January 31, 2023 | Flash Brief

Israel Strikes Iranian Military Facility

January 31, 2023 | Flash Brief

Israel Strikes Iranian Military Facility

Latest Developments

Israeli drones struck an advanced weapons-production facility in the Iranian city of Isfahan on Sunday morning, dealing a potential blow to Tehran’s military infrastructure. According to The Jerusalem Post, Western intelligence and foreign sources described the strike as a success, disputing Iranian claims that the blasts caused only minor damage to the roof. The attack may impede Iran’s ability to arm Russia, which has used Iranian loitering munitions — popularly called suicide or kamikaze drones — to strike civilian targets in Ukraine.

Expert Analysis

“Israel has been understandably reluctant to transfer military systems to Ukraine because of the risk they will be captured by the Russians and transferred to Iran. Israel needs these systems for its own defense and is concerned about crossing Russian redlines that could prevent Jerusalem from striking Iranian positions in Syria. But this strike is an example of how it is finding other ways to support Ukrainians — targeting the Iranian end of the Iran-Russia axis by degrading Iranian missile and drone capabilities and making it more difficult and costly for Tehran to transfer these to Moscow.” — Mark Dubowitz, FDD Chief Executive

“The latest Israeli strike provides a win-win model for Europe and the Middle East that Western governments should support. Israel’s combination of military capabilities, technological innovation, and political will is the recipe needed to set back the Iran-Russia war machine and destroy Iranian threats to U.S. allies in the Middle East.” Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

Targeted Site May Aid Iran’s Ballistic Missile and Drones Program

The defense compound that Israel struck is reportedly located across the street from a site belonging to the Iran Space Research Center, itself a subsidiary of the Iranian Space Agency (ISA), which oversees Tehran’s space program. The United States sanctioned both entities in 2019, asserting that Iran often uses its space launch program as a cover for Iran’s ballistic missile program. “Space launch vehicle (SLV) technologies, such as those developed by Iran’s space program, are virtually identical and interchangeable with those used in ballistic missiles,” the State Department noted at the time.

Paraphrasing independent Israeli intelligence analyst Ronen Solomon, The Wall Street Journal reported that the “space-research center houses the Institute for Materials and Energy, which conducts research that could be used in the development of drones, missiles, satellites and for testing metals for the nuclear project.”

A History of Israeli Strikes

Israel has extensive experience in covert action against Iran. In July 2020, for instance, Israel attacked the Natanz nuclear facility, potentially slowing down the production of advanced centrifuges. In November 2020, Israel assassinated top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. In April 2021, Israel struck Natanz again, setting back its ability to enrich uranium by about nine months, according to U.S. intelligence officials. In June 2021, Israel struck the Karaj centrifuge production facility, causing major damage. In February 2022, Israel destroyed hundreds of Iranian drones at a base near Kermanshah, using quadcopter drones.

Related Analysis

Iran’s Master Class in Evading Sanctions,” by Mark Dubowitz and Matthew Zweig

In 2023, Washington Can’t Neglect Iran,” by Andrea Stricker

Biden must act on Iran’s drone and missile transfers,” by Behnam Ben Taleblu and Andrea Stricker

Iran Is Now at War With Ukraine,” by John Hardie and Behnam Ben Taleblu


Iran Iran Missiles Iran Nuclear Iran Sanctions Israel Military and Political Power Nonproliferation U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy