Counter-Terrorism: Iran Goes After Israel


May 1, 2023: Iran has increased its efforts to carry out attacks inside Israel. The IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) is taking the lead with its Quds Force, which specializes in attacks against foreign enemies. Shin Bet, the Israeli domestic intelligence service, recently arrested two West Bank Palestinians who had been recruited, via the Internet, by Quds Force as part of an effort to establish a network of Palestinians in the West Bank who had been trained and organized by Quds to carry out attacks against Israelis using rockets launched from the West Bank. This Quds network would also provide Iran with information on the West Bank. Such a network has not yet been established, in large part because Shin Bet detects Quds activities and often monitors them rather than immediately shutting them down. That was the case with the two recently arrested Palestinians, who had been sent to Turkey where Quds could provide training. Shin Bet waited until it had identified other Palestinians working for Quds.

Iran spends about $100 million a year to support its operations among Palestinians. Over the last few years, some of that activity moved from Gaza to the West Bank. The West Bank is run by Fatah, a more corrupt and less comfortable with Quds Palestinian government, which is very hostile towards rival Hamas members from Gaza operating in the West Bank. The growing presence of Hamas and Quds in the West Bank caused Fatah to become more cooperative with Israel and its many intelligence and counter-intelligence organizations. After all, Quds is spending a lot of money in the West Bank and Fatah insists on getting a share of anyone’s new spending in their domain. Shin Bet has a network of local informants in the West Bank, as well as in Gaza and Turkey. Israel also has an extensive Internet monitoring operation that searches for, and often detects, new efforts to use the Internet in support of attacks on Israel.

Iran knows that Israel is a formidable opponent, especially in the West Bank and Gaza. Just having a recruiting network in the West Bank is seen as an achievement, even though it has been expensive. For example, a year ago Shin Bet arrested four members of a Hamas terrorist cell (group) that had received training in Syria and Turkey before returning to the West Bank, where they were arrested. Quds was involved with this.

At the same time Israeli media and an Iranian opposition group revealed that Israeli Mossad (foreign intelligence) and Shin Bet personnel had gone to Iran in 2021. There they seized and questioned Mansour Rasouli, a member of Quds Force Unit 840, which carries out assassinations overseas. Rasouli admitted that he had been assigned to arrange the assassination of an Israeli diplomat in Turkey, an American general officer stationed in Germany and a journalist in France. The IRGC was providing him with $150,000 to plan the killings and another million dollars if all three subjects were killed. Rasouli planned to hire contract killers via his contacts in drug smuggling gangs.

Audio, and later video, of key portions of the interrogation were leaked. Rasouli confessed because his interrogators already knew a lot about the plot. He was released and the Israeli interrogators left Iran. Rasouli and his IRGC superiors called off the assassinations because they knew the interrogation had been recorded, the targets had been alerted, and had received additional security. There was an understanding that, if Iran backed off on these killings, the Israelis would remain silent about the interrogation. Why this evidence was leaked in 2022 may have something to do with the Israeli opposition to the 2018 American willingness to not merely revive the 2015 treaty reducing American sanctions on Iran, but also to modify its terms to make it easier for Iran to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles for use on Israel. Billions of dollars in frozen accounts would be returned to Iran and, if the Americans went ahead with taking the Iranian IRGC and its Quds Force off the list of known terrorists, there would be a lot more violence in the Middle East. Iran saw the 2015 treaty suspended by a new American government in 2018 because of Iranian cheating. Then came the 2020 American presidential elections, which put into power another new president seemingly determined to change American policies towards Iran and ignore Arab oil states’ complaints about Iranian threats and attacks on them. This has driven many Gulf oil states into an economic alliance with Russia to drive up the price of oil. This policy makes it easier for Iran to smuggle more of its heavily discounted oil. That plan survived the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine and even more economic sanctions. Opposition from the Arabs and American voters is having an impact and revival of the 2015 treaty may not happen. Otherwise, Israel has made it clear it will carry out attacks on Iranian targets key to nuclear and ballistic missile development and production. The Arab oil states will cooperate, and continue refusing to increase production to lower world oil prices.

Meanwhile Hamas complained that Turkey expelled dozens of Hamas members in the last few months. These expulsions are part of the Turkish effort to repair their relations with Israel.




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