United States officials believe that the recent series of Israeli air strikes at a base located at a Syrian city and suspected of housing weapons for Iran’s military ground forces is further proof that both countries may be headed toward war.
According to the U.S. officials, Israeli F-15s targeted the city of Hama which is located on Western Syria. Israeli military forces believe Iran had delivered weapons for Iran’s 47th Brigade. The inventory of weapons allegedly includes surface- to- air missiles.
Reports place the number of casualties to around two dozen troops including officers of the Iranian military.
The U.S. has been tracking movements of Iran’s military forces. For the past two week, U.S. officials have reported that Iran has increased military cargo flights to Syria. The cargo is suspected to contain small arms, ammunition and surface- to- air missiles. The United States believes these weapons are intended to fortify Iran’s ground forces versus Israel.
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said that he has met with his counterpart from Israel, Avigdor Lieberman and discussed Iran’s growing presence in Syria:
“The Iranian forces or the proxy forces have tried to get down closer to the Israel border. I mean very close to it, and you’ve seen Israel take action over that.”
Senior military leaders from Israel have been meeting with their counterparts from the U.S. military the past few weeks. Israel is seeking support from the U.S. to take stronger, more forceful action against Iranian forces in Syria. Additionally, Israel hopes the U.S. can provide it with intelligence reports.
Gen. Joseph Votel made his first official visit to Israel as Commander of U.S. Central Command. However, because Israel is part of the U.S. European Command, it is not under Votel’s area of responsibility.
For his part, Votel met with Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot who is Israel’s general chief of staff. According to wire reports, Votel and Eizenkot shared their concern over Iran’s expanded presence in Syria. From Israel, Votel visited U.S. forces that were stationed at the Middle Euphrates River.
The objective of the U.S. military in Syria is to defeat the militant forces of the Islamic State. The U.S. military has no plans to target the current regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.