to keep a warmongering crook as President or do we take the steps, including South African sanctions on apartheid to end it, if necessary.

    Israel has half the size and half the population of the Netherlands. Its people need to have the happy life of the Dutch and end the nonsense of fundamentalist, Russian non-Jew, and military control, financed by the US.

    The odds are that Trump who go down as one of the great American foreign policy presidents who drastically brings peace to the Middle East. That is why the Netanyahu lobby, including Friedman, is so hysterical about him

  172. This article raises a number of questions that Mr. Friedman might want to address later.
    1) Is Iran attempting to set up defensive bases in Syria in anticipation of Trump withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and the possibility that Israel will at-tempt to destroy Iran’s nuclear production sites?
    2) Could the US forestall the Iran/Israel conflict by staying with the Iran nuclear deal?
    3) Is this pre-WW II Spain?

  173. Tom, since when it became criminal/illegal for a country to increase its sphere of influence politically, covertly, or militarily? Yes the push back routinely comes from countries that oppose such moves. We (US) has military presence in at least 150 countries with bases in 80. We have 40,000 of our forces in Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Qatar, UAE, Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and many more.

    The Russians and the Iranians were invited by the Government of Syria, whereas the Turks and the US are there for their own reasons. I can still understand the reasoning of Erdogan as it is their neighborhood. But why we are in Syria other than to continue what Ambassador Ford started in 2011 in Hama. President Trump may be correct, it’s time to leave Syria as he tweeted, “Mission Accomplished”.

    A direct confrontation between Israel and Iran is highly unlikely, it appears both countries need a boogey man and use each other’s bluster for their own internal consumption and to divert attention from their own many problems such as the recent currency devaluation in Iran and Israel’s mis-steps of killing unarmed protesters of Gaza. Iran and Israel both have very well educated young population with a lot in common such as national pride and ingenuity. They could accomplish a lot more if only they are allowed to move on without the constant threat of continued violence. Can we help them to do just that instead of looking to divide them at the behest of Military Industrial Complex?

  174. This is an outrageous prediction. Will only happen in Friedman's imagination. Israel has nuclear weapons and Iran does not. The Iran-Iraq war taught Iran a lesson. War is a waste. How many million Iranians lost their lives and for what. Stop the drum beats of war and preach conflict resolution by non violent means.

  175. In the face of this Iranian build-up of military power in Syria, where is the United Nations? Where is the Arab League? Where is Russia? And where are the great Western powers? Surely, everyone see what Iran is doing, and the pressure that places on Israel to act, just as the United States was forced to act when the Soviet Union places missiles in Cuba? So why is there no concerted effort to rein-in this Iranian military adventurism? Why is there utter silence and a complete unwillingness to act until Israel must use military force within Syria?

    No doubt, should Israel bring significant military power to bear in Syria, we will all hear about Israeli aggressiveness and the unlawfulness of any action they take against Iranian military units and weapons.

  176. This is one reason why the nuclear deal, which freed up Iran for aggression elsewhere, was a dubious deal.

  177. Israel has known for years and years that the Iranians are its true and worrisome enemy - not the Palestinians who have much less power. Unfortunately the US ( including Obama ) has been quite naive with Arab powers like Iran who they don’t understand - hence the giveaways to Iran for supposed roll back of nuclear ambitions that have now allowed Iranians to sponsor terror throughout the ME and attempt to take over numerous countries by proxy.
    Fortunately the Israelis are very very smart and have a military ( including very superior military intelligence ) that can hopefully deal with the Iranians - I doubt the US will be of much help in this regard.

  178. Iran is not an Arab power.

  179. Israel and Iran are not heading war between the two countries.
    Iran is on purpose trying to provoke Israel.
    If there was no fighting in Syria they might have succeeded but because of the fighting in Syria any attack Israel takes will not be criticized as they can pretend they are really attacking Assad when it is the Iranians they want to kill.
    Iran and Israel know this will stop before actual fighting between the two counties takes place.
    One thing not mentioned in this article is the Saudi's.
    If push comes to shove will support Israel.
    As long as Iran doesn't attack Israel, Israel will not attack them and Russia and China will do nothing to escalate the fighting.
    In fact they might even realize Israel will do what they have to do and will realize they can not give Israel the excuse they need to attack Syria and will stop encouraging the Iranians.
    So I am not scared that there will be fighting between Iran and Israel.
    I am so sure I have already decided to spend some time in Israel this summer.

