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Monday, December 3, 2012
The Iranian Role in the 2012 Gaza Conflict

The Iranian Role in the 2012 Gaza Conflict

Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, December 2, 2012
No. 592 November-December 2012
http://jcpa.org/article/the-iranian-role-in-the-2012-gaza-conflict/

During the fighting in Gaza in November 2012, Iran took pains to highlight
its own supply of weapons and means of manufacturing them to the
Palestinians, contrasting the feebleness of the Arabs with its own potency.
Tehran in particular flaunted its role in the supply of rockets, especially
the Fajr-5, that was fired at Tel Aviv. Iran also sought to boost its status
in Arab and Islamic public opinion as the actor that no longer fears Israel
and the Western powers.

The widening rift between the Shiite camp (Iran, Syria, Hizbullah) and the
Sunni camp (led by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and with Egypt’s role in the Gaza
ceasefire) is evident in the conflict arenas in the Middle East (Syria, the
Palestinian arena, Bahrain, Jordan) and stands to greatly influence the
landscape of the region. Egypt, playing a central role in determining the
new regional order, will likely find itself in confrontation with Iran.
Turkey is already confronting Iran over regional hegemony and influence,
with Syria as a front line.

The regional and international dynamic that accompanied the crisis, along
with Israel’s successful deflections of Iranian missiles fired at its
cities, puts Iran in a problematic position of growing isolation. Iran’s
negative role in the region again emerged and its ongoing attempts to win
the hearts and minds of the Arab street are failing due to its role in
militarily supporting the repressive Assad regime.

The latest round between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza did not occur
in isolation from the dramatic changes that are reshaping the Middle East.
It also became clear that the
different arenas of change – both those that have already changed and those
in the process of doing so – have tight interlinkages that reinforce and
influence each other.

On the strategic level, the forces acting in these arenas are the same ones
that are organizing into camps along national and religious lines – a Shiite
camp versus a Sunni camp. The more the Iranian threat and influence on the
loci of conflict grows, the more the outlines of each camp emerge. The
profound gaps between Arabs and Persians, Sunnis and Shiites, only grow
deeper as the threat from Iran mounts.

Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza, like the ongoing crisis in Syria,
constitutes a sort of microcosm of the processes of change reshaping the
Middle East. Certain veteran players of weighty historical and cultural
backgrounds aspire to hegemony and have consolidated their capabilities and
leverage for the battle.

Iranian Involvement in Gaza

Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense, during which hundreds of rockets were
fired at Israel from Gaza, clearly revealed Iran’s key role in providing
weapons and the means for their production to Palestinian organizations in
Gaza. It was also the first time that senior Iranian spokesmen have openly
and proudly acknowledged that Iran is channeling military aid, including
advanced Fajr-3 (Dawn) and Fajr-5 rockets, to these groups. The deputy
secretary-general of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Ziad Nakhle, told
Hizbullah’s Al-Manar TV that “the weapons in the hands of the Palestinian
resistance are Iranian from the individual bullet to the missiles and their
production plants.?1 The PIJ website posted a video of the launching of a
Fajr-3 at the Israeli city of Bat Yam. Moreover, Gaza residents have started
naming children born during and after the operation “Fajr-3? and “Fajr-5? to
express their esteem and gratitude to Iran for supplying these missiles and
others to Gaza.2

Pillar of Defense, like Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008-9 and the Second
Lebanon War in 2006, gave Iran another opportunity to demonstrate its
commitment to the struggle against Israel. Yet the operation, the most
extensive Israeli campaign in Gaza since the Arab Spring, also revealed Iran’s
problematic regional position and limitations amid the dramatic changes
occurring in the Middle East, particularly its growing isolation and
negative impact on regional processes.

