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Sensing a shift in power dynamic, Iran steps up shadow war with Israel

8 72 12
07.08.2021

As the Middle East sweats through an August heatwave, temperatures are rising rapidly in the long-running conflict between Israel and Iran.

A decade of shadowboxing between the two, marked by mysterious acts of suspected sabotage and attacks by proxy groups, has intensified in recent months, threatening to bring the regional rivals to the brink of direct warfare.

The ratcheted up conflict has been the result of a seemingly emboldened Iran stepping up actions against Israel or Israeli linked assets, such as a deadly drone strike on the Mercer Street tanker, managed by a company owned by an Israeli, near Oman late last month.

On Friday, hostilities appeared to reach a new peak when Iranian proxy Hezbollah fired 19 rockets into northern Israel, the heaviest such barrage since the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

The increasingly hot war comes at a conspicuous time for Iran: Tehran swore in new hardline president Ebrahim Raisi on Thursday, and talks with Western powers on resuming the 2015 nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which appeared to be steaming ahead earlier this summer, suddenly appear stalled.

To some, Iran’s actions appear designed to maximize its negotiating position and tell the world it won’t be pushed over or forced into curtailing its proxies abroad.

“I think Iran wants to show it’s not going to talk about its regional presence,” said Ori Goldberg of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya’s Lauder School of Government. “The Iranians want a clear separation of the nuclear issue.”

Israel, which is also under relatively new management, has seemingly also attempted to maximize its bid to either torpedo the JCPOA or expand it to also curtail Iranian missile development and proxy activity. This has meant letting loose with bellicose rhetoric overtly threatening Iran with all out war, and letting the US know it is doing so, while also redoubling efforts to enlist the international community to its cause, a quest some see as quixotic.

“A new international coalition against Iran is not in the offing,” said Henry Rome, senior analyst at the Eurasia Group. “The US and UK may bolster naval forces that patrol the region through the International Maritime Security Construct. British press reporting has also indicated London may conduct a cyber operation in response, which would probably be designed to have limited spillover or escalatory effects. The US will also likely accelerate pre-existing plans to levy new sanctions related to Iran’s drone and missile program.”

“Ultimately, though,........

© The Times of Israel


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