  180. Yeah, why so dramatic? I have been referring to Syria as WW III for years now. It is never going to end. It may move a little, now and then, but it will never end.

  181. A new Great Game begins, with a declining, factious US on the margins, as we will be increasingly this century. As ideological rivals fight, China watches us all grow weaker as it builds a renewable energy future and a new Silk Road. Tell me, who do you think is best suited to win this game?

  182. Dear Mr Friedman
    I hope you are wrong! I have long feared that policy in Israel would get us into a much larger War, and that it might involve nuclear weapons between Superpowers.
    If you are right then those premonitions are at the doorstep and the possibility they might come true is even more of a reality today. There are several things which concern me. You wrote about our war with Iraq and much of what you had to say was consistent with the Neocons of the early part of this century. I often found my self in disagreement with you. Today you seem Giddy that a war might start, and not really concerned about the consequences or innocent bystanders. How much is about Israels war hawks and religious extremist, not to mention the political Hacks in the executive and legislative branches here in America. I hope you are wrong but I fear you are not.

  183. Israeli war hawks and religious extremists? What on earth does trying to keep your country alive and well have to do with “war hawks” and “religious extremists “? Do you even have a clue what the situation is? Keeping ones country from being attacked and destroyed by a country that has sworn to wipe it off the map IS the job of its leaders and military.

  184. The 1979 revolution in Iran that brought the clerics to power was a violent reaction to western cultural overreach during preceding decades (Ditto Afghanistan 1973, by the way). Israel is dealing with an Iranian mess that the West essentially made through their puppet the Shah. Equally, the Russia of today, in which Putin is “restoring pride”, was created by the West, as a result of relentless in-your-face eastward expansion of NATO after the Cold War. Putin is making up for this by creating a sphere of influence in the Middle East. Hence, Israel must be assisted in dealing with this awful situation it faces. But what chance does the West have of tiptoeing through this minefield with Trump in charge? God help us.

  185. Thanks for this article. I am glad someone is focusing on issues beyond the Trump circus.

  186. All this Near East war stuff is a result of American "We can save the World" propaganda. It already started with the interference in the Iraq/Kuwait conflict in the early 1990s. Now the mess is getting bigger and bigger.

    Solutions will only be able via diplomatic ways. Further warring is senseless. Are Americans able to understand this?

  187. This is the real issue that serious people are losing sleep over at night. It should have been handled in 2014, but that's past and we are going to handle it now, or watch suffering on an unimaginable scale.

    How would anyone here feel about the police if a situation just like this was unfolding in their neighborhood, perhaps on their front lawn, and the cops slow-walked their response and let the bullets start flying? I can hear it now, "Where were the cops?"

    Please don't bother asking who appointed the US as "the cops". First, it just plain happened; nobody else was going to do the job (1948, Berlin airlift. 1950, South Korea. Dontcha know?). And we're not alone. When things get bad enough, our allies among the liberal democracies reluctantly deputize themselves.

  188. Mr. Friedman, Iran has not attacked or invaded another country for over 300 years. Neither will it do so now, unless attacked itself.

    Israel has killed Iranian scientists inside Iran, and it has targeted Iranian facilities, and killed Iranians on the ground in Syria. The attack last week, was not the first.

    Israel has invaded Syrian airspace over 100 times, during the course of the Syrian war, often on bombing raids.

    Now, two months after the event, Israel tells us that the drone which entered their airspace in February, was armed with a bomb. If that drone had been armed, the world would have known it, within days. Not now, simply to try to justify their latest attack on Iranian forces inside Syria.

    If Israel isn't careful, it may find its next incursion into Syrian airspace, met by Russian s400 ballistic missiles. The Russians appear to have had enough of Israeli interferrence in Syria.

  189. As an Iranian guy, I truly believe that Iran is not looking for a war with Israel, at least for now. Iran's presence in Syria, was caused by ISIS threats. If you might know, Shia muslims are the archenemy for extremists muslims like ISIS, supported by Saudi Arabia. Iran went to a war with ISIS because in 2016, ISIS were just 250 km far from Iran's border. Iran has been always the victim of US voracity in ME. I hope president Trump stay in Iran nuclear deal to pave the way for more diplomatic solutions. His withdrawal will assure Iranian government and Iranian people that Win-Win negotiation will never happen between US and Iran.