Iran’s behavior during the crisis, along with its ongoing, active assistance
to President Bashar Assad in militarily suppressing the rebellion in Syria,
again illustrates Iran’s great sense of confidence amid the disintegration
of the Arab camp. Iranian spokesmen have harshly criticized the behavior of
Arab countries and the Arab League that “meet and condemn? without really
helping Palestinians defend themselves. In that context, Iran took pains to
highlight its own supply of weapons to the Palestinians, contrasting the
feebleness of the Arabs with its own potency. In the past, Iran has
responded to accusations about its weapons supplies to the Palestinians by
claiming that it only supports the Palestinians morally. This time Tehran
made a point of its assistance to the Palestinians and no longer bothered
trying to conceal it.

Thereby Iran – having been sidelined by the involvement of Egypt, Turkey,
and the United States – tried to show that without its participation there
will be no possibility of advancing any settlement in the region. Iran also
sought to boost its status in Arab and Islamic public opinion as the actor
that no longer fears Israel and the Western powers, but it failed mainly due
to its ongoing support for the Assad regime.

Emergent Camps

The regional and international reactions to Pillar of Defense also afforded
a special glimpse into the camps and coalitions forming in the region in the
context of the Arab Spring, particularly the emergent division between Sunni
and Shiite camps. The pattern of reactions and policies toward the Gaza
operation is largely similar to the case of Syria. On one side, Qatar and
Saudi Arabia call for Assad’s overthrow; on the other, Iran says Assad is
“fighting for his survival? and accuses Qatar and Saudi Arabia of trying to
topple him and activating terror groups against him. Iran leveled similar
accusations at Qatar during the Gaza operation, claiming Israel’s campaign
against Hamas came hard on the heels of the emir of Qatar’s visit to Gaza
and was even coordinated with him.

The widening rift between the Shiite camp (Iran, Syria, Hizbullah) and the
Sunni camp (led by Saudi Arabia and Qatar) is evident in the conflict arenas
in the Middle East (Syria, the Palestinian arena, Bahrain, Jordan) and
stands to greatly influence the landscape of the region. Egypt, playing a
central role in determining the new regional order, will likely find itself
in confrontation with Iran, where there are already insinuations about Morsi
and his ties with the United States. Iran will probably keep supporting
anti-Morsi elements in Egypt in an effort to weaken him, especially if he
acts to monitor and curtail the flow of Iranian weapons to Hamas and the key
Iranian proxy in Gaza – Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

In the short and medium term, Iran is also on a path of full confrontation
with Turkey over regional hegemony and influence. As noted, Iran was not
involved in ending the Gaza crisis and its efforts to send its foreign
minister and a parliamentary delegation to Gaza to express support were
apparently blocked by Egypt’s refusal to approve passage through Rafah
during the fighting.3 The Turkish foreign minister, however, was able to
visit. Nevertheless Iranian officials maintain that their request for a
visit to Gaza is being processed by Egypt.

New Equations

For Iran, which finds itself outside the regional power equations for
resolving crises, nothing is left but to influence them negatively – through
military aid, subversion, and terror (as in the recent revelation of
Hizbullah involvement in a terror attack in Bahrain). Iran thereby seeks to
prove that it is a player that must be taken into account in the regional
arena; nuclear progress is meant to give Iran greater room to maneuver in
this context. The assistance to Palestinian organizations during the Gaza
operation served as a smokescreen aimed at deflecting international concern
about the latest IAEA report with its grave findings about Iran’s nuclear
program.4

In the military sphere, notwithstanding the large number of missiles Iran
has succeeded to smuggle into Gaza (an achievement in itself), the
impressive feats of Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system in
intercepting missiles aimed at population centers places a large question
mark over the Iranian asymmetrical-war doctrine to which Iran devotes so
much effort. The stationing of similar systems in the Gulf States, or their
addition to staging areas in case of a military operation against Iran,
could undermine the response Iran is planning for a possible conflict and/or
attack on its nuclear facilities. In this regard Yadollah Javani, former
Politburo Chief of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has
termed Turkey’s decision to deploy Patriot missiles along its border with
Syria “another strategic mistake.?5

