December 7, 2021:
As more details of Israeli operations in Iran are revealed it becomes clear that the Israelis unofficially, and often anonymously, worked with the majority of Iranians who want to overthrow their religious dictatorship. The Iranian government is seeing more protests from the ethnic minorities in Iran that comprise half the population. While half the population is ethnic Iranian, an Indo-European people long called Persians, a quarter of Iranians are Azeri (a Turkic people). The Azeris are seen as the most loyal non-Persian group in Iran. Many senior members of the clergy are Azeri, including the senior member of the ruling Guardian Council and supreme leader Ali Khamenei. That is no longer an asset because most Iranian Azeris have turned against the religious dictatorship and are calling for the end of the religious dictatorship and better relations with neighboring Azerbaijan, which is allied with Israel. This ethnic affinity has long been a problem for Russia and Iran.
The Israeli Mossad agents who recruited these Iranians to help carry out sabotage attacks were themselves “Iranian” in the sense that they belonged to the many Iranian Jews that have left Iran over the last half century but had not lost their Iranian customs, like using Farsi (the Indo-European “Persian” language) and other Iranian cultural practices. These Israelis made excellent Mossad operatives in Iran where they looked Iranian, spoke Iranian and knew Iranian customs. When the recruited scientists safely escaped from Iran after their role in a major attack was made known and they discovered the Iranians who recruited them were Israelis. This eventually got back to fellow Azeri-Iranians in Iran and most Iranian Azeris saw it as a positive thing. Jewish-Iranians were one of the smallest minorities but always considered Iranians first, something that made an impact on Iranians in general. It also impressed the Russians, who have had a long and often violent relationship with Iran over who should rule the Azeris.
Two centuries ago Russia and Iran ended up dividing control of Azeri population. 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 and more Iranian Azeris consider Azerbaijan a better example of the kind of government Iran should have. The Azeris have proved to be good allies for Israel. 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.
Recent Israeli revelations confirmed that many of the Iranian scientists and engineers who worked with Israel to sabotage Iran’s nuclear weapons development thought they were working with fellow Iranian opponents of the Islamic dictatorship. This is persuading more members of the Guardian Council to oppose the current hard line policy of the Council and willingness to get Iran into a war with Israel and the growing number of Israeli allies, which now includes Azerbaijan and many Arab states.
Most Iranians backed the idea of Iran having nuclear weapons, because this is seen as justified for the major local superpower in the region. This is a role the Persians have played for thousands of years. But now most Iranians agree that their current religious dictatorship should not have these weapons because all the neighbors and their superpower allies oppose it. The religious dictatorship, or at least its radical faction, wants the nukes for attacking Israel and intimidating the Arab oil states into submission. Many Iranians see this as insane. Israel is clearly more capable of defending themselves and destroying the Iranian nuclear program than the Iranian religious dictatorship is in defending itself, let alone all Iranians against the backlash, especially if nuclear material from the nuclear weapons production targets bombed sites means radioactivity in the water supply or atmosphere.
Before the 1979 revolution Iran and Israel had long been allies. Given a choice between returning to Israel as an ally instead of Israel as a more powerful neighbor Iran was attacking, Iranians are backing a return to the Good Old Days. The current religious dictatorship is not just considered corrupt and incompetent but insane and in dire need of replacement.
Israel takes the threat of nuclear attack more seriously than the Iranian religious dictatorship. The Iranians are smart and generally competent. Despite decades of sanctions they have built ballistic missiles and are close to having crude nukes. These weapon development projects are well protected but they are not invulnerable. The Israeli espionage and sabotage operations against the nuclear program have proved that. Israel wanted to avoid a military strike against the Iranian nuclear weapons program because it would result in a lot of Iranians dying and long-term damage to territory around the nuclear fuel processing sites. The Israeli attacks would mean a lot of the nuclear material in the environment. This would be expensive to clean up and the nuclear contamination could get into the local water supply or, if on the surface, into the air. The Iranian techs who joined the resistance realize this, but their religious dictatorship doesn’t care because God is on their side and whatever happens it is God’s Will. Israel has the intelligence to locate the nuclear facilities and the specialized weapons to neutralize them. Details are kept secret but past experience demonstrates that whatever the Israelis come up with usually works. Failure is not an option when your worst enemies are seeking nothing less than the extermination of Israel and Jews in general.
Fading Foreign War Efforts
Iran also has to contend with the loss of cooperation from allies in places like Syria. The close relationship Russia has with Israel is a disappointment because Russian now sees Israel as a more valuable Russian partner in Syria than Iran. Russia recognizes that Israel has the strongest economy in the region as well as being the most capable military power. Israel also has nuclear weapons. In 2018 Russian diplomats told Israel that Russia would support Israel if Iran attacked Israel directly. The Russians made it clear they did not want to fight the Israelis, especially when the Russians had much evidence that their most modern military equipment would not do well if there were clashes with Israel. It eventually became known that Israel would cancel or reschedule an airstrike at Russian request. This was usually because there were Russian troops in the target area and Israel, once informed, was able to divert that airstrike to another area in need of attention.
The Assads want a similar deal but Russia and Israel agreed that this would only happen if Russia and Israel agreed with the details of any “peace” deal between the Assads and Israel. The Assads also had to understand that there were Syrians who wanted Israel destroyed along with the Assads and all foreigners in Syria. Israel and the Assads are still working out the details of this potential agreement.
The Assads agreed to a new relationship with Israel that would be monitored and enforced by Russia and Israel. Russia believes such a peace deal would be hailed as a major achievement for Russia in Syria and most of the world will agree if the changes do not prompt Iran into starting a major war over it.
