Israel: Working With The Enemy

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April 22, 2021: Before dawn a missile from Syria landed a few kilometers from the Israeli Dimona nuclear research center. There was no damage because Dimona is 300 kilometers south of the Syrian border in a rural desert area. First thoughts were that this was another Iranian attempt to carry out some credible revenge for the April 11 th Mossad operation that destroyed the underground Natanz nuclear fuel enrichment facility. If this was a deliberate missile attack, it failed, but it will mean Israel spending a lot of money firing expensive ABM (anti-ballistic-missile) missiles at more Syrian anti-aircraft missiles that cross the border either accidently or on purpose. Israel can solve this problem by modifying its ABM fire control software to discriminate between the trajectories of SAMs that are not headed for civilian or military targets and those that are. The Israeli Iron Dome system has long used such a method to only shoot down targets headed for targets that must be defended.

Initial examination of the impact area debris near Dimona revealed it was the kind of SAM (surface-to-air missile) that had landed in Israel accidently for years. For example, in 2017 Israel used an Arrow 3 anti-missile missile to intercept a Syrian SA-5 SAM that had been fired at Israeli jets bombing a target in eastern Syria near Palmyra. Apparently several SA-5s missed the Israeli jets and instead of detonating anyway, as these missiles are programmed to do, continued into Israeli air space and an Arrow 3 ABM missile was fired just in case the incoming threat was a ballistic missile. At the time it was suspected that Syria might have deliberately modified some of their SA-5 missiles to operate as surface-to-surface missiles. This has been done before with Russian SAMs, usually as an unofficial (and crude) modification by Arab users. There have been some modern SAMs with a built-in surface-to-surface mode. This was done for the U.S. Nike-Hercules system used during the 1960s and still around. Other users of the Nike-Hercules (like Taiwan and South Korea) made this modification and produced an accurate, if expensive, surface-to-surface short range ballistic missile. The Nike-Hercules was designed for potential use as a surface-to-surface weapon.

The 2017 incident was the first time the Arrow 3 has been used in a combat situation, and it was implied that the Arrow fire control system was programmed to automatically assume that anything resembling a ballistic missile headed for Israel, whether intentional or by accident, was a danger to Israel and should be shot down just to be on the safe side. Syria responded by announcing that if Israel continued carrying out these air raids in Syria, then the Assad government would use hundreds of ballistic missiles (most SCUDs and other Russian designs) against Israel without warning. This is what Arrow was designed for and what the Israeli forces constantly prepare for. The recent Dimona incident was promptly claimed by Iran as a revenge attack.

Iran Meltdown Over Natanz

Over the last week Iran went public with more details about the April 11th explosion at their Natanz nuclear fuel enrichment facility. Iran now admits the attack took place and that it did major damage to their new high-performance nuclear enrichment (turning uranium into weapons grade material) equipment. There was massive equipment failure and damage on a scale similar to the 2010 attack carried out with software designed to get into the heavily guarded Natanz nuclear fuel enrichment compound, and the computer controlled equipment there. Later analysis indicated that the deep-underground (about 50 meters, or 155 feet) plant was effectively destroyed. The target was the thousands of centrifuges that turn uranium ore into nuclear fuel or, with more effort, nuclear material suitable for a nuclear explosive. Israeli hackers got to the centrifuges in 2010 via a computer worm hack called Stuxnet. A worm is malware (hacker software) that gets into target systems via stealth and physical media like USB thumb drives. Stuxnet was released four or five years before it got to Natanz, apparently via a USB drive containing the normally invisible (to most users) malware. Once that USB drive is used on any local or Internet network connected computer, Stuxnet automatically copies itself onto all computers connected to the network. On each computer, especially industrial microprocessors that are used to control equipment, Stuxnet checked for centrifuge control software unique to the Natanz facility. When finally found in 2010, Stuxnet proceeded to modify the centrifuge control software to mimic known types of equipment failure and did so gradually. By the time the Natanz system operators discovered something was wrong, thousands of their expensive new centrifuges were damaged so badly that they had to be replaced. The 2021 attack on Natanz used a different approach, because the Iranians had spent a lot time, effort and money to prevent another Stuxnet attack.

