Israel: Iran Improvises


April 19, 2023: Israel treats Iran as a major threat, especially because of the Iranian presence in Syria, although Iran’s nuclear program is starting to rival that danger. Israel has been at war with Iran in Syria for nearly a decade, during which Israel carried out hundreds of airstrikes and a few commando operations against Iranian operations in Syria. This cost Iran a lot of lives and money, and is one of the things restive Iranians want to halt by pulling Iranian forces out of Syria and Lebanon. But first Iranians must oust their religious dictatorship which has been in power for 45 years, and has refused to shut down operations in Syria despite years of protests that it costs too much.

Iran controls irregular forces in Syria along with the more organized Hezbollah in Lebanon and the inept Hamas in Gaza. Iran also has medium-range ballistic missiles in Iran that can reach Israel, and keeps trying to smuggle guided rockets and short-range ballistic missiles into Syria and Lebanon. Hundreds of Israeli air strikes have prevented the guided weapons buildup and formidable Israeli BMD (ballistic missiles defense) systems neutralize the use of missiles launched from Iran. So far these defenses have worked. Israel has now offered to sell its BMD systems to their new Arab allies, and help them use whatever BMD systems they do obtain to intercept Iranian missiles.

Israel also has to deal with the Russian presence in Syria although Russia is currently is obsessed with conquering Ukraine, or at least not being driven out by the Ukrainians. At the same time, Iran remains obsessed with destroying Israel but has made no progress at all, despite years of expensive trying, in part because of an informal agreement between Russia and Israel in which Israel refrains from demonstrating deficiencies in Russian air defense systems in return for Russia not interfering with Israeli air strikes on Iranian forces in Syria. In addition, Israel does not directly supply Ukraine with any offensive weapons despite the fact that most Israelis back the Ukrainians. Israel has provided Ukraine with defensive weapons for use against the Russian missile attacks on Ukrainian civilians. These attacks also include a lot of Iranian cruise missiles. Israel has sold a lot of modern weapons to NATO countries and does not object when these NATO nations provide these Israeli weapons to Ukraine. Russia does not make an issue of this in Syria as long as Israel does not provide these weapons directly.

Iran’s presence in Syria remains a major threat, so Israeli efforts to make a peace deal with the Syrian Assad government continue covertly. Arab nations have come to the aid of the Assads by allowing Syria to rejoin the Arab League. At the same time China negotiated an arrangement between Iran and Saudi Arabia to guarantee the continued flow of Iranian and Saudi oil to China, which gets most of its oil from these two countries. For this to work Iran and the Arab Gulf oil states must cease attacks on each other. Russia is also an unofficial participant in this arrangement and now controls enough of the world oil supply to significantly affect oil prices. Russia also receives assistance in circumventing economic sanctions by moving Russian oil directly from Russia to Iran and then by tanker to India and China.

Syria rejoining the Arab League and the Chinese role in assisting Iran also provides more protection for the Assad rule in Syria. The Assads want independence from Iranian domination. The Assads play a major role in legitimizing the Iranian presence in Syria and wants this cooperation to be mutual, not coerced by Iranian threats to replace the Assad government if the Assads do not do whatever Iran wants. Iran has few suitable replacements for the Assads and the new arrangements with China, Russia and the Arab League make continued Assad rule in Syria more secure. This suits Israel, which is free to continue attacking Iranian attempts to attack Israel from Syria.

While Israel has Syria and the Iranians under control, the same can’t be said for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. So far this year, eighteen Israelis or foreign tourists were killed by terrorist attacks in Israel or the West Bank. In 2022 the total for the entire year was 24. Various Palestinian terror groups are responsible for carrying out attacks or encouraging other Palestinians to do so.

Some of these Palestinian groups, especially in Gaza, receive aid from Iran to attack Israel. To deal with this Israel works with Egypt to control Islamic terrorists in Sinai, part of which includes Egypt shutting down Iranian smuggling tunnels from Egypt to Gaza while Israeli naval forces detect and intercept continued attempts to get weapons into by sea. Iran can still get cash to its supporters in Gaza, but not weapons.

To cope with this, some Palestinians from Gaza now operate from southern Lebanon, where they have rockets to attack Israel with. This has caused some problems in Lebanon, where the government was not informed of the new Iran/Palestinian presence there. Lebanon does not want to be dragged into another war with Israel because of Iran sponsored attacks on Israel from Lebanese territory using Palestinians. Israel regularly reminds Lebanon of its vulnerability to Israeli air power by sending aircraft over southern Lebanon to keep an eye on Palestinian and Hezbollah forces there. Israeli aircraft operate over the rest of Lebanon to remind the Lebanese population how vulnerable they, Israel has also increased its ground forces in northern Israel, especially on the Lebanese border. Lebanon can avoid such a war by putting pressure on independent forces in southern Lebanon.

April 15, 2023: Several hundred thousand Israelis demonstrated in Tel Aviv and over a hundred other locations to protest the government efforts to reduce the independence of the High Court of Justice, which has the final say on government operations. The proposed changes have divided the country and this recently led to foreign credit rating firms to downgrade its evaluations of Israeli economic stability. This makes it more difficult for Israel to borrow money abroad and do business with export customers. The current Israeli government insists that proposals be tried to see if them improve the stability of Israeli governments, which often depend on many smaller special interest political parties to stay in power. Popular opposition to this proposal is an example of the disruption the changes would address. Israel is the strongest economy in the region but Israeli governments must cater to a lot of special interests in order to form a governing coalition.

April 11, 2023: In the West Bank, two Palestinians were killed by soldiers after the two men fired on the troops.