  190. Iraq. Libya. Syria. Now Iran.

    Saddam bad, so destruction of his nation results in increased Iranian power and explosion of Sunni radicalism.

    Qaddafi bad, so destruction of his nation results in disorder, fleeing citizens, and spread of radicalism.

    Asad bad, so destruction of his nation results in the rebirth of al Qaeda, US-NATO-Mideast nations contribute to a maelstrom that results in intensified Iranian presence and Russian military presence in an every spiraling war.

    Now, Iran is bad and seeks to use Syrian territory to attack Israel.

    Setting aside that for Iran to be an existential threat to Israel it would require logistics well beyond its capabilities, just what would such attack entail? Air strikes? Missile attacks? Invasion? Space prohibits how each of these options are more fantasy than reality.

    What it does do is provide justification for an Israeli expanded Syrian presence. Farfetched? This past January, Nour Samaha reported in The Intercept that Israel seeks to extend its “safe-zone” policy deep into Syria.

    Iran is an excuse to hide naked aggression and military occupation.

  191. I enjoyed reading your analysis. But you have left out two players in your description: The Hezbollah and the Hamas.

    The retaliation promised by the Russians, Iranians and Syrians may very well take the shape of limited military harassment against US troops and Israeli military.

    Hezbollah fighters are involved in fighting for the Assad regime. They will benefit first hand of the military presence of Iran in Syria. The next Israeli invasion of Southern Lebanon will be very costly. Air raides will not suffice.

    Regarding Hamas, it's a question: With the stalemate of a two state solution and the modification of the status of Jerusalem, push the Hamas towards a military cooperation with Hezbollah?

  192. Foreign entanglements, domestic strife, what could possibly go wrong? Friedman you are and have always been a chicken-hawk. I played with army men as a child. The tenor of your commentary reminds me of the excitement of my friends and me as we played. "Risk" was another game I enjoyed. Chess, though, actually conveyed to me the finality of the outcome of conflict.

    This country has not been check-mated yet one could argue we have lost every war since 1945. It's time to put away the games before we are. We are not under attack and Israel can take care of itself. I am not against police actions if the Western World is firmly in our corner. Starting WWIII over (what else?) oil has been hovering over the world for as long as I can remember. No! Energy independence is so near I can taste it. Throwing away peace so oil oligarchs can drain the last drop of profit out of the ground must not be allowed to happen.

  193. Mr. Friedman is absolutely correct.
    Israel cannot allow Iran to attack it from Syria and will take all action necessary to prevent it.
    For the Iranians this is not a matter of life and death. For Israel it is.
    And all because of the ego of Suleimani and his power plays.

  194. I view the treaty with Iran similarly to the failed 1994 treaty with North Korea: in both cases, a calculated attempt to DELAY the completion of a nuclear weapons program long enough for the NK Regime collapse, and for the Ayatollahs in Iran to be swept aside by more moderate lay forces.

    The gamble with NK failed: the Regime did not collapse, and the nuclear program has essentially been completed. NK will now survive in perpetuity by exercising nuclear blackmail, and will be kept afloat by massive payments of "protection money" from South Korea.

    The Iran gamble is still playing out. Although Iran may not be enriching more uranium, they are continuing with their long-range missile program, whose purpose is EXCLUSIVELY to carry nuclear warheads. If and when Iran decides to resume enrichment, the US and Israel would have a very short time to use massive air strikes to cripple the program before breakout occurred.

    Iran's intent to establish permanent bases in Syria, in addition to facilitating the resupply of Hezbollah in Lebanon, also serves to make any Israeli strike against Iran proper perilous: once Iran places thousands of surface-to-surface missiles in Syria, they will be able to reign terror and devastation on Israel, and will complement Hezbollah's missile batteries in Lebanon.

    Iran may desire to checkmate Israel's willingness to strike Iran by militarizing in Syria. In due course, this could even become Israel's Cuban Missile Crisis.

    That's why it's a big deal.

