February 22, 2022:
It was recently revealed that Israel refused to sell Ukraine Iron Dome rocket defense systems so as not to anger Russia. At the same time Israel was dismayed at the timid reaction of NATO and the United States to the Russian decision to recognize the half of Donbas their proxy forces already occupy and now send in Russian troops as peacemakers. Israelis compare this to the British reaction to German efforts to annex portions of Czechoslovakia in 1938. The British, without consulting the Czechs, agreed to the German annexation plans, which were then carried out. The Czechs did not resist because they had been sold out by their allies in return for a promise by Hitler that he had no further territorial ambitions. In 1939 Germany invaded Poland and that started World War II. Israelis fear the West is doing the same to them, because of their proposed deal with Iran to lift economic sanctions while ignoring continued Iranian work on ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.
Israel believes the Russians respect power and exploit weakness. Israel points to how they and Russia have become more open about their cooperation in Syria, and elsewhere in the region. Russian and Israeli senior officials frequently meet in Russia or Israel to discuss details of this partnership and often release details of their Syrian arrangement and any new developments. Israel and Russia have been cooperating in Syria for decades but in 2015 that relationship had to be modified. For the first time Russia had substantial combat forces in Syria and at a time when Israel was carrying out airstrikes against Syrian and Iranian forces threatening Israel. Russia is supposed to be protecting Syria from rebels and foreign interference. Because of Israeli military superiority and willingness to humiliate Russia if they try to stop Israeli airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria, the Russians talk but do not act. Russia has another vulnerability when it comes to Israel and that is continued access to Israeli technology. Israel has halted some of that cooperation in the past when Russia caused problems for Israel. The Israelis believe Russia is a bully that makes threats they cannot follow through on. Russia has learned that Israel does not back down from threats, while NATO and the United States do.
This is a problem for Israel because the United States supplies much of the money for Iron Dome development and has a say in who it can be exported to. The Americans recognized the Israeli need to maintain the cooperation they have achieved with the Russians in Syria. Despite that, Israel fears the Americans would openly block an Israeli efforts to provide Iron Dome or other air defense systems to Ukraine. The U.S. did approve of the Iron Dome sale to the UAE (United Arab Emirates). Israeli firms now have sales offices in the UAE, to handle the sale and service of military and non-military items sold to Persian Gulf customers. Now the Gulf Arabs are wondering how strong American resolve against Iran really is.
Israel has the most successful economy in the region and trade-minded countries like the UAE have long done business unofficially with Israel. The American-brokered 2020 Abraham Accords made it possible for Arab states to establish diplomatic and economic relationships with Israel, and the UAE was the first to do so. The strength of the Israeli economy was recently demonstrated when Israeli GDP grew by a record 7.5 percent in 2021. This came after a 2.2 percent decline in GDP in 2020, the worst year of the covid19 pandemic. Israel also led the way in developing treatments for covid19. This did not go unnoticed, or unused, throughout the region. The improved relationships have made it possible for Israel to export its growing natural gas production via pipelines through Egypt and Jordan.
February 18, 2022: In the north (Lebanon border) a Hezbollah UAV crossed the border and remained in Israel for about 30 minutes. An Iron Dome missile was fired at the UAV but missed and Israel sent aircraft to take down the intruder. Hezbollah declared this a great victory, without mentioning that the UAV was being tracked and about to be destroyed. In retaliation Israel sent some jets to fly very low over Beirut, the Lebanese capital. Iron Dome has been modified to deal with low flying UAVs and cruise missiles and nothing has been said about why that did not work this time.
February 16, 2022: In the north (Golan Heights) several Israeli surface-to-surface missiles were launched against targets in southern Syria (Damascus province).
In the south (Gaza) a Hamas tunnel under construction had a partial collapse, killing one of the Hamas men working on it. These tunnels try to cross the border but Israeli tunnel detection technology has improved to the point where most tunnel projects are detected when they cross the border and destroyed.