April 9, 2023: In the north (Golan Heights) three rockets fired from Syria landed in uninhabited areas. Later Israeli artillery was fired into Syria near where the rockets were launched.

April 6, 2023: In the north, across the border in southern Lebanon an Iran-backed Palestinian faction fired 30 unguided rockets into Israel. The Iron Dome defense system intercepted 15 of the 34 rockets that were headed for populated areas while the others landed in uninhabited territory. Iran sponsors Hamas in Gaza and smuggled in rockets and rocket components. Iran control Hezbollah in Lebanon has recruited local Palestinians to form an anti-Israel group and use Iranian-made rockets provided by Hezbollah to attack Israel. Hezbollah does not want to do this itself because Israel would retaliate against the many Hezbollah facilities in Lebanon. Israel retaliated for this rocket barrage with artillery fire against Iranian or pro-Iranian group targets near the border. For years Iran has threatened to unleash massive simultaneous rocket barrages from Gaza and Lebanon but was dissuaded by Israeli retaliation, which would include ground invasion and enormous damage on Hamas and Hezbollah facilities. Worse, the Lebanese government would become more hostile to the Hezbollah presence in Lebanon and the many anti-Hamas Palestinians in Gaza threaten to do the same. The Lebanese do not complain openly because that would lead to more strife inside Lebanon.

April 4, 2023: In central Syria (Homs province) an Israeli airstrike hit the Al-Qusayr airport, which is near the Lebanon border and used by Hezbollah.

April 2, 2023: In the north (the Syrian border) Israel shot down an UAV that crossed into Israeli air space. The UAV apparently came from Syria.

In southern Syria (Damascus) a car bomb went off outside the city near a military airport. There were no injuries. Earlier in the day there was an Israeli airstrike in the west Syrian city of Homs. Five Syrian soldiers were wounded. This was the third Israeli airstrike in the south in the last three days. Most of these attacks are against Iranian or Iran-backed personnel and facilities.

April 1, 2023: In central Syria (Homs province) an Israeli airstrike hit the T4 airbase., in retaliation for a recent Iranian UAV that tried to cross the border into Israel but was detected and destroyed. The targets at T4 were Iranian training areas and weapons warehouses. Five Syrian soldiers were killed and many more wounded. 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, near 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. Some of the Israeli attacks are against Hezbollah, a large Iran-backed Shia militia in southern Lebanon.

March 30, 2023: In southern Syria (Damascus) Israeli airstrikes hit intelligence headquarters operated by Iran and Hezbollah. Elsewhere in Damascus an Israeli airstrike killed Milad Heydari, a senior IRGC officer who specialized in Cyber War operations. This was the fifth Israeli airstrike this month in Syria. All of them were against Iranian targets and the one today was particularly important because Heydari was a senior officer as well as a key technical advisor for Iranian forces in Syria. The IRGC threatened strenuous efforts to avenge Heydari. This usually means that the man killed had caused lower morale and effectiveness among Iranian personnel in Syria. Iranian retaliation often involves assassination attempts in foreign countries or, if Israel is the target, against Jews living anywhere in the world. Many nations deal with this threat by banning Iranians from entering, unless they are diplomatic personnel. Even with an embassy there is a risk and Iran has got itself into big diplomatic trouble when Iranian embassy officials were caught trying to arrange an assassination by hiring local hitmen to do it. European nations have long tried to maintain friendly diplomatic relations with Iran but in the last year more EU (European Union) nations are treating Iranians like a threat and no longer telling Iran that they do not support the overthrow of the current Iranian government. It’s difficult to support the current Iranian government in any way after six months of anti-government demonstrations in Iran.

March 27, 2023: In southwest Syria (Rif Dimashq province) a bomb planted in the car of an army colonel went off near where he worked as a weapon development engineer. Israel was suspected.

March 23, 2023: In eastern Syria (Deir Ezzor province) an Israeli airstrike killed a Hezbollah official and an IRGC commander. This prompted Iran to order an attack on an American base in eastern Syria (Hasaka province). This attack took place the next day and caused no casualties. These attacks usually result in an American airstrike on an Iran-backed group in Syria.

March 22, 2023: In northern Syria (Aleppo) an Israeli airstrike hit the main airport outside the city because it is where Iran flies in weapons.

March 21, 2023: In Egypt, the United States delivered three Cyclone-class patrol boats to the navy. These 328-ton boats among the sixteen built in 1990s and retired by the U.S. between 2000 and 2023. The boats were refurbished before being sent to Egypt. Gulf state Bahrain received five of these boats while the Philippines received two.

March 19, 2023: In southern Syria (Damascus) a car bomb killed a senior member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. This group is based in Gaza but Syria has long provided sanctuary for such groups as long as they do no violence in Syria. The car-bomb was blamed on Israel, which has used similar tactics in the past.

March 9, 2023: Turkish interference in Libyan internal affairs is making the formation of a Libyan national government even more difficult. The UN agrees that the Turkish demands are illegal but refuses to do much about it. That is actually normal for the UN. The United States and European governments are demanding that the UN act but the UN refuses without admitting that it is simply impossible for the UN to obtain enough international support to pressure the Turks to get out of Libya. UN efforts in Libya to help establish a national government have failed and are now seen as part of the problem. The UN still considers its efforts as a positive force in Libya. While most Libyans are ready to form a national government, the UN and Turkey remain the primary obstacles to achieving that. There are other obstacles, like Egypt, which has long been a major factor in Eastern Libya politics because the Egyptians want to look after the many Egyptians who work in Libya as well as keeping Islamic terrorists in Libya from getting into Egypt or smuggling weapons into Egypt.




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