  195. A problem in the Middle East is that Israel needs to be contained. It is a massively violent and destabilizing force in the region - far moreso than Iran. The Western/American inclination to give Israel a free pass for all of its violence (eg. its present ongoing slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza) obfuscates these points. Consider: Israel regularly threatens violence against Iran and has attacked it through cyberwarfare. Israel is the primary driving force behind the effort in the US to destroy the Iran nuclear deal. The Iran nuclear deal was designed to help bring Iran into the mainstream by giving it a stake in the established order. However, it would also have meant improved relations between the US and Iran and it would have involved a need to recognize Iran's legitimate interests in the ME, as a regional power. Israel can't have either of those things; it needs Iran and the US at each other's throats. It also recognizes that improved relations between the US and Iran may put more pressure on Israel to actually make concessions for peace with the Palestinians. Yes, the issue is complicated by Saudi Arabia's competition with Iran for influence in the region. But a fair and equitable assessment of which parties are feeding instability and violence in ME must include Israel. Israel will go to enormous lengths to ensure its continuing hold on Palestinian land and ensuring its ability to use violence against the rest of the region with virtual impunity.

  196. Lofs of carefully thought out ideas here. Another factor to consider is the geography, I would imagine miltary planners on both sides look at the location of where a conflict might centralize and both sides see stretched out, hard to defend supply lines. It’s a long way to either country through Syria. Let’s hope there can be some form of de facto resolution. Nobody deserves to die.

  197. The Iranian regime is despicable. And its hard line elements have n interest in depicting Iran as a victim and on the defence. And the Iranian people want none of this ,seeking normalcy and growth That said,Israel's unhinged 'quest for security' has been defined so expansively as to give it a veto on any developments anywhere in the region. With a blank cheque from the US, Israel and MBS are the major threats in the region.(Time for Mr.Friedman to visit Iran?)

  198. Interesting analysis, but a few thoughts are worth mentioning:

    "Iran claims it is setting up bases in Syria to protect it from Israel, but Israel has no designs on Syria;"

    Except for its occupation of the Golan heights

    "it actually prefers the devil it knows there — Assad — over chaos."

    which is why it has been giving secret aid to rebels (check WSJ and other articles on this)

    "And it has not intervened in the civil war there except to prevent the expansion of Iran’s military infrastructure there or to retaliate for rebel or Syrian shells that fell on Israel’s territory."

    Direct support for the rebels is more than mere retaliation.

    Obviously, many countries in the region would welcome an Israeli attack on the Iranians in Syria, but it is far from clear if Israel can successfully carry out one. It failed in 2006 with an easier foe, so why it would win this time is a question?

  199. It appears as if Israel has an interest in both encouraging ongoing Iranian "overextension" in Syria, and discouraging ongoing Iranian participation close to the Golan. A classic paradox perhaps?

  200. Sunni/Shia conflicts go back centuries to the year 632, vastly predating modern Arab/Jewish conflicts. What is new is how the sides in this ancient fight have dragged the rest of the world in as proxies. That might have happened when oil, coveted by the rest of the world, was discovered under the deserts.

    The emerging Israeli/Sunni cooperation is telling, especially since in the Iraq war, America generally sided with the Shiites, foolishly forcing Sunnis out of the Iraqi military leadership, leading to the evolution of the Sunni ISIS and its horrors, and to the present large Iranian influence in Iraq.

    Where is this headed? The Sunnis and Shiites are gathering their worldwide allies for another all out war on one another, for the umpteenth time over the centuries. Those who do not learn history, such as political leaders in the U.S., are doomed to repeat it. Friedman says, "Fasten your seatbelt." Sunni vs. Shia may be the spark of the next world war, like the assassination of Ferdinand in 1914, unless everybody is very, very careful.

  201. The split between the Sunnis and Shia goes back to when Mohammed died and they were disputed in how he should be succeeded. Unfortunately, Mohammed never stated how should be succeeded and considered himself to be immortal. One of the groups thought his son should go next, while the other thought it would be better if they just pick who would go next in that they didn't want him to feel no different from a king. Since then, that's what caused them to split up ever since. Even to this day they can't seem to get along despite sects of other religions doing so when they put aside their differences be it recently or a while ago. I guess with Islam, it will always be an ego problem before anything gets settled even with each other.

  202. A good update. Hopefully this does not degenerate, but I see no way it won't.

  203. ... And the Iranians not only openly announced their embarrassing losses..."
    It would have been embarrassing if it happened near our borders. But it didn't, it happened near Israeli borders, it's an embarrassment for Israel. We are knocking at their front door.
    In the 80's, the whole world stood behind Saddam as he attacked us, now I have Iraqis mopping my floor while their country is our backyard. We didn't even have proper missile defence back then, let alone nukes.

