April 4, 2023: Details have leaked concerning a January meeting between Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and some top IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) commanders. Khamenei is the senior cleric on the Guardians Council, the twelve senior clerics that have ruled Iran since the 1980s. Iran is also a democracy, but the Guardians Council decides who can, or cannot, run for office. The elected officials run the government and pass laws that regulate the government and economy. The IRGC was created to protect the Guardians Council from internal and external threats. The January meeting was about mismanagement of the government, the poor state of the economy and growing shortages of cash for the IRGC to operate and support foreign operations. The IRGC saw corruption as the main reason for the poor state of the economy and growing discontent among Iranians.
Weeks after this meeting there were calls for a national referendum on whether to maintain the Islamic Republic and the Guardians Council dictatorship. An alternative solution would be the Guardians Council agreeing to adopt a new constitution that would satisfy enough Iranians to avoid a civil war. Many Iranian leaders believe that an uprising is possible if the religious dictatorship does nothing or tries to suppress this movement with violence. That kind of suppression is not as convincing as in the past and members of the religious establishment and some IRGC leaders openly express concern that an uprising is possible and whoever wins, Iran loses. So far, a majority of the Guardians Council opposes any concessions. IRGC leaders are less eager to oppose any concessions. Many IRGC leaders are closer to the protests and have a better sense of how angry Iranians are and how far most Iranians are willing to go. The IRGC is not large enough to take on most Iranians and many individual IRGC men are not willing to slaughter a lot of fellow Iranians to keep corrupt religious and IRGC leaders in power.
Corruption is widespread, especially among family members of those on the Guardians Council. Several members of the Guardians Council have also called for reforms, but Khamenei and most council members refuse to act. This is becoming a difficult position for Council members and IRGC leaders to handle because it is the families of these men that carry out most of the corrupt acts and become enormously wealthy in the process. Any objections are brushed aside by invoking family connections between Guardians Council members of senior IRGC leaders. The Guardians Council and the IRGC were created in the 1980s to replace the corrupt monarchy. The reformers gradually became more corrupt while the IRGC became involved in foreign conflicts that provided more enemies for Iran and not much in the way of benefits. Primary targets of this foreign aggression have been Israel and the Persian Gulf Arab oil states.
Last month some relief came from China, which gets half its oil from Persian Gulf states and wants a more tranquil atmosphere so the oil keeps coming and Chinese investments in the region, especially Iran, aren’t disrupted. The Chinese served as a mediator between Iran and Saudi Arabia to get the two local superpowers to resume diplomatic and economic relations and cease military and economic conflicts between each other. Iran has been using the IRGC to try and overthrow the Saudi monarchy and seize control of the Moslem holy places of Mecca and Medina. This pits Shia Iran against over 80 percent of the world’s Moslems who recognize the Saudis as the custodians of Mecca and Medina. All Moslems, even hostile Shia, are allowed to make a pilgrimage to Mecca. This is something all devout Moslems seek to do at least once and the Saudis have been able to process the ever-growing number of pilgrims. This peace deal did nothing about the hostility of Iran, and to a lesser extent Saudi Arabia, against Israel. China has no quarrel with Israel and realizes Israel can take care of itself and already has a growing number of Arab allies and supporters in Iran. Before the religious dictatorship took power in Iran, Israel and Iran enjoyed diplomatic and economic relations. Many Iranians have openly supported a resumption of good relations with Israel. Most Iranians want less strife and more cooperation with other nations in the region, including Israel. The primary threat to the Chinese peace deal are radical Iranians who would rather fight than prosper and survive.
Among the many IRGC foreign operations is a new alliance with Russia. The Russians need weapons, which Iran can supply for a price. Iran is also helping Russia cope with Ukraine-related economic sanctions given its experience operating as an outcast or pariah state. Russia already had a number of diplomatic, economic and military relationships with Iran. In the past Russia was the senior partner when it came to deals with Iran. Because of the Ukraine War sanctions, Russia needs Iran more than the other way around. Iran is able to dictate terms and gain a lot of trade concessions from Russia.
