A real war always begins unexpectedly, even if the parties have been preparing for it for a long time. However, it is not uncommon for “big wars” to be provoked by small countries in the hope of becoming part of the clientele of major powers (allies).
The recent provocations in the form of airstrikes against Iranian military facilities (nuclear research facilities, companies producing drones and ballistic missiles) and the restrained reaction of Tehran, which has not publicly named the culprit for this action, have created a new situation of tension in the system of regional and global relations.
The assessments of the international and national media show that the current situation is a consequence of the US policy aimed at causing additional problems for Russia against the background of the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian crisis. In fact, the anti-Russian Western coalition aims to prevent the formation of an anti-Western Eastern coalition around Russia, with Iran and the Greater Middle East Theater being of great interest.
Given the openly hostile relations between Tel Aviv and Tehran, it is impossible not to say that the United States has once again used its trusted and dependent “friend” in the person of Israel as a detonator for such tensions. On the eve of the kamikaze drone action in January, the United States and Israel had conducted joint military exercises in the region, checking the coherence of naval and air force interaction and satellite reconnaissance. On the night of January 28-29 this year, the director of CIA, William Burns, was in Israel, apparently discussing methods of countering Iran with the head of the Mossad, David Barnea Brunner. Following the main American intelligence officer, the chief US diplomat, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, also arrived in Tel Aviv. According to Best Radio Editor-in-Chief Zvi Silber, Blinken’s mission and his meetings with his Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen are related to the “Iranian dossier” and preparations for Israeli Prime Minister B. Netanyahu’s grand visit to Washington.
Tel Aviv is taking advantage of the tensions in US -Russian relations and demanding from its main ally regarding Iran: the completion of the nuclear project, the reimposition of all anti-Iran sanctions anterior to the 2015 agreement, the formation of a joint anti-Iran coalition and the demonstration of a military threat to Tehran.
Thanks to the efforts of the United States and the United Kingdom, Israel is now one of the most important centers in the Middle East with a powerful army and a high level of its technological equipment. Israel has nuclear weapons and their means of delivery, but it is categorically opposed to the implementation of a nuclear project in Iran.
In the past, the Israeli Air Force has repeatedly invaded the airspace of countries in the region with impunity, carrying out targeted attacks with the destruction of military facilities (e.g., in Syria and Iran). And earlier, the Israelis, through their intelligence agencies, have launched a series of effective attacks on Iran’s military-industrial complex (including sabotage operations to eliminate leading physicists involved in military development of retaliatory weapons).
However Tel Aviv has not yet decided to launch an all-out war with Iran since it has information about the military potential and determination of the Persian leadership, which is capable of inflicting disproportionate damage on Israel. And this time, Tel Aviv believes that Iran will not decide to strike directly against Israel because of the likely negative consequences, considering the Israeli-American military coalition. Exploiting the image of an external enemy attributed to Iran allows the right-wing regime led by B. Netanyahu (Likud Party) to ensure domestic unity and prevent internal social unrest.
In Iran, however, the Israelis see a serious opponent, despite all the verbal boasting about their own power. Which has achieved considerable success in the field of military production (including drones and ballistic missiles), has experienced war with dictator Saddam Hussein, and has withstood the pressure of American sanctions. And which has developed the concept of a “Shiite world” and rallied Shiites in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Afghanistan, dealing a serious blow to ISIS’s combat units in Iraq and Syria. Abroad, Tehran has at its disposal not only powerful IRGC and Quds units, but also al-Sadr’s Shiite fighting forces, armored units from Bamiyan, Afghanistan, and, of course, Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Israel recalls the unfortunate events of 2006, when it found itself in a helpless position vis-à-vis Hezbollah.
Iran has proven itself not only in Iraq and Syria, but also in Yemen against Saudi Arabia. In Afghanistan, without the Taliban’s agreements with Iran over Herat, there would be no Western gateway. A particular theme of Iranian diplomacy breakthroughs is advanced relations with China and India, including investment in Iranian energy and transportation infrastructure, which does not preclude military-technical cooperation. Finally, the United States and Israel cannot ignore Iran’s multisectoral partnership with Russia. The 2015 agreement among international actors on Iran took place with Russia’s participation and signature, which precludes the revival of previous sanctions without coordination with Moscow.
