April 12, 2022:
Israel along with Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the other Arab Gulf Oil states is very angry with the Americans because the U.S. is not only offering Iran a revival of the 2015 sanctions treaty, but also a modification of the terms to make it easier for Iran to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. While the talks are currently stalled, the U.S. quietly agreed to allow South Korea to release several billion dollars to Iran while Britain released half a billion to Iran for a payment dispute from the 1970s. A primary Iranian demand in the negotiations is that billions of dollars in frozen accounts be returned to Iran. Iran saw the 2015 treaty suspended by the Americans in 2018 because of Iranian cheating. Then came the 2020 American presidential elections, which put into power what is now recognized (by numerous polls) as the most unpopular and inept American president ever. One reason for this unpopularity is current American policies towards Iran and reduced support for Arab resistance to Iranian violence. 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 to customers. That plan survived the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine and even more economic sanctions. Opposition in the United States to reviving the 2015 treaty, especially from senior military and political officials, is making a difference but the official policy is still to give the Iranians what they want in return for promises Iran has broken before. That has recently been modified to include U.S. assurances that sanctions on Iranian ballistic missile and nuclear weapons organizations and key individuals will be expanded. Israel and its Arab allies are not impressed.
Because of this new American attitude, Israel has carried out several major attacks on the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Some earlier attacks were in cooperation with the United States but the most recent ones were done with the help of Iranians who also oppose the nuclear weapons and the current Iranian religious dictatorship. Israel makes it clear it will launch a major air and missile strike against the Iranian nuclear program if Iran gets close to creating a working nuclear weapon. Israel’s new allies among the Arab Persian Gulf oil states will cooperate with such an attack, as they are already being hit by Iranian missiles, cruise missiles and guided rockets.
Israel has had locally developed nuclear weapons since 1970 and used these weapons as the ultimate deterrent to any serious effort to destroy Israel. Israel can deliver their nukes several ways. This first method was aircraft-delivered gravity bombs and later air-to ground missiles. Then came ballistic missiles plus cruise missiles that can be launched via torpedo tubes from a submerged Israeli sub. Israel never acknowledged it has nukes and continues to maintain them and several delivery systems. This has deterred everyone except Iran, which since the 1980s has been ruled by a religious dictatorship that was obsessed with destroying Israel.
In Syria, Arab states are willing to revive diplomatic and economic relationships with Syria, but only if the Assads break their ties with Iran. That can be announced but not enforced because there are thousands of Iranian-backed militias in Syria, who are occupied with carrying out attacks against Israel. If the Assad forces try to eject the Iranians, the Assad government will become an enemy of Iran and subjected to all sorts of military, economic and terrorist retaliation. The Assads want to avoid that until they have solid links with Arab countries and Israel. The Arabs are willing but the Israelis are already at war with the Iranians in Syria and are no longer interested in establishing diplomatic relations with Syria. That means Syria remains a battlefield for Islamic terrorists and Israeli, Turkish, Russian, Iranian, Syrian, and American forces to fight each other in a constantly changing web of alliances. For Syria peace will have to wait, possibly for a long time.
Iran is the main reason Israel still will not sell any weapons to Ukraine. You won’t see Russian troops using any Israeli weapons either and that is part of the price Israel has to pay to keep its population safe from Iranian attacks and decades of pledges to destroy Israel completely. Iran will use nuclear weapons for this, once it completes development of a workable nuke that is rugged enough to work in a ballistic missile warhead. Israel did send a field hospital to Ukraine and other non-lethal assistance without visibly angering Russia.
Renewed attacks on Afghan Shia caused Iran to threaten support for an armed Afghan Shia resistance manned by the thousands of Afghan Shia who served as mercenaries in Syria. Some still do, because the Afghan mercs were the best fighters and demanded higher pay than Arab mercenaries. These armed Shia fighters would work with their 1990s Northern Alliance allies, which has reassembled as the NRF (National Resistance Front) and is planning new operations. That alone may be more than the new IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) government can handle. Some of the NRF leaders are sons of successful Northern Alliance commanders. Iran threatens to provide more support to the NRF than they gave the Northern Alliance.