In 2021 the Israelis first got the technical details of the Natanz electrical system as well as details of the new generation of centrifuges Iran installed there. The Israeli plan was to use explosives placed and detonated where it would shut down the primary and back-up power systems when the maximum number of new centrifuges were powered up and vulnerable to severe damage if the main power and back up power systems failed simultaneously. The explosives were placed correctly and went off on time. The result was Natanz again suffered major centrifuge loss that will take months get back into production again and over a year to completely fix.

Then there are the needed security upgrades, which are uncertain until Iran can find out more about exactly how the attack was carried out. They knew a lot of explosives had been involved but were unsure of how the attacker figured out how and were to place them without being discovered. To aid in solving that mystery Iran went public with details, and the name of a suspected key operative. Iran is looking for Reza Karimi, a 43 year old Iranian who left the country several days before the attack. There are probably other Iranians involved as well as the suspected Israel Mossad agents who came to Iran and worked with a growing number of Iranians seeking to overthrow their current religious dictatorship. The Iranians have been seeking more of these “Mossad Iranians” since the 2018 Mossad operation in the capital when a heavily protected warehouse containing top-secret documents was located by Mossad, covertly entered and half a ton of documents on the Iranian nuclear program were removed and 24 hours later showed up in Israel. Until now Iran denied that the Mossad operation took place and that the documents were real. Since 2018 Israel has allowed foreign intel and nuclear program experts to examine the documents and that led to international acceptance of the documents as authentic.

Iran is desperate to get hold of Reza Karimi and, to help with that, they televised what looked like an Interpol (international police) “Red Notice”. To obtain a Red Notice, a country must provide sufficient evidence that the suspect is indeed so dangerous that Interpol will request that the many nations that work with Interpol will accept the Red Notice and look for and arrest Karimi. The televised Red Notice could not be found on the Interpol website and so far Interpol has apparently not decided whether or not to accept the Iranian Red Notice request. There were no casualties at Natanz, many Iranians support the attack and the many Iranians living outside their homeland openly express their hostile attitude towards the Iranian nuclear program.

The two attacks on Natanz were very damaging to Iranian claims that they do not have a nuclear weapons program. In the aftermath of both attacks it become clear that Iran was using powerful new centrifuge designs to create nuclear material that was far more refined (above 20 percent) than needed for a nuclear power plant. Iran needs a lot of nuclear material refined to 90 percent to make nuclear weapons. The data Mossad made public in 2018 and the aftermath of the 2021 attack demonstrate the Iran is still seeking nuclear weapons.

Blowback In Iran

The growing number of Mossad operations in Iran has led to public criticism, often by the senior clerics who actually rule the country. There has been more of this public criticism in Iran because the government has, for decades, devoted major resources to “destroying Israel.” That effort has consistently, and often spectacularly failed, at great cost to Iran. This makes the religious dictatorship, look like incompetent and frauds because these senior clerics always insisted they were doing God’s Work. In the last few years that Work appears to be finding ways to destroy Iran via corruption, mismanagement and trying to blame it all on Israel and the United States. The latest Mossad attack made a lot more Iranians realize that the Mossad was apparently entrenched inside Iran and finding more Iranians willing to work with Mossad against projects many Iranians agreed were endangering and impoverishing Iran, and a major cause of the declining living standards and growing crackdowns by the IRGC (Islamic Revolution Guard Corps) and police. The IRGC knew that the Israelis had been successful at establishing a clandestine Mossad presence in Arab nations but thought Iranians were too sophisticated for that. That might have been the case for Iranians who trusted their government. That trust began to erode decades ago and even the IRGC, in one of its recent “actual public opinion” reports to the religious leadership, revealed that most Iranians now hated their government and many were also fed up with Islam. Which brings to the present, as Iranian leaders realize that many Iranians are willingly and effectively working with the enemy.

Iran is trying to portray itself to foreigners as the innocent victim of Israeli aggression. Iranians insist that Natanz was only producing enriched uranium suitable for power plant fuel. But recent IAEA (UN inspectors) reports describe evidence that Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear bomb and need highly (to 90 percent purity) uranium for that. The foreigners are not as easy to deceive as before but more questions are being asked about Natanz. Inside Iran the “accidental” fire at Natanz in mid-2020, described as a construction accident, is now being revisited as details of how Mossad agents inside Natanz got 150 kg of explosives into the underground complex and managed to hide them, and their remote control detonators, where they would not be found and would do maximum damage when detonated.

