Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Israel Is Stomping On Iran — And It Could Bring One Of The Worst Wars The Middle East Has Ever Seen
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said Israeli intelligence had obtained a trove of "secret" documents outlining a clandestine nuclear program in Iran.
On Sunday, Syria got rocked by a missile attack that appeared to ignite a munitions depot hard enough to register as a 2.6 magnitude earthquake and is believed to have killed dozens of Iranians. Experts say the strike was most likely carried out by Israel.
Though Tehran has denied that Iranians died in the strike, a more aggressive posture toward Iran by Israel could bring about a major clash that experts say might lead to the biggest war the Middle East has ever seen.
The perpetrator of Sunday's attack hasn't been confirmed. Israel rarely takes credit for strikes within Syria, though it maintains that it will strike at any Iranian activity there that it deems a threat.
With an estimated 20,000 to 70,000 Shiite Iranian-aligned fighters and tens of thousands of rockets in Syria, that's a lot of activity for Israel to monitor.
Israeli F-16Is and F-15C/Ds over the Dead Sea during the 2015 Blue Flag air combat exerciseIsraeli Air Force
Israel's air force appears to be repeatedly battering Iran and Syria
Jonathan Schanzer, an expert on Iran and Syria at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, says Israel is picking up the pace of strikes and moves against Iran — and staring down the barrel of a massive confrontation.
"For some time, it really did look like the Israelis were holding back," Schanzer told Business Insider. "They seemed reticent to engage. They didn't want to expose themselves in the skies over Syria."
But after an air battle in February among Israeli, Syrian, and Iranian forces — in which Israel said it downed an Iranian drone and much of Syria's air defenses but lost an F-16 fighter jet— Israel appears to be going much harder.
Israeli forces "appear to have broken a seal of sorts," Schanzer said, adding that Israel may see a "window" as Syria's air defenses are vulnerable.
Both Iranian and Israeli sources cited in recent news reports have predicted retaliation to the strike on Sunday.
But before any such answer could be made, Israel dropped what it characterized as a massive cache of dirt on Iran.
— Danny Makki (@Dannymakkisyria) April 29, 2018
'A psychological operation'
Netanyahu said at a press conference on Monday that Israeli intelligence had about 100,000 documents, videos, and photographs showing that Iran had lied about its nuclear ambitions, and he accused it of cheating on the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
Schanzer said: "Spies steal documents all the time, but this was a huge cache. And usually, spy agencies keep it quiet after the intelligence is lifted. Not so with the Israelis — they are broadcasting this, making it as much a psychological operation as a revelation about Iran's nuclear mendacity."
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has signaled the U.S. is revisiting the Iran nuclear deal.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that Trump would withdraw from the 2015 deal "if we can't fix it" and assured Netanyahu that the U.S. was "deeply concerned about Iran's dangerous escalation of threats to Israel and the region and Iran's ambition to dominate the Middle East."
"The United States is with Israel in this fight, and we strongly support Israel's sovereign right to defend itself," Pompeo added.
Two Israeli F-15D Eagle aircraft practice air defense maneuvers mission over the Nevada Test and Training Ranges, at Nellis Air Force Base , Nevada, during Exercise Red Flag in 2004.U.S. Air Force/Tsgt Kevin J. Gruenwald
Iran's ability to retaliate against Israel is limited.
Diplomatically, Iran doesn't have much leverage. Though Iran is allied with Russia, Russian air defenses in Syria seem uninterested in protecting Iranian targets from suspected Israeli strikes.
Iran's main leverage over Israel is its influence with Hamas, a Palestinian group active in the already boiling Gaza Strip on Israel's border, and its nearby fighters and rocket stockpiles.
"There are things that Iran can do very quickly to make things miserable for the Israelis," Schanzer said.
With Israel on the sidelines of the civil war in Syria, where over 70 countries have bombed or contributed to bombing efforts, the feud heating up between Jerusalem and Tehran could erupt into a fight that could rock the Middle East.
Read more from Business Insider:
- Benjamin Netanyahu gives bizarre presentation saying Iran is cheating on nuclear deal
- Trump reportedly considered withdrawing all U.S. troops from South Korea before the Winter Olympics — but John Kelly stepped in
- Mattis is asking for waivers so U.S. allies can buy Russian weapons
- Former Israeli intelligence chief: Iran will likely seek payback for the latest strikes in Syria
- South Korea is taking down propaganda-broadcasting loudspeakers from the border with North Korea
The Navy relieved a decorated explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) officer on Thursday due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command, the Navy announced on Friday.
Former Defense Secretary James Mattis, who led a Marine task force to Afghanistan shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, said the Washington Post's recent reporting about the U.S. government's pattern of lies about the war over the last two decades is not "revelatory."
Mattis, who was interviewed by the Washington Post's David Ignatius on Friday, also said he does not believe the U.S. government made any efforts to hide the true situation in Afghanistan and he argued the war has not been in vain.
Here are 10 key quotes from Mattis regarding the Washington Post's reporting in the 'Afghanistan Papers.'
Get ready for some gun-fu: Both 'John Wick 4' and 'Matrix 4' will be premiering on the same day in 2021
The Taliban may not have breached the walls of Bagram, but they damaged the hell out of its main passenger terminal
Blasts from Taliban car bombs outside of Bagram Airfield on Wednesday caused extensive damage to the base's passenger terminal, new pictures released by the 45th Expeditionary Wing show.
The pictures, which are part of a photo essay called "Bagram stands fast," were posted on the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service's website on Thursday.
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
Shortly after seven sailors died aboard USS Fitzgerald when she collided with a merchant ship off Japan in 2017, I wrote that the Fitzgerald's watch team could have been mine. My ship had once had a close call with me on watch, and I had attempted to explain how such a thing could happen. "Operating ships at sea is hard, and dangerous. Stand enough watches, and you'll have close calls," I wrote at the time. "When the Fitzgerald's investigation comes out, I, for one, will likely be forgiving."
So, am I forgiving? Yes — for some.