Iran: Woe Unlimited

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July 14, 2020: President Rouhani has been openly disagreeing with members of parliament and some of his own ministers over demands that there be another economic lockdown (nationwide quarantine) to stem the continued spread of covid19. Many government officials feel another round of quarantine would lead to widespread protests because most Iranians are still trying to recover economically from the last round of quarantine related economic lockdowns.

Another factor here is the “Council of Guardians.” This is the small group of self-selected senior clerics who have the final authority in Iran. Each of the twelve guardians is an elderly Shia cleric who appears, on the surface, as a wise and caring holy man. The reality is that the “Guardians” preside over a corrupt and incompetent bureaucracy. That is the cause of growing hatred of the religious government and the failure to effectively deal with the outbreak of covid19 earlier in the year. The failure cost the Guardians several members because those most prone to die from covid19 are elderly. Most Iranians are not elderly and have developed a practical sense of what covid19 does and would prefer to put the economy first.

The secret police monitor public opinion, via informant reports about attitudes on the street as well as Internet chatter. Government efforts to blame economic problems on Israeli sabotage and American sanctions were not working. The blame was on the religious government and the refusal of the religious leaders to change had not only turned most Iranians against the government but increasingly willing to go to war over their dire situation. The fact that the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) boasts of its ability to mobilize enough fanatic and violence prone defenders of the government, persuades more and more Iranians that violence is the only answer to their problems. While the IRGC is losing supporters as well, there are still enough left to terrorize much of the population. For the Guardians and the IRGC time is not on their side. Even without covid19, the Iranian religious dictatorship was already in trouble.

Those troubles have rapidly multiplied in the last few months. For example, Iran has experienced six mysterious explosions, fires and expensive equipment failures since June 25th at facilities related to Iranian nuclear and missile research and development. On July 2nd there was a particularly violent explosion at a facility related to the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Officially, Iran considers these explosions accidents, unofficially it is believed the Israelis, perhaps with the Americans, are carrying out another major cyber-attack on Iranian nuclear weapons efforts. Iran believes this is the Israeli response to the growing number of unsuccessful Iranian hacker attacks on Israel since early 2019.

The situation becomes more ominous as Iranian officials escalate their threatening gestures against Israel. This puts Iran in an embarrassing situation because the reality is that Iran does not really have the capability to launch an effective attack on Israel. They can carry out attacks that will likely fail and undermine Iranian credibility throughout the region as well as inside Iran. In addition to all the Iranian bases and facilities in Syria hit with airstrikes over the last few years, the Israeli military recently revealed that in 2017 Israel had detected and thwarted a major Iranian effort to hack into the Israeli domestic warning system. In the last year alone Israeli Cyber War defense efforts have thwarted 130 Iranian Internet based attacks on Israel. At the same time, similar Israeli attacks on Iran are succeeding. The chatter coming from Iran is that their nuclear enrichment (turning uranium into weapons-grade material) facilities are again suffering massive equipment failures, as in the new centrifuges were apparently hacked, as they were nearly a decade ago via the Israeli/American stuxnet. In addition, there have been bombs going off in some of these facilities, indicating Israeli agents were able to gain access and plant explosives. This is particularly disturbing for Iranian leaders because it indicates that Israel is able to recruit agents inside Iran. That’s what happens when a lot of young Iranians are openly angry at their own government.

Sometimes Israel just sends a warning. In early May officials at the Iranian Shahid Rajaee container port near the Strait of Hormuz admitted that local government networks had been hit with an Internet based attack. The official insisted the attack did no lasting damage to port operations. But commercial satellite photos later showed trucks (delivering or going to pick up containers) backed up on roads to the port. An unusually large number of container ships were stuck waiting to get a berth. In a rare move, Israel took credit for the hack, which was meant to halt port operations for several days. Israel rarely takes credit for these attacks but did so, in this case, to warn Iran there would be a lot more of this if Iran did not halt its efforts to hack Israeli public utilities, as in a recent effort against a local water supply system. The latest of these Iranian efforts was in late April. Iran made more threats against Israel and now believes these six (so far) explosions and other “accidents” at nuclear weapons and missile research facilities are the latest Israeli response to continued Iranian threats.

