The Middle East traditionally remains a region of high tension and no less high gravity of interests of the key countries of the world community. Naturally, this is due to the numerous contradictions of interests of intra- and extra-regional forces, the strategic position of the Middle East at the junction of Asia and Europe, as well as its rich resources (primarily oil and gas).
The ongoing war between Israel and Hamas has divided the world according to preferences towards the parties to the conflict, or rather attitudes towards the traditional values of justice versus the right of force (or good versus evil). All players on the “geopolitical chessboard” are well aware that without the military-political, financial and economic support of the leaders of the Anglo-Saxons (USA and UK) and the rest of the collective West, Israel would hardly have been able to so blatantly ignore the interests of the Palestinian people during the decades of its existence, implement the apartheid policy, and today wage such a destructive and brutal war against the Arabs in the Gaza Strip.
However, Tel Aviv’s attempts, under the formula of fighting Hamas terrorism, to destroy the Palestinian enclave in Gaza and to force Arabs to mass deportation from this seaside territory have caused disagreement not only among the overwhelming number of countries of the Arab and Muslim world in general, but also many other actors of the international community. The United States, as Israel’s main protégé, faced the threat of this conflict escalating and involving other countries in the region.
Of course, a significant part of the “axis of resistance” to Israel and its partners prefers diplomatic training instead of forceful support for the Palestinians. The Turkish diplomacy of Recep Erdogan is a telling example in this regard. Key Arab states (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain) also prefer “verbal diplomacy” about ending the war and calls for humanitarian aid to the Palestinians in Gaza.
None of them can agree with Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy of so-called “voluntary resettlement” of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip for two main reasons: 1) because their ethnic deportation will lead to the nullification of the Palestinian issue in the same Gaza according to the principle “there is a person – there is a problem, no person – no problem”; 2) Palestinian refugees are capable of undermining the domestic political and socio-economic stability of the host (Arab and other Muslim) countries.
In this “diplomatic mosaic” in relation to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Iran stands out, which does not limit itself to rhetoric alone (statements, appeals, declarations, negotiations, public protests), but supplements the work of its own Foreign Ministry by providing real forceful support to the Palestinians through pro-Iranian proxy forces in Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq.
It is no secret that the same Houthi group, Ansar Allah, has launched active attacks in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden against merchant fleets associated with Israel and its Western allies and warships of the Anglo-American coalition. Lebanon’s Hezbollah has kept the IDF on edge and diverted some of the Jewish state’s forces with periodic rocket attacks into northern Israel (including the capital Tel Aviv). In Iraq and Syria, pro-Iranian Shiite groups occasionally use drones and missiles on US military bases, which also poses a security threat to Israel’s ally.
However, Iran has no intention of engaging in direct military conflict with Israel and the US, no matter how much certain forces in the West and the Middle East would like it. This does not mean that Tehran fears Israel or Washington. It is simply that the IRI authorities are aware of the degree of threats from the internationalisation of the conflict with a transition to World War III, and they are not going to be a “victim” of the geopolitical success of regional forces – supporters of “diplomatic rhetoric”.
Iran is often the target of more or less major terrorist attacks and sabotage by Israel and its allies. Tel Aviv has previously made no secret of the fact that defence and atomic development facilities are targets of military defeat in order to prevent the Persians from acquiring atomic weapons and a military-technological advantage in the Middle East.
At the same time, the intelligence services of Israel and the United States select Iranian military officers (in particular, officers of the IRGC and its Al Quds special forces) as targets of their active measures (or special operations), since it is they who carry out subversive activities against Tel Aviv and Washington, and provide management, coordination, planning, and preparation of relevant actions in the region. Such operations against the IRGC include, for example, the assassinations of the famous leader of the Al Quds Force, Iranian General Qasem Suleimani, on 3 January 2020 in Baghdad, and of his associate General Reza Mousavi on 25 December 2023 in Damascus.
Accordingly, Tehran responds to every such anti-Iranian action with no less intimidating strikes over a short period of time. Thus, after the assassination of General R. Mousavi, for which the Israeli military claimed responsibility, Iran promised to avenge its comrade-in-arms. Meanwhile, a little more than a week later, on 3 January 2024, a brutal terrorist attack on General Suleimani’s cemetery in Kemran killed about 100 people and injured more than 200 (including women and children) of varying degrees of severity. Tehran raised a flag of vengeance over the mosque and promised a brutal response to the organisers and perpetrators of this action.
