Israel has been concerned that Syrian President Bashar Assad would defeat Sunni rebels over the next few months.
Israel’s intelligence community is closely following the Assad offensive against Sunni rebels in the spring of 2013. Sources report that community envisioned that a victorious Assad could be emboldened to launch hostilities against Israel in coordination with Iran and Hizbullah.
“Assad is not going to sit quietly if he wins,” an official said. “He will take revenge against anybody he feels helped the rebels, and he could attack us to restore his radical credentials.”
Officials said the community was stunned by the rapid advance of Assad’s military, backed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hizbullah.
They said the offensive marked a significant improvement in the capabilities of the Syrian military as well as its coordination with foreign allies.
“If they [Assad forces] continue at this rate, they can wrap up the war within a few weeks, and leave the north for a later stage,” the official said.
The community has assessed that the war cemented the coordination between Assad, IRGC and Hizbullah. Officials said Israel’s military and intelligence agencies did not rule out that Iran and Syria would form permanent joint units for war against Israel or Jordan.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has sought to assuage concerns over an Assad victory. Ya’alon, a former military chief of staff, said that as of early June, the Assad regime was in control of no more than 40 percent of Syria.
Other officials sounded less sanguine. They said the rebels were collapsing amid a short of equipment, weapons and feuds among commanders.
“Those fighting against Assad are mostly foreigners, paid by Qatar and Saudi Arabia,” another official said. “There is not much left of the indigenous rebel movement.”