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Israel Strikes, Iranian Targets & Syria

Syria Israel Iran

These things are hard to tell in the fog of war, but it looks like Hamas’ 7 October attacks in Southern Israel caught Tehran off-guard. No one really wants to touch the Israel/Palestine issue with a cattle prod, which is why the wider world is so good at generally ignoring it. The immediate problem that has arisen over the weekend isn’t the fog of war, but it’s inertia: Wars are easy to start, but very hard to control. Now neither Tehran nor Washington seem able to stop the conflict from going wide.

Since the eight-year stalemate with Iraq in the 80’s, Iran knows that it can’t win a war, so it’s gotten very good at stirring the regional pot with what it calls its “forward defense policy” against Israel – that poses no discernable threat to Iran. Hezbollah in Lebanon is the key to the policy, and Tehran keeps the militia well stocked with arms, money and logistical – delivered in an now unbroken land route from Iran, through Iraq to Syria, where it supports the current Syria regime with help from its Shi’a militia in the area. And since the Gaza War started, there have been near daily strikes going either way over the border.

It was always going to be tricky to stay on top of a geopolitical Rubik’s cube, and it looks like after some impressive moves, the have lost control of the thing. Direct war is getting closer to Iran than it wants. Over the weekend a (probable) Israeli strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus was meant to scramble the arms shipment and logistic support that Iran is giving to Hezbollah and killing several members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC).

Iran likes to conduct its foreign policy with a “wink wink” attitude akin to a grumpy four-year old’s game of “I’m not touching you.” Israel’s direct swat has forced Iran to vow retaliation, and within hours US officials confirmed that US forces intercepted an explosive drone targeting al-Tanf base in Syria. It’s the first attack on US troops since 4 February. No American servicemen were killed, and privately, the Mullahs in charge are likely praising Allah that they weren’t. America can ignore an unsuccessful attack, it can’t ignore a direct hit.

When this war started, neither Hamas backers nor Israel’s wanted to get anywhere near this tar-baby of a fight. But it is clear that Iran has lost whatever control that they had over the situation. And it is getting worse.

Hamas, as a Sunni militia, was never a crucial part of Shi’a Iran’s “forward defense policy.” Syria is ruled by a Shi’a sect, which is why Iran supports them, but the majority of the country is Sunni. Russian troops are fighting alongside Iran to pretend that they are a great power. The Islamic State (ISIS), if you’ll recall, is Sunni and they have claimed responsibility for that terror attack on a Moscow concert hall.  

Iran’s modus operandi has always been a degree of controlled chaos, and so far it has been good at keeping thing to a low simmer. It now faces the problem of a client militia, and an enemy one, making roughly common cause to make the conflict global by dragging in Russia and the West.

The Islamic Republic has always been something of a doomsday cult... be careful what you ask for.


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