Iran Admits To Facilitating 9/11 Terror Attacks

9/11 / Getty Images

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, June 8, 2018:

Iranian officials, in a first, have admitted to facilitating the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. by secretly aiding the free travel of al Qaeda operatives who eventually went on to fly commercial airliners into the Twin Towers in New York City, according to new remarks from a senior Iranian official.

Mohammad-Javad Larijani, an international affairs assistant in the Iran’s judiciary, disclosed in Farsi-language remarks broadcast on Iran’s state-controlled television that Iranian intelligence officials secretly helped provide the al Qaeda attackers with passage and gave them refuge in the Islamic Republic, according to an English translation published by Al Arabiya.

“Our government agreed not to stamp the passports of some of them because they were on transit flights for two hours, and they were resuming their flights without having their passports stamped. However their movements were under the complete supervision of the Iranian intelligence,” Larijani was quoted as saying.

The remarks represent the first time senior Iranian officials have publicly admitted to aiding al Qaeda and playing a direct role in facilitating the 9/11 attacks.

The U.S. government has long accused Iran of playing a role in the attacks and even fined the Islamic Republic billions as a result. The U.S. 9/11 Commission assembled to investigate the attacks concluded that Iran played a role in facilitating the al Qaeda terrorists.

Larijani admitted that Iranian officials did not stamp the passports of the al Qaeda militants in order to obfuscate their movements and prevent detection by foreign governments. Al Qaeda operative also were given safe refuge in Iran.

“The Americans took this as evidence of Iran’s cooperation with al-Qaeda and viewed the passage of an airplane through Iran’s airspace, which had one of the pilots who carried out the attacks and a Hezbollah military leader sitting [next to] him on board, as evidence of direct cooperation with al-Qaeda through the Lebanese Hezbollah,” Larijani was quoted as saying in the May 30 interview, which is gaining traction on social media.

The U.S. government has not formally commented on the interview, but did highlight it in an official tweet from the State Department’s Arabic-only Twitter page.

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Obama’s Treason: Even Worse Than We Thought

But Leftist Privilege will prevent him from ever being held accountable.

Front Page Magazine, June 7, 2018:

The Washington Free Beacon reported Wednesday that “the Obama administration skirted key U.S. sanctions to grant Iran access to billions in hard currency despite public assurances the administration was engaged in no such action, according to a new congressional investigation.”

And it gets even worse: “The investigation, published Wednesday by the House Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, further discloses secret efforts by top Obama administration officials to assure European countries they would receive a pass from U.S. sanctions if they engaged in business with Iran.”

This revelation comes after the news that came to light in February, that, according to Bill Gertz in the Washington Times, “the U.S. government has traced some of the $1.7 billion released to Iran by the Obama administration to Iranian-backed terrorists in the two years since the cash was transferred.”

There is a law that applies to this situation. U.S. Code 2381 says: “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”

In a sane political environment, Barack Obama would be tried for treason.

Barack Hussein Obama has planted seeds that will be bearing bitter fruit for years, and probably decades, to come. He is, without any doubt, the worst President in American history. Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan? Yes, the doughface Presidents made the Civil War inevitable, but worse came later. Grant? Blind to corruption and out of his depth, but there have been worse than he as well. Wilson? That black-hearted Presbyterian bigot arguably gave the world Hitler and World War II, so he is definitely in the Final Four. Harding? Nah: his tax cuts and return to “normalcy” got the American economy, and the Twenties, roaring. FDR and LBJ gave us the modern welfare state and dependent classes automatically voting Democrat; the full bill on the damage they did hasn’t yet been presented. Nixon? A crook and an economic Leftist, who betrayed Taiwan for the People’s Republic; his record certainly isn’t good. Carter? Nothing good can be said about his four years of sanctimony and incompetence.

But there is one thing Barack Obama has on all competitors: treason.

