Israel: Iranian Persistence


October 14, 2021: Iran is reviving its accusations that northern neighbor Azerbaijan is cooperating with Turkey and Israel to launch covert attacks against Iran. This is an old accusation that is being revived in part because Turkey and Israel have been working on improving their diplomatic, economic and military relationships. At the same time the Turks have been increasingly hostile to Iran and that includes ignoring Iranian requests during the recent war between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Turkey sent advisors, armed UAVs and Syrian mercenaries to help the Azeris score their first victory over Armenia in a three-decade long territorial feud. Iran was also unhappy with the fact that the Azeris gave credit to the many Israeli weapons they had purchased over the last decade. This included the Israeli Barak 8 anti-aircraft system which intercepted a number of Russian ballistic missiles fired at Azerbaijan by the Armenians. One of those ballistic missiles was an Iskander, a recent Russian design that was supposed to be more difficult to detect and intercept. Iran is also angry about how its campaign in Syria is proceeding and how unhelpful, or even hostile, their allies Turkey and Russia have been.

Turkey, Iran and Azerbaijan have other reasons to prefer dealing with Israel rather than Iran. About a quarter of Iran's population is Azeri (a Turkic people). Two centuries ago Russia and Iran ended up dividing control of Azeri population in the area. For a while after World War I, and after 1991 (dissolution of the Soviet Union), the Russian Azeris were independent. While the Iranian Azeris are generally loyal to Iran, they are still Turks and speak a different language than the ethnic Iranians. Seeing Azerbaijan allying itself with Israel, for whatever reason, does not sit well with Iran. But there's not a lot Iran can do about it. Iran was not able to provide the weapons or other military assistance the Azeris needed to overcome the Armenians, so the Israelis were called in, and later Turkey as well. The Azeris have proved to be good allies. They have detected and destroyed Iran sponsored terrorism efforts, like one that was planning to attack Israelis in Azerbaijan. Iran was believed behind this plot, and Azerbaijan did not appreciate it. Azerbaijan has bought several billion dollars’ worth of Israeli weapons over the last fifteen years.

Christian Armenia and Moslem Azerbaijan both belonged to the Soviet Union until 1991.Russia has managed to maintain good relations with both countries since they left the Soviet Union and those good relations survived the recent war between the 2020 Azerbaijan-Armenia war. Another casualty of that war was any good will left between Iran and Azerbaijan.

Since 2018 Israel and Russia have been trying to negotiate a deal to prevent a war between Iran and Israel over Iranian plans to establish bases in Syria and organize anti-Israeli forces for a final battle with Israel. For Israel any long term Iranian presence in Syria is intolerable. Russia believed it could work out such a deal but many Israelis were skeptical and Iran declared that such a deal was not possible. When it comes to opposing Iran, Israel always had some very public backing from Russia despite the fact that this put Russia at odds with their two other allies in Syria. The Russians see the Israelis as a more powerful and reliable ally than the Turks or Iranians. Russia is also backing the Kurds in Syria and that is causing problems with Turkey. Despite their problems with Russia, Turkey does agree with Russia on the need to improve relations with Israel, even if it comes at the expense of Iran.

In Gaza the Iranian support for Hamas is cited by Egyptian negotiators as the main reason Hamas is not serious in their renewed efforts to negotiate a ceasefire. At the same time Iran has transferred more Hamas personnel to join a new effort to carry out terror attacks inside Israel as well as recruit a larger force to carry out larger attacks on Israel. At the moment Iran does not trust Hezbollah with those tasks because Hezbollah has major problems most Lebanese over all the problems they have caused in Lebanon since Hezbollah became an extension of the Iranian al Quds force in the 1980s. Quds supports pro-Iran Islamic terrorists in foreign countries. Al Quds considers Hezbollah their greatest success but more and more Lebanese, Syrians and other Arabs in the region see Quds and Hezbollah as a deadly curse created by Iran. Over a hundred-thousand Palestinians settled in Lebanon after the creation of Israel in 1948 and proved to be more of a problem than Israel ever was. Palestinian violence was one reason for the fifteen-year long 1975-90 Lebanese civil war and most of them were expelled from Lebanon by the end of the civil war.

