The two tracks on which Iran has been marching for years – cultivating its Shiite proxies in the Middle East and wrangling diplomatically with the West, culminating in the current talks in Vienna to renew the 2015 nuclear deal – could soon crisscross again in the coming weeks.
Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq, the Shiite militias in Syria, and the Houthis in Yemen are all a tremendous budgetary strain on the Islamic republic, which gives these proxies weapons, ammunition, and drone components. Within the framework of the emerging nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, the US is expected to agree to unfreeze $7 billion of Iranian funds being held in South Korea. Naturally, this money won’t be used to improve the dilapidated water infrastructure in the Iranian periphery, rather to buttress the regime’s armed forces across the region.
The Alma Research and Education Center estimated as early as December that Hezbollah currently possesses 2,000 drones. According to reports, American sanctions failed to impact this Iranian project, as the necessary components can be bought online. As is very often the case, Iranian agents in the West purchase them and send them to Tehran. Unfreezing the Iranian money, however, is significant because it will allow Iran to make larger purchases and arm its militias with even more advanced drones. At the same time, the money can also be used by the pro-Iran movement in Lebanon to influence the election in May by buying votes. This is how Hezbollah hopes to maintain its control in the beleaguered country.
The drones give Iran the advantage of surprise. On numerous occasions, pro-Iran groups in Iraq have used drones to attack targets deep inside Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates amid the backdrop of the war with the Houthis in Yemen. Last week, the US even intercepted two Iranian drones in Iraq, which according to a Kan 11 report were headed toward Israel.
Consequently, many countries in the region are being forced to prepare on various fronts. Saudi Arabia learned this lesson first-hand after the drone attack on its main oil refineries in 2019. Reuters reported that 17 suicide drones took off from an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps base in southwestern Iran, although in the first few days after the attack, the Houthis in Yemen were the primary suspects. Indeed, in recent years, Houthi rebels have carried out multiple attacks against Saudi Arabia.
In terms of Israel, too, Iran aspires to establish various fronts. The Hezbollah drone that crossed into northern Israel on Friday came in the wake of a drone launched a day earlier from Gaza, where Iran is cultivating both Hamas and even more so Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Divisions exist within Hamas over the relationship with Iran, however, and it’s not for nothing that the group took action against a Shiite group in Gaza that had been funded directly by Iran. And yet, the fact that on Thursday two drones were shot down by Israel – one in the south, as stated, and the other in the north – indicates possible coordination between Hamas and Hezbollah.
The drone incident was preceded by an airstrike near Damascus last week attributed to Israel. According to the Syrian opposition, the missiles were fired at a military facility used by Hezbollah to support its “Golan Front.”
Here, too, Iran is implementing its doctrine of integrated fronts, hinting that the rules of the game in the so-called “campaign between wars” – a concept describing the IDF and intelligence community’s efforts to monitor and undermine the force-building capabilities of Israel’s enemies, namely Iran – are about to change and that an Israeli attack in Syria will trigger a response from Lebanon.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, in an attempt to present himself as a Lebanese patriot, tried downplaying Iran’s role in his organization’s drone project and said Hezbollah has been manufacturing them for years. And still, there’s a huge difference between drones and their components. Even the Islamic republic didn’t create Hezbollah out of thin air.
Source » israelhayom