February 15, 2022: In the north, across the border in Syria’s Daraa province, there have been nearly twenty assassinations and related acts of violence so far this month. This level of violence has remained fairly constant for three years. This is part of the undeclared war between Iranian and Syrian forces going on there since 2018. Anonymous assassins use pistols and hidden bombs to kill those who work, or worked for government forces or Russia and Syria backed local militias. Russian and Assad forces openly force Iran-backed groups and individuals out of the area. There is no open violence because Iran, Syria and Russia are still officially allies. Near the Israel border Russian and Syrian pressure has prevented Iranian attacks on Israel. Russia and Syria have also been checking locals to see if they are Lebanese Shia wearing authorized Syrian army or police uniforms rather than Lebanese Shia using stolen uniforms. This border security operation is a big deal for Syria and Israel and a major embarrassment for Iran, which is why Iran has not cranked up its usual media outrage to complain. Israel will sometimes fire on Iranian forces operating in Daraa, especially near the Israeli border. Israel also shares intel with Russia and Syria about Syrian officers who are secretly working for Iran. The Iranians pay well, and in dollars. Israel will sometimes release evidence of this to the media, so that Iranians back home have another reason to oppose Iranian foreign wars. Negotiations have been underway between Iran and Russia/Syria for over a year but are not making much progress. The covert Iranian violence is just another incentive for Syria to get the Iranian agents out of the area.
February 14, 2022: In the north, across the border in Syria (Daraa and Suwayda provinces plus Damascus) over a thousand Iranian mercenaries arrived to help deal with locals protesting the Assad government and Iranian presence. The mercenaries were nearly all foreigners from Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. These reinforcements traveled from eastern Syria (Raqqa and (Deir Ezzor provinces) and used multiple routes to avoid Israeli airstrikes.
In western Iran, Israel was blamed for a damaging fire that broke out in a military base, as well as several other recent disasters at facilities involved with ballistic missile and nuclear weapons developments.
February 13, 2022: In the West Bank Israeli troops destroying the home of a terrorist who had killed an Israeli student last year, was attacked by a mob throwing rocks and fire bombs. The troops opened fire on the bomb throwers and killed one and wounded several others. One Israeli soldier was injured by falling debris.
February 12, 2022: Israeli media revealed that
Israeli intelligence (Mossad) has, over the last two years, provided information to Turkey that prevented twelve ISIL or Iranian terror attacks in Turkey. This has quietly played a role in making it possible for Israeli tourists and business travelers to safely visit Turkey. Mossad providing Israeli media with this information is believed to be related to growing Turkish efforts to rebuild diplomatic and military relationships that were damaged two decades ago when Islamic political parties gained control of the government.
February 9, 2022: In the north, across the border in the Syrian capital Damascus, Israel carried out attacks against air defense systems around the city. This was in retaliation for another Syrian SAM (surface to air missile) failing to self-destruct when it missed its target and instead continuing on into Israel. In this case the SAM detonated before it hit the ground in northern Israel. This has happened before but this incident appeared suspicious so Israel launched airstrikes against Syrian air defenses. This SAM was one of many Syria fired to try and stop Israeli surface-to-surface missiles fired from northern Israel against Iranian targets near Damascus earlier in the day, which set off more attacks.
In the north, across the Syrian border in Latakia province, Russian forces turned on their wide area electronic jamming equipment briefly, and caused problems for commercial aircraft in Israel and Turkey. This has happened several times recently. Israel protested this and Russia said it was necessary because their military bases were threatened. Latakia province is largely Shia and a government stronghold. Unfortunately Latakia borders Idlib province, where some Islamic terror groups continue trying to launch attacks on the Russian bases. In response Russia has brought in a wide array of electronic countermeasures, some of them it uses rarely because it disrupts Israeli GPS systems. Since late 2015 Russian electronic jamming equipment has been arriving in Syria, initially to jam ISIL and NATO communications. In response NATO and Israel have deployed more EW gear and personnel and this has led to a generally unseen (and unreported) electronic war over Syria. Israel demonstrated that they could handle Russian jamming, with the side effect of disrupting Russian air defense systems. As a result of this Russia and Israel added electronic jammers to the list of things they won’t use on each other in Syria. Exceptions are made when the Russian Latakia bases face an unexpected threat. Russia supplies details to Israel. This information is rarely made public.
February 8, 2022: In the West Bank three al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade Islamic terrorists were killed by Israeli troops participating in a army-police effort to arrest them and others responsible for earlier attacks on Israelis. Another Palestinian was arrested and two assault rifles were recovered. Police are still seeking a fifth suspect.
