Homemade Explosive Targets Australian Diplomatic Vehicle
Homemade Explosive Targets Australian Diplomatic Vehicle
Homemade Explosive Targets Australian Diplomatic Vehicle
A small homemade explosive device detonated on Friday near Baghdad’s Green Zone as an Australian diplomatic convoy was in the area. This comes as Australia has been mediating between Muqtada Al-Sadr’s bloc and pro-Iran parties to resolve the government formation stalemate which has resulted in warring street protests between both sides.
Detail of a February Meeting between Muqtada Al-Sadr and Iran’s Quds Force Commander
Reuters reported this week about a February meeting between Iraqi cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, whose party came out on top in the last parliamentary election, and the Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force Esmail Ghaani. Sadr reportedly lambasted Ghaani, aggressively questioning him and asking, “what does Iraqi politics have to do with you? We don’t want you interfering.” The Wall Street Journal separately reported that Sadr refused to meet Ghaani when he visited Iraq earlier in August. This shows Ghaani’s increased difficulty in managing Iran’s interests in Iraq after the death of his predecessor Qassem Soleimani. Reuters also profiled the efforts of the United Arab Emirates to work with Sunni parties to join forces with the Sadrists to challenge Iranian power.
August 15 Attack on U.S. Forces in Syria Launched from Iraq
In a tweet by the U.S.-led Coalition in Iraq and Syria that was later deleted for unknown reasons, the Coalition revealed that Iran-backed militants launched two Iranian drones from Babil Province in Iraq in an August 15 attack near where U.S. forces are based at al-Tanf in Syria. That attack triggered a U.S. retaliation with President Biden ordering airstrikes on Syria in response.
Israel and the Palestinian Territories
Israeli Officials React to News of Possible Nuclear Deal with Iran
Israeli officials expressed their displeasure at news that the United States and Iran had reached a breakthrough in negotiations to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In uncharacteristic statements for someone of his position, Mossad head David Barnea sharply criticized the deal. Barnea has said in recent meetings about the Iranian nuclear deal that Washington “is rushing into an accord that is a lie,” according to multiple reports in Hebrew media outlets. Barnea was quoted as saying the emerging accord is “very bad for Israel” and “a strategic disaster.” The Hebrew reports do not cite a source, but all seem to have received the same information on the Mossad chief’s internal comments. Barnea added that the deal “gives Iran license to amass the required nuclear material for a bomb.” It will also provide Tehran billions of dollars in currently frozen money, increasing the danger Iran poses through the region via its proxies. He stresses that a deal will not obligate Israel, and the country will act however it sees fit. If it does not do so, it will be in danger, he said.
Lending credence to the validity of these reports, Prime Minister Yair Lapid – who met with Barnea for an intelligence briefing around the time of the statements – echoed his intelligence chief’s statements. Lapid criticized the West for their negotiations with Iran, saying Western countries routinely draw red lines for Iran, and then move that line. He also stressed that Israel would not be obligated by a revived nuclear deal. “We will act to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear state,” he said. “We are unwilling to live with the nuclear threat of a violent and extremist Islamist regime over our heads. This won’t happen, because we won’t allow it to happen,” Lapid said.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz also criticized the potential deal, saying any nuclear agreement that did not set Iran’s nuclear program back by “years” would harm international security.
Israeli F-35s Reportedly Penetrate Iranian Airspace
In an unverified report, Saudi-run Elaph, which is based in London, claimed that Israeli F-35 jets had penetrated Iranian airspace several times over the course of the last two months, citing an unnamed and unidentified “exclusive source.” The source also claimed to Elaph that the Israeli jets had successfully evaded both Russian and Iranian radars during their incursions into Iranian airspace.
That same source also told Elaph that Israel and the United States carried out a secret military exercise in the Red Sea simulating an aerial and seaborne strike against Iran, and seizure of Iranian ships in the Gulf. The source said Israel and the United States had conducted several joint exercises, secretly and openly, aimed at preparing for strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.
Nasrallah Issues More Threats Over Lebanon-Israel Maritime Border Demarcation
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah gave a speech last Friday during which he, once again, addressed the matter of ongoing negotiations to demarcate the maritime border between Israel and Lebanon. Nasrallah stressed that Hezbollah’s posture regarding the border demarcation, and Lebanon’s ability to exploit hydrocarbon deposits it claims as its own, was not contingent upon the outcome of the nuclear deal being negotiated between world powers and Iran. He said, “the matter of border demarcation and the Karish [gas] field,” which Israel also claims as its own, “has nothing to do with the Iranian nuclear deal, from near or far, whether it is signed anew or not.” The only factor influencing Hezbollah’s behavior and posture, he claimed, was whether Lebanon succeeded in achieving its demands. “If the Lebanese state gets what it wants, then we are heading towards calm. If Lebanon doesn’t get its rights that the state is demanding, then we are heading towards escalation…[so] keep your eyes on Karish, the Lebanese borders, and the American mediator [Amos Hochstein],” Nasrallah said.
