Israel's Attack on Iranian Forces in Syria


A Vivid Lesson on the Politics of War in the Epoch of Imperialism


by Yossi Schwartz, Internationalist Socialist League (RCIT Section in Israel / Occupied Palestine), 14.5.2018,




Last month Israel attacked Iranian forces in Syria in T4 base. "An Israeli military official confirmed that Israel carried out last week’s strike on Iranian forces in a Syrian airbase, the New York Times reported. It was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets — both facilities and people,” an unnamed senior military source told The Times’." [1]


On Thursday, May 10, Israel launched attacks on Iranian targets in Syria in response to alleged Iranian attacks on the Israeli-occupied Syrian territory of Golan Heights. It was the most serious military exchange ever between the two states. Clearly, Israel was prepared to the Iranian retaliation and attacked with full force.


Israel said it hit around 50 Iranian military targets, and five Syrian anti-aircraft installations in response to Iranian launching of 20 rockets towards the occupied Golan Heights. Only 4 came close to their targets and were intercepted by the Israeli defenses, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman, Lt Col Jonathan Conricus, told reporters.


Iran denied that it launched rocket attacks on the occupied Golan Heights, calling the Israeli claims "fabricated" and "baseless". Syrian state media reported that Syrian air defenses intercepted most of the Israeli rockets, but confirmed that a radar station and a weapons storage site were struck. Al Jazeera's Zein Basravi, reporting from Tehran, said that “it's important to note what wasn't mentioned in the Iranian statement. There was no specific reaction to the specific allegations by Israel that it hit a large number of Iranian targets inside Syria and no specific response to Israeli allegations that Iran was behind the cross-border fire that happened and that it was Iran who shot first, so they are still holding their cards close to the chest here in Tehran.


It is more than likely that the decision to launch the missiles was made by Qassem Soleimani. the commanding officer of Quds forces in Syria rather than by Teheran.


Israel Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said at a press conference that Israeli forces had destroyed nearly all of Iran's military infrastructure in Syria. On Thursday, he also demanded and threatened Assad to “throw the Iranians, Qassem Soleimani and the Quds forces, out of Syria! They are not acting in your interest, they are only hurting you. Their whole presence only brings problems and destruction," Lieberman said in the northern city of Katzrin in the 1967 occupied Golan.




Looking for “Regime Change” in Iran?




It is not an accident that this military exchange of fire took place one week before the US has moved its embassy to Jerusalem. Nor is it an accident that the move will happen one day before the Nakba day, as it provokes the Palestinians and will give Israel the excuse to carry out a large massacre. Following the massacres of the Syrian people it is now clear to the Zionists that a large massacre of the Palestinians can be carried out without any repercussions from the imperialists who rule the world.


This attack came in the same week Donald Trump said the U.S. will withdraw from the 2015 accords with Iran and that he would reinstate financial sanctions on the Islamic Republic.


Israel is not hiding its intentions to destabilize the Iranian regime hoping to restore the monarchy. This is also the intention of Trump.


This round of clashes between Israel and Iran in Syria is over, but there will be others. However, Israel is not likely to confront Iran by attacking it on Iranian soil without the US. Trump, however, is not ready yet to launch a full scale war against Iran. At the same time, the 2000 American soldiers in Syria are not likely to leave for now as they prevent the connection of Iran and Syria by land.


Israel’s attack took place one day after Donald Trump announced that he is withdrawing the United States from the nuclear agreement with Iran, Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, called, Hassan Rouhani, in Tehran, and “reiterated France’s desire to continue implementing all aspects of the . . . agreement.” France’s foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, told a French radio network, “The deal is not dead. There is an American withdrawal from the deal, but the deal is still there.” In other European capitals, senior politicians and diplomats were uttering similar remarks. For the first time in living memory, America’s European allies have collectively broken with Washington on a major security issue. Or so it seems. [2]


Whether the major European states will keep the deal remains to be seen. Their fear is that ending the agreement will lead to greater instability in the Middle East.




The Role of Russian Imperialism




It is not an accident that Israel attack came one day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began his visit to Russia. He was the only Western leader at the annual May 9th military parade in Moscow, as a personal guest of President Vladimir Putin.


