Since the 2011 Civil War in Syria began, the Iranians have seen a huge window of opportunity to not only increase their influence throughout the region, but to get their troops and, more importantly, their missiles on the border of their most hated enemy — Israel.  

The combination of Iranian and Russian intervention has no doubt saved the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Islamic republic has also thrown Hezbollah into the fray. Hezbollah is based in Lebanon but it is an Iranian proxy taking its orders from Tehran. It is trying to not only prop up the Damascus regime, but to counter the American-led coalition’s presence in both Syria and Iraq.

Yet the situation is changing and a combination of the Coronavirus, a collapsing economy, and punishing airstrikes from Israel have the Iranians rethinking the cost of their ambitious plans. There have been indications for the past few months that the Iranians are going from the offensive to the defensive. And the huge cost of personnel lost, which is no doubt woefully underrepresented, is taking a toll on their resolve. 

It no longer is Iran that is on the move, but Israel. The Israeli government has long made it clear that it will not accept Iranian bases and large amounts of Iranian troops and proxies on its borders. Israel has conducted hundreds of airstrikes since the civil war began but has significantly increased its operational tempo recently.

Israel has pounded arms warehouses and troop concentrations continuously in recent months. Its intelligence service, Mossad, has been instrumental in finding out when the Iranians are sending shipments of missiles to Syria. And just a few days ago, an airstrike, reportedly attributed to Israel, blasted the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center in Aleppo. The Center is believed to be involved in an Iranian-backed precision missile project and also be a chemical weapons laboratory.

Back in February, there was a perceivable shift as the Israelis pressed home their offensive against Iran. Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said then that the Jewish state had an opportunity to go from the defensive to the offensive.

“I can tell you that we have identified initial signs indicating that Iran is re-evaluating its plans in Syria,” Bennett told visitors at a conference in Tel Aviv.

“[Iran is] sending forces to try to establish [presence] there and wear us down, but we can turn the disadvantage to an advantage. We have superior intelligence and operational capabilities, and we are telling Iran loud and clear: Get out of Syria! You have nothing to look for here.”