He showered hundreds of billions of dollars on the Islamic Republic of Iran. There are those who say, “It was their money. It belonged to the Iranian government but was frozen and not paid since 1979.” Indeed, and there was a reason for that: not even Jimmy Carter, who made the Islamic Republic of Iran possible, thought that money, which had been paid by the Shah’s government in a canceled arms deal, belonged to the mullahs who overthrew the Shah. Likewise Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush all thought that the Islamic Republic was not due money that was owed to the Shah.

Only Barack Obama did.

The definition of treason is giving aid and comfort to the enemy. The leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran order their people to chant “Death to America” in mosques every Friday, and repeatedly vow that they will ultimately destroy the United States of America and the state of Israel. How was giving them billions and helping them skirt sanctions applied by the U.S. government not treason?

Other Presidents have been incompetent, corrupt, dishonest, but which has committed treason on a scale to rival the treason of Barack Obama?

The Iranians also operate a global network of jihad terror organizations, one of which, Hizballah, is quite active in Mexico now, with the obvious ultimate intention of crossing the border and committing jihad massacres of Americans. Obama has given a tremendous boost to these initiatives, as well as to Iran’s nuclear program, with his nuclear deal that has given the Iranians hundreds of billions of dollars and essentially a green light to manufacture nuclear weapons, in exchange for absolutely nothing.

There is no telling when the worst consequences of Obama’s aid and comfort to the Islamic Republic of Iran will be felt. But they likely will be felt in one way or another. Even as President Trump moves swiftly to restore sanctions and put Iran on notice that its nuclear activity and global adventurism will not be tolerated, those billions cannot be recovered, and the Iranians have already spent a great deal for their jihad cause.

However this catastrophe plays out, there is one man who will suffer no consequences whatsoever: Barack Obama. That’s Leftist Privilege. It’s good to be a powerful Leftist in Washington nowadays. Laws? Pah! Laws are for conservatives.

Also see:

Agents of Influence: Obama and his advisers, now seeking to shape his legacy, say they are proud they ditched the ‘Washington playbook’ and decided to stay out of the Sunni-Shia conflict in the Middle East. Only they didn’t. They intervened on behalf of Iran.

Trump’s plan to isolate and defang Iran is working

Iranian Presidency/Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Conservative Review, by Jordan  Schachtel, May 30, 2018:

It is becoming quite clear that President Trump’s decision to depart from the Iran nuclear deal was just the first step in the White House’s plan of action against the regime in Tehran. The administration is employing all of America’s instruments of national power to isolate and defang the mullahs.

European allies, and even America’s adversaries, are falling in line behind aggressive U.S. policies against the Iranian regime, which are backed by sanctions intended to cut off Tehran from the global trade market.

On Tuesday, the Russian oil giant Lukoil announced that it would not go forward on energy development projects in Iran. This strikes a massive blow to the regime in Tehran, which used to be able to count on Russia as a solid ally.

Lukoil’s announcement goes to show that many of the Iranian regime’s business partners — regardless of whether their headquarters are based in allied or adversarial nations — have conducted a cost-benefit analysis and concluded that they do not want to be on the wrong side of U.S. sanctions.

Also this week, the world’s two biggest shipping companies, Denmark-based Maersk and Switzerland-based Mediterranean Shipping Co., announced that they were leaving the Iranian market too.

These decisions come on the heels of additional statements made by several other European energy companies that also decided to cut off business ties with the regime. Earlier this month, the French energy company Total announced that it would abandon projects in Iran, citing impending U.S. sanctions.

The aggressive sanctions strategy has shown no signs of slowing down. On Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted several Iranian nationals, in addition to multiple entities connected to the regime’s inhumane and terrorist-supporting activities.

The Trump administration has leveraged the economic might of the U.S. economy to impose punishing sanctions. The decisions of these global energy giants show that the plan is indeed working. The Iranian regime is more isolated than ever before.

The Iranian economy continues its downward spiral. The Rial, Iran’s currency, is rapidly depreciating in value.

