Tehran jumped at the chance to portray militants’ barrages on Israel as revenge for Israeli attacks on Iran. But Israel says Tehran played no role in the latest conflict.
It’s not every day that Hamas leaders openly plead for Tehran’s support. But this is apparently what happened when, as the battle between Gaza’s militant groups and Israel’s military escalated, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh sent a letter to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei calling for “immediate action and mobilization of Islamic, Arab and international positions in order to … force the Zionist enemy to stop its crimes against the besieged people of Gaza.” He also spoke by phone to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. But however much they detest Israel, Iran’s leaders appeared to be doing their utmost to avoid getting directly drawn into the fighting. The same may be said for Hezbollah. While missiles were fired four times toward the Israel-Lebanon border during the week of May 15—and while a Hezbollah-affiliated protester was killed by Israeli troops when he joined a group that tried to storm the Lebanese-Israeli border—the missile attacks (which caused no Israeli casualties) were very likely undertaken by a Palestinian faction. Fearing a major war with Israel, Hezbollah leaders are skirting actions that they surely know Tehran would not support.
A United States Coast Guard cutter fired 30 warning shots after 13 Iranian fast patrol boats menaced a group of American Navy ships sailing in the Strait of Hormuz, the Pentagon said on Monday. The incident marked the third time in little more than a month that vessels from Iran and the United States have come dangerously close in or near the Persian Gulf, escalating tensions between the two nations as their negotiators have resumed talks toward renewing the 2015 nuclear deal.
Biden chose, when he entered office in January, to commit his Administration to Trump’s foreign policies. He accepted the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which was a slap in the face to the Palestinians. He accepted Trump’s acceptance of Obama’s policy that Crimea and Donbass — which had separated themselves from Ukraine after Obama’s coup which had seized Ukraine’s government in February 2014, as a result of a plan by Obama which had started forming in Obama’s Administration in 2011 — must be seized back by Ukraine, and Biden promised that the United States would help Ukraine to do that. And he accepted Trump’s continuation of Obama’s plan to oust Bashar al-Assad from power in Syria and replace him with leaders who would be selected by the Saud family. He also accepted Obama’s and Trump’s change in American policy on Taiwan, toward switching away from the decades-long “one-China” policy of refusing to grant separate-nation status to Taiwan, toward now sending officials to Taiwan in violation of that policy and toward sending warships to the Taiwan Strait (internationally recognized by every nation except America to be Chinese territory) as a threat and preparation for publicly demanding that Taiwan be recognized by the United Nations as being a separate nation and no longer a province of China. All of these policies were build-ups toward some hoped-for surrender by Russia, and by China, and by Iran, to Biden, which would supposedly happen in some way without direct military conflict between the United States and Russia, and/or China, and/or Iran.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Israeli national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat have agreed to establish an interagency working group to focus on the threat from Iran’s precision-guided missiles being shared with Hezbollah and other allies. Israeli defense sources told BD that while the Trump Administration focused on how to stop Iran’s gallop towards a nuclear bomb, the issue of Iran’s precision ballistic missiles has been ignored. Israel has reportedly launched at least 200 strikes against Iranian weapons shipments in recent years.
The danger is, of course, that Israel is working hard to suck the United States into a war of its own choosing against Iran and it has a fifth column of allies in the United States that are willing to do its bidding by fair means or foul. Its leadership may be thinking that it is now or never to take the steps to initiate an armed conflict and that just might mean staging a false flag attack on a U.S. merchant or war ship, a diplomatic mission, or a vulnerable military base. The Middle East region is certainly a target-rich environment for those seeking to identify American facilities and vessels, so it wouldn’t be that hard to set up something that could appear to be an Iranian act of aggression that Joe Biden would have to respond to. And he would find plenty of support both in Congress and in the media to do so. Even if the American counter-attack were strictly limited, the prime beneficiary would of course be Israel, which would have made the possibility of any U.S.-Iranian agreement go away forever.
Arab uprisings have registered like a roller coaster ride for the Muslim Brotherhood: quick euphoria was soon replaced by doom and gloom. At first, the Arab rebellions beginning in 2010 seemed to be a process in which the Muslim Brotherhood was about to take over political power in several Arab countries. In Tunisia, the local branch, An-Nahda, was the ultimate winner in elections and remains the biggest political force in the country.
On April 22, in the dead of night before dawn, a Syrian missile exploded only 30 km away from the ultra-sensitive Israeli nuclear reactor of Dimona. The official – and insistent – Israeli spin: this was an “errant”. Well, not really.
The April 11 sabotage attack on the Natanz nuclear plant is an instance of war crime in terms of international law and the UN Charter. Calling the sabotage “nuclear terrorism”, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote a letter to the UN secretary general saying that this “war crime” must not go unpunished given its high risk of releasing dangerous materials. “The deliberate targeting of a highly sensitive safeguarded nuclear facility-with the high risk of potential release of radioactive material-constitutes reckless criminal nuclear terrorism. Considering the possible indiscriminate human and environmental consequences of this international crime, those who planned, ordered, participated and carried out this cowardly act committed a grave war crime; one that must not go unpunished. Any power with knowledge of, or acquiescence in, this act must also be held accountable as an accomplice to this war crime,” Zarif told the UN chief Antonio Guterres.
Israel recognizes Iran as domestically vulnerable, facing a twin economic and pandemic crisis that may reduce Iran's capacity to retaliate. Indeed, Iran's retaliation to date for previous Israeli attacks, both within and outside the country, has been limited, probably increasing Israeli confidence that it can continue to strike Iran with manageable consequences. Israel may calculate that Iran's freedom of action is further constrained by the nuclear negotiations in Vienna, which hold out the prospects for critical economic relief. These Israeli attacks are part of a wider Israeli campaign, termed its “Octopus” doctrine by Israeli politician Naftali Bennett, to target Iran directly, not just Iranian proxies like Hezbollah. This has led to an expansion of Israel's “campaign between the wars,” originally designed to prevent an Iranian foothold in Syria but extending now to strikes on Iranian shipments in the Mediterranean and Red Sea. Israel has also shown that it's willing to strike directly within Iran itself. While sabotage of nuclear sites and assassinations of nuclear scientists are not new Israeli methods, today they are taking place in the context of this broader Israeli-Iranian escalation. This may make such attacks more frequent, as the opportunities and incentives for each side to attack the other in multiple domains and throughout the region increases.