Israel Expands its Shadow War Against Iran

June 17, 2022 | Jonathan Spyer
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In recent months, Jonathan Spyer reports, Israeli operations on Iranian soil have moved beyond targeted attacks on nuclear personnel and facilities. This shift is not merely tactical in nature, he argues. Rather it reflects Prime Minister Naftali Bennet’s perception, shared by many in the security establishment, that Tehran’s nuclear program cannot be viewed in isolation from its broader plan for regional domination.

While serving as defense minister in February 2020, Mr. Bennett told Israeli reporters: “When the octopus tentacles hit you, you must fight back not just against the tentacles, but also make sure to suffocate the head. . . . For years on end, we have fought against the Iranian tentacles in Lebanon, Syria, and the Gaza Strip, but we have not focused enough on weakening Iran itself. Now we are changing the paradigm.”

Israel sees Iran as engaged in a comprehensive, strategic drive intended to result in Tehran’s emergence as the dominant or hegemonic power in the Middle East. The destruction of Israel is a key element in this strategy. This project focuses on political and proxy military activity, investment in Iran’s ballistic-missile program, and the development of a nuclear capacity intended as a kind of insurance policy for the other two elements.

The Jewish state, in turn, is in the process of formulating and implementing a comprehensive response. A counter-envelopment of Iran through deepening ties with states surrounding it—including Azerbaijan to the north and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia to the southwest—forms part of this approach. Israel’s 2021 transfer to the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility offers potential for making these growing links operational in key areas, such as missile defense.

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