This realignment became tangible last June when Russia and Iran signed a new agreement that expanded economic and political cooperation between the two nations. This agreement ignored sanctions currently imposed on Russia and Iran and formalized the cooperation between the two oil producers to evade Western efforts to prevent Iran and Russia from exporting oil. The new agreement also confirms joint efforts to support each other militarily. Iran has supported the Russian invasion of Ukraine while Russia backs Iranian threats to other Middle Eastern oil producers. The Chinese peace deal reduces Iranian threats to other oil producing nations. This does not include unofficial Russian agreements in Syria that keep Israel and Russia from going to war because of continued Israeli attacks on Iranian forces in Syria. Russia continues to support Iranian efforts to expand its influence over the Iraqi government.
Russia is broke and has to reimburse Iran with some unique services. For example, Russia has provided Iran access to a Kanopus-V satellite, which enables Iran to obtain high-resolution views of “enemy” territory and the ability to improve its overseas operations. Russia also provides many industrial items Iran has had difficulty obtaining. Russia has also shipped Iran stolen Ukrainian grain, which is popular with the Iranian population and the many shortages they have to put up with.
Russia has more attractive trade options for Iran, especially when it comes to modern warplanes. Decades of economic sanctions against Iran have resulted in no new warplanes or even spare parts for what they already had. Russia is now willing to supply modern aircraft and helicopters and establish a joint maintenance center in Iran. This is made possible by the land-locked Caspian Sea where both Russia and Iran have coastlines. This makes it possible for them to easily and safely move all sorts of cargo back and forth between them.
Israel has not been providing any weapons to Ukraine because of Iranian activity near the Israeli border in Syria. Israel needs to maintain good relations with Russia to deal with the Iranian threat. Russia told Israel that sending weapons to Ukraine could reduce Russian cooperation in Syria against Iran. Most Israelis support Ukraine, but the Iranian threat is very real and next door, so Israeli politicians cannot ignore it unless they want to lose their next election. Russia does not want to lose its relationships with Israel but now Iran is in a position to force the matter. Russia appears to be seeking a compromise with Israel that will not offend Iran.
This has led to some renegotiating of relationships in Syria, where a civil war between the Iran-backed Assad government and most Syrians has been raging since 2011. A year ago, Syrian leader Bashar Assad made an unannounced visit to Iran, apparently to negotiate how Syria and Iran would take over Russian bases and any Russian equipment left behind. Most Russian ground forces in Syria returned to Russia because of the war in Ukraine. These Russian troops consist of special operations forces, military advisers and tech support personnel who help maintain Russian weapons used by Syria. The departing Russian troops were first moved to a Russian controlled airbase near the Mediterranean coast and then flown back to Russia. Some of the abandoned bases were transferred to Iranian control and used by Iran-backed militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah.
Iran remains obsessed with destroying Israel though no one else in the region has agreed with that for many years. Iranians are increasingly preoccupied with problems inside Iran as well as their new military alliance with Russia. This makes Iran a participant in the Ukraine war on the Russian side. That makes Iran even more unpopular internationally. Despite that, Iran is determined to hold onto its current power in Syria.
In southern Syria (Damascus), a pre-dawn Israeli airstrike left two civilians dead. The targets for these attacks are usually facilities used by Iran. This is the fourth Israeli airstrike against Syrian targets in the last five days.
Israel treats Iran as a major threat, especially because of the Iranian presence in Syria though Iran’s nuclear program is starting to rival that. Israel has been at war with Iran in Syria for nearly a decade, during which Israel carried out hundreds of airstrikes and a few commando operations against Iranian operations in Syria. This cost Iran a lot of lives and money, and is one of the things restive Iranians want to halt by pulling Iranian forces out of Syria and Lebanon. But first the Iranians have to shut down the Iranian religious dictatorship, which, as expected, resists efforts to shut down operations in Syria.
April 1, 2023: In central Syria (Homs province) an Israeli airstrike hit the T4 airbase., in retaliation for a recent Iranian UAV that tried to cross the border into Israel but was detected and destroyed. The targets at T4 were Iranian training areas and weapons warehouses. Five Syrian soldiers were killed and many more wounded. Air-to-surface missiles are used and some are intercepted by Syrian S-200 SAMs (Surface-to-Air missiles) that have less success against Israeli fighters that are equipped with countermeasures and pilots who know how to avoid the SAMs. The T4 airbase, near the ancient ruins of Palmyra, has been hit at least three times a year since 2018. T4 is the largest airbase in Syria and Iran has constantly built new structures for storing weapons and housing personnel, usually to replace buildings destroyed by the air strikes. T4 is where Iran moved its UAV operations in 2018 after its original UAV base in Syria was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike.