Iran Calls to Arm the Palestinians

Many senior Iranian spokesmen have fully acknowledged that Iran supplied
rockets of different types, including Fajr-3s and Fajr-5s, and other
military assistance to the Palestinians in Gaza and have expressed
preparedness to join the Palestinians in the fight “until Israel is
destroyed.? The commander of the IRGC, Mohammad Ali Jafari, said Iran had
transferred technologies for the production of Fajr-5s to Gaza and that
these missiles were being manufactured there.6 The commander of the Basij –
the volunteer arm of the IRGC – said that “the Basij forces are counting the
moments until the order is given to liberate Jerusalem, and on this matter
we are only waiting for an order from the [Supreme] Leader….Have no doubt at
all, the destruction of the Israeli regime is very near.?7

The chairman of the Majlis (Iranian parliament), Ali Larijani, said Iran
proudly supported the Palestinian people and Hamas and had provided them
with military and financial aid. He promised: “You should rest assured that
the Zionist regime (of Israel) has harder days ahead.?8 He added that the
Arab states that hold gatherings and conferences should know that the
Palestinians do not need lectures and summits but rather military
assistance.9

IRGC Quds Force commander Qasam Suleimani said that, in one way or another,
the roots of all the resistance movements currently active in the region and
the world lie in the era of the Iran-Iraq War. He added that extraordinary
events can occur in any war, as seen in the Second Lebanon War and in
Operation Cast Lead, and that “the outcomes of the operation [Pillar of
Defense] that the occupying regime [Israel] is conducting against Gaza are
known beforehand.?10

Broadly hinting at Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Larijani called on Arab states to
dispatch forces, weapons, and equipment to the Palestinians for use against
Israel, and not to Syria for use in clashes between the different Muslim
groups there. Larijani also criticized U.S. president Barack Obama, who “has
honored his preelection promises to support Israel.?11

The deputy chairman of the Majlis, Hujjat al-Islam Abu Torabi, referred to
Iran’s capabilities in the region and said, “There can be no doubt that it
is the power of the armed forces of Iran that is on display today in Gaza
and is trampling the Zionist regime into the sand of failure and shame.?12

Along with the public declarations, a long series of articles were published
in Iran praising the Fajr missiles provided to the Palestinians and their
great effectiveness. Caricatures also reflected the mood in the country;
many of these (see Appendix) also exalted the Iranian missiles, condemned
the timorous Arab and Turkish position and the United States’ indifference
to the “slaughter in Gaza,? purported to show the penetrability of the Iron
Dome system by Iranian and Palestinian missiles, and lauded the
steadfastness of the Palestinians.

Perfect for Asymmetric Wars

Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency published an editorial titled “Fajr-5,
World Class Rockets for Asymmetric Warfare.? It stated, among other things,
that

“Israel was shocked and later pushed to reassess its calculations after
Palestinian groups responded…with a stunning retaliation….Israel was
surprised when Palestinians in Gaza targeted Tel Aviv, 70 km. away from the
foremost Palestinian territories, for the first time….Things grew worse…when
Hamas later on targeted Herzliya (11 km. north of Tel Aviv). The strategic
weapon which has changed the scene of the war between Israel and
Palestinians is a rocket known as Fajr-5 (Dawn 5)…described by the world
military experts as a weapon system appropriate for asymmetric wars, where
the military power of the conflicting sides differs significantly….The
Fajr-5 is a solid fuel, non-fixed-wing 333 mm. rocket designed and optimized
for artillery missions to hit the enemy’s command and control, logistic,
radar, communication, economic and political centers. It is a rocket with a
75 km. range, a payload of 178 kg. and a speed of 1009 meters per second.
The two-stage version of Fajr-5 rockets are the most effective and longest
range of the Fajr-class rockets….Fajr-3 is an optimized version of 240 mm.
Fajr-2 rockets but with a range of 43 km. and a 85 kg. payload.?13