Syria

The Iranians are still in Syria, but in reduced numbers because of cash crisis back home. The Iranian mercs and their IRGC supervisors are more concerned with establishing a military presence near the Israeli border so they can carry out terror attacks via the use of missiles or rockets. So far this has proved slow going and expensive. The Israeli airstrikes regularly hit weapons shipments from Iran and secret Iranian bases. Israel has more friends in Syria than Iran does in Israel, or in Syria for that matter. Israel is not alone in wanting the Iranians to just go home. That sentiment is shared by many Syrians, Lebanese, Turks, Kurds, Iraqis, Russians and Americans.

April 21, 2021: In the south (Egyptian border) an Israeli night patrol on an isolated portion of the border spotted three vehicles coming from Israel and headed into Egypt. Suspecting smugglers the troops identified themselves and ordered the vehicles to halt. The vehicles kept coming. The troops opened fire on the tires to halt the vehicle and one of the bullets his a passenger, killing him. The incident is still being investigated.

April 18, 2021: In Iran, Mohammed Hejazi, the deputy commander of the Quds Force, died of a heart attacks. Or did he? Many Iranians, especially senior government officials, feared this was another Mossad assassination. The deputy commander is next in line to replace the Quds commander. Iran is still seeking revenge for the early 2020 American missile attack that killed veteran Quds commander Qassem Soleimani. This guy turned out to be the most effective boss Quds ever had and his replacement turned out to be mediocre in comparison. Paranoid Iranians believe that is why the new Quds commander has not been killed but his deputy has.

April 17, 2021: In the south (Gaza) for the second time in the last three days Israeli airstrikes destroyed Hamas facilities in Gaza in response to rocket attacks from Gaza. There is a ceasefire but, as interpreted by Hamas it is more of a lessfire than ceasefire with occasional attacks using unguided rockets that a fired to impress Arab audiences in Gaza elsewhere. If no one in Israel is hurt, the return attacks are at less critical unoccupied facilities. If a rocket attack kills or injures someone in Israel the retaliation is more extensive and lethal. The increased Gaza violence is believed to be a side-effect of Hamas efforts to win the Gaza-West Bank elections that will take place on May 22nd. Hamas is not as popular as it was over a decade ago when it unexpectedly won elections in Gaza and used that to establish a separate Palestinian state, leaving the long dominant Fatah party with control of the West Bank. There are a lot of Hamas candidates in the West Bank, where Fatah corruption and mismanagement have provided Hamas with a lot of support. Hamas and Israeli security have increased investigations and arrests of Hamas candidates, but for different reasons. Fatah realizes that Hamas could win the parliamentary elections and put Fatah out of business, or close to it. Israel sees many Hamas candidates for parliament as actual or potential terrorists. The election campaign had a lot of pro-Hamas Palestinians go public with that support. In situations like that Israel takes names and seeks to discover who is naughty and who is nice.

April 16, 2021: In Greece, officials from Greece and Israel signed the contracts awarding Israel a 20 year fighter pilot training contract worth $1.66 billion. Greece called for bids on this contract in February. Israel was a front runner, in part because the two nations had long trained together and become allies against Islamic terrorism and growing Turkish aggression. The main reason for Israel getting the contract was their success in pilot training over the last half century. Greece has a smaller air force than Turkey but was always considered to have better trained pilot. Turkey lost its edge in F-16 pilot training after a 2016 purge of the Turkish air force because the Islamic government suspected the air force of being disloyal. Turkey lost so many F-16s pilots that it had problems training new ones. Recent encounters between Greek and Turkish F-16s made it clear that the Greeks had a pilot edge and, with the new Israeli run pilot training program, the Greeks hope to hold onto it.

The training contract has Israel providing ten Italian M-346 advanced jet trainers, which are what the Israeli air force uses. Israel obtained 30 M-346s in 2012 instead of trying to replace the elderly A-4 light bombers used as jet trainers with older F-16s. The A-4 wasn't a great trainer aircraft given its age and high maintenance cost. Israel eventually realized that older F-16s would not be much better as trainers. The M-346s were obtained at a price Israel could afford via a billion-dollar barter deal. Israel was pleased with the performance of the M-346s. That meant obtaining Israel as a jet trainer export customer was a big deal for Italy as it played a role in obtaining more export sales.

