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Israel slow to recalibrate on Syria

Israel's original assessment of the Syrian war is no longer relevant, and the state must make strategic changes to face the threat of the regime, which is likely to remain in power with Iran's patronage.
Israeli soldiers from the 605 Combat Engineering Corps battalion take part in a training session on the Israeli side of the border between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights June 1, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner/File Photo - D1AETZOHRRAA

Middle East developments over the past few years — including the civil war in Syria, the rise of the Islamic State, the expected fall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the violence in Iraq — have all affected Israel’s conception of national security. In light of these developments and the fact that for the first time in its history, Israel was not surrounded by conventional armies capable of threatening it, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) made several important changes: armored divisions were dismantled, land forces were diverted to different positions, commando units were established and infantry units were upgraded. In general, the IDF adapted itself more to guerilla warfare and fighting against widely dispersed networks of terror organizations rather than traditional large-scale wars against regular standing armies.

But over the last few months, a new perspective is beginning to penetrate Israeli’s security officials. The working assumptions that took root in recent years have been undermined and are starting to fall apart. We are not yet at the stage at which the IDF is changing course, but if events continue to advance in the direction they have gone in the last half year, then anything is possible.

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