March 30, 2023: The government ordered strict enforcement of the hijab (hair covering) rules but did not order the religious police to enforce it. Instead, conservative pro-hijab citizens are called on to confront women violating the hijab rules. Instead, police were ordered to temporarily close stores or other enterprises that did not enforce the hijab wearing rules on their premises. These places can reopen only if they promise to enforce hijab rules on all women entering their establishment. This policy is a gamble because it may provoke more anti-government activity. In January the government had ordered a halt to enforcement of the hijab rules. This was part of an effort to reduce or eliminate the months of anti-government demonstrations. The protests began in September 2022 because the religious police beat a young woman to death for not wearing her hijab correctly. Part of those protests was more and more women stopped wearing the hijab and the religious police were intimidated by the public anger over the violent tactics of some religious police. The government quietly ordered the religious police to cease harassment of women not wearing hijabs. The anti-government protests continue and the government ordering pro-government Iranians to enforce the hijab rules is seen as a way to intimidate some of the anti-government protesters. Despite all these measures, the protests continue.
In southern Syria (Damascus) an Israeli airstrike killed Milad Heydari, a senior IRGC officer who specialized in Cyber War operations. This was the fifth Israeli airstrike this month in Syria. All of them were against Iranian targets and the one today was particularly important because Heydari was a senior officer as well as a key technical advisor for Iranian forces in Syria. The IRGC threatened strenuous efforts to avenge Heydari. This usually means that the man killed had caused lower morale and effectiveness among Iranian personnel in Syria. Iranian retaliation often involves assassination attempts in foreign countries or, if Israel is the target, against Jews living anywhere in the world. Many nations deal with this threat by banning Iranians from entering, unless they are diplomatic personnel. Even with an embassy there is a risk and Iran has got itself into big diplomatic trouble when Iranian embassy officials were caught trying to arrange an assassination by hiring local hitmen to do it. European nations have long tried to maintain friendly diplomatic relations with Iran but in the last year more EU (European Union) nations are treating Iranians like a threat and no longer telling Iran that they do not support the overthrow of the current Iranian government. It’s difficult to support the current Iranian government in any way after six months of anti-government demonstrations in Iran.
March 29, 2023: The hijab protests continue and will soon reach 200 days of activity. So far, protests have taken place in nearly 300 towns and cities. Nearly a thousand protesters have been killed and many more injured. Police have arrested at least 30,000 protesters but had to release most of them quickly because the security forces don’t have the manpower to deal with all the protests. Police are asking for a budget increase so they can hire enough new police to double their numbers. That is not happening because the government is broke and cutting spending. The IRGC called on more of their Basij unpaid volunteers to attack protesters. This is not as effective as it used to be. There are often more protesters than Basij and the IRGC men find themselves on the defensive. Recently there have been more attacks on IRGC facilities, some of them burned down. The growing economic problems are also contributing to the continued protests and calls for a new government. Even ITGC leaders fear a civil war if something is not done about the economy, the restrictive dress codes and visible corruption by families of senior religious and IRGC officials.
March 28, 2023: Iran is a major factor in Russian efforts to keep its economy going in spite of the economic sanctions. Russia also depends a lot on its most loyal trading partners; China and India. These two nations assist Russia in exporting its oil despite the sanctions. They can also obtain some items Russian can no longer obtain from Western suppliers. Care must be taken because many of these components can easily be identified and traced back to the last legal purchaser. Ukraine has been diligent about collecting debris from Russians weapons that are not supposed to exist because of the ban on selling Russian essential components. This has led to the discovery and elimination of several smuggling operations. This often involves sanctioning Chinese or Indian businesses and some of their key personnel. China, more than India, has to be careful about this because Western sanctions on Chinese firms means China can no longer obtain key components from Western suppliers. This sort of thing didn’t start with Russian operations in Ukraine and has been encountered for decades as Iran copes with similar sanctions.