April 13, 2021: In the Persian Gulf another Israeli owned cargo ship (the Hyperion Ray) was hit by an Iranian missile off the coast of the UAE, There was no significant damage to the 20,000 ton (DWT) vehicle carrier but the ship apparently went to nearby Oman to repair the damage and continue its voyage.

April 11, 2021: At the new Iranian Natanz nuclear fuel enrichment facility the power failed just as a new generation of more efficient centrifuges, used for uranium enrichment of uranium to high enough levels to be used in weapons, began operation. Iran blamed Israeli hackers although later Iran said they were seeking someone in the area responsible for a pre-positioned bomb that went off at an electrical substation that controlled the power supply to Natanz. This facility is largely underground and requires a lot of electrical power to function. Israel had no official comment but Iran was certain Israel was the culprit and once more threatened retaliation. Those threats have been active for several years now and Iran is angry that it has not been able to inflict any significant damage on Israel. This makes a lot of Israelis nervous because in the past the Iranians have persisted, often to the point of recklessness (having an attack traced back to Iran) and killed some Israelis. If Iran is directly connected to any murder of Israeli civilians the diplomatic blowback if often enormous. Currently Israelis going abroad are warned to avoid a list of situations that Iran is using to entice Israelis into an area were Iranian operatives can kidnap or kill them.

This kind of conflict between Israel and Iran, which avoids doing anything to trigger direct attacks between the two countries, has been going on for decades. Iran does not want to cross the line because Israel has more military options than Iran and also wants to avoid direct attack, like airstrikes against Iranian nuclear weapons facilities. The Iranians know that Israel has carried out such airstrikes in the past and is capable to doing it against Iran. Israel has refrained because Iran, which has been close to actually building a nuclear bomb for over a decade, has never done so. Twenty years ago, Western nations began predicting that Iran would have a nuclear bomb within a few years. None of these predictions came true and Iran seemed more intent on maintaining the illusion that they were going to test their first nuclear device any time now. One reason that has not happened is because the Iranian leadership wants nukes to enhance Iranian efforts to intimidate other countries into cooperating. That’s an ancient Iranian strategy. But this time Iran has a powerful armed faction of Islamic fanatics (the IRGC) who cannot be trusted to follow tradition. Many IRGC members truly believe they are on a Mission From God and not bound by tradition or reality. Iran won’t official admit this but it is common knowledge inside Iran and even within the IRGC. Iran does not want to build a bomb unless they can be sure it’s use will be rational and not subject to unpredictable whims of religious fanatics.

April 10, 2021: In southern Syria (Damascus) an Israeli airstrike near the Damascus airport destroyed an Iranian ammunition storage site, setting off large secondary explosions and fires which were visible from the city. Three Iranian personnel were killed.

April 7, 2021: In southern Syria (Damascus) an Israeli airstrike near the Damascus airport destroyed an Iranian ammunition storage sites, setting off large secondary explosions and fires which were visible from the city. Three Arab mercenaries working for Iran were killed. The airstrike was apparently launched from aircraft in Lebanon and the Israeli Golan Heights, where they launched their air-to-ground missiles.