The terrorist act in Kerman on the day of the commemorative date in connection with the death of General Qasem Suleimani was so obvious that the United States also recognised the fact of terrorism, while Israel hastened to deny complicity in it. As is known, the UN Security Council condemned the terrorist attack in Kerman, which caused mass death of innocent people. Meanwhile, Washington hastily stated that this action was obviously committed by militants of the Islamic State (an international terrorist organisation banned in Russia). They say that the Iranian general has been fighting quite successfully in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State (an international terrorist organisation banned in Russia).
Naturally, in order to retaliate, the Iranian security services, which missed the enemy’s strikes, took time to investigate what happened, search for traces of crimes, gather information and prepare the action. As a result, the Iranian side launched sensitive missile strikes against Iraq, Syria and Pakistan.
Iranian ballistic missiles and nearly a hundred Shahed drones in Iraq hit American military and diplomatic facilities (in particular, the Harir Air Force base was attacked and the American consulate was almost completely destroyed).In Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomy of Iraq, the informal headquarters of the Israeli intelligence service “Mossad” was destroyed, from where intelligence and subversive activities against Iran were coordinated.
As is well known, the United States has said that its facilities were not affected by the Iranian strikes, and there were no physical casualties. Israel has generally refused to comment publicly on what happened in Erbil. According to unofficial data, 5 Americans and 9 operatives of the Israeli “Mossad” were among those killed by Iranian missiles.
In the capital of the Kurdish autonomy of Iraq, the Iranians killed a prominent Kurdish businessman Peshraw Dzeyi (owner of the Empire and Falcon Group). Four ballistic missiles flew into his house. Iranian sources describe him as a Mossad influence agent with ties to the government of Masrour Barzani. It is known that P. Dzeyi founded the company in 2003, i.e. after the US occupation of Iraq. The main business areas of Empire and Falcon Group were oil, construction and security (consulting). The company received its licence to operate after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein from the occupation administration, and its security service also employs “former” US military personnel. It is known that Peshrav Dzeyi financed the subversive activities of PMC, which operated under the management and coordination of “Mossad” and the CIA, primarily against Iran.
Responsibility for the missile attack on Iraq was assumed by the IRGC as a response to the terrorist attack in Kemran and the destruction of anti-Iranian spy-terrorist groups. In other words, Tehran did not cover itself with its proxy forces, but claimed an act of revenge.
Following the strikes on Iraq, Iran launched a similar strike in Syria against a facility of the Islamic State (an international terrorist organisation banned in Russia), which claimed responsibility (either independently or at Washington’s behest) for the January 3 attack in Kerman.
A day later, Tehran launched a missile attack on two Baluchi targets in Pakistan (in particular, the headquarters of the Sunni group Jaish al-Adl). This was in response to a terrorist attack in southeastern Iran in December 2023 that killed 12 policemen. The Jaish al-Adl group claimed responsibility for that attack at the time.
The Iranian retaliation provoked reactions from the Foreign Ministries of Iraq and Pakistan. The diplomatic departments of Baghdad and Islamabad said that the Iranian attacks were a violation of sovereignty and could have serious consequences. The Iraqi Foreign Ministry recalled its ambassador from Tehran for consultations. The leader of the Kurdish autonomy in Iraq, Masrour Barzani, called on the international community to put an end to Iranian attacks in the region in order to exclude the expansion of military conflict in the Middle East. The US called the Iranian strikes on Iraq and Syria “inaccurate and reckless”.
Such a “soft reaction” to the Iranian response (especially on the part of the United States) apparently indicates Washington’s reluctance to enter into direct conflict with Tehran and get involved in a long war with unknown consequences. Meanwhile, Iran, like all other actors in the international community, has the right to self-defence. If Israel covers its brutal attacks in the Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon with the principle of self-defence, if Turkey, under the guise of fighting Kurdish separatism, carries out military operations in the border territories of independent Syria and Iraq, why can’t Iran respond to the terrorist attack in Kerman, which was recognised by the UN Security Council itself, with an act of retaliation?
Moreover, Iran borders with Syria and Iraq, i.e. the countries where terrorist activity of various groups (including against the Islamic Republic of Iran) has played out as a result of American democratisation (or rather chaotisation). Accordingly, Tehran cannot only grieve for its innocent victims at the hands of international terrorism, but also respond to blows with blows. In any case, the terrorist attack on the anniversary of the memory of General Qasem Suleimani in Kerman was a kind of spit on Tehran, and to leave such a challenge unanswered would mean losing part of its sovereignty. Iran cannot forgive such behaviour and warns external players of “red lines”.
Alexander SVARANTS – PhD of Political Science, Professor, especially for the online magazine «New Eastern Outlook».