March 26, 2023: This month the government reported that the inflation rate was 46.5 percent. Most Iranians consider that unrealistic because many Iranians keep track of prices and know that many food items have doubled in price over the last year. The real inflation rate is closer to 60 percent and rising. Most Iranians no longer trust the government when it comes to improving the economy. That means many Iranians seek to obtain dollars for their savings and major purposes. The dollar is far more stable than the Iranian rial. The declining value of the rial and increase in prices is a major factor in the growing poverty rate. At the start of 2022 more than half the population was visibly living below the poverty line, even though the official poverty rate was about 40 percent. A year later the poverty rate is over 50 percent. Another visible sign of economic distress is the decline in value for the local currency versus the dollar and the subsequent overall inflation. The situation has gotten a lot worse in the last few years. For example, in 2019 it cost 120,000 rials to buy a dollar. That led to a new currency, the toman, which meant the exchange rate was 12 toman to the dollar. The toman was what some Iranian currency was called for a long time, until 1925. The revival of the toman was necessary because people needed too many rials to purchase basic goods. Many Iranians still use the term. The exchange rate has recently gotten a lot worse. In 2020 you need over 26 tomans to buy a dollar. Currently it costs 55 toman and despite strenuous efforts the government cannot reduce that rate and keep it low. The government spent a lot of dollars trying to reduce the exchange and seemed to succeed in November but the Americans increased restrictions on dollars headed for Iran and the Iranian efforts could not handle that. A decade ago, a dollar could be had for 3.2 toman. The current foreign exchange crisis is largely due to exporters of non-oil goods keeping about half the money they receive in banks outside the country. That was in response to government efforts to enforce a fixed exchange rate that made life worse for businesses and consumers. Avoiding that is a good business decision because that money is safer from government corruption if it is kept in foreign banks. Many Iranians with jobs prefer to keep their savings in dollars, even if that is illegal and local banks cannot be used. Because of their corruption and economic incompetence, the religious dictatorship feels more threatened by their subjects than by any external threat.
March 23, 2023: In eastern Syria (Deir Ezzor province) an Israeli airstrike killed a Hezbollah official and an IRGC commander. This prompted Iran to order an attack on an American base in eastern Syria (Hasaka province). This attack took place the next day and caused no casualties. These attacks usually result in an American airstrike on an Iran-backed group in Syria.
March 22, 2023: In northern Syria (Aleppo) an Israeli airstrike hit the main airport outside the city because it is where Iran flies in weapons.
March 20, 2023: It was twenty years ago today that the Saddam Hussein government was defeated and replaced by a democracy that could not initially deal with continuing resistance from the Sunni minority that Saddam belonged to. With arch-enemy Saddam gone, Iran expanded its influence in Iraq and supported attacks on Iraqi Sunni Arabs. The Sunnis were using Islamic terrorism to justify its continuing violence and in 2014 this led to the creation of ISIL in Syria by Iraqis, many who used to work for the Saddam government.
March 19, 2023: Iraq and Iran agreed to a new security treaty that has both of them cooperating on curbing Kurdish power in Iraq and Iran. The Iraqi Kurds have been autonomous since the early 1990s when the Americans and British provided air power and some special operation troops to keep Iraqi troops out. This has annoyed The Shia Arab central government ever since. The Iraqi Kurds are formidable fighters and led the 2016 effort to retake Mosul and push ISIL out of Iraq. The Iraqi government downplayed the Kurdish contribution but foreign observers reported what really went on and the Kurds prepared for another attack on them by the Iraqi government.
March 16, 2023: Growing trade with Iran led Russia to start bringing in dredging equipment for a major, and overdue, dredging of the heavily used Volga-Don Canal that enables ships to get from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea. Because of the war in Ukraine and Iran supplying weapons and equipment to Russia, canal traffic was up 15 percent in 2022 over the previous year. Since 1952, a 101 kilometers long canal, linking the Don and Volga rivers, gave the Caspian Sea access to the Black Sea and the world's oceans. However, the largest ships that can use the canal cannot displace more than 5,000 tons and be no more than 140 meters (434 feet) long, 17 meters (52 feet) wide, and have a draft of no more than 3.5 meters (10.8 feet). Normally the canal moves over 12 million tons of cargo a year. About half of that is oil or oil products. In 2021 Russia agreed to allow Iran to use the Volga-Don Canal so that Iranian ships can reach the Black Sea from the landlocked Caspian Sea. This is the first time Russia has ever given a foreign nation free access to the canal. Russia and Iran are now using each other’s Caspian Sea ports heavily for trade and getting Iranian weapons to Russia. Both nations have agreed to establish a joint-shipbuilding operation in the Caspian Sea and cooperate in dredging the canal, something that has not been done since 1991. The prolonged lack of dredging has made portions of the canal shallower and forced ships to carry less cargo. The 13 locks on the canal connect the Volga River, the longest in Russia that empties into the Caspian, and the Don River which empties into the Sea of Azov, which is connected to the Black Sea via the Kerch Strait. The Caspian is the world's largest lake and it is huge, at 371,000 square kilometers (about the same size as Poland). It is about a thousand kilometers long and 430 kilometers wide. It's saline but is only about a third as salty as ocean water. The Caspian has a 7,000-kilometer-long coastline, with the largest chunk (1,900 kilometers) belonging to Kazakhstan.
