The military conflict between Hamas and Israel continues to top the international agenda. It is clear that the parties to the conflict have external support. And while in the case of Israel these are extra-regional forces (primarily the US and the countries of the collective West), the struggle of the Palestinian people finds supporters among regional and extra-regional countries. A special place in this list belongs to Iran, which is a principled opponent of the Zionist regime and the US hegemonic policy in the Middle East.
Despite persistent Sunni-Shia tensions, Iran has demonstrated a more balanced and responsible diplomacy towards the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It can be said that Tehran acts as a kind of flagship for the formation of an “axis of resistance” to Israel in the Gaza Strip. At the same time, the Islamic Republic supplements active and terse diplomacy with real actions to unite radical Shiite formations in Middle Eastern countries (including, in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen) to provide military support to Hamas.
Israel and its allies are forced to distract themselves from the threats posed by Lebanese Hezbollah and Yemeni Houthis, Syrian and Iraqi groups. Targets of missile strikes and combat drones by pro-Iranian forces include Israeli, American and other Western military and commercial targets in the region.
The Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, thanks to the subversive actions of the same Houthis, have actually created not just a crisis situation for the world’s merchant ships (tankers and container ships) linked to Israel, but have actually established a communications blockade in the direction of the Suez Canal. Using ballistic missiles, the Houthis practically test US warships and merchant ships, as well as penetrate the air and missile defense systems of the Israel Defense Forces. From southern Lebanon, Hezbollah militants occasionally launch sensitive rocket attacks on Israeli territory. At the same time, pro-Iranian forces in Syria and Iraq are using attack drones to target US military bases stationed in those countries.
Naturally, such actions cannot take place without systematic planning, management, coordination, intelligence and support. Israel and the US justifiably suspect Iran and its security forces, led by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Any military conflict is not without covert warfare along the lines of intelligence services. Accordingly, in these days of the Palestinian-Israeli military conflict, Mossad and the CIA, Amman and DIA continue to actively confront the Iranian intelligence services (IRGC and Ministry of Information). And here sometimes special services hide their successes and losses, but often the success of some and failure of others becomes obvious by the fact of their accomplishment.
Thus, on December 24 this year, Israel conducted a successful military (reconnaissance and sabotage) operation on the territory of Syria to eliminate one of the key IRGC commanders in the SAR, General Reza Mousavi. In particular, this subversive action was carried out with a missile attack on a house (Sayyidah Zaynab neighborhood in the south near Damascus) where the Iranian military officer lived.
According to Iranian Ambassador to Syria Hossein Akbari, the assassinated Iranian commander of IRGC units in Syria, Mousavi, worked under the diplomatic cover of the second counselor at the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, had a diplomatic passport and lived in the diplomatic residence.
Reza Mousavi was one of the close friends and military associates of the famous Iranian general and commander of the IRGC’s Al Quds Force Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike in Iraq (near Baghdad airport) on January 3, 2020. According to Iranian senior military official Hassan Polark, as reported by TV channel Al Mayadeen, General Mousavi had previously survived two assassination attempts organized by Israeli intelligence services.
According to the Israeli newspaper The Times of Israel, the Iranian military adviser in Syria, IRGC General Reza Mousavi was responsible for coordinating military cooperation between Iran and Syria, organizing the training of militia fighters from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight opponents of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, as well as ensuring the supply of weapons to the Lebanese organization Hezbollah through the territory of the SAR.
Mousavi coordinated combat operations of Shiite groups fighting on the side of the Syrian government army, led operations against Islamic State terrorists (an international terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation) in the Syrian desert, and participated in battles with gangs in Eastern Ghouta and western Aleppo.
IRGC officers remain “targets” of Israeli and U.S. intelligence agencies. Not long ago (Dec. 12), the Israelis succeeded in killing two more Iranian Corps members in Syria – Mohammad Ali Atayi Shurj and Pernah Taghizadeh.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry statement on the assassination of General Mousavi noted that Tehran reserves the right to respond to Israel’s subversive action at the right time and place. “The usurper and cowardly Zionist regime,” the Iranian foreign ministry said in a statement, “will definitely pay for this crime.”
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, expressing condolences to Mousavi’s family and friends, emphasized: “This act is undoubtedly another indication of the frustration, helplessness and impotence of the Zionist usurpers in the region. They will surely pay for this crime.”
Israeli authorities and commanders did not comment on the assassination of Iranian Gen. R. Mousavi. IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari merely stated that “the Israeli military has a job to do to protect Israel’s security interests.” And that’s understandable, as is the fact that the Iranian military has a similar job.
The words of Iranian politicians and the military are not at odds with their deeds. As it is known, the first response of the Iranian side to the Americans for the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Deputy Head of the Iraqi formations Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi, who accompanied him, came exactly 5 days after the terrorist act, i.e. on January 8, 2020. Iran launched a missile strike on two U.S. military installations in Iraq.
Pro-Iranian forces, which were also supported by General Reza Mousavi himself, could apparently take part in the retaliation operation. Thus, Hezbollah called Mousavi “one of the best brothers who worked for decades of his honorable life to support the Islamic resistance in Lebanon.”
Unfortunately, terror and sabotage accompany military conflicts. At the same time, the intensity of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the Gaza Strip and its echo in the neighboring countries of the Middle East seriously warn Tel Aviv and its allied capitals about the real threat of expanding the theater of hostilities to include new countries in the region. The latest incident involving the assassination of an Iranian general will obviously exacerbate the degree of tension and lead to retaliatory actions by Iran and pro-Iranian groups against Israel.
Aleksandr SVARANTS, Doctor in Political Science, professor, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.