Iranians appear to have had enough of the Islamic regime in Tehran. People are rising up against the regime in unprecedented numbers. On a daily basis, thousands are taking to the streets in opposition to the mullahs.

President Trump’s maximum pressure strategy against the rulers in Iran is succeeding. What was once a cash-flush regime, thanks to the Obama administration’s Iran deal, has become an isolated regime desperate for partners. Given the turmoil surrounding Iran, it wouldn’t at all be surprising to see the all-out collapse of the world’s foremost state sponsor of terror happen sooner rather than later.

Also  see:

Game on: The New Strategy of the US and its allies in the Middle East

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers remarks on the Trump administration’s Iran policy at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, US May 21, 2018.. (photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS)

Bad management, corruption and a failure of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to generate expected levels of foreign investment compound the problem.

Jerusalem Post, by Jonathan Spyer, May 24, 2018:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s outlining of 12 conditions that Iran would need to meet in order to make possible a new nuclear deal amounts to a call for the wholesale reversal of Iranian regional strategy.

The conditions stated are not only, or primarily, concerned with the nuclear program. In addition to a call for the Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force to end “support for ‘terrorists’ and ‘militant’ partners around the world,” there are specific demands for a cessation of support to Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the Iraqi Shia militias, the Houthis in Yemen and the Assad regime in Syria.

These are not a list of demands issued with the expectation that they will be met. Rather, they are a clear setting down of US goals in an emerging strategy to contain and roll back Iran’s advance in the region.

SO WHAT are the practical aspects of such a policy? And what might Iran’s response be to an attempt to implement it?

Iran today is a country in the midst of an economic and environmental crisis.

The rial has fallen 47% against the dollar since January. The country is blighted by drought – precipitation across the country fell by 46% in the past 50 years, and Tehran has seen a 66% drop in rainfall in just a year. This is impacting on the agricultural sector.

Bad management, corruption and a failure of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to generate expected levels of foreign investment compound the problem. Unrest and demonstrations continue in many parts of the country.

At the same time, Iran is in danger of imperial overstretch. It is heavily committed in two ongoing regional conflicts – in Syria and in Yemen – and also has major assets requiring investment in Lebanon (Hezbollah), Iraq (the Shia militias) and among the Palestinians (Islamic Jihad and Hamas). While Iran is dominant in Lebanon and ascendant in Syria and Iraq, it has achieved a final and conclusive victory in no area.

A strategy seeking to contain further Iranian gains and then to roll Iran back is likely to focus on increasing the cost of Iran’s adventures abroad and exacerbate internal tensions while subjecting the country to tactical humiliations and defeats in order to reduce any domestic benefit to be accrued from regional commitments. Tehran will thus be forced to either spend more on its commitments, exacerbating the problems at home, or pull back, with the accompanying humiliation and loss of prestige.

Thus, the intention will be to raise the cost and reduce the benefits accruing to Iran from its policy of interference and sponsorship of proxies in neighboring countries.

What precise form is this effort likely to take? First, it is important to note that this is not to be a US effort alone. Rather, the clear intention is to mobilize US allies that share the concerns regarding the Iranian threat.

There are three areas in which the effort is likely to be undertaken – military, economic and political.

Regarding military activity, there are currently two fronts of active conflict occurring in the region between Iran and US allies. These are the Saudi/ UAE intervention in Yemen, and Israel’s actions to prevent Iranian consolidation and entrenchment in Syria.

It is unlikely that the events of May 10, in which Israel and Iran exchanged fire across the Syrian frontier, will prove to be the final round of conflict between the two countries. (It is notable that this round came from an unsuccessful Iranian attempt to respond through missile fire for earlier Israeli operations.)

Apart from their practical application, the Israeli operations have the value of forcing the Iranians into an arena in which they are very weak – air power and air defense – thus hitting at their prestige.

They currently have the choice of appearing to desist from further attempts at developing their infrastructure or facing the certainty of Israeli action in an area in which they have little ability to respond.

