How Israel is Countering Iran in Iraq and Syria

Israel is stepping up its military campaign against Iranian assets located in Iraq, according to the Asharq Al-Aswat newspaper in London. The primary targets of the attacks, which were carried out by an F-35 aircraft, were warehouses which contained arms shipments from Iran. The Israel Air Force struck the Camp Ashraf military base and a nearby storage facility twice in the past two weeks, with the most recent strike occuring on Sunday. The pinpoint attacks on Camp Ashraf, which is located near the Iran – Iraq border, was part of a broader Israeli strategy of hunting down Iranian targets spread across the region, as well as Iranian-backed proxy militias such as Hezbollah.

In Sunday’s attack, several Iranian advisors were listed among the injured. It appeared to be a coordinated effort to neutralize deployment of ballistic missiles. Locations in Syria have also been hot targets, such as a Syrian army base in Tel Al-Hara. This Golan Heights target was identified by intelligence sources as hosting Iranian-supported militias. The Israeli effort to combat Tehran’s expansion across the region is notable because it is the only state to openly attack Iran’s military.

“Israel is the only country in the world that has been killing Iranians for two years now,” said Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel’s regional cooperation minister.

Axis of Resistance

As a response to Israel’s military aggression, Iran has been focused on bringing together several regional powers to counter it. Alongside Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and the Gaza Strip. Amir Al-Moussawi, an Iranian diplomat, recently gave an interview for Felesteen al-Yawm, an Egyptian news outlet. It was then that he revealed the idea about creating a united opposition to Israel. As a large part of Tehran’s power is extended through its proxy network, it should come as little surprise that Hamas leaders recently visited Iran as part of the discussions surrounding the ‘axis of resistance.’

Hamas’ relationship with Tehran soured during the Syrian Civil War, which saw Iran back Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. At the time, Hamas was based out of Syria and opted to side with the rebels. The situation quickly deteriorated and forced the group to abandon the country for Turkey. However, with the Israeli threat growing and the issue of Palestinian persecution on the West Bank, leaders from both sides now believe working together would be in their best interests. Few things unite nations stronger than a common enemy, and Israel has worked hard to stay at the top of their lists. The recent attacks in Iraq and Syria will most likely continue as the Israelis work to stifle the threat of a resistance movement before it gains any sort of momentum, and they have no qualms about continuing military strikes.

“We still didn’t see the Iranians backing off from their intention to entrench themselves militarily in Syria, and this campaign isn’t over” Hangebi said. “But they know exactly who to mess with, and who can be annoyed. We can’t.”

Tensions surrounding Iran have run high this year, as both Israel and the United States have engaged it in a war of words. More than anything, aggressive messages from all three parties have led many to speculate that an actual war could break out. The fallout from the Iran Nuclear Deal has added another component to the already volatile situation. While Israel has nuclear weapons, Iran does not and it would be unthinkable for Israel to ever allow Tehran to pursue them. Consequently, as Iran began to exceed limits set in the 2015 agreement, Israeli leaders have become even more vocal than usual.

Stealth Capabilities

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu toured an air force base earlier this month and posed in front of recently-delivered F-35 jets while filming a message for Tehran.

“Recently, Iran has been threatening the destruction of Israel. It would do well to remember that these planes can reach anywhere in the Middle East, including Iran and certainly Syria,” Netanyahu warned.

This week, Iran cautioned that its defense capabilities are able to detect stealth fighters, but it’s unclear whether or not that includes the new aircraft. Last year, several F-35s successfully navigated across Iran airspace even flying across military bases without Tehran noticing. A major sponsor of the F-35 program, Israel has received 16 out of the 50 planes it will operate by 2024.

The continued onslaught of Israeli airstrikes on Iranian targets spread across the region will continue as long as Israel feels threatened. Tehran’s attempts to disburse equipment to proxy militias and to create an ‘axis of resistance’ make it clear that the situation will not improve in the near future, especially while Iran operates outside of the nuclear deal.