Iranian officials also believe this latest offensive is connected to the early 2018 commando operation that the Israeli prime minister went on TV to reveal. The Israeli leader described how Mossad (Israeli intel) agents took over 110,000 documents from a warehouse in the Iran capital. Mossad used Iranian smugglers to get the documents across the border to Azerbaijan and then to Israel all in less than 24 hours. The Mossad operation, which involved moving half a ton of documents, took place in at the end of January and the Iranian effort to send a bomb laden UAV into Israel on February 10th was seen as a response. Since the documents arrived in Israel, American, Israeli and other foreign experts (on intelligence, nuclear weapons and Iranian technical capabilities) translated and scrutinized the huge haul of information, concluded that the documents were authentic and proved that Iran does have a nuclear weapons program, something they have always denied. Opinion polls conducted in Israel after the prime minister’s revelations showed that 58 percent of Israeli Jews support how the government is handling the Iranian threat.

Now the Iranian nuclear weapons program is literally blowing up and the Iranian government appears as hapless as ever. Even the most loyal fans of the Iranian religious dictatorship are dismayed because, if Allah is on the side of their leaders how can the Israelis manage to carry out attack after attack? Meanwhile, since November police and IRGC violence against protestors has left more than a thousand dead. In early 2020 covid19 showed up, an unwelcome visitor from China.

Infections

So far, the covid19 coronavirus has killed over 12,000 Iranians, mainly the elderly or those already ill with something else. The Guardians initially denied the virus would hurt Moslems and would only threaten non-Moslems. Then elderly clerics began to die in large numbers and soon Iran was suffering more covid19 deaths per capita than most anyone else. By early June Iran had already suffered over 8,000 confirmed covid19 deaths. That came out to and a hundred deaths per million population. The Iranian deaths per million were double the global average of 52 and higher than 86 percent of the word’s nations. While most other nations are now experiencing a reduction in covid19 deaths, the opposite is true for Iran, which is considered the epicenter of covid19 infections in the region and the source of infection for most of its neighbors. For example, by early June Afghanistan had ten deaths per million people, Turkey had 56, India had five. Iraq had nine. Pakistan had ten. Northern neighbor Tajikistan had five, while across the Gulf Saudi Arabia has 21 deaths per million while the UAE had 28 per million.

The actual deaths in Iran are believed to be at least four times higher at about 400 per million and continuing to rise. By mid-July, the official death toll was over 12,000 or about 150 dead per million population. This is not unlikely because some Western nations that report accurately have even higher death rates. By early June Spain had 580 deaths per million while Italy had 562, Britain had 598 and France 448 while the U.S. and many other European states with even lower deaths per million people. There are many Iranian expatriates in these European nations who maintain contacts with family and friends back in Iran and that helps in exposing the true extent of covid19 damage back home. Iranians are beginning to wonder whose side is God on.

Iraq

As expected, Iranian influence inside Iraq has waned since the American airstrike in January the killed Quds commander Qassem Soleimani, along with the commander of the Iraqi Katab Hezbollah and several other key Iran-backed Iraqi militia leaders. Iran was unable to replace Soleimani with a man of similar stature and influence. This was made worse by the growing financial crises inside Iran. When Esmail Ghaani, the new Quds commander, made his first visit to Iraq he, like Soleimani, crossed the border with impunity. Things went downhill from there. Iraqi supporters of Iran expected Esmail Ghaani to bring lots of cash for Iraqi commanders to reinforce the alliance with, and obedience to, Iran. Ghaani didn’t have any cash and passed out some cheap jewelry. Ghaani went back to Iran and reported that he had made progress. That turned out to be overly optimistic because they next time he tried to cross the into Iraq he was stopped by border guards and told he, specifically him, had to apply for a visa first. Once Ghaani got back into Iraq he found that the reports of declining PMF morale and evaporating support for Iran were true. Again, Ghaani did not have any cash to pass around to encourage his followers.

Iraqis are also aware of similar anti-Iran sentiments in Lebanon. Inside Iraq Katab Hezbollah is now openly accused of working for Iran to achieve Iranian control over Iraq. More and more Iraqis are turning against Iran-backed groups in Iraq, where local media are less intimidated by pro-Iran militias and are openly mocking things like the Iranian practice of creating fictitious pro-Iran militias via the Internet. This is typical Iranian propaganda and once had a large following in Iraq. As Iran used more violence in its efforts to gain control over Iraq, more Iraqis lost their long-held illusions about Iranian goals in Iraq. The growing popular anger in Iran against the religious dictatorship also sends a message to Iraqis that even Iranians don’t trust or like the Iranian government. Both Iranians and Iraqis are defying the Iranian government thugs in both countries and tearing down or defacing posters and billboards promoting the Iranian government and its policies. In Iraq, many local governments are banning pro-Iran posters. Worse, the payroll for PMF militias, which are now technically part of the military, is often late or short for PMF militias still believed loyal to Iran. Without someone like Soleimani to organize a suitably scary response, the Iraqi government does not back off and keeps applying economic and other pressure on PMF militias to act like they are Iraqi, not agents of Iran.