Dissenting Voices in Iran

In Iran, some voices (not many) criticized the glorification of the supply
of Fajrs to the Palestinians. Some tried to play down the support, as a
foreign ministry spokesman said: “Iran has always announced that it sides
with the Palestinian nation spiritually and has voiced its preparedness to
send humanitarian, medical and reconstruction aid.?14 Yet criticism has been
leveled at the sizable aid Iran gives to the Palestinians and to Syria at
the expense of the Iranian people, whose lot has deteriorated with the
tightening of sanctions. An editorial on the Asr-e Iran website asks why
Iran is insisting that the Fajr-5s are of its own make. It cites numerous
headlines and reports in the Iranian media boasting that

““Iranian missiles found their way to the heart of Tel Aviv? and the
like….Undoubtedly many of the citizens of Iran, including the media, support
the “oppressed and unfortunate? and these revolutionary headlines [according
to which Fajr-5 is an Iranian missile] can perhaps soothe the heart in the
face of the Israeli army’s crimes in Gaza and stir Iranian pride, but one
must note that there are also two main downsides here: characterizing the
missiles as Iranian compromises the efforts and valor of the Palestinian
resistance fighters and arrogates to Iran the pride of the struggle against
Israel; and there are legal and political implications of headlines of this
kind – at the moment dozens of court cases are pending against Iran in the
United States, Europe, and other Western countries, and in some of the
rulings already given Iran was required to pay hundreds of millions of
dollars in compensation to the injured and the victims of events in Lebanon
and Palestine. The excuse used in these rulings was Iran’s support and
arming of groups such as Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas. Hence, even if
Fajr-5 missiles were really sent to Hamas by Iran…there is no need to
proclaim this publicly and in the media since, while these things may sound
good to us today, tomorrow they could have legal implications for the regime
on the international level.?

Claims of Ineffectiveness for the Iron Dome

Along with the emphasis on the decisive role of the Fajr-3s and Fajr-5s
during Pillar of Defense, various Iranian spokesmen underscored the
penetrability and ineffectiveness of the Iron Dome interception system.
Basij commander Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi termed as a “media
campaign? Israel’s claims about Iron Dome’s interceptions and said the
Palestinians’ successful rocket and missile attacks revealed the system’s
vulnerability and uselessness, adding that “even a hand-made Palestinian
rocket penetrates Iron Dome.? Brigadier General Massoud Jazzayeri, deputy
chief of staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, dismissed Iron Dome’s
importance, saying that “the rockets fired by the Palestinian resistance
forces can hit any target desired.?15

Iranian Criticism of Arab Countries

In the context of Pillar of Defense, there was also harsh criticism in Iran
of Arab countries that, even under the new conditions fostered by the Arab
Spring, continue to remain passive. Abdollah Haji Sadeqi, representative of
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in the IRGC, asserted that Israel’s operation in
Gaza and the Western support it received were actually intended to cover up
and divert public attention from the failure in Syria, and that the
operation had received a go-ahead from some of the Arab states. Sadeqi
strongly reproved the heads of Arab states for their silence and said it was
tantamount to “indifference toward Islam itself and toward their citizens.?16

Amid the growing hostility, tension, and mudslinging between the emergent
Shiite and Sunni camps in the region, a notable item was published by the
Fars News Agency, which is associated with the IRGC. It quoted a
knowledgeable source who claimed that the homes and offices of senior Hamas
officials had been identified during the historic visit to Gaza of the emir
of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and subsequently served as
targets for Israeli attacks. The same source also pointed out that during
his visit the emir gave watches and pens as gifts to heads of Hamas; these,
allegedly, sent low-frequency signals to Israeli satellites that helped
locate Hamas leaders during the operation.17

Conversely, the Gulf and pan-Arab media highlighted Iran’s key role in
pushing for a campaign in Gaza and its ongoing efforts to undermine regional
stability through subversion and terror in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Lebanon,
and “Palestine.?18 Iran, for its part, claimed that the European countries’
shutdown of its satellite channels was an effort to boost Israel’s
operation, given their fear of coverage by Iran’s English-language Press TV
as during Operation Cast Lead, when Press TV broadcast images of Israel’s
alleged use of nonconventional weapons. In the course of Pillar of Defense,
Press TV claimed that its reporters and broadcasters had several times
served as targets for Israeli attacks “because of its objective coverage.?19

“Only Death Suits Israel?

