US Intel Chief: Israel Strikes in Syria May Lead to Regional War

Warns Iranian casualties increase likelihood of Iranian retaliation

US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that he believes Iran wants to “avoid a major armed conflict with Israel,” but that continued Israeli attacks on targets in Syria may ultimately spark an Iranian retaliation.

“Israeli strikes that result in Iranian casualties increase the likelihood of Iranian conventional retaliation against Israel.” Coats added that Israeli strikes are raising growing concerns that the “conflict will escalate.”

Coats’ comments actually reflect an assessment from Israeli President Reuven Rivlin made just a day before, that he believes Iran will “retaliate with greater force” against northern Israel, and that Israel can no longer trust in “understandings” with Russia to avoid Iran retaliating against attacks.

Israeli officials used to be secretive about attacking Iranian targets, but with an election looming are increasingly bragging up the strikes as proof that they are being tough with Iran. Despite this, Coats says there is no sign the Israeli strikes are deterring Iranian plans to stay inside Syria.

Israeli officials have emphasized their intention to keep acting against Iran in Syria, despite it having not accomplished anything so far, and despite concerns from both US and Israeli officials that all it is doing is risking an escalation.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of