Reduced support for Iran within the PMF crippled the Iranian attack plan against American forces in Iraq. This effort began in October and has included over 40 attacks so far. Few of these efforts did any damage and caused even fewer casualties. General Soleimani was trying to fix that when the American got to him in January with some Hellfire missiles. Iran expected the death of Soleimani would trigger more anti-American anger among Iraqis. Didn’t happen. Most Iraqis saw Soleimani as more of a threat than the Americans. Iran was next door and forever threatening. The Americans were far away and had left once before, in 2011, and had to be asked to return in 2014 to deal with the ISIL invasion. The Americans are again eager to leave, the Iranians are not. Most Iranians want less money spent on subverting Iraq and more spent on building the Iranian economy and raising the standard of living. That is not a priority with the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) and its Quds Force that specializes in destabilizing other countries, like Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Insolvency

The continuing IRGC efforts in Iraq, Syria and Iran are getting less money but the expense is still high and is still a cause of anger inside Iran. This IRGC budget is also a factor in the failure of government efforts to make the Iranian currency stronger. A year ago (August 2019) the government issued new currency that was supposed to deal with the enormous inflation and the bad reputation the rial had acquired. For example, in August 2019 it cost 120,000 rials to buy a dollar. The new currency, the toman, made that 12 toman to the dollar. The toman was what some Iranian currency was called for a long time, until 1925. Many Iranians still use the term. The exchange rate has since gotten worse. Now you need over 230,000 rials (or 23 toman) to buy a dollar.

Changing the currency is expensive but most Iranians appreciate it because the low value of the rial meant that people were carrying around a lot of paper currency just to handles daily transactions. Because of the continued low oil prices, difficulty in smuggling oil or refined products to customers willing to pay if Iran can deliver and the covid19 damage done to the economy unemployment is higher as is inflation and the cost of buying dollars, the currency you need to buy foreign goods.

July 13, 2020: In northwest Yemen Shia rebels launched four ballistic missiles towards the Saudi capital (Riyadh, a thousand kilometers away in central Saudi Arabia). The rebels claimed this attack included five slower explosive laden UAVs and that many of these weapons landed in the Saudi capital. The Saudis say they intercepted the missiles with their Patriot ABMs (anti-ballistic missiles) and the UAVs were shot down by Saudi jet fighters. There are a large number of foreigners in Riyadh so you cannot conceal missiles or explosives carrying UAVs hitting targets. All that was reported overnight were explosions in the night sky, indicating a Pac-3 missile intercepting a ballistic missile. Not a common sight over the capital but not unknown either since Iran started supplying the Yemeni rebels with longer range ballistic missiles.

Since 2015 the Yemeni rebels have, with components and tech support from Iran, launched over a hundred ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia. The Saudis point to these Iranian ballistic missiles and Iranian UAVs as pretty clear evidence that Iran was still smuggling weapons in. Iran denies everything and when confronted with physical evidence insists that the Yemeni Shia make the stuff locally, obtaining technical help via the Internet.

Saudi Arabia also released jet fighter gun video of two large (Predator size) Iranian Shahed 129 UAVs being shot down after crossing the border into southern Saudi Arabia on July 2nd. These explosives laden UAVs can reach the Saudi capital and he size of the explosion when the UAVs are hit with the cannon fire confirms the UAVs were carrying a lot of explosives. Iran keeps making these attacks because they only have to get lucky, and score a hit once or twice, to frighten and embarrass the Saudis. Iran blames all this on the Yemeni Shia rebels, who admit they receive aid from Iran. Foreign (including UN) investigators conclude that the rebels are acting with the help of Iran and would not be able to launch ballistic missiles and UAV attacks on Saudi Arabia with Iranian assistance. The smuggling program to support these missile and UAV attacks from Yemen is high and has become one of many complaints Iranians have against their government.