During the Gaza operation, editorials and commentaries were published in
Iran that well reflect Tehran’s belligerent ideological mood and growing
self-confidence. These reviled Israel and claimed that the saying “Only
death suits it? was justified by its barbaric behavior. The editor of
Kayhan, Hasin Shriatmadari, who usually reflects Khamenei’s view and serves
as his representative on the newspaper, wrote in an editorial during the
operation headlined “It’s Not for Sale!?:

“They say that in the not-so-distant past, a villager brought his donkey to
the bazaar and called out that he wanted to sell it. But whoever took an
interest in the donkey and got close to it received a kick for his efforts
and fled. A few people who had watched this told the villager that he should
take his donkey away from the place because no one would buy it. The
villager responded: “I didn’t bring this wild donkey to sell it! I just
wanted everyone to see what I suffer from this donkey so that if one day you
hear that I beat him to death, no one will accuse me or start some
animal-rights campaign or UN commission in protest!??

Shriatmadari goes on to equate the donkey with Israel and asserts that Hamas’
military, and particularly missile, capability has grown many times over
since 2008 and that, furthermore, Hamas now has new missiles with a range of
tens – and possibly, eventually, hundreds – of kilometers. The Muslim
peoples of the region, Shriatmadari claims, are counting the minutes toward
a direct confrontation with Israel. He stresses that, if in previous decades
the Israeli regime could inspire fear with its fierceness, today, amid the
mounting tide of the Islamic awakening that stems from Iran’s Islamic
Revolution, this wild dog only barks without scaring anyone. Shriatmadari
concludes by saying “all evidence indicates that the wild, rabid dog, or
wild donkey, has proved more than ever with this latest attack on Gaza that
death is the only means of purifying the region’s political geography of
this regime, particularly now when the Muslim peoples are counting the
seconds to fight face to face and take revenge on this bacterium of
corruption and destruction.?20

In an editorial on the website of Press TV, which is directly subordinate to
Khamenei, Mohyeddin Sajedi discussed Tehran’s broader regional perspectives
on the war under the headline “War on Gaza and Change in Equations.? The
article settled scores with all of Iran’s Arab opponents in the regional and
international system including the external leadership of Hamas, who, unlike
those directly engaged in the struggle with Israel, sit in “ventilated
palaces in the Gulf states.? As Sajedi writes:

“Regardless of the outcome of the ongoing war on Gaza…Israel’s deterrence
power has never been completely reconstructed since the 2006 war. [This is]
despite the enormous amount of money that the U.S. and Israel have spent for
manufacturing missile shields.…On the contrary, the power of the missiles of
the Palestinian resistance has cemented Gaza’s deterrence power….After the
Hizbullah leader threatened to retaliate [against] any strike against Beirut
with a counterstrike against Tel Aviv, the Palestinian resistance has become
able to put forth the Gaza-Tel Aviv equation.…

The change in the regional balance of power has been the most substantial
development since the Gaza war four years ago. At that time, Egypt was the
key U.S. ally…the situation enabled the U.S. and its allies to oppose any
initiative by the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance movements. Therefore,
it was natural for the incumbent governments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and
Jordan to establish overt or clandestine alliances with Israel….

Now the situation has changed. The old Middle East order has been replaced
with a nascent one.…The new governments in Egypt and Tunisia – and in a
weaker sense in Yemen and Morocco – have ideological roots….Israel seeks to
test the role of “political Islam? in the newly reformed Arab countries by
attacking Gaza and assess the level of sensitivity in those countries.…The
crushing response of the Palestinian resistance to the Israeli attack has
even left the Turkish and Qatari governments in a predicament. These
governments spared no efforts to overthrow the Syrian government and supply
the insurgents with military and financial support. But when it came to
Gaza, Doha and Ankara merely called on the U.S. to take immediate measures
to call [a] truce. The predicament also exists for the Hamas leaders
overseas. Those who continue resistance in Gaza and fire missiles at Israel
are much closer to the Lebanese resistance than those who reside at the
ventilated palaces in Doha.?21

