Israel staged a wide-ranging war game dubbed Turning Point 15 from Sunday May 31 to Thursday June 4. Israeli Defense Forces’ spokesmen accentuated the homeland defense facets of the exercise, which drilled the functioning in a war contingency of such essential utilities as water, power, gas and food supplies and tested the resources on tap for casualties and the mass evacuation of areas blasted by missiles.
The northern districts were specifically prepared for large-scale attacks from across the border.
As part of the drill, sirens were activated twice across the country on Tuesday, June 2 for people to practice running to bomb shelters.
DEBKA Weekly’s military sources disclose that, while these drills were genuine and necessary, they also masked a hidden agenda not revealed to the general public that was geared to three potential scenarios:
1. The outbreak of a full-blown Middle East war encompassing Syria and Lebanon.
2. An Islamic State terrorist incursion from the north, which a full IDF division practiced repelling.
3. A potential Israeli Air Force strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Iranian troops to Syria may spark a regional war
On Day Two, June 1, two expanded armored divisions rehearsed their responses in the event of Israel being caught up in a total Middle East War spilling over from the turmoil in Syria.
In the estimate of the IDF’s General Staff, the Syrian civil conflict may well blow up in its fifth year into a regional war potentially involving seven nations, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq. The working hypothesis actuating the war game provides for Iran staying constant to the regime headed by Bashar Assad, for the sake of preserving the contiguous land link between Tehran and the Lebanese Hizballah through Iraq and Syria.
To save Assad, Tehran would be obliged to send military units to defeat the Syrian rebels advancing on Damascus, according to this hypothesis. Until now, Iran fought Assad’s war through its Shiite surrogates – Hizballah and militias imported from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. To protect its stake in Damascus, Iran may need to send over to Syria a whole division of soldiers or Revolutionary Guards troops.
Signs that this option may be not far off were noted in Tehran this week.
Warning: Israel may strike Hizballah if Iran sends troops to Syria
It would then be up to Israel to decide whether the presence of four armies just across its northern and eastern borders – Iranian, Syrian, Hizballah and ISIS – is consistent with its national security, or cause for its army to go on the offensive against one or all of those armies.
Partial clarity came from a “senior officer on the IDF General Staff” (none other than Chief of Staff Gen. Gady Eisenkott) in a briefing Wednesday, June 3 for military correspondents. He spoke in unusual detail about a possible war between Hizballah and Israel. This potential conflict, he said, may not go on for more than seven days and would be disastrous for Lebanon. Its strategic infrastructure would be wiped out and around 1.5 million civilians displaced from their homes and forced to seek refuge in northern Lebanon or Turkey.
The message the Israel officer delivered was threefold:
a) The deployment of Iranian troops in Syria would hem Israel in with another hostile force across its northeastern border, in addition to Hizballah to the north. Its army would be compelled to eliminate one or the other. The IDF officer pointed to a possible offensive against Hizballah in Lebanon, as a message advising Tehran to take this eventuality into account before finally deciding to send soldiers into Syria.
The entire Israeli Air Force fleet takes to the sky
b) The Israeli offensive would have to be short, consisting of a lightning conquest of southern and parts of central Lebanon. Hizballah is too overstretched in Syria to put up much resistance. The officer referred to one and a half million potential Lebanese refugees. He did not mention that an operation lasting more than a week would necessitate the evacuation of almost the same number of Israelis – around 1.2 million – from their homes in the northern half of the country.
c) The officer also omitted to mention the possibility of a showdown between Iran and Israel being touched off by the turbulence in Syria and Lebanon – even though one part of Israel’s national war game was devoted to a mock air strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Wednesday, June 3, Israeli squadrons took the air in wave after wave. DEBKA Weekly’s military sources report that for the first time since the 1967 war, the entire Israeli Air Force fleet was up in the sky – some heading for Syria and Lebanon; others in the direction of Iran. The concentration of IAF bombers over the Middle East was heavy enough to disrupt the region’s civilian air traffic for several hours.
This part of the Israeli message to Tehran was hardly likely to be missed.