Neighboring Jordan suffered similar problems. Currently a majority of Jordanians consider themselves Palestinian, or at least descended from Palestinian refugees. While the Palestinian majority may not like the monarchy, they know that the Bedouins, who have lived in the area for centuries, would respond violently to any uprising against a Bedouin king. That has happened often enough since the 1960s to convince most Jordanians that, while you can shout nasty things at the king, don't take a shot at him. That said, the current king of Jordan, and his late father, went out of their way to be nice to their Palestinian citizens, as long as there was no violence against the government. The occasional violation of this understanding is met with a swift and sometimes violent response. Nevertheless, Jordan has long had to be careful with how it deals with the Palestinians. In 1970, the government expelled over 20,000 thousand Palestinian militants and their supporters, who sought to overthrow the monarchy. This event came to be known by Palestinians as "Black September". Thousands of the militants were killed. In 2001, the Hamas leadership was ordered to leave, for security reasons. Hamas efforts to revive anti-Israel terror operations in Jordan have failed so often that Iran is seen as the last place Palestinian, or any other kind of Islamic terrorist, can set up operations.

October 13, 2021: In central Syria (Homs province) Israeli airstrikes hit the T4 airbase for the second time this week. The targets were the same’ Iranian training areas and weapons warehouses. One Syrian soldier was killed and four wounded. The attacks were launched from jets flying over the area where the borders of Iraqi, Syria and Jordan meet. Air-to-surface missiles are used and some are intercepted by Syrian S-200 SAMs (Surface-to-Air missiles) that have less success against Israeli fighters that are equipped with countermeasures and pilots who know how to avoid the SAMs. The T4 airbase, hear the ancient ruins of Palmyra, has been hit at least three times a year since 2018. T4 is the largest airbase in Syria and Iran has constantly built new structures for storing weapons and housing personnel, usually to replace buildings destroyed by the air strikes. T4 is where Iran moved its UAV operations in 2018 after its original UAV base in Syria was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike.

October 8, 2021: In central Syria (Homs province) Israeli airstrikes again hit the T4 airbase, with several explosions heard inside the base. There were two dead and several wounded. Israeli warplanes launch air-ground missiles while still in Israel or just across the Syrian border in areas not covered by Syrian air defenses.

In eastern Syria (Deir Ezzor province) another airstrike hit Iranian weapons storage sites outside Al Bukamal City, which is on the Euphrates River and a few hours by road, to a border crossing into Iraq. The attacking aircraft could not be identified but were believed to be Israeli UAVs and part of a campaign to cripple Iranian efforts to build up a large force in Syria that would be capable of launching thousands of guided and unguided rockets into Israel. There have been several airstrikes like this in 2021 and Israel is the chief suspect because of their frequent airstrikes against Iranian targets throughout Syria

September 29, 2021: In the West Bank another Palestinian attacked police with a knife, but was shot dead before she could stab anyone.

September 26, 2021: In the West Bank a Palestinian Islamic terrorist belonging to Islamic Jihad was shot dead as he was firing a submachine gun at soldiers. There were four other Islamic terrorists killed that day as Israeli police and soldiers carried out raids on locations used by Palestinian Islamic terror groups.

In Iran there were several explosions at a ballistic missile factory outside Tehran. Commercial satellite photos showed extensive damage to one of the large buildings. There were some dead and wounded. There have been explosions in facilities like this outside Tehran. One in 2011 was blamed on mishandling explosives. Israel did not take credit for either of these explosions but Iran noted that similar incidents inside Iran that Israel did take credit for were often made to look like accidents.