Syria Affects Hamas-Iran Relations

It is worth emphasizing that the turn for the worse in Iranian-Hamas
relations (especially with regard to Hamas’ external leadership and its
headquarters in Damascus) unfolded gradually after the rise of the Arab
Spring and the Assad regime’s violent repression of the revolt (over forty
thousand dead so far). The Alawite regime in Damascus, which in the past was
“certified? to be part of the Shiite sect, tried to harness Hamas to the
fight against the rebels. The Hamas leadership, however, in contrast to
Hizbullah, refused to take part and eventually was forced to leave its
headquarters in Damascus and take refuge in Qatar and Egypt, to Iran’s
consternation. Although Iran and the Hamas leadership exchanged
recriminations, Iran continued to supply the “field,? that is, the military
leadership of Hamas and Islamic Jihad (an organization totally subordinate
to Tehran), with missiles and aid. After taking over Gaza in 2007, Hamas
fell into regional and pan-Arab isolation and drew close to Iran. Now, with
the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise in Egypt, Hamas’ leadership – or at least its
external leadership – sees a need to warm up relations with Egypt at Tehran’s
expense.

Some Iranian media outlets have criticized Hamas’ ungrateful behavior
towards Iran following the Gaza operation. The hard-line Tabnak website,
close to Expediency Council secretary and former IRGC commander Mohsen Reza’i,
criticized Cairo-based Mousa Abu Marzook, the deputy chief of Hamas’
political bureau: “Iran’s position in the Arab world, it’s no longer a good
position….It has to address its position, so as not to lose public
opinion….Iran asked Hamas to adopt a position closer to Syria. Hamas
refused, and this has affected our relationship with Iran.?22

Tabnak published another article under the headline: “Why Have the Leaders
of Hamas Become Forgetful?? maintaining that from the outset “the problem of
forgetfulness day by day is becoming more acute among the Hamas
authorities.? The article then tackles Abu Marzook personally. “These
comments come when immediately after the ceasefire between the Zionist
regime [Israel] and the resistance forces, Khaled Meshal, Hamas’ political
bureau chief, and Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of the Palestinian
government in Gaza, in the course of separate statements, while thanking
Iran’s action in support of Palestine, emphasized the pre-eminent role of
Iran in the victory of the resistance front….The leaders of Hamas…have shown
that their (political) stance in the calm of Egypt has pronounced
differences with their position during the war and in Gaza!…Nevertheless,
these people shouldn’t forget the difference between the action of Arab
countries and Turkey in the recent crisis in Gaza and the action of
Iran….These individuals admit that, if not for the military support of Iran,
Hamas’ “diplomacy? and the actions of Arab and Turkish friends couldn’t
solve the problem.?23 Ahamadinejad held separate phone calls with the heads
of Hamas and the PIJ urging unity among Palestinian groups.24

A Mixed But Negative Balance for Iran

The war’s end left Iran with a mixed balance sheet. On the positive side
(from its standpoint), the advanced Fajr rockets enabled the Palestinians to
strike “the heart of Tel Aviv.? Iran sees this as an achievement consistent
with its national-security concept that its first line of defense runs along
Israel’s southern and northern borders. Furthermore, it showed that despite
the irresolution of the Arabs and amid the changing conditions of the Middle
East, Iran translates its willingness to assist into action. It does not
settle for verbiage, meetings, and condemnations, but instead extends
military and other assistance to the Palestinians, while not being deterred
by Israeli and U.S. reactions.

Pillar of Defense served, in reality, as a sort of rehearsal for another
possible scenario – an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities and a response in
the south and north of Israel. As Tehran sees it, even if problematic Hamas
does not come through, the fully obedient Islamic Jihad can fill in and
inflame the area. It was, in fact, Islamic Jihad fighters who fired a Kornet
missile at an Israeli jeep before the operation began.