April 11, 2022: Iran has been providing needed weapons for the Russian war effort in Ukraine. Some Iranian weapons were donated, like S300 air defense missiles earlier received from Russia as well as the Iranian clone of the S300 system. This is the Bavar, which uses the Iranian
Sayyad 3 anti-aircraft missile along with the Bavar-373 radar and fire control system. Bavar 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 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. We may find out if Russia uses it to contest Ukrainian air space.
In Iraq, Iran-backed Shia militias sold RPG anti-tank launchers and warheads along with two Iraqi army MRLS (multiple rocket launcher systems) and the unguided rockets it uses. All these were smuggled via Iran to Russia across the Caspian Sea, a landlocked body of water bordering Iran and Russia.
Russia has been more cooperative with Iranian forces in Syria because of this while seeking not to anger the Israelis.
China has refused to supply Russia with weapons but Iran is already suffering many sanctions and Russia is one of the few allies it has. Iraq is one of the most corrupt nations in the Middle East and anything is available if you have the cash or enough gunmen to obtain what you want. Most Iraqis consider the corruption a flaw to be corrected while Iran considers the Iraqi corruption something Iran can make use of.
April 9, 2022: In northwestern Syria (Hama province) Israeli air-strikes hit five targets associated with Iranian missile assembly and storage operations. Structures were destroyed and some Iranians or Iranian mercenaries were killed. One of the targets was near the
main Syrian research center for advanced weapons. This is the eighth day with Israeli airstrikes in 2022. These airstrikes have destroyed a lot of weapons and structures as well as twelve military personnel and wounded at least 19. The attacks are usually made at night to minimize casualties and enhance surprise.
April 5, 2022: In eastern Syria (Deir Ezzor province) Iran-backed militia fired rockets at a base used by American forces and a nearby oilfield. The Americans fired back. This was the first such attack since January.
April 3, 2022: In central Syria (eastern Homs province) Iran took advantage of Russia withdrawing its forces from Mahan, where a major weapons storage complex has long existed. Providing some protection from surrounding hills, the Mahan complex consists of 25 underground bunkers where weapons and ammunition are stored. Until recently a few Russians troops and a lot of Russian backed Syrian mercenaries provided security. Initially some Assad forces, in the form of Lebanese Shia Hezbollah gunmen as well as some Syrian troops replaced the Russian force. Now several hundred Iran-backed mercenaries arrived to share the security duties, and exercise some control over how the Mahan complex would be used. The withdrawal, to Ukraine, of Russian troops and cash (for paying local mercenaries) provided several opportunities for Iran and Mahan was one of them. The Hezbollah forces took orders from Iran so now Mahan was controlled by Iran and the Assads lost exclusive control of a vital weapons and ammo storage site. Moreover, Mahan now becomes a major target for Israeli attacks, which can overcome the protection usually provided by the hills and underground bunkers. Until the departure of Russian forces the Mahan complex supplied Iranian, Assad and Russian attacks on ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) operations in central and eastern Syria.
In eastern Syria (Deir Ezzor province) disputes between Iran-backed militias led to gunfire and one militia leader was killed.
April 2, 2022: In Yemen
peace talks between the Saudis and Iran are having more success than those going between Iran and the Western nations over lifting sanctions. There is a new ceasefire deal in Yemen, which will last two months while negotiations continue to achieve a permanent peace. Until now efforts to negotiate a settlement of the issues in Yemen and end the eight-year civil war were stalled because of two “non-negotiable” issues. First, there is the Iranian refusal to give up their presence and support of the Yemen Shia. This is unacceptable to Saudi Arabia and most other Arab states because they can see what happened in Lebanon when the Iranian presence and support of the Hezbollah militia was allowed to persist. The second difficult issue is calls for partitioning Yemen again. This has been the case in the past and most Yemenis came to believe unity was preferable. With Iran refusing to give up their control of the Shia north, partition is even less acceptable. No one has come up with a viable solution yet but the new ceasefire indicates that there may be a mutually acceptable solution.