For this reason, Israel, in cooperation with the leaders of the Anglo-Saxon world (the United States and Britain), is trying to expand the platform of its regional allies and partners (including Turkey, Azerbaijan, and the quasi-Kurdish entity led by M. Barzani). It is no coincidence that after the January 29 demarche, the Israeli side launched a disinformation campaign in the media with references to the complicity of Kurdish forces in Mashhad and even Azerbaijan itself, hardly part of the plans of the cautious I. Aliyev. The goal of Tel Aviv and Washington is obviously to create a zone of tension around Iran and provoke Tehran to deteriorate relations with neighboring Iraq and Azerbaijan and eventually pull Iran out of the pro-Russian coalition. For this reason, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to V. Zelensky’s office, has played a prominent part in information support of air strikes on Iran, linking this provocation to the Iran-Russia partnership.
Tehran has strongly warned Kyiv that it will not support the Western coalition in the Russian-Ukrainian crisis. Further provocations by the Kyiv regime could result in a harsh response from Iran.
The fact is that the Persians have a thousand-year-old civilization and high traditions of governance. More than once have they had to find themselves in a hostile environment and they gained immunity. Tehran’s tactics in the Middle East region now amount to creating centers of threat and support for friendly regimes and forces (in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and Afghanistan). Who knows where else around Iran the Persians might form a “belt of friendship” (including in the South Caucasus and Central Asia), because it is in the nature of the Persians to rally different cultures and peoples around them. If Israel, which has no immediate borders with Iran, seeks to expand its ability to find a beachhead to attack the enemy, Iran itself does not rule out similar tactics when it comes to entrenching, strengthening, arming, and supporting its partners.
They say waiting to die is worse than dying. In this case, waiting for a retaliatory strike is worse than the strike itself. Iran always reserves the right to retaliate and does not throw words to the wind, but the Persians are characterized by caution, strict calculation of the consequences of certain steps, waiting for the victim and then suddenly attacking. Everyone remembers the relatively recent example of the death of IRGC General Soleimani and the Iranian response to it. And the question of where, when, and how the Persians will retaliate against their most important, permanent, and likely enemy is one that the experts and intelligence agencies of the anti-Iranian coalition are “guessing” about.
Given past experience with the Iran-Israel confrontation, it is obvious that Tehran will not attack Israel directly with ballistic missiles. Iran is by no means aiming for a nuclear strike against Israel, as some Israeli experts claim with varying frequency, because the Persians cherish holy Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. For devout Muslims, this is not just history and words, but a way of life.
Iran, however, is in any case capable and likely to respond to the enemy in the latter’s own language of violence. That is why not only Israel but also the more powerful forces supporting the Kyiv regime militarily, technically, and diplomatically are now concerned about the Polish airport in Rzeszów, where NATO cargo planes carrying military cargo for Ukraine have been temporarily suspended. Indeed, the “Ukrainian case” has come under fire from Iranian proxies and combat assets. Apparently, therefore, the US refuses to accept responsibility for the nightly attacks on Iranian military facilities.
Israel itself is urgently withdrawing from Ukraine more than 500 of its military instructors in the field of electronic warfare and counter-battery warfare. Israeli air gates are increasingly being approached by US Air Force military transport aircraft loaded with air defense and missile defense systems. Moreover, on the one hand, Benjamin Netanyahu is discussing with US partners new forms of military and technical support for the Kyiv regime against Russia; on the other hand, he appears to be offering Moscow his services as an effective mediator with Kyiv. The latter suggests that the United States, Britain, and Israel are seriously concerned about the possible response of both Iran itself and the variability of approaches by key Iranian partners (including Russia, India, and China).
The time to hope for continued impunity for Israel on the part of the international community and the continuation of corresponding actions against countries in the region may be hopelessly over, as the approach of a major war will certainly result in a severe blow to opposing forces. It is precisely this prospect that cannot please the United States, as it weakens in the conflict with Russia in Ukraine and in the event of a conflict with China alongside Taiwan. In the meantime, it is Russia that can act as a more reliable mediator in reducing Iran-Israel tensions, as Moscow maintains a fairly high level of trust for Tehran and Tel Aviv, and most importantly, the Russians are not interested in a new belt of conflict.
Aleksandr SVARANTS, PhD in political science, professor, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”