March 17, 2022 | Mosaic

The Covert War Between Israel and Iran Rises to the Surface

Iran’s missile attack last weekend sheds light on America’s role in the escalating conflict that Israel refers to as the “war between wars.”
March 17, 2022 | Mosaic

The Covert War Between Israel and Iran Rises to the Surface

Iran’s missile attack last weekend sheds light on America’s role in the escalating conflict that Israel refers to as the “war between wars.”

Excerpt

On Sunday, in the early morning hours, Iran launched approximately twelve Fatah 110 ballistic missiles from the environs of Tabriz toward the U.S. consulate in Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan. No casualties were reported, although there was some physical damage to the area. According to a statement by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the attack was intended to strike the “Strategic Center of Zionist Conspiracy and Evil”—apparently shorthand for supposed Israeli assets in northern Iraq.

The Israeli officials I spoke to about the strike appeared genuinely perplexed about what the IRGC hoped to hit. However, the New York Times quoted an unnamed senior U.S. official who said that the building hit in Erbil also served as an Israeli training facility, even though Kurdish officials deny this. But regardless of whether there is a secret Israeli base in northern Iraq, or whether Iranian operatives sincerely believe there to be one, the attack was undoubtedly an attempt to exact retribution for recent Israeli successes in a shadow war that has until now tilted heavily in Jerusalem’s favor. It may also have been intended to deliver a message to Washington: if you don’t stop Israel from targeting our assets, we’ll ratchet up our direct attacks against you.

The most recent reason for Iran to retaliate against Israeli targets was a March 7 airstrike in Syria that killed two IRGC colonels, along with two Syrian fighters—reportedly the seventh such airstrike against Iranian assets in Syria this year. Saeed Khatibzadeh, a spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, vowed revenge, stating that Israel would “pay for this crime.”

Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the United States Department of the Treasury, is senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He is author of the new book Gaza Conflict 2021: Hamas, Israel and Eleven Days of War (FDD Press). Follow him on Twitter @JSchanzer. FDD is a nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

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Issues:

Hezbollah Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Lawfare Syria