January 31, 2022: In the north, across the border in the Syrian capital Damascus Israel carried out several air strikes against Iranian weapons warehouses operated and guarded by Lebanese Hezbollah gunmen. This was the first Israeli airstrike since Russian announced, on the 24th, that Russian and Syrian warplanes, including early warning aircraft, would conduct joint patrols along Syrians southern borders to detect and prevent airstrikes from Israel. This was all largely symbolic because Israeli warplanes rarely enter Syrian air space to carry out attacks on targets in Syria. Instead, Israel uses air-to-surface missiles launched from Israeli fighters in Israeli, Lebanese or Jordanian air space.
January 26, 2022: In the south (the Egyptian border in Sinai) Israeli troops stopped a major effort by smugglers to being drugs into Israel after sundown. This effort involved the smugglers bringing some wheeled armored vehicles to the border when they opened fire on the Israeli troops as a distraction while unarmed trucks carrying the drugs sought to cross the border. Attracted by the gunfire an Israeli border police vehicle showed up to investigate. The Israeli soldiers mistook the border guard vehicle for a smuggler vehicle coming to pick up the drug shipment. The troops opened fire on the Border Guard vehicle’s tires, to disable it. Two border police were injured. The smuggling effort was thwarted.
January 25, 2022: In the south, across the border in Egyptian Sinai five soldiers were killed while on patrol when an Islamic terrorist roadside bomb exploded near them. This was unusual because the Islamic terrorists in Sinai have been increasingly staying out of sight because the security forces and the local tribes are both looking for then.
January 20, 2022: The Israeli foreign minister spoke on the phone to his Turkish counterpart. This was notable because this was the first such contact in thirteen years. The Turkish Foreign Minister called because he had heard that the Israeli Foreign Minister had contracted covid19, and called to tell his fellow Foreign Minister to get well soon. Until 2000, Turkey and Israel were allies and had close economic and military relationships. That changed in 2000 when Turkish voters elected an Islamic government that pledged to reduce the chronic corruption that was visibly damaging the economy. After about a decade it was clear that the Islamic government was more interested in staying in power than improving the lives of Turks. The Islamic party was also unpopular with many voters because of the new hostility to long-time ally Israel and efforts to regain Turkish influence in the Arab world. The anti-corruption efforts began to unravel and now the economy is a mess and voters are ready to curb the power of the Islamic parties. T
he Turkish Islamic politician, Recep Erdogan is responsible for all these changes since 2000, has been personally running things in Turkey since 2004, first as prime minister and then as president, is trying to repair some of the damage.
Turkey and Israel have been working on improving their diplomatic, economic and military relationships for several years and that effort has been proceeding slowly. At the same time the Turks have been increasingly hostile to Iran and that includes ignoring Iranian requests during the 2020 war between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Turkey sent advisors, armed UAVs and Syrian mercenaries to help the Azeris score their first victory over Armenia in a three-decade long territorial feud. Iran was also unhappy with the fact that the Azeris gave credit to the many Israeli weapons they had purchased over the last decade. This included the Israeli Barak 8 anti-aircraft system which intercepted a number of Russian ballistic missiles fired at Azerbaijan by the Armenians. One of those ballistic missiles was an Iskander, a recent Russian design that was supposed to be more difficult to detect and intercept. Iran is also angry about how its campaign in Syria is proceeding and how unhelpful, or even hostile, their allies Turkey and Russia have been. Russia has been a discreet intermediary between Turkey and Israel and has long urged the Turks to improve relations with Israel. There has been little official notice of this effort, which is what made the Turkish Foreign Minister’s phone call such a big deal.
January 14, 2022: American diplomats declared that Iran has less than a month left to either come up with a realistic approach to negotiations. If the Iranians persist with their unrealistic negotiating tactics, Western efforts to restore the 2015 treaty will evaporate and the Western nations will back, or tolerate the Israeli solution. This was expressed by American diplomats saying that if Iran persists the American would employ other measures. This apparently includes returning to the 2020 level of oil smuggling enforcement and applying more sanctions, as well as letting Israel defend itself. The Americans and their European allies finally came up with an agreement Iran would accept. That was because the agreement basically ignored the Iranian ballistic missile and nuclear programs. Israel responded by increasing its preparations for an air strike on Iranian weapons development targets.