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May 14, 2018 | by  | in News Splash | [ssba]

Are Israel and Iran Sleepwalking to War?

As the clusterfuck that is the Syrian Civil War continues to rumble away, more dangerous forces are beginning to stir in the region. In particular the decades-old rivalry between Tehran and Tel-Aviv is beginning to come to the fore.

With so many pieces moving at once on this geopolitical chessboard, this rivalry could almost be lost in the background noise. But behind the repeated denunciations of various parties, Israel’s reciprocal hatred for Iran is beginning to garner more attention from the intelligence community, beyond the usual sigh and a shaking of the head.

Israel’s distaste stems from two key prongs of Iran’s policy of asserting itself in the region, namely, its continued support for Hezbollah, and its entrenchment in Syria — a play that is beginning to give generals in Israel a distinct feeling of being encircled.

While Iranian and Syrian weapons shipments — usually to Lebanon — have been the subject of numerous missile strikes during this war, a strike on Sunday 6 May against a pro-Syrian military outpost 10km from the city of Hama has drawn more attention than most, namely because of the scale of the attack. The explosion was so large it registered as an earthquake, and 26 people were immediately killed. At least 18 of these people being Iranian and likely members of the IRGC, although Iran strenuously denies this.

This was followed shortly afterwards by a missile strike against a Syrian army storage depot just outside Aleppo. Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar paper reported that the facility was used to store munitions — including surface to surface missiles — and the site itself was likely hit by bunker busting munitions from the IAF.

In and of themselves, these sorts of attacks tend to go under the radar, but they are beginning to draw a much more vitriolic response from both Tehran and Tel-Aviv, with both Governments issuing various threats about striking the other. Iran does appear to stand out for its grandiose threats though, in that it has been threatening to raze Tel-Aviv to the ground.

At a press conference hosted by Netanyahu where, in his characteristically piss poor use of audio-visual systems, he showed off a powerpoint presentation with alleged proof that Iran has been “playing the world for fools,” with respect to its nuclear program. German and French officials have said that they will investigate the Israeli claims, but from what they have seen already this appears to be “old news,” and derived from information predating the 2015 nuclear deal.

Netanyahu’s claim that “a tonne” of documents is proof positive of Iranian duplicity however, has raised few eyebrows. The Atlantic noted that if these documents do indeed prove Tehran had a nuclear weapons program, this would surprise no one. It is indeed the entire point of the nuclear deal in the first place, especially since most of them date from 1991-2003, when Iran was widely suspected of said crime anyway.
On 9 May 2018 Trump followed through on his campaign pledge and spiked the nuclear deal with Iran, calling it “a rotten deal”. This most self-destructive of actions really does raise the prospect of a conflict between Iran and Israel, with the deal arguably being the only thing moderating Tehran’s behaviour. With the deal gone, the country is once again out in the cold, and is unlikely to feel any compunctions about lashing out in vengeance.

The final thing I would like to point out when considering a potential conflict between the two countries, is that unlike the most recent conflicts in the region, any potential war between these two has a bowel loosening likelihood of dragging in numerous regional and global powers – chief among them America and Russia. Even without the ominous threat of US/Russia involvement, they are more than capable of causing harm on a global scale.

Let’s hope than those in Tehran act with a little more restraint and take the high ground, unlike Bibi and Trump in their petulance.


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