  204. The excitment of "standing on the Golan Hieghts" has dulled Friedman's journalism.

    The "first round" in the Isreali-Iranian conflict began months ago when Israel weighed in on the Syrian civil war on behalf of the Al Nusra jihadists.

    This is all well documented. First Israel provided them with a cross-border safe haven, then medical and logistic support. But as the rebels situation deteriorated, Israel became a transshipment point for Saudi arms, and later began a series of bombing raids inside Syria in support of rebel positions.

    The raid mentioned by Freidman was simply the latest of many. Israel's goal was to set up a rebel controlled buffer zone between the Golan and Damascus.

    This would weaken Assad's position and the rebels would become Israel's proxy army against Iranian and other Shia forces, especially Hezbollah.

    There's no evidence that the Iranian drone was over Israeli territory, or that it was armed, or given Israel's strategy, what they now count as "their territory."

    Friedman is correct that this conflict is escalating, but by leaving out crucial facts he suggests that the escalation is all coming from the Iranian's. The facts tell a different story.

    This does not suggest that Iran is an innocent party in this. But years ago geopolitical analysts predicted that Iran would not let Syria, which shares a border with Iran, fall into Sunni sponsored jihadist hands.

    For Isreal, Assad may turn out to be the safer neighbor than what is going on now.

  205. Friedman somehow implies Iran's drone incursion was a incident event or round one , and ignores the assassination of its scientists, the more than 100 bombing raids already conducted against its forces helping Assad, among other acts of war instigated by Israel . Being Sunni / Ahmadi Muslim I am no fan of Iran however Israel will draw us , The U.S. into conflict with Iran just as surely as did those like Scooter Libby did with Iraq .

  206. So why would it hard for the US to stay out of another religious war in the Middle East?
    Even with Russian help if Israel cannot defend itself then all of the monety and arms we have been sending them have been wasted.
    Iran is no threat to the US. Let Isreal and Iran fight stout if that is what both countries want.
    So tell me again why it would be hard for the US to stay out.

  207. Read the Iranian constitution. It mandates a duty to help oppressed peoples and to provide a social safety net to its own people.

    Interpret Iran's actions through this lens.

  208. Interesting that Friedman casually acknowledges that Iran is using the proceeds from the nuclear agreement to fight wars in the region, including against Israel. Thanks again, Obama.

  209. I don’t like the seatbelt line. It seems wrong.

  210. One of these states has a direct border with Syria; the other is a thousand miles away, and has no business even being on the Syrian border. That says all you need to know about the aggressor.

  211. No mention of Turkey and the Kurds and the various Syrian Sunni militias supported by both Turkey and Saudi Arabia in which militias are ensconced former (could be current but circumstances dictate lying low) ISIS members.

    As for veracious intel, Mr Friedman, check the now uncovered truth from 67 War, 2nd Gulf of Tonkin incident, 2003 WMD Iraq War and USS Liberty incident June 8th 67.

    Those that clamor for war are those that would produce misleading intel that strengthens their case. Are we getting the correct intel from the Yemen war?

    Netanyahou and his US adherents have clamored for the US to remove Iraqi, Iranian, and Syrian governments. The first one was successful and how did that work out for Israel and the US and what would the removal of Assad bring and what would take his place.

    Of this I can be certain, any war that Israel involves itself in Syria, if it does not bring in overt US forces, the cost will be in the end borne by the US taxpayer.

  212. Iran is not strong enough to take on Israel. Whatever they are doing in Syria to support Hezbollah is to serve their factional politics - misslie launches to rev up the mob. Iran’s next war is civil, at home or more likely in Saudi.

    We don’t need mideast oil anymore so this tragedy of a common culture divided by religion does not threaten us if we have the good sense to steer clear. If Darwin continues to right, something better will emerge.

  213. This is a brilliant analysis of potential instability in Syria between Israel and the radical Iranian forces in Syria.
    Nothing good could come of an escalation of force between Israel and Iranian surrogates at its borders.
    It is shameless that Iranian forces would exploit the chaos in Syria to promote their extremist jihad against Israel and embolden their terrorist clients to violence.

  214. The Israelis are our allies and the only country in the region that shares our values. I hope and pray that our support for Israel will not waver as they confront our common enemies.

