July 9, 2020:
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 2
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 Iranian threat has become more ominous as Iranian officials escalate their threatening gestures. 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. Details of these Cyber War operations are usually kept secret by attacker and defender alike so as not to give potential Cyber War foes a better idea of what worked and what didn’t. Sometimes the defender will have traps prepared (“honeypots”) that will deceive the attacker into believing they are succeeding when in reality they are being closely observed and their techniques noted and analyzed. When you hack what you believe is a secret enemy facility it is especially difficult to assess your success or failure. Along those lines, 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 by 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 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 and 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 are 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. Whose side is God on?
The Turkish Threat
Turkey does not seem to fear an Egyptian military response to the Turkish invasion of western Libya. The official Turkish view is that Egypt is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Saudis Arabia and the UAE who have been backing the anti-Islamic terrorist LNA in Libya for years.
The Turks and Iranians disagree on many things but both agree that the Saudis are unfit to be the guardians of Islam’s’ most holy places in Mecca and Medina. Turkey has it in for the Saudis and Egypt for the way the current Egyptian government, with financial support from Saudi Arabia, forcibly replaced the elected Egyptian Islamic Brotherhood government. Turkey does not like to discuss how similarly Egyptian and Turkish voters respond to efforts to force Islamic law on them.
In mid-2012 Egyptian election officials declared Islamic Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Mursi as the new president. A week earlier the military commission (temporarily running Egypt) took away many powers from the president and transferred them to the military. The Egyptian military did not want a true democracy. It appears that the military, which took over as a "caretaker government" after long time “president-for-life” Mubarak was tossed out in 2011, was trying to get Mubarak cronies back into power. The military has long been known as just another part of the corrupt Egyptian dictatorship, and many generals feared prosecution for that if a true democracy was established. The major rebel and reform groups have not decided what to do about this counter-revolution. The newly elected Moslem Brotherhood president solved the “Mubarak cronies” problem in an unexpected way. Before president Mursi could go after Mubarak allies, the Moslem Brotherhood radicals got violent in their demands that Egypt be ruled with Sharia (Islamic) law. That was what Saudi Arabia did but Sharia was very unpopular with most Egyptian voters. By 2014 angry voters had forced Mursi out and new elections put a former general (Sisi) into power. The Moslem Brotherhood once more became the enemy, except in Turkey, where a Moslem Brotherhood-like government had ruled Turkey since 2000 and had not had any problems with radicals. But Turkish voters were getting tired of their increasingly corrupt and inept Islamic government that seems to have declared just about everyone an enemy of Turkey.
July 8, 2020: Iran signed a deal with Syria to upgrade Syrian air defense capabilities. 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 6, 2020: In southwest Syria, outside Damascus, an Israeli airstrike destroyed several trucks that were carrying Iranian rockets to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Israel announced it had launched another recon satellite, Ofek 16, which was described an am upgrade of the Ofek 11 design, that first went up in 2016. At the time Ofek 11 was described as an upgraded Okek 10, which went up in April 2014. The first Ofek went up in 1988 and the last few have been incremental upgrades of the Ofek 9 which entered service in 2010. The Ofek 9 weighed about 300 kg (660 pounds) and used a new generation of sensors that were able to see objects as small as 55 cm (twenty inches). Ofek 10 was a little heavier with new electronics providing better resolution and Ofek 11 was more of the same. Ofek 16 has higher resolution cameras. All the Ofek spy sats are mainly for keeping tabs on Iran and what Iran is doing in Syria and Lebanon. The Ofek satellites are put into orbit using Israeli designed and built rockets. Israeli communications satellites are now being launched by SpaceX rockets.
July 5, 2020: In the south (Gaza) three rockets were fired into Israel. In retaliation, there were three airstrikes at Hamas targets, including a rocket building workshop.
Elsewhere in Gaza, earlier in the day, there was a rare event; people openly protesting against Hamas' mismanagement of the Gaza economy and Hamas' incompetence in general. The demonstrators are from the generation that grew up under Hamas rule, which began in 2005 and has remained dedicated to the destruction of Israel and little else. Gaza residents are supposed to accept their assigned role as Hamas supporters and occasionally as “involuntary martyrs” when some Hamas violence backfires and kills Gaza civilians. While there are some upscale neighborhoods in Gaza where Hamas leaders and key supporters live, most of Gaza has a dusty slum vibe. The kids do not accept that and are now protesting, trying to commit suicide and, if they are really lucky, get out of Gaza completely. No one wants Gaza refugees, not Moslem nations, the West or Israel. Hamas has convinced many young Gazans that the destruction of Israel is all that matters and drying for that cause is a glorious way to go. No wonder the kids are not alright and many don’t believe Allah approves of all this Hamas lunacy.
In Libya there was a damaging series of airstrikes on a Turkish airbase, doing a lot of damage. The airstrikes were apparently arranged by Russia, which then suggested that Turkey allow the two Libyan factions, the Turk backed GNA and Russia-backed LNA/HoR, to work out a ceasefire and eventually a peace deal. Turley is under a lot of pressure from NATO (which threatens to expel Turkey) and the EU (which is angry at the Turks for a growing number of reasons). A further incentive for the Turks to leave is the Egyptian threat to send troops into Libya to help its old friend the LNA. Other North African nations are angry at Turkey for “invading Libya.” The huge expense of the Libya operations has already caused Turkey to send several thousand of its Syrian mercenaries back to Syria and lower-paying jobs.