Kassim Tajideen, a Lebanese man serving a five-year prison term in the U.S. after a 2018 conviction for handling finances for Iran-backed Islamic terror group Hezbollah, was released from prison. This was in exchange for the freedom of two Americans who had been kidnapped by Iranians in Syria and Iran. These kidnappings are often described as arrests for spying or otherwise offending Iran or its government. These Americans are held to be traded for Iranian operatives who get caught and imprisoned. Although the official U.S. policy is to not negotiate with terrorists or pay ransom this system of state sanctioned kidnapping and demand for ransom (in the form of captured operatives being freed) still goes on. Few Americans visiting Iran are subject to this form of kidnapping and the threat does not discourage most visitors.

July 12, 2020: Syria is not getting along with its patrons Russia and Iran. This tension does not express itself violently but there have been confrontations. Iran has been hiring Syrian militiamen by offering higher pay. While Iran is having financial problems, Syria is in even worse shape. Syria still cooperates with Iran. For example, Syria, with Russian help, discovered that three senior intel officers (two generals and a colonel) were selling information to a foreign power (apparently the CIA). Some of this intel was apparently used to track the movements of IRGC general (and Quds Force commander) Qassem Soleimani just before he was killed by an American Hellfire missile attack in January 2020. Soleimani was also in charge of the Iranian military buildup in Syria and Iraq. Iran has declared the death of Soleimani a “crime against humanity” and is seeking international cooperation to arrest senior American civilian and military personnel involved with killing Soleimani. This allows the Syrians to score some points with the Iranians by agreeing with this effort to avenge Soleimani.

July 11, 2020: In the capital (Tehran) there was another explosion. This one was not at any facility related to nuclear weapons or missile research. This explosion was traced to a basement of an old two-story house were 30 natural gas cylinders were stored and someone was working on one of the cylinders. This incident was not immediately blamed on Israel but the investigation continues. What this explosion and several other urban disasters are examples of are poor administration. This was documented after a 2017 skyscraper fire that left over fifty firefighters dead or injured. The skyscraper had been poorly built and city building inspectors had been bribed. The public outcry led to a citywide building inspection, often double checked by concerned civilians. Over 30,000 buildings were fund to be poor condition and few were likely to undergo repairs any time soon.

In eastern Syria (Deir Ezzor province) an airstrike, apparently Israeli, hit a convoy of Iranian mercenaries in Syrian Army uniforms. At least 35 men were killed including two officers. Deir Ezzor is now a key link in a land route from Iran, via Iraq to Lebanon. Deir Ezzor is also where Iran bases most of its mercenaries.

In Iraq a pro-Iran militia took credit for an attack on a convoy transporting equipment from Kuwait to an American base near Baghdad. Several vehicles being transported were set on fire. The fire was put out as the attackers fled.

July 10, 2020: Somewhere in Syria another IRGC commander Ibrahim Asami was killed. The IRGC released few details other than that Asami was a senior officer and his body was promptly returned to Iran for burial after Asami died of his wounds. The IRGC can’t keep these deaths secret because the religious dictatorship insists on efforts to obey Islamic law and bury the dead within 24 hours. Them there is the custom of not trying to get the family to refrain from public mourning. So the death gets into the media and the local Internet. The IRGC has lost nearly a thousand dead and badly wounded in Syria so far.

Germany revealed that in February it had arrested another Iranian Quds Force operative. This Quds Force man was acting as a spy and was being prosecuted as one. Germany considers Iran a major offender in this area, along with Russia, Turkey and China. While Germany finally (In May 2020) joined other Western nations in treating Hezbollah as an international terrorist organization, the Quds Force has not yet received the same recognition. This despite the fact that the main function of Quds is to organize terror attacks outside of Iran. Quds has long supplied Hezbollah with training, weapons and targets Iran wants attacked.

July 9, 2020: West of the capital (Tehran) there were several explosions, apparently at an IRGC base where missiles were stored. The explosions caused some problems with the local electrical distribution system.

