In Yemen, Iran Is Preparing for Its Next War with Israel

Sept. 20 2021

In the past few weeks, Houthi rebels backed by Iran have escalated their attacks on Saudi and Emirati positions in Yemen. On September 4, they also launched multiple ballistic-missile and drone attacks on several Aramco facilities within Saudi Arabia. The U.S. removed some of its anti-missile batteries from Saudi Arabia a week later, rendering the kingdom even more vulnerable. The Houthis—who mark every missile and drone launch by chanting their slogan, “God is great, death to America, death to Israel, curse the Jews, and victory for Islam!”—are part of the network of militias and proxy groups Tehran dubs the “axis of resistance,” which also operate in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and the Gaza Strip. Michael Segall writes:

Iran has turned Yemen into its testing range. . . . The repeated Houthi airstrikes on targets deep in Saudi Arabia as well as ground battles in various areas of Yemen against the Saudi-led [anti-Houthi] coalition, provide Iran with extensive knowledge and operational experience in the use of various weapons. In some cases, members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, as well as members of Lebanese Hizballah, are involved in operating the Houthis’ systems and in training. Iran is also closely monitoring the operation of Saudi air-defense systems supplied by the United States.

[Iran diffuses its know-how] through instructors in various areas and visits by Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad operatives to Iran to study the technology and means of production, and to coordinate the smuggling of components for the construction of heavy rockets, missiles, and other weapons. . . . During the May 2021 war in Gaza, several attempts were made by the terrorist organizations to launch Iranian-designed drones into Israeli territory. Iran is constantly working to equip all elements of the axis of resistance with asymmetrical capabilities for striking deep into Israeli territory and the lands of its regional rivals, mainly in the Gulf and Iraq.

In recent years, Iran has been trying to increase the linkage and fine-tune the coordination between the various components of the axis of resistance and improve their military-operational capabilities. According to Iran, the camp will eventually . . . be able . . . to act as one entity during a confrontation with Israel, the United States, or an Arab coalition, whenever Iran decides to do so.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Gaza Strip, Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Yemen

Israel’s Friendship with Iraqi Kurds, and Why Iran Opposes It

In May 2022, the Iraqi parliament passed a law “criminalizing normalization and establishment of relations with the Zionist entity,” banning even public discussion of ending the country’s 76-year state of war with Israel. The bill was a response to a conference, held a few months prior, addressing just that subject. Although the gathering attracted members of various religious and ethnic groups, it is no coincidence, writes Suzan Quitaz, that it took place in Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan:

Himdad Mustafa, an independent researcher based in Erbil, to whom the law would be applied, noted: “When 300 people gathered in Erbil calling for peace and normalization with Israel, the Iraqi government immediately passed a law criminalizing ties with Israel and Israelis. The law is clearly aimed at Kurds.” . . . Qais al-Khazali, secretary-general of Asaib Ahl al-Haq (Coordination Framework), a powerful Iranian-backed Shiite militia, slammed the conference as “disgraceful.”

Himdad explains that the criminalization of Israeli-Kurdish ties is primarily driven by “Kurd-phobia,” and that Kurd-hatred and anti-Semitism go hand-in-hand.

One reason for that is the long history of cooperation Israel and the Kurds of Iraq; another is the conflict between the Kurdish local government and the Iran-backed militias who increasingly control the rest of the country. Quitaz elaborates:

Israel also maintains economic ties with Kurdistan, purchasing Kurdish oil despite objections from Iraq’s central government in Baghdad. A report in the Financial Times discusses investments by many Israeli companies in energy, development sectors, and communications projects in Iraqi Kurdistan, in addition to providing security training and purchasing oil. Moreover, in a poll conducted in 2009 in Iraqi Kurdistan, 71 percent of Kurds supported normalization with Israel. The results are unsurprising since, historically, Israel has had cordial ties with the Kurds in a generally hostile region where Jews and Kurds have fought against the odds with the same Arab enemy in their struggles for a homeland.

The Iranian regime, through its proxies in the Iraqi government, is the most significant source of Kurd-phobia in Iraq and the driving factor fueling tensions. In addition to their explicit threat to Israel, Iranian officials frequently threaten the Kurdish region, and repeatedly accuse the Kurds of working with Israel.

Read more at Jersualem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Iran, Iraq, Israel-Arab relations, Kurds