In Yemen, it has become commonplace to describe the Saudi/Emirati intervention as a quagmire and a failure. In reality, however, the intervention prevented the Iran-supported Houthis from reaching the strategically crucial Bab-el-Mandeb Strait. Houthi advances have stopped, and since the killing of former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, it is not clear what the goals of the Houthis’ rebellion are beyond mere survival.

A third important conventional military front is eastern Syria, where US and French forces, in cooperation with local allies, hold around 30% of Syrian territory, including the greater part of the country’s oil and gas resources. This territorial holding prevents the operation of a contiguous Iranian land corridor from Iran to the Mediterranean and the border with Israel. It also offers an example of a successful US partnering with a local proxy. Its maintenance is crucial.

REGARDING THE economic front, the US policy of renewed sanctions is already in operation. New sanctions have been imposed in recent days on five Iranian officials suspected of involvement in the Iranian program to provide missiles to the Houthis. The US Treasury Department, meanwhile, imposed sanctions on officials of Iran’s Central Bank in the days following the decision to quit the nuclear deal. The officials were suspected of helping move Revolutionary Guard Corps funds to Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Treasury has announced new sanctions on members of Hezbollah’s Shurah Council. Notably, US and UAE officials cooperated in recent days in disrupting a currency exchange network maintained by the Quds Force.

There is more to come. Sanctions are due to be placed on the acquisition of dollar banknotes by Iranian institutions. Penalties for institutions dealing with Iran’s Central Bank and other designated bodies are also forthcoming. All are designed to stretch the Iranians to the limit, producing either retreat or internal unrest.

In the political field, Iraq is now the central arena. The Iranians suffered a setback in the recent elections there. With the 90-day coalition-forming period under way, the issue will be the make up of the new government. The key player here on the pro-US side will be Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis have been quietly growing their involvement in Iraq in recent months. They have pledged $1 billion in loans and $500,000 in export credits for reconstruction following the war against Islamic State. Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman hosted Muqtada al-Sadr, the main winner of the elections, in Riyadh last year. Direct flights have been resumed.

The Saudi goal is to revive Iraqi Arab identity as a counterweight to Iran’s sectarian, non-Arab appeal to Iraq’s Shia-Arab majority. The oilrich Basra province is a focus of Saudi activity.

The issue in Iraq will not be the complete expulsion of Iranian influence, but rather to set up a counterweight to the Iranians, again forcing Tehran to spend time and energy on preventing the erosion of its position.

Lastly, it is possible that clandestine activity is underway to connect those in Iran who are opposed to the regime with the expertise and funding of US allies.

Will this project succeed? It appears to derive from an attempt to locate Iran’s weak spots and exploit them. The Iranians, without doubt, will be seeking to develop a counter- strategy along similar lines against the US and its allies.

The region, as a result, is entering a new strategic chapter. The game is afoot.

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Also see:

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Pompeo Vows to ‘Crush’ Iran’s Terror & Nuke Programs

IPT, by John Rossomando  •  

New sanctions are around the corner that could help “crush” Iran’s ability to fund terrorism and its nuclear program, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday in a speech at The Heritage Foundation. Pompeo promised the “strongest sanctions in history.” He listed 12 demands that Iran would need to fulfill to have the sanctions lifted. These demands include an end to Iran’s support for terror; carte blanche inspection of Iranian nuclear sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); and ending ballistic missile proliferation.

“We will track down Iranian operatives and their Hizballah proxies operating around the world and we will crush them,” Pompeo said. “Iran will never again have carte blanche to dominate the Middle East.”

On May 8, President Trump announced the end of U.S. participation in the Iran deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). European governments, however, say they plan to remain in the agreement.

Pompeo slammed the Obama administration, which negotiated and pushed for the deal, for failing to listen to critics who argued that releasing approximately $100 billion in frozen assets to Iran would increase its ability to support terrorism.

“Remember, Iran advanced its march across the Middle East during the JCPOA,” Pompeo said. Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force chief “Qasem Soleimani has been playing with house money that has become blood money. Wealth created by the West has fueled his campaigns.”