July 8, 2020: Iran signed a deal with Syria to upgrade Syrian air defense capabilities. This will include systems using the Iranian Sayyad 3 anti-aircraft missile which, when used with the Bavar-373 radar and fire control system, can intercept aerial targets up to 150 kilometers distant. Each Bavar-373 system can simultaneously track 30 aircraft and direct Sayyad 3 missiles at twelve of those targets. Iran insisted that it had developed its own clone (Bavar-373) of the Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile system. Iran began work on the Bavar-373 in 2010 after Russia refused to deliver S-300 systems Iran had ordered. International sanctions, plus pressure from the United States and Israel led Russia to cancel the Iranian order. Iran issued progress reports and Bavar-373 was supposed to be ready for final testing in 2014, then 2015, then 2016 when some tests apparently took place in 2017. The Israelis indicate they are not concerned about the Bavar-373 and that they can handle it. Russian and Western air defense experts doubt that the Iranians have managed to create anything close to the capabilities of the S-300 systems Russia has already delivered once the sanctions were lifted in mid-2015. The Iranian designed and built Sayyad 3 missile for the Bavar-373 appears to be the same size and shape as the S-300 missile and carried in similar canisters but is not considered as capable. Iran insists that Bavar-373 is superior to the S-300. Iran is also sending its more recent (2019) Khordad 15 to Syria. Khordad 15 uses a more modern AESA (solid-state static) radar along with the Sayyad-3 missile. This combination is basically equivalent to the Russian S-200 systems, which are Cold War systems with some upgrades. Syria still uses a lot of S-200 systems, which are seen as a hazard, not an obstacle to Israeli airstrikes. The S-200 is good at hitting high flying aircraft lacking any defenses at all. Syria has already downed (by accident) a four-engine Russian maritime reconnaissance aircraft flying off the Syrian coast using an S-200 missile. Iran is taking a chance to put these two systems in Syria where Israeli missiles and F-35s can easily reach and attack them.

Iran has not got access to the latest air defense tech and this deal appears to be an effort to test new Iranian air defense gear in Syria and make improvements based on the results. Syria is desperate to obtain air defense capabilities that can stop Israeli airstrikes. Older Russian weapons (S-200 and S-300) are all that Syria has and not very effective at all. Russia refuses to use its S-400 system, used to defend Russian bases in western Syria, for fear of discovering that Israel can defeat the S-400 as well.

July 7, 2020: A draft of a 25-year economic/political/military agreement with China was leaked. Some details of the agreement are still being worked out but the draft document indicated Iran was willing to make a lot of concessions to become a close economic partner of China. That would mean China would have an incentive to protect Iran diplomatically and militarily. The document makes Iran the major supplier of petroleum to China and China the major source of foreign investment as well as becoming Iran’s largest trading partner.

July 6, 2020: In southwest Syria, outside Damascus, an Israeli airstrike destroyed several trucks that were carrying Iranian rockets to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

July 5, 2020: In southwest Pakistan, the border crossings with Iran are being reopened. Truck traffic is moving freely but there are still some restrictions on people wanting to cross the border. The borders have been closed since mid-March.

July 3, 2020: In eastern Syria (Deir Ezzor province), American airstrikes hit Iranian mercenary bases near the town of Mayadeen. Most of these bases had been abandoned and it those that were still occupied there were some casualties. American airstrikes in this area are usually retaliation for Iranian-sponsored attacks on Americans in Iraq.

July 2, 2020: In central Iran, the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility suffered major damage from a fire and several explosions. This facility has been operating in violation of international law. Operations are largely underground where centrifuges enrich uranium sufficiently so that it can be used for weapons. Iran vowed vengeance against whoever caused these explosions. Israel is the main suspect, which is the usual reaction to any attacks on Iranian nuclear programs.

June 28, 2020: In the east (Deir Ezzor province), two airstrikes, apparently Israeli, hit Iranian targets near the Al Bukamal crossing into Iraq. Structures and vehicles were damaged or destroyed and about ten Iranians or Iranian mercenaries. In the aftermath of these two attacks, Iran ordered the remaining troops in the camps bombed to temporarily leave their camps and camp out in the countryside, dispersed into small groups. Some of these militias have erected memorial signs recognizing the many who have been killed by the airstrikes.

Off the Yemen coast, an American warship intercepted yet another Iranian arms shipment headed for Yemeni Shia rebels. This cargo included 200 RPG grenades, 1,700 assault rifles, several types of portable missiles plus a large quantity of components for ballistic missiles and UAVs. This is the third such shipment U.S. warships have intercepted since late 2019.

