Two conflicting strategic trends are underway in the Middle East these days. The places where they intersect has been a focal point of events in the region for the past few weeks – and may explain why dangers Israeli defense officials have warned of have not yet come to pass, concerning Iranian attempts to attack Israeli targets.
The first development, which has been discussed at length in the past, concerns the rise in Iran’s self-confidence and the aggressive line it is taking – in light of American capitulation in the region and the Trump administration’s clear lack of desire to confront Iran. A new record was set this week, when Tehran declared it had carried out another planned violation of the nuclear agreement.
– Haaretz Weekly Ep. 47
Haaretz Weekly Ep. 47Haaretz
The second development manifested itself only last month with the beginning of the protests in Iraq and Lebanon, directed against their governments supported by Iran. The challenge presented by the protesters has created headaches for the regime in Tehran as well as for its strongman in the region, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, General Hassan Soleimani.
When Soleimani, who is responsible for preparing all the Iranian military forces in Syria, Iraq and other countries, is occupied with handling the daily demonstrations of resolve by protesters in Baghdad and Beirut, it may leave him with less time to carry out the aforementioned plans for revenge against Israel.
Iraqis demonstrate against the government and Iran’s influence on it in Basra, Iraq, October 25, 2019.Nabil al-Jurani,AP
In May 2018, after the decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran, the Trump administration peddled the 12-point plan of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whose focus was applying maximum pressure on Tehran, with the goal of convincing the Iranian regime to change its policy – implying that if the pressure did not succeed, it would indirectly bring about the overthrow of the regime.
A year and a half later, it seems there is no choice but to conclude that the plan has failed – and along with it, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reliance on his friend U.S. President Donald Trump.
The United States has shown restraint in the face of a series of Iranian attacks, the most serious of which came in mid-September and caused widespread damage to Saudi oil facilities. Except for the automatic imposition of additional economic sanctions on Iran, the Americans did not go crazy over the fourth stage of Iranian violations of the nuclear deal, which took place on Wednesday – Renewing the enrichment of uranium by injecting gas into centrifuges at the underground and heavily fortified Fordow nuclear site, along with the activation of new and faster centrifuges. Intelligence sources estimate that by so doing, Iran has shortened the potential breakout time it needs to manufacture nuclear weapons, to less than a year.