  215. This article finally says it clearly: the billions obtained from the Iranian nuclear deal have been used by Iran to finance its military expansion throughout the Middle East. This is what you get when you reward an aggressive activity - such as Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons - by paying off the aggressor: he gets more aggressive. Trump is right in saying it was the dumbest deal of the century.

  216. The deal has so far met it's objective of keep the Iranians from further developing nuclear weapons. That's a good thing. That has been the determination of the IAEA as well as other observers.

  217. The opposite would be they would continue to produce nuclear weapons. If you are ok with that, then you need to admit this. otherwise you make no sense. personally I think the only nation to ever use nukes in war has no moral ground to say who can and cannot use them

  218. The real problem here is the fecklessness of the Arab League, to whom the United States and other nations have sold hundreds of warplanes and a veritable arsenal that cries out for use against the Iranians and the murderous Assad regime. Instead, they do nothing. It is not a very good advertisement for their sense of morality.

  219. Not doubt right now Israel can chew the Quds force up, but long term its shortsighted policy regarding the Palestinians and its misguided enabling of its growing Haredi population are long term threats to its stability, its democratic values, and its future prospects.

  220. How about that, a real chance for a potential war not fully assimilated by the West, and certainly not by clueless and distracted Trump, busy as usual about insulting vindictively any and all that dares question his nonsense, and sexual scandals he is usually embroiled in. I wonder how can Assad govern when his country is torn to pieces by his own cruelty in crushing dissent...with the unrestricted presence of Russia and Iran, the latter two absolutely requiring to be there (in Syria) to distract their own people from incompetence and corruption of their despotic regimes. Although the phrase "America does not have friends, just interests" has been proven beyond much doubt, the fact that Trump was ready to withdraw from Syria recently, is a sign of his absolute lack of feelings towards the Syrian folks being slaughtered by Assad's forces day in and day out, by chemical and conventional means for the last 7 years. In this situation, Trump's bravado that he can't stand the ongoing killings is pure hypocrisy and opportunism to show his meddle (vanity squared, really). But I digress. Israel seems serious in it's intent to stop Iran's installment of military bases in Syria, a reasonable assumption. Have they forgotten the efficiency of the Six Day War in 1967, against the triad of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, where Israel defeated all of them at the drop of a hat?

  221. The fact that Israel made an attack on an Iranian base in Syria cannot be taken as evidence that Israel was or is under imminent threat from Iran. Israel shot and killed a bunch of Palestinian protestors for throwing rocks across the relatively removed border with Gaza; showing that the threshold for Israel military action is quite low. It may be that Iran is an imminent threat, but I will need to see better evidence than this.

  222. The bottom line is that the US and its friends have been working with and funding jihadists, many aligned with al-Qaeda, in an expensive effort to engineer regime change in Syria. Hard to imagine anything more disgusting. And, if it succeeded, who would then step in to fill the void? I, for one, am glad it has failed. The US has no business being there, and is culpable for Syria's destruction. At the same time, let's not forget, Israel, not Iran, was buying stolen oil from ISIS, and became an accomplice in all of their crimes against humanity.

  223. Iran may be looking to extend its influence in some limited way but it's difficult to see what a winning Iranian strategy looks like. Israel, a nuclear power, is not going anywhere and on a hair trigger to destroy any perceived intrusion. The US, via Trump/Bolton, are looking for any excuse to bomb away Iran's nascent nuclear capability.

  224. These hot & cold running conflicts are an essential part of military industrial complex's demand drivers. The various boogymen on the world stage function much the same way the department store Santa drives toy purchases.

    The nuclear weapons labs need new objectives to keep their skills sharp. Our fool-in-chief requests more "usable" nuclear weapons. They'll be the military's equivalent of the "FURBY." Every branch of the service will want their very own. In the meantime, our infrastructure falls apart, diseases wait for research dollars that are instead spent manufacturing plutonium pits. And so it goes.

  225. Without going for precedents any farther back in time than the crusades, the war in Syria may be a starting point of World War III, disguised in the old trilateral hatred of Muslims, Jews, and Christians. However, this new War will be fought without any reference to the underlying religious incompatibilities, but as a mixture of explicit defense of the Occident on the one hand, and, on the other, eradication of a regime who has committed a crime against humanity by using poisonous gases on civilians.
    What will there be at the end? At the best, a Nürenberg-like process of war criminals; at the worst, an end of the world, perhaps not in a literal sense, but still close to it.