The past few days have seen a string of security incidents: the attack on bases of the Shi'ite militias in Iraq, attributed to Israel; Friday's terrorist attack in Binyamin, in which 17 year-old Rina Shnerb was murdered; last week's escalation along the Gaza Strip border; and the attack two days ago on warehouses in Syria in which armed drones of the Al Quds forces were stored in order to thwart a planned attack. These events highlight the difficult defense situation facing Israel on multiple fronts.
Israel's operations in each sector should be assessed according to its effect on the other sectors. The incidents on multiple fronts also illustrate Israel's diverse capabilities in coping with the many threats, which are admired and praised by the moderate Arab countries. Praise comes mainly from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Persian Gulf states, but there are also voices in Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon taking Israel's side in these conflicts.
The media in those countries are reporting the attack extensively, and are not omitting the reports that Syrian President Bashar Assad asked Russia to restrain Iranian activities on his territory. The attacks are even winning praise on many social networks. Iran is portrayed as humiliated through memes ridiculing the ayatollahs. The Magen David (star of David), which used to be a negative and almost anti-Semitic symbol in the Arab communications channels, is now appearing in a positive context.
Mapping the sectors points to Iran as the key factor operating directly through the Al Quds force and its militias in Iraq and Syria and indirectly through Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, which receive Iranian aid and weapons, and which coordinate their activity with Iran. Iran's strategic goal is to surround Israel from almost every direction with threatening belligerent groups possessing the ability to attack civilians and infrastructure. The aim is to use all of these groups in the next general conflict.
According to knowledgeable Israeli sources, one of Iran's main objectives is the creation of a land route for transferring weapons from Iran to locations close to the Israeli border, and from there to Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon. Among other things, this goal was set after the series of Israeli attacks on airports used to fly weapons from Iran, including rockets and other equipment, and on warehouses in which they were stored.
Iran controls strongholds in Iraq, whose leadership is weak and dependent on Iran for a supply of electricity, among other things. Iran maintains militias loyal to it in Iraq; it was the bases of those militias that were attacked at least twice last week. The attacks were attributed to Israel. These bases are suspected of being used as transit points on the land route to Syria. The statements by US President Donald Trump about withdrawing US forces from the region, i.e. from northwestern Iraq and from Syria, close to the planned route, acted as a catalyst for the plan to strengthen these bases as a transit point. Due, among other things, to Israel requests, however, this withdrawal has been delayed.
The Iranian strategic goal in Syria is to create another front against Israel in the Golan Heights, so that Israel's concerns in the north will not be confined to Hezbollah, which has thousands of rockets of varying ranges, some of which can reach southern Israel, but will also have to take into account the Iranian militias possessing rockets and other arms in Syria.
On the eastern front in the West Bank, the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations utilize terrorist attacks, such as the one in Binyamin. Gal Berger reported on the Reshet Bet Israeli radio station that Hamas was trying to renew its deadly terrorist network by training roadside bomb engineers in the West Bank. A security source said that Iran was providing Hamas with the logistics aid that it needed overseas, meaning passports, safe houses, and training in countries in the region.
Israel faces two fronts in the south: the Gaza Strip and the Sinai border. Hamas and other organizations possess a rocket threat in the Gaza Strip. A defense source said that without Iranian incitement towards escalation and harassment, it would be easier to reach understandings with Hamas on economic concessions. Mohammed Al Emadi, Qatar's emissary to the Gaza Strip, who is spearheading efforts to achieve a lull between the two sides, confirmed this on Saturday, saying, 'The two sides are committed to reaching an arrangement, and have no interest in a war." His associates assert that only small differences are preventing further progress in the talks on an arrangement. They criticize Hamas and the other terrorist organizations for delaying by means of demonstrations on the border fence and sporadic rocket fire.
Iran also has a connection with the terrorist organization in Sinai, which have already fired rockets at Eilat a number of times. If we add to this the bases in Iraq, we get another eastern front, albeit in the long term.
Iran's main strategic weapon is various types of rockets. All of the terrorist organization and militias under its control have been equipped with various types of rockets, in recognition that this is the main threat that Israel will have problems dealing with. The Iron Dome system is very effective, but is limited in coping with massive fire on several fronts. The ultimate dream of Al Quds commander Qasem Soleimani, in accordance with the Iranian conception of war against Israel via proxy organizations, is a multi-front rocket conflict in which the Israeli home front, which Iran regards as the Achilles heel in Israel's power, suffers heavy losses, including strategic facilities, power stations, airports, and military facilities.
Al Quds, which includes the militias operating outside Iran and the terrorist arms responsible for carrying out attacks, suffered another heavy blow when its attempt to attack Israel with drones was thwarted, after Israel yesterday attacked the warehouses in which the armed drones were stored and the bases in Iraq. This blow helped Soleimani's rivals in the Iranian leadership to demand a further cut in the Al Quds force's huge budgets, given the Iranian economic crisis, primarily a result of international sanctions. This crisis has forced the Iranian leadership to cut four zeros off the local currency in an attempt to deal with hyperinflation and depreciation against the dollar.
Hezbollah came to Soleimani's aid by reporting today that Israel had attacked its offices in Beirut - a report whose reliability is doubtful. The report initially stated that two Israeli UAVs had exploded. When no evidence of this was forthcoming, it was reported that a boobytrapped UAV had exploded, but the report was later changed to a drone, which cannot fly far enough to reach Beirut from Israel. The photographs distributed by Hezbollah show an office with upside-down tables that suffered no real damage. The purpose of these reports is to divert attention from the embarrassing reports in Syria.
Israel is focusing on counteraction on the Syrian front
Israel is dealing with the multiple fronts by focusing on preventing the creation of another front in Syria, which is where many intelligence, operational, and political efforts are being concentrated. This explains Netanyahu's many meetings and discussions, primarily with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump, including the tripartite meeting last month in Israel with senior military figures from Russia and the US.
From Israel's point of view, Russia is a key country, which is maintaining close connections at both the field and political levels. Last Friday, Netanyahu spoke by telephone with Putin "on security matters," and it cannot be ruled out that the Russians were given advance information about the attack in order to avoid harm to Russian personnel stationed in Syria. Netanyahu is sharing with the Russians incriminating intelligence information about Iranian intentions and activity in Syria, including information about Iran's plan to conduct a terrorist attack in Israel using UAVs, which was prevented by yesterday's attack.
The balance of terror with Hezbollah includes the enormous civilian destruction with which Israel is threatening Lebanon if Hezbollah renews rocket barrages against Israel. The agreement from the Second Lebanon War is still in effect.
Minister of Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi says that the Israeli attacks are very helpful in the internal struggle in Iran against the policy advocated by Soleimani, which costs a lot of money. Hanegbi adds that Israeli policy is greatly admired and strongly supported in the region and globally. Addressing the Gaza Strip, Hanegbi says that it should be considered from a strategic perspective in the realization that Israel is conducting an overall policy while considering opportunities and correct timing. He added that all options were on the table.
What will happen next? Soleimani is constantly thinking of ways to respond to Israel's attacks, but it is not clear whether another incident is in store in the near future, or whether he will wait for another time, and possibly on another front, perhaps through terrorist attacks abroad. Hamas will try to exploit the looming elections in Israel to heat up the front in southern Israel and conduct terrorist attacks in the West Bank.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on August 26, 2019
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