Iran used the released money from the JCPOA to fund the IRGC, the Taliban, Hizballah, Hamas and the Houthis in Yemen, Pompeo said. Iranian backed militias under Soleimani’s leadership control a wide swath of territory between the Iran-Iraq borders all the way to the Mediterranean. Israel recently launched retaliatory strikes on Iranian targets in Syria after Iranian rockets landed in the Golan Heights.

Al-Qaida leaders also continue to be harbored in Iran.

Not surprisingly, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rejected Pompeo’s demands, saying Iran will “continue our path with the support of our nation.”

Last week, the Trump administration sanctioned the IRGC Quds Force and imposed sanctions on the head of Iran’s central bank, which Pompeo said funded Hizballah and other terrorist organizations.

“The Iranian economy is already in free fall. That has to put a crimp in the regime’s capacity to fund surrogates. If the administration follows through there certainly won’t be more money to spread around,” James Carafano, vice president and director of the Center for Foreign Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation, told the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT).

U.K.-based exiled Iranian dissident and author Babak Taghvaee criticized Pompeo’s speech on Twitter for not including human rights as a condition for lifting sanctions.

“Iranians could have helped #US to not only achieve these twelve objectives rather more,” Taghvaee told the IPT.

Other Iranians responded by creating #ThankYouPompeo and #IranRegimeChange hashtags on Twitter.

The Iran Deal Wasn’t An ‘Alternative To War,’ It Was A Continuation Of War

The Federalist, by Ben Weingarten, My 16, 2018:

The central narrative of the Iran Deal echo chamber run by former President Barack Obama — that it was absolutely necessary to avoid war — is plainly wrong. The Iran Deal was not the “alternative to war.” It was part of the war Iran has been waging against the West and all who refuse to submit to its Khomeinist rule since 1979.

The Khamenei-Rouhani regime merely took advantage of an Obama administration willing to appease at all costs to make Iran the “strong horse” in the Middle East, along with European partners both greedy and fearful, in order to recapitalize and rapidly expand its operations under the veneer of a Swiss cheese “verification regime.”

All that this regime verified was how deluded the progressive Western national security foreign policy establishment was with respect to Tehran’s tyranny. It showed that the establishment was willing not only to legitimize Iran’s totalitarian mullocracy, but also to commit to protecting its nuclear infrastructure and even to subject itself to speech-stifling measures barring Western leaders from speaking out against the deal.

The Iran Deal was the poisonous fertilizer from which sprung an Iran confident enough to launch an armed drone over Israeli airspace, and for the first time to directly attackIsrael with a barrage of missiles from Syria.

The defensive actions that Israel is presently taking — striking at strategically significant Iranian military sites in Syria in response to Iranian aggression, presumably preparing to grapple with Iran proxy Hezbollah and the 150,000-plus missiles pointed at it from Lebanon, and if necessary striking Iran — reflect the cost of the world’s Chamberlainian bargain that enabled this dire reality.

The godsend of the Iran Deal for the Islamic revolutionary regime made it a question of when, not if Israeli military strikes would begin, because it made Iran’s existential threat to the Jewish state infinitely more acute. Our ally’s movements, and America’s potential comprehensive efforts to counter Iran’s malign influence are the natural defensive response to the jihadist regime’s unabated advance over the Obama years.

We in the West by dint of the Iran Deal helped subsidize — as even Iran colluder, Logan Act violator, and lobbyist-in-chief John Kerry admitted — the exportation of Iran’s bloody jihad, to the tune of billions of dollars. By facilitating trade through sanctions relief consistent with Iran’s constitution, which states that its “economy is a means that is not expected to do anything except better facilitate reaching the goal [of furthering and exporting Iran’s Islamic revolution],” we have underwritten the economy-controlling Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

But it’s worse than that.