April 6, 2021: In the Red Sea, off Yemen, Israeli commandos placed a limpet mine on the side of a stationary Iranian freighter (the Saviz) and caused minor damage, including a fire that was quickly extinguished. The Saviz has been anchored in international waters 150 kilometers northwest of the Yemeni port of Hodeida since 2017 and Iran insists it is there to keep that portion of the Red Sea safe from pirates. Everyone has gone along with that fiction. For example, in mid-2019 a Saudi military transport helicopter paid a visit to pick up an ill Iranian sailor who was flown to a Saudi hospital for emergency treatment. The Iranian request for a medical evacuation was done via the UN because the Saudis and Iran have no diplomatic relations. This is one of those curious situations so common to the cultures of the region. The Saviz has been anchored (outside the shipping lanes and in plain sight) for years. Apparently, the ship, which is regularly resupplied by other Iranian merchant ships, is unarmed but there are also several speedboats on the deck and men in IRGC uniforms are regularly seen out in the open as well. In reality the Saviz serves as a mothership for small, fast, smuggling boats that can carry limited quantities of small items ashore and get away with it. The Saudis have not shut down the Saviz because of some unofficial understanding that as long as Iran does not resume putting naval mines in the shipping channel and firing missiles at passing military and commercial traffic, the Saviz would be left alone. The Saviz may well be the main source of the additional UAVs the Shia rebels have been getting and using since 2017. But as long as none of these UAV attacks do any serious damage, the Saviz will be left alone. It was believed that eventually the truth about the Saviz would come out, and join that many other strange tales of mysterious Middle East. Israel moved this story forward with the limpet mine attack and the Saudis may follow with a seizure of Saviz, especially considering the growing number of Iranian UAVs used by the Yemeni Shia rebels to attack Saudi Arabia.

April 3, 2021: Israeli government personnel travelled to Libya to meet with Saddam Haftar, oldest son of LNA (Libyan National Army) leader and founder Khalifa Haftar. The Israelis have followed the Libya situation closely for decades and see the upcoming national elections as an opportunity to add Libya to the growing list of Arab countries establishing political and economic relationships with Israel.

April 2, 2021: Syria and Russia signed a long-promised deal for two Russian companies to explore offshore Syrian waters for oil and natural gas. There are already large natural gas deposits being extracted by Israel in an offshore region near the Lebanese border. It turns out that these large deposits of natural gas, because of new exploration tech, can be found offshore (and a few on shore) throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, especially coastal areas from Egypt to Greece. This has caused a growing number of disputes about exactly where the maritime borders are and who actually owns which offshore area. The two Russian exploration firms were assigned areas near the Lebanese border and Lebanon has already disputed the Syrian interpretation of the maritime border. Russia and Syria signed the original offshore exploration agreement in 2013 based on the huge proven (with exploratory drilling) fields found and being developed off northern Israel. One reason Russia intervened militarily in Syria during 2015 was to protect their exploration rights off Syria. Israel has confirmed that its offshore natural gas wealth off the coast was enormous and keeps getting better.

In late 2014 Israel announced a third major natural gas discovery off their coast. This one was worth over $100 billion dollars. The two previous ones were worth over a trillion dollars. By 2918 Israel found that their natural gas fields were actually 14 percent larger than earlier estimated. These discoveries make Israel largely energy independent and a major exporter of natural gas. This is a recent development as serious exploration for natural gas off the Israeli coast only got started in the late 90s and since then more and more natural gas has been found offshore in the eastern Mediterranean, from Lebanon to Egypt. Israeli commercial production began in 2013 with the completion of pipelines extending 150 kilometers offshore. Israeli GDP was continuing to grow without the natural gas discoveries but with the natural Israel becomes largely energy independent and an energy exporter as well. Israel went on to signs long-term natural gas export deals with Jordan and Egypt worth nearly $20 billion.

Syria is hoping for a trillion-dollar natural gas bonanza offshore. The Russians firms will earn billions if they find that gas and supervise the drilling and construction of infrastructure to extract, store and distribute, inside Syria and to export customers, the natural gas. Having Russia as a partner in this means Russia has something worth fighting for in the eastern Mediterranean and Syria. This offshore natural gas wealth is another reason why Russia maintains good relations with Israel, even if that angers Iran and Turkey.

March 31, 2021: In southern Syria (Sweida and Quentera provinces) along the Israeli and Jordan borders the Iranian presence has become visibly unpopular. Anti-Iran graffiti is showing up in border villages. The main complaint is the Iranian Lebanese Hezbollah mercenaries. Iran has tolerated Hezbollah raising money by distributing illegal drugs. This is something Hezbollah has done in Lebanon and other countries for decades. This, and large annual Iranian subsidies, have paid for Hezbollah becoming the most powerful armed group in Lebanon and de-facto ruler of southern Lebanon. The drug business has made Hezbollah unpopular with most Lebanese and people in the many countries where Hezbollah is active in the drug trade. This includes some African and South American countries as well as the United States and Canada.

 

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