March 12, 2023: Since November 2022, someone has been poisoning schoolgirls all over Iran. Over a thousand girls have been made sick but there have been no deaths. An Islamic conservative Iranian group took credit for the attacks because they oppose education for women. This claim is doubtful because the group is small and the attacks have taken place in 26 schools in 25 (out of 31) provinces. Some Iranians believed the attacks were an effort to terrorize girls into wearing hijabs. That did not work as most schoolgirls were angry at such tactics. Anti-government organizations cooperated in verifying attacks and compiling data on them. The government does nothing. More attacks are expected.
March 10, 2023: China arranged a peace deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia. This is all about the Chinese need for tranquility in the Persian Gulf so that China can continue to get half its imported oil from Persian Gulf states. Iraq has been trying to arrange such a peace deal for several years but lacked the standing and clout to get the deal done. Iran is hoping this new deal will enable Iran to expand its waning influence in Iraq. Since 2021 this Iranian influence has visibly declined because of so many Iraqis opposing Iranian interference in Iraq plus help from other Arab countries, like Saudi Arabia, in reducing Iranian influence in Iraq.
While Iraq resists Iranian offers for economic and military cooperation, Saudi Arabia was welcome. The Saudis have the cash to invest in rebuilding war torn Iraq and, along with Iraqis, have to deal with Iranian opposition to any Saudi presence. This conflict gets little media attention because the Saudis have no military forces in Iraq, just investors and Saudi personnel managing the new investments. These are often attacked by Iran-backed Iraqi Shia militias. The government is trying to disband these militias but that has proved difficult because of continued Iranian support for these groups.
A year ago, Iraq hosted Saudi Arabian and Iranian officials holding their fifth round of negotiations in an effort to resume diplomatic relations. These talks were suspended seven months earlier. Iraq along with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the other Arab Gulf Oil states are angry with the Americans because the U.S. is not only offering Iran a revival of the 2015 sanctions treaty, but also a modification of the terms to make it easier for Iran to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
Worse, the United States considered taking the Iranian IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) and its Quds Force off the list of known terrorists. This was all about the 2020 presidential elections in America, which put into power what is now recognized (by numerous polls) as the most unpopular and inept American president ever. One reason for this unpopularity was the current American policies towards Iran and reduced support for Arab resistance to Iranian violence. This has driven many Gulf Arab oil states, including Iraq, into an economic alliance with Russia to drive up the price of oil. This policy makes it easier for Iran to smuggle more of its heavily discounted oil to customers. That plan survived the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine and even more economic sanctions.
March 6, 2023: Iran and Russia are becoming closer allies. This includes Russian plans to provide Iran with S400 air defense systems and cooperating with Iran in Syria, where Israeli air strikes have prevented Iran from launching attacks into Israel. At the same time Israel is improving its relationship with Ukraine. This is influenced by its worsening relationship with Russia because of Russia’s closer relationship with Iran. Israel has been sending economic aid to Ukraine but not weapons. So far. Russia is obsessed with conquering Ukraine and failing to do so while suffering enormous losses. and losing. At the same time, Iran remains obsessed with destroying Israel, but failing to do so even after decades of effort. Iran has been supplying Russia with UAVs designed to operate as cruise missiles. A lot of other military equipment has been sent to Russia. In Return Russia is supplying Iran with two dozen modern jet fighters and whatever it has available but doesn’t need in Ukraine. Russia is also delivering to Iran any captured Western weapons in Ukraine. This includes anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.