In service of the Iran Deal, we not only allegedly spiked the Project Cassandra cars-for-cocaine terror financing scheme, enabled Iran’s gas-for-gold sanctions evasion operation, and paid Iransom, but also permitted the mushrooming of a broad array of additional malign activities in our own hemisphere. Seemingly unchecked by Western law enforcement and intelligence, we allowed Iran’s proxy forces in cahoots with other criminal networks to engage in widespread drug dealing, arms smuggling, money laundering and other illicit activities generating big money for the Khomeinist regime, while posing a clear and present danger to the U.S. homeland.

To channel former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the known unknowns and unknown unknowns of what the West was willing to sacrifice so as not to scuttle its Iran Deal appeasement are likely incalculably large. Meanwhile, we encouraged the growth of a Shia Crescent and commanded Israel to lay off, putting the Jewish nation’s existence at risk. This was the worst trade in history — Israel for Iran.

In short: The Iran Deal provided the Khomeinist crocodiles with a cover of peaceful engagement for gullible useful idiots and cowardly but avaricious trading partners, while it expanded its power globally. The Obama administration ceded the Middle East to Iran and its partner Russia, and sought to elevate its Sunni jihadist counterparts, whose goals often overlap with those of the Shia, while berating our Israeli ally and subordinating the Sunni monarchies.

The Iran Deal, and the concessions made in its run-up, was not the cessation of war. It was part of Iran’s war.

The pushback we are beginning to see from the Israelis, and perhaps by the U.S. government, is merely a necessary response to Iran’s ongoing attack. This is not as the Left and Islamic supremacists will argue “neocons” (often a thinly-veiled dog whistle for Jews) rushing to war, but rather the rational reaction to Iran’s accelerating march.

Iran is not Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s a formerly pro-Western, relatively liberal, relatively secular, modern nation. There is no need for invasion, occupation and re-casting of a Sharia dictatorship as a Jeffersonian democracy. Rather what is needed is a concerted set of actions to bring down the jihadist regime through means peaceful and militant, overt and covert, enabling the Iranian people to thwart the Islamic revolution.

The Iran Deal was not even a pause to war, it was the means to a far more deadly one — or from the mullah’s perspective to strengthening to such an extent that the West would not have the will to engage them, lest we open ourselves up to massive bloodshed and destruction.

Jettisoning it, snapping back sanctions, imposing far harsher ones and using every element of national power to collapse the mullocracy is the only way to reverse the gains of the jihadist march the West bankrolled.

Ben Weingarten is a senior contributor at The Federalist and senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research. He is the founder and CEO of ChangeUp Media, a media consulting and production company dedicated to advancing conservative principles. You can find his work at benweingarten.com, and follow him on Twitter @bhweingarten.

The Waiting Period

THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty

By Jonathan Spyer, The Australian,  

It is spring in Israel. On the face of it, all appears normal. Yet underlying the everyday is the hint of tension. The low buzz that presages violent events. We know it well in Israel and it has been all around for weeks.

Two nights ago, there was an eruption. The special forces unit (Quds) of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps launched 20 missiles at northern Israel. Israel’s Iron Dome shot down four of them. The others landed in Syria. Israel’s Air Force launched a counter attack. Iranian storage facilities and logistics sites in Syria were targeted along with five Syrian air defence systems.

As the smoke cleared, an uneasy calm returned. Probably not for long.

A series of milestones is approaching in coming weeks, any of which could precipitate further strife. The extended period in which Israel managed to keep itself largely one step removed from the chaos of the Middle East seems to be drawing to a close.

Donald Trump announced this week he will withdraw the US from the nuclear deal with Iran. The stage is set for a return to open confrontation between the US and Iran.

The US has commitments in the region (in Iraq and eastern Syria, in particular) which would be vulnerable to violent pushback by Iran through its proxies.

Israel’s ongoing efforts to roll back Iranian gains in Syria will constitute an element of this larger contest. This, in turn, will increase the chance of confrontation between Israel and Iran.