September 24, 2021 : In northern Iraq (Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish north) a reconciliation with Israel conference was held. The main speaker was the female Director of Research at the Iraq Ministry of Culture, who urged several hundred like-minded Arab, Kurd, Sunni and Shia Iraqis, including some tribal leaders, to support efforts to have Iraq join the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan and normalize diplomatic and economic relations with Israel.

September 18, 2021: Israel announced that it was not attacking Iranian tankers delivering oil products to Syria because most of it is sent to Lebanon where Iran is blamed for the collapse of the economy and inability of the Lebanese government to pay for oil imports. Technically some of these tankers are owned by members of Hezbollah and some of the recent shipments went directly to Lebanon. Shipments were sent to Syria because Iran was trying to revive Hezbollah power in Lebanon by sending several illegal oil shipments to Syria rather than Lebanon because Syria is already under sanctions and Lebanon is not, at least not yet. Iran hopes to change that, in order to make Lebanon easier to control because Hezbollah already controls many of the black market and outlaw enterprises in Lebanon. Iranian interference in Lebanon did help achieve a negotiated end to the 1975-90 civil war. This involved Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states, cooperating with Iran. This settlement came with a catch that meant the civil war had not ended but just paused while Iran expanded Hezbollah power via cash and weapons. Hezbollah soon became a state within a state by controlling large portions of southern Lebanon and acquiring veto power over the elected Lebanese government. Iran also acquired Syria as an ally in the 1980s and got away with having Syrian troops part of the peacekeeper force that occupied much of Lebanon to prevent the civil war from restarting. Most Lebanese saw the Syrian troops as an occupation force that was there to protect black market and drug smuggling operations that enriched Hezbollah and Syria at the expense of most Lebanese. Over the decades the Lebanese government sought to reduce the Iranian influence and illegal Hezbollah control of the south. Iran helped Hezbollah exploit the complex and often corrupt factional politics of Lebanon, which had a population where no one was a majority. Christians were the majority after World War II but that changed as Palestinians moved in as refugees and formed armed militias that became a threat to Lebanese as well as Israel, which until the last decade was generally considered the enemy by most Moslems in the region. That began to change in the 21st century when more and more Arab states realized that Israel was more valuable as an ally than the target of violence that always ended up hurting the Arab attackers much more than the Israeli defenders. The Israelis were also the most effective nation in the region against the growing Iranian threat. Iran and Hezbollah are seen as the cause, and chief beneficiary of the recent collapse of the Lebanese economy and continued political chaos. The non-Shia majority in Lebanon realize that the fuel shipments to Lebanon are not “free” but do fill an immediate need because the Lebanese currency is worthless and the economy unable to function. With control of the black market for fuel, Hezbollah and Iran can expand their power, as they did in Syria until 2011 when the non-Shia majority rebelled.

Because of all this Iran cannot call on Hezbollah to carry out any sort of major military operation against Israel. First, Hezbollah must deal with local problems because most Lebanese want Hezbollah gone and getting Lebanon involved in another war with Israel might see Hezbollah fighting Israel and Lebanese at the same time. Iran wants to destroy one enemy at a time. Iran hopes a major war with Israel will result in more popular support from all Moslems in the region. That’s more of a gamble than a sure thing as Iran has replaced Israel as the designated “enemy”.

The Iranian solution has been to gradually transfer Hamas members from Gaza to southern Lebanon to work for a Hezbollah construction brigade. The Hamas men were there to prepare for attacks on Israel and to take control of Hezbollah missiles stored in local homes and businesses. The “construction brigade” builds the basement rocket storage bunkers along with adjacent firing positions outside the structure but also underground. Hezbollah leaders were angry when Iran told them that these Hamas personnel would take control of these rockets in wartime and wartime would occur when Iran decided to have Hamas launch massive rocket attacks, which would not include Hezbollah rockets in southern Lebanon. When this arrangement became widely known the majority of Lebanese had another reason to oppose Iran, and Lebanese who belonged to Hezbollah.




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