March 3, 2023: Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) reported it had killed a senior PKK commander in operations in the vicinity of Sinjar, Iraq. The commander was identified as Saad Ali Badal. MIT claimed Badal planned to attack Turkish soldiers at a base in Bashiqa (Iraq, Nineveh province). It is believed Badal is connected to an attack on ethnic Turkmen in the city of Kirkuk (northern Iraq). The Turkmen belonged to the Iraqi Turkman’s Front. Badal allegedly has ties to Iran.
March 1, 2023: In southern Syria, near the Israeli border in Quneitra and Daraa provinces, Israeli aircraft dropped thousands of leaflets warning Syrians to not cooperate with Hezbollah members who operate intelligence networks and seek to recruit Syrians to work with Hezbollah to network of pro-Iran operatives who would help Iran establish a military presence on the border and attack Israel. The leaflets pointed out that Israeli air and artillery strikes often hit Hezbollah operations near the border. For several years Israel has been increasingly active in attacking their hostile operatives near the border. Since the 1980s the Lebanese Hezbollah Shia militia has been supported financially and with weapons by Iran. That led to the Iranian 2011 order that sent Hezbollah forces into Syria to protect the Shia Assad government and later to take control of the Syrian side of the Israeli border and work with Iranian troops to launch attacks on Israel. Israeli efforts to prevent Iranian forces from operating close to the Israeli border or gaining support from the border population in the border provinces of Quneitra, Daraa and Suwayda have increased. Total population of these provinces in 2011 was 1.4 million but only about 20 percent of that was on or near the border. After the 2011 Civil War began much of the Sunni population fled. How much remains on the border is unclear but is apparently at least 100,000. Only Quentera and Daraa border Israel. Israel has occupied most of Quentera province since the 1967 War and the Israeli controlled area is mostly the Golan Heights. This is the high ground overlooking northern Israel and the Syrians made a major and ultimately failed effort in the 1973 War to retake Golan. Control of the Daraa border with Israel was sought by Iranian forces but Russian and Syrian troops blocked many of the Iranian efforts and are now pushing away Iranian-backed forces already there.
February 28, 2023: The international naval blockade around Yemen has been intercepting more weapons shipments from Iran. Interrogations of the crews of these smuggling ships reveals that some of these weapons are ultimately destined for rebel and Islamic terrorist groups elsewhere in Africa. These destinations include Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Central African Republic, South Sudan and Tanzania.
February 27, 2023: The IAEA reports that while inspecting Iranian facilities they found traces of uranium enriched to 83.7 percent, just short of the 90 percent required for nuclear weapons. These samples were found at the Fordow procession facility where uranium is only supposed to be enriched to 60 percent.. This comes at the same time information about an agreement between Russia and Iran for Russia to pay for weapons by supplying highly enriched uranium.
February 22, 2023: Iran has agreed to recognize the IEA government in Afghanistan. There are still disagreements between the two countries and the resumption of diplomatic relations makes it easier to discuss possible solutions to disputes. Currently the only countries willing to trade with Afghanistan are China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran. Since IEA took over in 2021, Afghanistan has been a much more difficult country to do business in.
February 19, 2023: In southern Syria (Damascus) an Israeli airstrike at night damaged a ten-story building in a residential neighborhood that was being used as the headquarters for Iranian and Hezbollah operations in Syria. Iran believed that a building in a residential area would discourage Israel from carrying out an air strike. The upscale residential area is where a lot of senior government officials and their families live. Israeli aircraft used at least two air-to-surface guided missiles for the attack. The building was not completely destroyed, but much rubble fell into surrounding streets and windows in some adjacent buildings were broken. The airstrike took place after midnight when February temperatures are near freezing and not many people are on the streets in residential neighborhoods. Iran tried to use civilians as human shields by placing this headquarters in a residential area and it is unclear if the Syrian government agreed with this policy or were forced to go along. In Gaza the Hamas government regularly puts key military facilities in residential areas and Israel attacks them, usually after first hacking the telephone system to call all the civilians who might be and danger and warning them to leave their building. This reduces civilian casualties and annoys Hamas. The situation is different in Syria where Iranians are an unwelcome guest the Assad government cannot refuse.
February 18, 2023: An Iranian government delegation visited China in an effort to make deals with China that will stabilize the Iranian economy. The Chinese do not give anything away and are aware of the political instability in Iran. The Chinese are unsure of who will be running Iran in the near future and are unwilling to offend the current or any future government. In other words, the Chinese prefer to wait rather than choose the wrong side right now.