Signals from Iran

The “signals” that some manner of action may be in the offing against Iran have accelerated, but the signals, this time, do not come from the west.

Iran has threatened to “go after” Israeli President Netanyahu in the event of an Israeli strike. Likely, nothing more than a continuation of the constant spew of rhetorical threats arriving from Iran on a regular basis.

More significant, than continuing threats, Iran has, reportedly, summoning high level Syrian cabinet officials and Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hiz’bAllah in Lebanon. (Kuwaiti Newspaper al-Sayissa) The Iranian alliance with Syria and Hiz’bAllah has been seen by Iran as an alliance with the potential to engage Israel in a multi front war should Israel strike at Iran.

The Iranian calculus has long considered an Israeli strike as a high probability consequence. The Iranian alliances attempt to create deterrence against such a strike. The alliance has been looked at by many as strange bedfellows based on the religious sects involved amongst the three players. However, antipathy toward Israel has, for now, bound them together, secured with Iranian money, training and weapons.

The question is can the idea of a three front attack on Israel morph into an operational plan acceptable to the players and, does the alliance hang together in the face of plan execution? Israel’s last major military training exercise considered exactly the three front scenarios, Syria and Hiz’bAllah know this well as the exercise was, likely, for their benefit. Should the Kuwaiti reporting be true, the fact that Syria and Hiz’bAllah have been summoned to Tehran tends to signal that Iran may believe that a strike is close at hand and is weighing the balance of time between an expected strike and an expected breakthrough in their nuclear program. 

Iran, this week, has faced new disclosures that essentially remove most doubt, if there ever was any, that a nuclear weapon is the end game for Iran. Simultaneously, Iran has executed a successful test of a new missile long rumored to be the expected delivery vehicle for such a weapon as it matches the requirements represented in the leaked war head design drawings originating with A.Q. Khan.

The incursion into Iraq by Iran last week was also a signal, but not to Iraq but the U.S. The Iranians have been deeply involved in Iraq since the onset of the war and the incursion is a reminder of Iranian capabilities in southern Iraq.

Iran has also ratcheted up the pressure on Russia to deliver the new S300 anti aircraft system, a highly sophisticated system and perhaps as good as anything in the NATO arsenal. Should the S300 be delivered, the prospects for a successful Israeli air strike become much, much more tenuous if not downright unlikely.

The actual near term red-line for the Israelis may not be Iranian nuclear program progress but the delivery of the S300s. The Israeli’s could be forced to decide weather to preemptively take out the S300’s prior to deployment. While taking out the S300’s could be a limited operation the results and reactions may not be dissimilar to a full scale operation.

The Russians will, of course, cry foul! The Russians, however, have been paid for the S300 system so the outrage is likely to fade quickly. The delays in the delivery of the system have the Iranians perhaps wondering if a knife in the back from the Russians is more a question of when and not if.

The signals are not good news.