June 27, 2020: The 2017 agreement for Iran and India to finance and build a 1,300-kilometer-long rail line from the new port near the Pakistan border to the Afghan border (near Herat) in the north and then to Heart, is nearing completion. The last link is actually an earlier (2007) project to build a rail line from the Iranian city of Khaf to the Afghan city of Herat. Most (77 kilometers) of the railroad is in Iran with the other 62 kilometers in Afghanistan. This is all part of a larger Afghan project to build their first national railroad system.

India provided over two billion dollars to upgrade the port and build new roads and railroads to Afghanistan and Central Asia. For Iran, the Central Asia link is the most valuable one. But for Afghanistan having another way to move most of their imports and exports is a major achievement because Pakistan and Iran will have to complete and that will keep costs down for Afghans and reduce the use of closing the border, which Pakistan has done frequently, to coerce the Afghans.

June 24, 2020: In Iraq Mustafa Al Kadhimi, the new (since May) prime minister has adopted a hard line on Iran. Kadhimi was formerly (until April) the director of national intelligence. He held that job for nearly four years and knows more about what is really going on inside Iraq than just about anyone else. That’s one reason he got the job of prime minister, after a prolonged political struggle in which Iran sought to put someone they owned into the job. Iran overestimated how much influence they had bought, coerced or inspired among Iraqis. Iran is not giving up and much of the violence in Baghdad is caused by Iran and throughout the country, Iran still has loyal followers, many of them armed and willing to be dangerous towards whatever Iran decides is a threat. This comes at a cost; fewer Iraqis are willing to support Iran. The new prime minister knows better than anyone in Iraq how much Iran has corrupted the Iraqi military, especially the PMF (Popular Mobilization Forces) militias. Once largely pro-Iran, the PMF loyalties have been shifting back towards Iraq or different tribal, ethnic or religious groups inside Iraq. The government still controls the money and Kadhimi is using that to determine who he can depend on.

June 23, 2020: In northwest Yemen, Shia rebels fired two ballistic missiles towards the Saudi capital (Riyadh, a thousand kilometers away in central Saudi Arabia). The rebels claimed this attack included slower explosive laden UAVs and that many of these weapons landed in the Saudi capital. No one in the Saudi capital reported any such damage.

June 17, 2020: In northwest Iran, artillery fired shells into Kurd run Erbil/Arbil province in an effort to hit suspected Kurdish separatist targets. This time Iraq suspected the Turks and Iranians were coordinating their cross-border operations against separatist Kurds. Iran and Turkey both denied any coordination while insisting their attacks on Kurdish “terrorists” inside Iraq were justified because Iraq would not deal with the problem.

June 16, 2020: In Yemen, Saudi warplanes carried out more than 70 airstrikes at targets in the rebels-held capital Sanaa and surrounding areas as well as in the provinces of Saada, Amran, Beidha, Hajjah, Marib and Jawf. Many of the targets were related to Shia assembly and launching of long-range Iranian missiles and UAVs. Iran smuggles in key components while many other components can be obtained on the open, or black market. Iran supplies the tech support and has trained a growing number or Yemeni Shia to assemble and launch the missiles and armed UAVs. Quality control is often lacking in items built by the newly trained Yemenis. This explains the larger number of recent missile and UAV attacks that failed because of malfunctioning missiles and UAVs. The UN recently declared Iran was definitely behind the September 2019 UAV attack on Saudi oil facilities and was smuggling weapons to Shia rebels in Yemen. Those weapons are used to attack Saudi Arabia and shipping in the Red Sea. All this was documented in the UN final investigation report, which also noted that Iran has set up similar UAV assembly operations in Iraq and Lebanon. Both of these countries have Iran-backed militias called Hezbollah. UN investigators have found and identified the Iranian made components found in the wreckage of these missiles and UAVs

June 13, 2020: The UN declared Iran was definitely behind the September 2019 UAV attack on Saudi oil facilities and was smuggling weapons to Shia rebels in Yemen. Those weapons are used to attack Saudi Arabia and shipping in the Red Sea. All this was documented in the UN final investigation report, which also noted that Iran has set up similar UAV assembly operations in Iraq and Lebanon. Both of these countries have Iran-backed militias called Hezbollah.

June 11, 2020: In southwest Syria (Damascus), an Israeli airstrike destroyed an Iranian facility, killing four Iranians and three Syrians. Several warehouses and other buildings were destroyed.

 

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