March 31, 2022: In southern Syria (Daraa province) the violence continued with 45 incidents of violence in March leaving 39 dead. So far in 2022 there have been 117 attacks leaving 97 dead and many more wounded. been nearly twenty assassinations (of Syrian army officers) and related acts of violence so far this month. This level of violence remained fairly constant for three years until 2022. This is part of the undeclared war between Iranian and Syrian forces going on there since 2018. Anonymous assassins use pistols and hidden bombs to kill those who work, or worked for government forces or Russia and Syria backed local militias. There are also attacks against former members of ISIL and other militant groups. These victims had accepted amnesty. Russian and Assad forces openly force Iran-backed groups and individuals out of the area. There is no open violence because Iran, Syria and Russia are still officially allies. Israel sometimes fires on Iranian forces operating in Daraa, especially near the Israeli border. Israel also shares intel with Russia and Syria about Syrian officers who are secretly working for Iran. The Iranians pay well, and in dollars. Israel will sometimes release evidence of this to the media, so that Iranians back home have another reason to oppose Iranian foreign wars. Negotiations have been underway between Iran and Russia/Syria since 2020 but have not made much progress. The covert Iranian violence is just another incentive for Syria to get the Iranian agents out of the area. In 2022 much of the violence is from other groups, some of them criminal gangs retaliating against those who refuse to pay for protection from the violence.
March 29, 2022: Israel received its first Sky Dew aerostat (aerodynamic unpowered blimp) system recently and will use it to provide more protection from Iranian air attacks. Sky Dew carries radars and other sensors to monitor large land areas for low, slow intruders like fire balloons or UAV cruise missiles. The first Sky Dew is being installed along the northern border where Iranian armed UAVs are a growing problem. Another Sky Dew may be installed in the south, along the Gaza border, where fire balloons are less of a problem.
Hamas, which runs Gaza, has been relatively quiet so far this year as it tries to negotiate a cease fire that would improve the Gaza economy. Economics is something Hamas has ignored since it took control of Gaza in 2007. Polls show both Hamas and Fatah (which runs the West Bank) are seen as unfit to rule by over 70 percent of Palestinians.
March 28, 2022: Foreign ministers from Egypt, the UAE (United Arab Emirates), Bahrain, Morocco, Israel and the United States met in southern Israel (Negev) to discuss expanding diplomatic and trade relationships. Iran was not a topic for discussion because those matters are handled in less public meetings. The Negev meeting was about long-term commercial matters and the prospects of other Arab countries recognizing Israel. The American Secretary of State (foreign minister) was reminded that everyone else at the meeting was not pleased with the generous terms the U.S. was offering Iran to get sanctions lifted and Iran to again promise it was not developing nuclear weapons. There is growing opposition within the United States against this treaty, which the Arab foreign ministers pointed out is turning Arab nations against the United States, or at least the current government.
The Palestinians were not invited to this meeting because the Palestinian obsession with destroying Israel, and relying on Iranian aid to do it has made the Palestinians more an enemy than anything else.
In northern Syria (Aleppo province) Russian air strikes and Syrian army artillery fire during the last 48 hours against Turkish forces caused several casualties among the Syrian mercenaries working for the Turks. These were the first Russian air strikes in Syria since the February 24 Russian invasion of Ukraine. Iran-backed Syrian militias joined in the attacks on the Turkish forces. The attacks attempt to dislodge the Turkish Syrian mercenaries and their families who now live in areas near the Turkish border that are meant to remain under Turkish control to keep Islamic terrorists out of Turkey. The Turks have established local governments in these border areas that collect taxes and operate municipal services.
March 23, 2022: Syrian leader Bashir Assad attended a conference in the UAE (United Arab Emirates) where countries that already had established diplomatic relations with Israel agreed that Syria, or at least the Assad government controlled most of the country after ten years of civil war, receive backing in establishing diplomatic and economic relations with Israel. Until recently this was possible in 2018 where American, Israeli and Russian officials met and agreed that a deal with the Assad government was preferable to continued chaos, and an Iranian presence in Syria. That changed in mid-2021 when a new government took power in Israel and abandoned the Syrian deal. The current UAE conference lacked Israeli participation. There was unanimous agreement that an American effort to restore the 2015 treaty that lifted sanction in Iran was a bad idea. Many Americans oppose restoring the 2015 treaty, as do other nations in the region including the new Israeli government.