Still on the positive side, if Iran ponders the violent clashes between
Israel and its neighbors to the south and north, then from its standpoint –
as the one that inspires, arms, trains, and funds Hizbullah, Hamas, and
Islamic Jihad – these groups honorably passed difficult tests and bested
Israel. As Iranian defense minister Ahmad Vahidi said immediately upon the
end of the war:

“The victory of the Gazans in the 8-day war [Operation Pillar of Defense]
constitutes a continuation of the victories of the 22-day war [Operation
Cast Lead] and the 33-day war [the Second Lebanon War]….These victories
indicate the fragility of the Zionist entity….The Palestinians strengthened
their power of deterrence and created the equation Gaza-Tel Aviv and caused
Israel to hesitate over whether to continue the war.?

Vahidi also likened the Hizbullah drone that penetrated Israeli air space to
the Hamas missiles that got through Iron Dome, and asserted that jihad and
martyrdom had again proved the effectiveness of the struggle against
Israel.25 In addition, a recent grave report on Iran’s nuclear program
published by the secretary-general of the IAEA was pushed to the media
sidelines and overlooked in the international arena.

Yet apart from these positive aspects from Iran’s standpoint, the regional
and international dynamic that accompanied the current crisis, along with
Israel’s successful deflections of Iranian missiles fired at its cities,
puts Iran in a problematic position of growing isolation:

? Iran stands more and more by itself: Iran’s problematic relations and
tensions with its Arab neighbors in the Gulf (Qatar and Saudi Arabia), and
with Turkey on the background of the crisis in Syria, were also manifested
during Pillar of Defense. As in its involvement in Syria, Iran pours oil on
a bonfire that its neighbors want to snuff out. Iran did not take part in
the talks leading to the end of the fighting.

? There is still no clear end in Syria: Operation Pillar of Defense did not,
as Iran hoped, succeed to divert attention from what is happening in
Damascus, and in fact highlighted Iran’s negative involvement in sensitive
crisis areas. Tehran’s continuing insistence on supporting the Syrian
president’s violent suppression of dissent is deepening and isolating Iran
in the Arab world and is likely to seriously harm its standing in the period
following Assad’s fall.

? Iran’s negative role in the region again emerged: Iran’s flaunting of its
supply of advanced rockets and attempts to further inflame the situation
linked it, in the eyes of some actors in the regional and international
arenas, to the “axis of evil? along with its subversive activity in Bahrain,
Kuwait, Yemen, and North African countries. The exposure of Hizbullah’s
involvement in a terror attack in Bahrain has only intensified the
trepidation surrounding Iran.

? The peoples of the Arab Spring (or Islamic Awakening) behaved as in the
past: The “Arab street’s? response to the IDF operation in Gaza was no
different from such responses before the Arab Spring. Iran’s calls for
greater involvement are no less shrill in the Arab Spring era, indicating
that, notwithstanding the sweeping changes in the region, there remain
profound gaps between Arabs and Persians, Sunnis and Shiites, which only
grow deeper as the threat from Iran mounts.

? The sense of threat from Iran’s nuclear program has only intensified: Even
though the IAEA secretary-general’s report was relegated to the margins, the
Gaza hostilities pointed to the danger of an escalating conventional clash
in the region in scenarios where Iran would have nuclear weapons and might
use them, whether on the Syrian, Lebanese, or Palestinian fronts.

? A question mark hovers over the asymmetric-warfare doctrine: Iron Dome’s
proven effectiveness against missile attacks will likely cause Iran to
rethink the efficacy of asymmetric warfare, which has been its preferred
doctrine in light of its technological inferiority to Western armies. This
pertains particularly to missile fire at different ranges on economic,
military, and civilian targets in future campaigns in Iran’s vicinity,
including its threats to oil facilities and foreign bases in the Gulf
States.