As Israeli Housing Minister (and former general) Yoav Gallant told Bloomberg News this week, “It’s clear that friction between Iran and the U.S. can lead to a situation in which Iran decides to deploy Hezbollah against Israel … That’s their tool.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week expressed Israel’s readiness for such a confrontation, if it comes. ‘“We don’t want an escalation, but we are prepared for every scenario. We don’t want confrontation, but if there needs to be one, it is better now than later,” the Prime Minister told reports following a meeting of Israel’s Cabinet.

With the situation regarding Iran at such a point of tension, other events which would normally command centre stage are being relegated to a secondary role. Nevertheless, the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14 is set to cause an uptick in tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. The opening will be followed on May 15 by the culmination of Hamas’s six-week “March of Return” campaign in the Gaza Strip. This series of marches to the border fence is intended to revive the fortunes of Hamas, whose Gaza domain is isolated and cash strapped. May 15 is also the anniversary of the State of Israel’s declaration of independence (though strictly speaking the declaration took place on the 14) and is remembered by Palestinians as the date of their Nakba (catastrophe).

It is possible there will be attempts to break through the border fence. Israeli communities are located as little as one kilometre from the fence, so the situation will be tense.

It is worth remembering that Gaza is not hermetically sealed off from the stand-off with Iran in the north. Teheran possesses its clients among the Palestinians, who may be directed to escalate the situation. The small Palestinian Islamic Jihad organisation is a wholly owned franchise of Iran. Hamas’s relations with Teheran are more complex and the movement sought in recent years to distance itself from the Iranian regime. Hamas Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar has worked to patch up relations over the last year abd in August Sinwar declared that Iran was once again the largest backer of Hamas.

But it the northern tier of Syria and Lebanon that remains by far the gravest concern for Israel. It is here the ambitions and agendas of Iran appear most directly set on a course of potential collision with the Jewish state.

Iranian assistance has been vital to the cause of Bashar al Assad since the the uprising against him in early 2011. The Syrian president, whose regime rests on a narrow platform of sectarian support, was beset from the beginning by a problem of insufficient loyal manpower. It is the Iranians, not the Russians, who addressed this vital issue throughout the war.

However, Iran, in its usual fashion, did not elect to strengthen the existing, regime-controlled Syrian Arab Army. Rather, in accordance with similar methods pursued in Iraq and Lebanon, Iran has preferred to create its own, Revolutionary Guards-controlled structures in Syria. These defend the Assad regime, to be sure, but they are not under its sole control. Thus, Iran organised and created the National Defence Forces, consisting of Syrian volunteers, mainly from non-Sunni communities and now numbering 50,000 to 60,000 fighters.

Iran also mobilised its proxies throughout the region and brought them to Syria to plug the manpower gap. Thus, there are today about 6000 Lebanese Hizballah fighters on Syrian soil, along with perhaps 3000 Revolutionary Guards personnel and an additional 10,000 to 15,000 members of other Iran-supported Shia militias from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

As the rebellion against Assad has continued to lose ground, so the construction of Iranian infrastructure in Syria has continued. The examples of Hizballah in Lebanon and the Popular Mobilisation Units in Iraq indicate that Iran’s version of assistance is not dismantled when the threat has subsided.

Israel is concerned that this infrastructure, with its contiguous land link to Iraq and thence to Iran itself, is intended primarily for use as a tool of pressure and violence against the Jewish state. Iran is openly and noisily in favour of the destruction of Israel. It wishes to achieve this goal through a long-war strategy of attrition and harassment. Entrenchment in Syria would significantly increase the Iranian ability to pursue this strategy.

While the local and regional militias pose a challenge, the main worry in Jerusalem is the hardware that Iran is seeking to import and base in Syria. Consolidation of this infrastructure – UAV bases, surface-to-surface missiles and anti-aircraft batteries – appears to be what Israel is most determined to prevent.

On April 9, Israeli aircraft struck at a drone facility maintained by the Revolutionary Guards’ Aerospace force at the T4 base near Palmyra. Fourteen people were killed, among them seven Iranians, including a Revolutionary Guards colonel, Mehdi Deghdan Yazdeli.

