With Iran moving up on the international scene, the fears of “Israel” have become apparent to the naked eye, leading it to engage in a hidden yet massively influential war against the Islamic Republic.
The hostility between “Israel” and Iran has been well established over a period of 43 years now, exactly since the triumph of the 1979 Islamic revolution that overthrew the Shah’s regime in Iran. The Ayatollah Khomeini revolutionary regime that arose in Tehran considered “Israel” as partner to the Shah (not only supporter but also planner and supervisor) in his internal policies and repression, and hence “Israel” became a sort of satanic entity and absolute evil in Iran’s post-revolution ideology. Ever since, Iran’s policy towards “Israel” could be summarized in two positions: opposing the Arab-Israeli peace process and supporting all “Israel’s” enemies in the region. “Israel’s” responses were mainly through its biggest ally, the US, where the Israeli lobby in Washington pushed hard for stronger sanctions and other hostile measures against Iran. There were incidents of direct Israeli actions against Iran, especially when “Israel” was suspected to be behind the mysterious assassinations of a few Iranian scientists in the period between 2010 to 2012 (when the nuclear program was rapidly progressing), but there was no solid evidence on Israeli role in those operations, and “Israel” maintained a low profile and remained silent.
After the war in Syria started in 2011, “Israel” took the opposite side of Iran in the conflict: In fact, “Israel” viewed the Iranian involvement and its support of the Syrian state and government as a strategic threat and decided to take military action against Iranian targets in Syria. “Israel” launched a series of air raids on Iranian personnel and logistics lines and, more frequently, on Iranian – backed forces operating in Syria. However, Iran restrained its reactions to the Israeli attacks (officially speaking, Iran’s military personnel in Syria are “consultants”), and its responses were limited in scope and geography. It looked as if the Iranians were considering their losses caused by Israeli strikes as part of the price they have to pay for the strategic and worthy goal of preserving their important ally, Syria, as long as the Israeli actions are limited to the Syrian front.
Escalation in 2019: attacking the ships
But things have changed. Since 2019, “Israel” started attacking commercial ships carrying Iranian oil and goods through the Red Sea and the eastern Mediterranean. Many Iranian ships were bombed or mined. Donald Trump, known for his anti-Iran stance, apparently gave “Israel” his implicit approval. After Trump’s departure, the Israeli attacks continued, with even more momentum, reflecting the diverging positions and priorities of “Israel” and the Biden administration (who favors a renewed nuclear deal with Iran). There was an Israeli attack on April 6th, 2020 and the target was an Iranian cargo vessel in the Red Sea named “Saviz” which suffered severe damage.
Iran has engaged in its own clandestine attacks. The last one was reported on March 25th, 2020, when an Israeli-owned container ship, the Lori, was hit by a missile in the Gulf of Oman. “Israel” was fast to point the finger at Iran for responsibility. Before that, on February 26th, another Israeli ship named Helios Ray was attacked in the same area.
Covert operations targeting nuclear facilities
But the most dangerous confrontation is in the nuclear field. In the fall of 2020, the most senior Iranian nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was assassinated in Tehran. Dr. Fakhrizadeh was being closely followed by Israeli intelligence for several years (as the then-Prime Minister Netanyahu himself confirmed). So blaming “Israel” for his assassination was very natural from Iran’s side. However, on April 11th, 2021, the most significant attack on Iran’s nuclear facility, Natanz, took place. A large explosion took place; it resulted in the power failure and destroyed a number of centrifuges, as media reports said. The incident led to a very angry Iranian reaction with vows for revenge from “Israel”.
What was most alarming about the Natanz attack, from the US’ point of view, was the unprecedented degree of Israeli talk about its involvement in the blast. There were plenty of anonymous confirmations in the Israeli media by unnamed intelligence officials, with detailed accounts of the bomb attack. And officials, from Prime Minister Netanyahu on down, have hinted at Israeli responsibility. “Israel” is normally completely silent on the actions of its security services, and “Israel’s” military censor routinely prevents publication of such details, but that did not happen this time. All this indicates that these revelations were not just leaks but intentional. And Netanyahu has previously said, “Iran is the greatest enemy of ‘Israel’. I am determined to halt it. We are hitting it in the entire region”.
On 22nd April 2021, a “mysterious” missile was launched from Syria and landed in a deserted area in Al-Naqab, just 30 kilometers away from Dimona, the main nuclear reactor in “Israel”. In the Israeli circles, that was regarded as a staggering warning from Iran showing its technical capabilities, especially as the missile crossed “Israel” from North to South, without being detected or intercepted.
The dangerous events incited the Americans to interfere. The Israeli press reported that Washington has conveyed to “Israel” in clear terms that this “chatter” must stop, warning that it is dangerous and detrimental as well as embarrassing to the Biden administration as it attempts to negotiate a return to the nuclear deal with Tehran.
Netanyahu, then in power, was not able to ignore American concerns and was keen to avoid another unwise showdown with Biden’s administration similar to the one with Obama’s in 2015, so he had to halt the operations. No new attacks took place recently on Iran’s nuclear facilities. It is likely that the defense establishment warned him about the gravity of the risk.
Exchanging cyber attacks
The hostilities resumed, even after the departure of Netanyahu. This time it was cyberwar. In July 2021 Iran’s rail system was targeted. On October 26th a more serious cyberattack paralyzed the gas stations in the Islamic Republic that “was designed to enrage people by creating disorder and disruption” as President Ebrahim Raisi put it. He added, “There should be serious readiness in the field of cyberwar and related bodies should not allow the enemy to follow their ominous aims to disturb people’s life”. He did not explicitly mention “Israel” but his reference to “the enemy” was clear enough.
Four days after Iran’s gas stations stopped working, hackers gained access to the databank of the Israeli dating site Atraf, and medical files at a big network of private clinics in “Israel”. Files from both hacks — including the personal information of about 1.5 million Israelis, about 16 percent of the Israeli population — were posted to a channel on the Telegram messaging app. Iran was blamed by the Israeli press.
On January 3rd, 2022, on the second anniversary of Iran’s top commander Qassem Soleimani’s martyrdom, two Israeli media outlets were hacked with warnings from an Iranian video. The websites of The Jerusalem Post and Maariv showed a scene from an Iranian missile drill last month in which a mock-up of “Israel’s” nuclear reactor in Dimona was destroyed. In the picture, the rocket appears to be fired from the iconic ring Soleimani wore, with the caption: “We are close to you where you do not think about it” in English and Hebrew.