July 1, 2020: Israel did not approve any annexations of West Bank areas already settled by Israelis. This is a contentious issue with Palestinians (who oppose it) and Israeli political parties that believe in “Greater Israel” and that the Palestinians will never agree to any peace deal that does not involve the elimination of Israel as a state. Since 2015
Hamas (which runs Gaza) and Fatah (which runs the West Bank) have been upset that Israeli police operations in the West Bank, as a response to Palestinian attacks, is getting more intense as are Israelis calling for outright annexation of the West Bank. This trend began in 2007 after the defeat of the Palestinian terror campaign against Israel that began in 2000, and is still, technically, underway. At that point, more Israelis were giving up on efforts to work out a peace deal with the Palestinians, who showed no sign of backing off from their "Israel must be destroyed" attitudes. This Palestinian attitude has been reinforced by decades of propaganda within the Palestinian community in particular, and the Arab community throughout the region in general. This led to Israeli extremists getting more violent and that trend has continued. This is most visible with the 400,000 Jewish settlers, who have established about a hundred communities in the West Bank since 1967 and are determined to drive the Arabs out of the area, which they believe to be part of "Greater Israel." This does not have popular support among a majority of Israelis, but the settlers and "Greater Israel" fans are carrying out more attacks on Palestinians and trying to terrorize the Arabs in the West Bank. This is becoming an embarrassment for Israel, although the settlers point out that, no matter what you do, the Palestinians will never accept Israel and continue to carry out and support attacks on Israelis. By 2020 the settlers had gained enough voter allies to make annexation of some parts of the West Bank a possibility.
June 30, 2020: In the south (Gaza) Hamas fired several rockets into the Mediterranean Sea and said this was a warning to Israel which was planning to annex part of the West Bank soon.
June 29, 2020: In Egypt (Gaza) police noticed and went after two men who appeared to be looking a police checkpoints and making notes. After a brief gun battle, the two suspects were killed and later identified as wanted Islamic terrorists, each with a record of planning attacks and, in this case, doing the reconnaissance themselves.
June 28, 2020:
In eastern Syria (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.
June 26, 2020: In the south, two rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza. The rockets landed in uninhabited areas. Israeli warplanes retaliated by bombing several Hamas sites, one of them a workshop where rockets are built. This was the first attack from Gaza since mid-June.
June 24, 2020: In Libya, the last elected government (called the HoR or House of Representatives group) asked Egypt to intervene militarily if the UN and Turk backed GNA government tries to advance east and take the coastal city of Sirte.
June 23, 2020: In the West Bank a Palestinian man attempted to kill a border police officer by running her over with his vehicle. She jumped out of the way and the driver was shot dead by other officers. It was all captured on video, which was released to the media to disrupt Palestinian efforts to portray the incident as the murder of an innocent motorist.
June 20, 2020: Egypt threatened to send troops to Libya if Turkey did not get its forces out of Libya. Egyptian army units began arriving at the Libyan border two weeks ago and more keep arriving, for an unscheduled training exercise. The Turks said they are not leaving as long as the UN approved GNA needs help. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain supported Egypt in its willingness to send in troops to get Turkish forces out of Libya. In Sirte, the next Libyan coastal city threatened by Turkish mercs, the local council supported the LNA. The Sirte population does not want a return to militia rule, which is still what passes for local government in Tripoli and Misrata.
Can Egyptian troops defeat Syrian Arab mercenaries working for Turkey? Despite greater numbers, M1 tanks and F-16 fighters, the Egyptian army has not been training regularly, most of the troops are conscripts and the most experienced Egyptian soldiers are fighting ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) in Sinai. That’s a small portion of the Egyptian army and most Egyptian army units are of questionable effectiveness in a fight.
Egypt is taking a chance sending troops into Libya. Despite that, this is something the Egyptian military has been studying for over fifty years. Occasionally military exercises were held near the Libyan border. Usually, the Egyptian Navy dominates the area and the Turks would have to move naval forces to Libya to prevent Egypt from controlling the Libyan coast. Egypt and Israel are not friends but they have learned how to get along since the 1980s peace deal and have cooperated to control Islamic terrorism in Sinai and Gaza. Israel and Turkey used to be close until the current Islamic government took over in 2000 and turned Turkey against Israel. The Islamic Turkish government has since developed a peaceful relationship with Israel but that won’t stop Israel from blocking Turkish efforts to dominate the eastern Mediterranean and the Libyan coast. Russia and Turkey are allies in Syria against the Islamic terrorist and rebels but Russia and Israel are also on good terms and Russian officials have openly admitted that Russian and Israeli forces will not fight each other. Egypt has a good chance of setting up and enforcing a naval blockade against the Libyan ports (Tripoli and Misrata) the Turks use to supply and reinforce their mercenary units in Libya.
June 19, 2020: A 57E6 missile, fired from a Russian Pantsir air defense vehicle in Syria, landed largely intact in the Israeli Golan Heights. Syria has over two dozen Pantsir vehicles and says this missile had been fired at an incoming Israeli cruise missile. The 76 kg (167 pound) 57E6 missile is supposed to self-destruct, using its 20 kg warhead, if no target is found. The one that fell in Israel was seen being examined, apparently disarmed, for further examination. Pantsir has been an embarrassing failure in Syria and Libya although Russia revealed a new version of Pantsir at the end of June.