TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) -Speaking at a hearing of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in Washington on Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Israel’s continued aerial assaults against Syria would increase the risk of Iran’s retaliation.
“We assess that Iran seeks to avoid a major armed conflict with Israel,” he said. “However, Israeli strikes that result in Iranian casualties increase the likelihood of Iranian conventional retaliation against Israel.”
Coats also raised concerns about what he called “the long-term trajectory of Iranian influence in the region and the risk that conflict will escalate.”
He further claimed that Iran pursues “permanent military bases” in Syria and probably wants to maintain a network of “fighters” there despite the Israeli aerial assaults.
The American official was presenting the views of the US Intelligence Community to the congressional committee as part of the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment.
Tehran has been offering military advisory assistance to the Syrian army at the request of the Damascus government. Iran has no operating forces in the Arab country and possesses no military base there.
The Israeli military launches air raids against various targets inside Syria against what it calls Iranian targets. Iran, however, has not confirmed those claims.
Israel – which has been backing the terror groups operating against Damascus -- views Iranian advisors in Syria as a threat and has openly pledged to target them until they leave the Arab country.
Earlier this month, the chief commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) responded to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “ridiculous” threat of strikes against Iranian advisors.
Major General Ali Jafari vowed that the Islamic Republic will protect its military advisory mission against the regime’s acts of aggression.
In April 2018, an Israeli airstrike against the T-4 airbase in Syria’s Homs province killed more than a dozen people, including seven Iranian military advisors. Iran pledged back then that it would punish Israel for the deadly air raid.
Months later, Israel conducted what it called its most intensive airstrikes on Syria in decades in May. According to Russia's Defense Ministry, Israel had used 28 warplanes in its Syria strikes and fired 70 missiles. Both Damascus and Moscow said that the Syrian army managed to shoot down over half of the missiles.
The Tel Aviv regime, at the time, claimed that its assault was a response to a barrage of 20 rockets that were fired from Syria at Israeli military outposts in the occupied Golan Heights. It also blamed the purported rocket fire on Iran.