During the visit to Moscow, Netanyahu got Vladimir Putin’s permission to attack the Iranian forces in Syria. Now, that the Syrian revolution has been more or less crushed, Iran is less important for Russian imperialist domination in the region. Putin will enjoy seeing Israel and Iran bleeding each other. Putin will also allow Israel to attack Assad's regime and will not provide him with more sophisticated weapons like the S 300 AA system. This is an old imperialist game. For example the U.S entered WWI as late as 1917 and during WWII the US entered the war after it became clear that the German invasion is a failure and many millions of Russian paid with their lives to repel it.


Russia is unlikely to limit Israel's military actions in Syria, Netanyahu said after his meeting with Putin. The May 9th date of the meeting, the day commemorating Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, is just another one of the many ironies of history. [3]


Thus, Israel attacked Iranian forces in Syria with the political approval of both the American and Russian imperialists.


The clashes between Israel and Iran reflect the contradiction between the old imperialist states like the USA and the new ones like Russia. The US is behind the alliance between Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf States, a.k.a. "The Sunni Alliance” while the Russian imperialists ally themselves with the Shi’ites. That does not mean that the imperialists will not desert their allies when it is suitable for them.




Revolutionary Position




The Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), that we the ISL in occupied Palestine are its section, has taken the position that in a military clash between Iran or Syria or Hezbollah and imperialist states and Israel is an imperialist state we want to see the military defeat of the imperialists without giving any political support to the Iranian, Syrian regime or Hezbollah.


In our latest statement Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the RCIT, wrote:


In our recently published book about the world situation we have outlined more in detail the background and the inner contradictions of these developments. We have predicted the inevitable escalation of the political and military tensions in the region.


However, at this point we will only repeat the important tactical conclusions resulting from our analysis. The RCIT urges the workers and popular movements in the Middle East and globally to mobilize its forces on the following principles.


1.They must oppose the aggressions of all imperialist powers – be it the U.S., Russia, Israel, China or France.


2. They must defend semi-colonial countries (like Iran) and oppressed people against such Great Power aggressions while retaining their political opposition to those semi-colonial capitalist regimes.


3. They must support all popular struggles and just wars of defense both against foreign aggressors as well as against domestic capitalist regimes (e.g. in Syria, Yemen, Iran, Egypt, etc.). This must not lead them to lend any political support to the forces at the top of such struggles.


4. The crucial task for the vanguard of the working class and the liberation forces is to rally together and to build a Revolutionary World Party based on a Marxist program.


The RCIT calls all authentic revolutionary forces to join us in this struggle.” [4]


The reason is simple: the imperialists are the most dangerous enemy of the international working class and the oppressed.


But how can we, some people may ask, after opposing Iran, Assad and Hezbollah, during the civil war, defend them now?


Trotsky answered such an argument long ago: "We do not and never have put all wars on the same plane. Marx and Engels supported the revolutionary struggle of the Irish against Great Britain, of the Poles against the tsar, even though in these two nationalist wars the leaders were, for the most part, members of the bourgeoisie and even at times of the feudal aristocracy ... at all events, Catholic reactionaries. When Abdel-Krim rose up against France, the democrats and Social Democrats spoke with hate of the struggle of a “savage tyrant” against the “democracy.” The party of Leon Blum supported this point of view. But we, Marxists and Bolsheviks, considered the struggle of the Riffians against imperialist domination as a progressive war. Lenin wrote hundreds of pages demonstrating the primary necessity of distinguishing between imperialist nations and the colonial and semicolonial nations which comprise the great majority of humanity. To speak of “revolutionary defeatism” in general, without distinguishing between exploiter and exploited countries, is to make a miserable caricature of Bolshevism and to put that caricature at the service of the imperialists.


In the Far East we have a classic example. China is a semicolonial country which Japan is transforming, under our very eyes, into a colonial country. Japan’s struggle is imperialist and reactionary. China’s struggle is emancipatory and progressive.


But Chiang Kai-shek? We need have no illusions about Chiang Kai-shek, his party, or the whole ruling class of China, just as Marx and Engels had no illusions about the ruling classes of Ireland and Poland. Chiang Kai-shek is the executioner of the Chinese workers and peasants. But today he is forced, despite himself, to struggle against Japan for the remainder of the independence of China. Tomorrow he may again betray. It is possible. It is probable. It is even inevitable. But today he is struggling. Only cowards, scoundrels, or complete imbeciles can refuse to participate in that struggle. [5]


Such a dialectical method must guide Marxists also in conflicts and clashes between classes and states today.












[4]; see also the joint statement on warmongering in the Middle East which has been issued by the RCIT and five fraternal organizations from Russia, Turkey, Kenya and Nigeria,