In game of cat and mouse, Iran changes tactics

Source: In game of cat and mouse, Iran changes tactics – www.israelhayom.com

Despite Israel’s intensive efforts – mainly in Syria, but now allegedly in Iraq as well – Iran doesn’t appear to be eschewing its plan to arm Hezbollah or build forward operating bases in Syria for its forces. Thus, both sides will likely continue, into the foreseeable future, adhering to the unwritten rules of the game they are playing.

In a situational assessment last year, the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate said Iran was expected to increase its activities in Iraq, for two main reasons: to seize control of the country’s power centers following the withdrawal of American forces from the region; and as an alternate base of operations for Shiite militias, whose efforts to establish footholds in Syria have thus far been hampered by Israeli attacks there. According to some Israeli intelligence officials, these bases in Iraq could even be used in the future to launch missiles at Israel.

It appears that Iran’s current activities, as reflected in reports by Arab media outlets, is different. Rather than pursuing a permanent base of operations, the Iranians are establishing waypoints for missiles earmarked for transfer to Syria. London-based newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that trucks concealing missiles were hit – a familiar modus operandi the Iranians also employ to smuggle missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon. According to some reports, the targets were “Zolfaghar” missiles – advanced models of the precision-based “Fateh 110,” capable of delivering heavy payloads.

It’s safe to assume the Iranians resorted to using land routes in the wake of Israeli airstrikes on weapons shipments to Syrian airports. In early 2019, in the wake of several attacks on Iranian and Hezbollah warehouses in Damascus International Airport, Syria asked Iran to cease its activities in the airport so as not to hinder civilian air travel. Consequently, Iran diverted its shipments to the T-4 airbase in northern Syria, hoping their missiles would be safer there (also due to the Russian presence at the facility); but following several reported airstrikes there, Iran chose, it appears, to focus on smuggling its missiles via motorized land convoys.

If we are to connect the dots provided by the Arab media, it seems Israel has conducted several airstrikes in recent days, and it’s possible others have gone unreported. According to Saudi outlet Al-Arabiya, one of the attacks (in this case on a target near the city of Tikrit, in northern Iraq), was carried out by a drone. The United States has officially denied involvement, such that it appears Israel has decided to expand the scope of its operations beyond Syria’s borders to hit Iranian missiles before they are moved westward.

It seems that despite Israel’s intensive efforts – mainly in Syria, but now allegedly in Iraq as well – Iran is not eschewing its plan to arm Hezbollah with advanced weaponry and build forward bases of operation in Syria for its forces. What this means is that both sides will likely continue along this line for the foreseeable future, adhering to the unwritten rules of the game they are playing: Covert activity with no claims of responsibility, which provides a relatively large amount of wiggle room and mitigates the other side’s response options – which, incidentally, also reduces the risk of an unwanted escalation.

 

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