On April 30, Israeli aircraft carried out a larger scale raid on two points – the 47 Brigade base south west of Hama, and the Nayrab military airbase close to Aleppo. The New York Times reported that the strikes killed 16 people, including 11 Iranians, and destroyed 200 missiles.

On May 9, following reports of “irregular Iranian movements” in southern Syria, explosions were heard south of Damascus. Israel opened public bomb shelters in the Golan Heights. Regional media reported that Israel attacked an army base south of Damascus, where Iranian personnel were based. Nine militiamen were killed, according to the usually reliable Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Then, in the early hours of May 10, the Iranians launched their 20 missiles, and Israel responded. The Iranian strike was not successful, and it is not clear whether Teheran will consider it to have constituted sufficient retaliation for the Israeli action on April 30. Given the scale of the Israeli response to the attack, this seems unlikely.

What form is further Iranian action likely to take?

Iran has a number of options. It possesses a global terror infrastructure and might seek to attack an Israeli facility or an Israeli or Jewish target abroad. In the past, Teheran and Hizballah have sought retribution in this way. The attack in 1994 on the Amia Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, and the murder of Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria, in 2012 are examples of this.

Alternatively, Iran could instruct its Lebanese Hizballah proxies to carry out an attack on Israeli forces across the border from Lebanon. This is how Teheran sought to retaliate for the killing by Israel of a number of Revolutionary Guards and Hizballah personnel close to the Golan Heights in January 2015.

Israeli planners were expecting Iran’s retaliation for the nine dead militiamen was likely to be carried out in Syria, probably with the help of Shia militia personnel on the ground. It was not the first time Iranian personnel have been killed by Israel on Syrian soil. But it was the first time Iranian facilities, not those of proxy groups, were targeted. The Iranian action on May 10 was the first time Israel was directly targeted in a real-time conventional military operation led by the Revolutionary Guards. This is likely to set the pattern for further events to come.

So where is all this heading? Israel’s Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that allowing Iran to consolidate its infrastructure in Syria would be “agreeing to the Iranians placing a noose around our necks”. This, the defence minister said, would be prevented “at all costs”.

It is not entirely clear, of course, what “consolidation”, “entrenchment” and their prevention actually mean, or could entail. Does Israel require that all presence of the Iranians be removed from Syria, down to the last proxy fighter? If so, then conflict between Teheran and Jerusalem is a near inevitability, since there is no chance of Iran acquiescing to this except by coercion. On the other hand, if the Israeli intention is to prevent the Iranians from transferring certain weapons systems into Syria – advanced anti-aircraft systems, ballistic missiles, UAVs – then conflagration may not be so imminent.

Iran has an interest in keeping to what it is good at. What it is good at is developing paramilitary proxy political-military organisations. This is the key to its success in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. What it is much less good at is conventional warfare, particularly in the air. The country has a poorly equipped, Cold War-era air force. It possesses ballistic missiles capable of reaching Israel, to be sure. But Israel has in recent years developed in cooperation with the US some of the most advanced missile defence systems in the world. Iran’s own defences against Israeli retaliation, meanwhile, are far less developed.

This means that Iran may well prefer to absorb Israeli strikes, carrying out a token retaliation for form’s sake. Such an approach would derive not from pacific intentions. Rather, the Iranians would calculate that it is in their interests to continue to quietly build their strength in Syria, while absorbing periodic Israeli disruptions of their arrangements. Since the Iranians may well be engaged, as in Lebanon and Iraq, in a project concerned with the long-term transformation of these countries into clients/puppets of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the immediate settling of scores may not be deemed of paramount urgency.

Of course, this begs the question as to whether Israel will wish to acquiesce to the pursuit of such an Iranian strategy, with all it implies for the future security of Israel. In the meantime, following the fire and smoke of the night of May 10, and until the next move, we are back to the waiting period.

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