The Dogs of War Howl

By Matthew Hines

The last 48 hours have unfolded an extraordinary series of events which may culminate in a war no one wants to see, and a war many statesmen have given precious time and treasure to prevent.

Over the weekend, Iran sent a drone into Israeli territory, shot down by the Israeli Air Force (IAF). What unfolded over the next 48 hours – and continuing now – escalated an already hostile relationship into a casus belli, and an excuse for either side to claim ideological justification for war.

Israel retaliated with an airstrike against the Syrian base which launched the drone, to which Syria shot down its first Israeli fighter since the 1982 Lebanon war. This led Israel to launch a comprehensive strike against 122 Syrian and Iranian targets , from which they suffered no casualties. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed on Sunday to his cabinet, “We have destroyed over half of Syrian air defenses.”

While the situation is developing, Israel finds itself battling a newly resurgent Assad-led Syria and, with it, a proxy enemy in Russia. While Russia has been supplying Syria and Iran with weapons and support, the U.S. has largely given lip service and “good luck” to those seeking to topple Assad. Because both the Obama and Trump administrations have lacked a coherent policy regarding Syria and Russia’s proxy there, it is allowing for instability in the region and further jeopardizes any peace deal Washington may seek for the Israelis and Palestinians.

Furthermore, since the Iran nuclear deal, U.S. diplomacy on Iran has taken a turn that (rightly) isolates its state policies of supporting terror networks while also hailing its path forward on the nuclear deal. In October 2017, Trump unveiled his new policy towards Iran, which seeks to isolate and deter Iran from supporting terror networks such as Hezbollah. It also condemns the regime – notably through the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – for supporting North Korean nuclear ambitions, taunting U.S. Navy escorts in the Persian Gulf, and stopping shipments of oil, among other accusations. The center of the strategy for the new Trump policy is centered around the IRGC, and it seems to notably lack Iranian President Rouhani or his inner circle among them.

Yet, as this policy is being implemented by the U.S., Iran shows no signs of slowing or stopping its policy of supporting Israel’s enemies, as evidence by the events of this weekend in Syria. As the situation develops, either cooler heads will prevail, or the next step will be a conflict which could have been prevented. It is a conflict which, inevitably, war hawks in the U.S. will clamor for us to join.

Then, let loose the dogs of war.