In Gaza the Iranian support for Hamas had made Iran more enemies in places like Egypt. Israel and Egypt agree that the main reason the Palestinian Sunni Hamas organization ruling Gaza is not serious in renewed efforts to negotiate a ceasefire with Israel is Iranian support. Iran has transferred more personnel to assist Hamas preparations for new efforts to carry out terror attacks inside Israel as well as recruit more Palestinians in Gaza to carry out larger attacks on Israel with long range rockets.
Iran no longer trusts Hezbollah with those tasks because Hezbollah is distracted by growing violence in Lebanon and economic collapse there that Hezbollah has contributed to. Most Lebanese accuse Iran and Hezbollah of contributing to current problems in Lebanon, especially those related to Hezbollah becoming an extension of the Iranian 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 many were expelled from Lebanon because of that perceived betrayal.
December 6, 2021: In coastal Syria an Israeli airstrike hit a storage area in the port of Latakia. Israeli airstrikes in this area are rare because Russia uses the port for bringing in cargo. Israel said that it would attack Iranian weapons shipments wherever it found them. There were no casualties from this attack but there was a fire and secondary explosions in a cargo container storage area.
December 5, 2021: In Syria Israeli, and American airstrikes appear to be coordinated. The Americans are even more secretive about their airstrikes in Syria than Israel but each month there are three or four airstrikes by unidentified aircraft or UAVs in eastern Syria (Deir Ezzor province) against Iranian weapons storage sites outside Al Bukamal City, which is on the Euphrates River and as well as the Bukamal border crossing into Iraq. Israel and the U.S. use the same type of aircraft (F-15s) for these attacks and the attacks involving UAVs are not Israeli because the Israelis don’t use armed UAVs, which is an American specialty. In the rest of Syria similar strikes on Iranian targets are Israeli. The U.S. and Israel have a strong military, economic, and diplomatic relationship and often quietly cooperate in areas of mutual interest. The Russians are apparently part of the airstrike coordination in Deir Ezzor province where most of the airstrikes against ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) targets are Russian, but some are not and are often claimed by the United States.
December 4, 2021: In Jerusalem a Palestinian from the West Bank carried out another “knife jihad” attack and wounded an Israeli civilian before police shot the attacker dead.
December 3, 2021: In Austria the negotiations with Iran to revive the 2015 treaty that ended sanctions (if Iran halted work on nukes) are not going well. The American negotiator believes the Iranians are simply not serious or interested in reaching an agreement. The Iranian obsession with destroying Israel and the Israeli preparations for an attack on Iranian nuclear research facilities led the French president to point out that any negotiations about renewing the 2015 treaty should include Israel. He later added the Arb Gulf oil states as well.
December 2, 2021: Egypt has not been able to persuade Hamas to agree to any sort of ceasefire and is now having trouble arranging a prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas. Hamas offered to exchange four Israeli captives; two soldiers captured in 2014 and two civilians, believed to be deranged, who entered Gaza in 2014 and were imprisoned by Hamas. Hamas is asking for more than Israeli can give, as in men imprisoned for murder and particularly infamous terror attacks. Hamas is more interested in doing what their new sponsor, Iran, wants. Egypt and Israel still disagree on many issues but are in agreement over the threat Hamas poses to them both and with Iran now involved, there is not much cause for optimism.
November 30, 2021: In the north (Syrian borders) Syria’s Daraa province has been experiencing an undeclared war between Iranian and Syrian forces 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. 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. Near the Israel border Russian and Syrian pressure has prevented Iranian attacks on Israel. Russia and Syria have also been checking locals to see if they are Syrian Shia wearing authorized Syrian army or police uniforms rather than Lebanese Shia using stolen uniforms as disguises. This border security operation is a big deal for Syria and Israel and a major embarrassment for Iran, which is why Iran has not cranked up its usual media outrage to complain. Israel will sometimes fire 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 for over a year but are not making much progress. The covert Iranian violence is just another incentive for Syria to get the Iranian agents out of the area.
This border security effort by Syrians and Russians is the result of years of working to gain the support of the largely Sunni and Druze civilian population along the border in (from west to east); Quneitra, Daraa and Suwayda provinces. This is a joint effort to block Iranian efforts to gain the support of the border population. Total population of these provinces in 2011 was 1.4 million but only about 20 percent of that was on or near the border. After the 2011 Civil War began much of the Sunni population fled. How much remains on the border is unclear but is apparently at least 100,000. Only Queneitra and Daraa border Israel. Israel has occupied most of Queneitra province since the 1967 War and the Israeli controlled area is mostly the Golan Heights. This is the high ground overlooking northern Israel and the Syrians made a major and ultimately failed effort in the 1973 War to retake Golan. Control of the Daraa border with Israel was sought by Iranian forces but Russian and Syrian troops blocked many of the Iranian efforts and are now pushing away Iranian-backed forces already there.
November 24, 2021: In central Syria (Homs province) an Israeli airstrike hit an Iranian facility, killing four and wounding at least a dozen people.
November 17, 2021: In the north Golan Heights), Israel fired two missiles at a target outside Damascus. Syria said it was an empty building and it was destroyed. There were no casualties.
November 14, 2021: Israel is seeking the release of an Israeli married couple Turkey arrested and charged with spying. The couple took a picture of the presidential palace. Erdogan wants to negotiate, apparently for some help in Syria or with the economic crisis in Turkey.
November 12, 2021: France hosted an International Conference for Libya that was sponsored by the UN. Participants included Algeria, Britain, Chad, China, Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Jordan, Kuwait, Malta, Morocco, the Netherlands, Niger, Qatar, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE (United Arab Emirates), the U.S., the African Union, the European Union, the Arab League and the Sahel Group of Five. There was agreement that the elections must go forward and not much else.