Interlinkage Typifies the Middle East

In sum, the latest round between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza did not
occur in isolation from the dramatic changes that are reshaping the Middle
East. It also became clear that the different arenas of change – both those
that have already changed and those in the process of doing so – have tight
interlinkages that reinforce and influence each other. On the strategic
level, the forces acting in these arenas are the same ones that are
organizing into camps along national and religious lines – a Shiite camp
versus a Sunni camp. The more the Iranian threat and influence on the loci
of conflict grows, the more the outlines of each camp emerge.

Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza, like the ongoing crisis in Syria,
constitutes a sort of microcosm of the processes of change reshaping the
Middle East. Certain veteran players of weighty historical and cultural
background aspire to hegemony and have consolidated their capabilities and
leverage for the battle.

The Diplomatic Hourglass

Meanwhile, in another arena, the international diplomatic effort – sterile
so far – to contain Iran’s nuclear program continues. The sand in the
diplomatic hourglass is running out as Iran advances (as the latest IAEA
report reveals) in its nuclear program, particularly regarding the aspects
of enrichment (with all the centrifuges now installed at Fordo) and the
quantity of enriched uranium.

Iran will have to decide between a revolutionary ideology that strives for
nuclear weapons and seeks to dye the Middle East in Islamic colors of the
revolutionary, Khomeinist variant, and responsible political behavior. Iran’s
conduct during the Gaza crisis, particularly its flaunting of its missile
supply and role in escalating the situation in the face of all efforts to
calm it, show that Tehran has already decided that it is prepared to pay any
price in the fight for its revolutionary ideology.

* * *

Notes

1.
http://www.almanar.com.lb/adetails.php?eid=351851&frid=21&seccatid=22&cid=21&fromval=1

2. http://saraya.ps/index.php?act=Show&id=25327

3.
http://old.irna.ir/News/Politic/Iranian-MPs-waiting-for-Egyptians-permission-to-visit-Gaza/80424361

4.
http://www.isis-online.org/uploads/isis-reports/documents/Iran_safeguards_report_November_2012.pdf

5. http://www.javanonline.ir/vdcbawba0rhb9fp.uiur.html

6. http://www.alalam.ir/news/1399754

7. http://www.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=13910827000387

8.
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2012/11/24/274282/tougher-days-lie-in-store-for-israel/

9. http://ir.voanews.com/content/iran-hamas-larijani/1550224.html;
http://www.farsnews.com/plarg.php?nn=305193&st=629075

10. http://www.mehrnews.com/fa/newsdetail.aspx?NewsID=1746380

11. http://tinyurl.com/ceq8prt

12. http://www.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=13910828000153

13. http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=9107120856

14. http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=9107122334

15. http://abna.ir/data.asp?lang=3&id=365797

16.
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2012/11/18/273113/arab-leaders-blamed-for-gaza-attack/

17. http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=9107119940;
http://www.farsnews.com/plarg.php?nn=305935&st=630535

18. http://www.alittihad.ae/wajhatdetails.php?id=69376

19.
http://www.irna.ir/en/News/80419521/Politic/Cutting_off_Iranian_TVs_from_satellite_broadcasts,_prelude_to_Gaza_invasion

20. http://www.kayhannews.ir/910828/2.htm#other200

21.
http://www.presstv.com/detail/2012/11/20/273404/war-on-gaza-and-change-in-equations/;
http://www.farsnews.com/plarg.php?nn=308604&st=634999

22.
http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/62362-hamas-iran-losing-arab-sympathy-for-backing-assad

23. Tabnak, http://tinyurl.com/ckfwvgv

24. http://president.ir/fa/43508; http://president.ir/fa/43507

25. http://www.abna.ir/data.asp?lang=1&id=366928

Publication: Jerusalem Viewpoints
Filed Under: Israeli Security, Palestinians
Tags: gaza, Iran, Iranian missiles, israel, middle east, Palestinians

About Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall

IDF Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael (Mickey) Segall, an expert on strategic issues
with a focus on Iran, terrorism, and the Middle East, is a senior analyst at
the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the Terrogence company.

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