Playing with fire: Iran and Syria claim victory as Israel takes them back to 1982

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Operation Mole Cricket 19 was a suppression of enemy air defences campaign launched by the Israeli Air Force against Syrian targets on June 9, 1982. The battle lasted all of two hours and became known as the biggest air battle since WWII.

Military technology has matured somewhat since the 80’s; Today, Israel spends 4.5% of its GDP on R&D, 30% of which is Military based. By comparison, only 2% of German R&D and 17% of US R&D is committed to military.

On Saturday an Iranian UAV infiltrated Israel’s airspace and was shot down by an IAF Apache helicopter; the IDF then preceded a counter strike on an Iranian command vehicle in Syria.

The Iranian drone is considered to be very advanced and spent about a minute and a half in Israeli territory. The drone heavily resembles a US stealth drone that was downed in Iran in 2011; leading aviation experts to believe the technology was likely reverse-engineered.

Iran acquired new weapon technology as a result of Obama’s presidency, in 2016 the US taxpayer found itself in the uncomfortable position of funding both sides of the Middle East’s arms race. The Obama administration paid Iran $1.7 billion from a U.S. taxpayer-funded account in order to settle decades-old legal disputes with the Islamic Republic. Flush with cash, Iran engaged in several controversial arms deals with the Russians, including the purchase of several warplanes and an advanced missile system.

According to an IDF Spokesperson, during the attack on the Iranian command vehicle, the Syrian army retaliated with widespread anti-aircraft fire. This counter-air technology works by overwhelming an aircraft defence system by firing a high rate of shells. Pilots of one of the eight fighter jets recognized anti-aircraft missiles locking onto their plane, prompting them to eject. The F-16 was hit and crashed in Northern Israel.

Israel says it responded with a second wave of strikes on both Syrian and Iranian military targets operating inside Syria. The response was the “most significant attack” of its kind against Syria since the 1982 Lebanon war, said senior Israeli air force general Tomer Bar.

“Twelve targets, including three aerial defence batteries and four Iranian targets that are part of Iran’s military establishment in Syria were attacked,” the IDF spokesperson said in a statement. “Syrians and Iranians are playing with fire.” Providing further comment, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said that, “Israel has been carrying out a clear defensive action in the past few hours against subversive Iranian actions against Israel.”

I can only suspect the Iranian drone may have been a bait to lure Israel into an inescapable military response. It is also entirely possible that the act was meant to prove that Israeli territory can be breached—netting the Iranians a firm propaganda win, which in reality is the best they can hope for. Downing an IDF F-16 is almost unheard of.

A mistake I doubt we’ll see the IAF make again in the near future.

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