March 21, 2022: Recent commercial satellite photos showed the extent of a February 16 Israeli airstrike, using six large UAVs, on an Iranian UAV storage warehouse in rural west Iran. Israel has still not officially taken credit for the attack, which the Iranians describe as a fire that got out of control. Iran admitted it was an Israeli attack on March 20th. The satellite photos show precise and total destruction of the facility. The warehouse stored hundreds of the large UAVs, which are disassembled and smuggled into northern Yemen where Iran-backed Shia rebels use them to attack Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
March 18, 2022: The commander of U.S. CENTCOM (Central Command), who manages all American forces in the Middle East, confirmed that the United States considers Iran the major threat in the region. The U.S. backs Israeli efforts to attack Iranian forces in Syria and Iraq. Iran often attacks American forces in retaliation. The improved diplomatic, economic and military relations between Israel and the Gulf Arab states since 2020 is mainly about the Iranian threat that both Americans, Israelis and Gulf Arabs face. Because of the increased cooperation between Arabs and Israel since 2020 Israel became part of CENTCOM instead of EURCOM (Europe). The main reason Israel was long part of EURCOM was that Israel had better relationships with European nations than its Middle East neighbors. Even Iraq, long one of the most virulent critics of Israel, has mellowed and come to admit that Iran was a larger threat and Israel was useful in diminishing that threat.
March 15, 2022: Iraq is hosting, for the fourth time, another round of peace negotiations between Iran and Saudi Arabia. These talks do not appear to be making much progress but it is an ancient cust9m in the region for feuding parties to stay in touch. In the same spirit the Iranian Quds Force command, despite the recent Iraqi elections, is still able to visit Iraq for discussions with religious leader Sadr as well as Kurdish leaders in the north.
March 13, 2022: Because of a recent Israeli airstrike in Syria, Iran launched a dozen cruise missiles at targets in or near Erbil, the capital of autonomous Kurdish northern Iraq. Some of the missiles landed near the American consulate but caused no damage or casualties. Other missiles did hit buildings and the damage was substantial for the palatial home of a wealthy Iraqi Kurd. Iran later took credit for the attack, explaining that it was directed at a mythical Israeli Mossad Base near Erbil. The mansion, used by the wealthy and influential Iraqi Kurd and his family, was demolished when no one was home. The bombed-out ruins were open for the media, who took lots of pictures. Iran had no explanation why their guided projectiles seemed to land randomly, except on the mansion. Iran said the attack was revenge for an Israeli airstrike in Syria last week that killed two senior Quds Force commanders. Kurdish officials speculated that the attack was made at a time when no one was in the mansion and avoiding any casualties was an objective, so the attack would serve as a warning rather than something demanding a retaliatory attack. The Kurds believe the attack was more about Iran reminding everyone that Iraq is subordinate to Iran and foreigners as well as Iraqis must remember this.
March 12, 2022: In southern Syria Russian troops are now patrolling the Golan Heights border. Russia says it has expelled all Iran forces from the border region and will keep them out. This is part of an effort to reduce the need for Israeli attacks on Iranian forces operating in Syria. This is part of an effort to enable the Syrian government, still a dictatorship run by a Syrian Shia Arab Assad group, to abandon decades of dependence on Iranian military and diplomatic support. The Assads are seeking to joint an Arab alliance that is cooperating with Israel against Iran. Israel does not want to ruin its relationship with Russia, which is an unofficial ally of Israel against Iran.
March 7, 2022: In southern Syria (Damascus) another Israeli air strike against Iranian targets left two Iranian Quds Force colonels dead and six Iran-backed militia wounded. Iran responded with threats of retaliatory attacks to avenge the loss of two Quds Force officers. This was the seventh Israeli airstrike in Syria for 2022.
In western Afghanistan (Nimroz province) IEA border guards opened fire on Iranian troops who had entered Afghanistan to settle a dispute with Afghan farmers. The Iranians returned fire but soon fled leaving two dead and a vehicle behind. There was a similar incident in Nimroz ten weeks ago when a dispute over where the new Iranian border fence should be turned violent. A meeting between IEA and Iranian officials resolved that dispute but there are many more disagreements along the Iranian border that are unresolved and threaten to turn violent. Iran is also angry with the growing number of incidents where IEA gunmen are attacking Afghan Shia, who comprise 20 percent of the population and Iran has pledged to protect Afghan Shia from Taliban or IEA violence.