Tehran - Tel Aviv, Unmasked Confrontation
Tehran - Tel Aviv, Unmasked Confrontation
As the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 over the former’s nuclear program falter, the eyes of security officials turn to Istanbul, or any other city that could potentially become a theater of conflict between the intelligence agencies of Tehran and Tel Aviv.
Indeed, Turkish and Israeli sources have spoken of the specter of Tehran retaliating by hitting Israeli targets in Turkey after Iran accused the Mossad of being behind a series of assassinations against Iranian nuclear scientists and senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps figures.
The nature of security services’ line of work everywhere in the world prevents them from publicly claiming responsibility for any assassination. While the nature of the recent attacks in Tehran has naturally led it to accuse the Mossad of being behind them, only one side, Israel, is waging attacks.
Inside Iran and in all the countries with a stake in the security and stability of the Middle East, Iran’s retaliation is being awaited, as is the potential retaliation to the Iranian retaliation, which could open the floodgates to a broad regional conflict that could see direct clashes between the two countries.
This prospect was made all the more real by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s statement before the Knesset. “I have guided the defense establishment, and we have prepared [plans] for a powerful response and will implement them if necessary…We will know how to respond at the time, place and means of our choosing, to any belligerent act by Iran, in any dimension and in any place—physical or in cyberspace.”
The most dangerous aspect of Gantz’s statement is that it raised the prospect of involving the army this time. The army is prepared to retaliate to any eventuality, meaning that the two sides’ shadow war, which has been going on for years, could soon be fought in the open.
In fact, the faltering Vienna negotiations, the US leniency with Tel Aviv, and the Europeans’ flexibility with Tehran all push in this direction and could help and encourage both parties (Iran and Israel) to achieve some of their goals through direct clashes, which would threaten regional and international stability. This dangerous state of affairs has left everyone eager to facilitate a return to the negotiating table; otherwise, preparations for a broader, more dangerous scenario could be made.
Tel Aviv has evidently been mobilizing against an attack on Israeli targets abroad for weeks, which Hossein Taeb, the head of the IRGC’s Intelligence Organization, had been planning.
At the time, Tel Aviv revealed that Taeb, whose position was under threat, had been pressured to take action by the senior leadership after his failure to protect prominent Iranian nuclear and missile experts. He must retaliate to prove his work and restore Iran’s prestige after a series of successful infiltrations that allowed the Mossad to achieve goals, almost on a daily basis, that had been almost impossible before.
However, Tehran killed any Israeli doubts over Taeb’s position after dismissing him from his post on Thursday morning. Israel was thus behind the removal of one of the most important intelligence figures in the history of the IRGC.
It seems that Tel Aviv is convinced that Tehran has to retaliate, that the latter has become embarrassed and has no option but to launch its own strikes.
Senior Israeli officials have thus warned of retaliation in Istanbul, where Turkish and Israeli authorities confirmed reports that Tehran is preparing to carry out retaliatory attacks against Israeli targets on Turkish territory and in other countries.
This confirmation was made within the context of improved relations between Ankara and Tel Aviv as the two presidents discussed the safety of Israeli tourists in Turkey and Turkish efforts to thwart Iranian plans. The two presidents (Turkish and Israeli) agreed that the threat remains and has not been eliminated by the arrest of terror cells in Istanbul. And so, they both emphasized “the importance of continued coordination and cooperation until all the cells are arrested and all the threats are eliminated.”
And so, Israel has the upper hand so far, as is evident from the attacks on Syria and Iran… In the past, Tehran remained silent as it avoided “getting dragged into a position the enemy wants to see it in,” as it claims. But now, a response has become necessary. But does it have the capacity to retaliate, and is it ready to pay the costs that would come with such a retaliation? Only Hossein Taeb’s replacement Mohammad Kazemi knows for sure.