Almost all of Nasrallah’s recent speeches have addressed the maritime border dispute between Lebanon and Israel. Alongside two largely theatrical deployments of drones towards Karish by his group, the Hezbollah chieftain’s statements on the matter have suggested the group is willing to escalate with Israel over the matter. But Nasrallah’s bellicosity betrays the fact that Hezbollah has been constrained in its actions against Israel for over two years, unwilling to compound Lebanon’s ongoing economic crises with a war. The Hezbollah chieftain’s most recent statements, therefore, must also be viewed as posturing.
Relatedly, Nasrallah met with his Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) counterpart Ziad al-Nakhalah this week in Beirut, in a fairly routine meeting between the two militant chieftains. As usual during such meetings, press reports on the meeting by Resistance Axis outlets attempted to convey the impression of coordination and unity between the two groups, the strength and capability of the respective groups and the Resistance Axis as a whole, and their control over regional developments. Reports claimed that Nasrallah and Nakhalah discussed the recent clash between Israel and PIJ, dubbed by Israel Operation Breaking Dawn, assessing the military, “political and media levels” of the operation. The report also suggested potential future cooperation between the two terror organizations, saying the pair discussed “the expected roles of the various parties in the axis of resistance in the next stage.”
Israel Conducts Airstrike in Syria
Syrian media outlets reported on Thursday that the Israel Air Force had conducted airstrikes in Syria near the cities of Tartous and Hama. Initial Syrian regime media reports had indicated that the strike had targeted the city of Masyaf, located roughly midway between Hama and Tartous. A Syrian military source told Syrian regime outlets that around 7:15 PM local time, Syrian air defenses were activated to intercept an “Israeli aerial aggression” from the direction of the sea, southwest of Tartous. As has become customary after such Israeli airstrikes, the military source claimed that the Syrian army’s air defenses had successfully intercepted most of the Israeli missiles, which he said were fired at targets in Hama and Tartous. The source also claimed that the airstrike resulted in two civilians being wounded and material damage.
He did not comment on the exact nature of the targets of the Israeli strikes, and Israel maintained its policy of silence on airstrikes in Syria. But if the Syrian military source is being accurate, yesterday’s strike would be the second Israeli attack on Tartous in two weeks. On August 14, the Israel Air Force struck a series of Iranian targets in Tartous, killing three Syrian servicemen in the process. As has become routine now, Russia condemned that earlier Israeli strike on Tartous. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking alongside his Syrian counterpart Faisal al-Mekdad, said Moscow “strongly condemns the dangerous practice of Israeli strikes on Syrian territory,” and “demand[ed]” that Israel respect “UN Security Council resolutions and, above all, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria,” by halting such strikes. In recent months, Russia has adopted a more hostile posture towards Israeli airstrikes in Syria, and is particularly sensitive about attacks in Tartous, which house its main military bases in Syria.
By contrast, Axios’ Barak Ravid reported that the UK’s special envoy for Syria praised the Israeli airstrike campaign in Syria in a conversation with officials during a recent visit to Jerusalem. In private discussions in Jerusalem in June, U.K. envoy Jonathan Hargreaves praised the Israeli airstrike campaign in Syria and said the U.K. and other Western countries are basing some of their policies on its results, the Israeli officials said. A senior British diplomat, however, told Axios that UK Embassy officials who attended the meeting do not remember Hargreaves praising the airstrikes.
In related news, the United States launched two of its own airstrikes, within a span of 24 hours, against Iranian-backed forces in Syria. U.S. Central Command said the U.S. military had launched two airstrikes this week against Iranian-linked militants in northeastern Syria, killing at least two fighters. The American airstrikes followed a failed rocket attack on a U.S. base in northeastern Syria called Green Village that occurred on August 15 as well as a drone attack on al-Tanf.
In an attack late Tuesday night, American warplanes dropped guided bombs on bunkers containing ammunition and other military hardware in Deir al Zour, a city in eastern Syria, the U.S. Central Command announced in a statement. The bunkers were in use by groups affiliated with the IRGC, the military said. There were not believed to be any civilian casualties in the attack, which took place at 4 a.m. local time on Wednesday, according to a U.S. military official.
U.S. Central Command announced on Wednesday evening that it had launched a second airstrike on fighters linked to the IRGC, following a rocket attack on Green Village as well as a second American base in northeast Syria called Conoco. Those rocket attacks began at 7:20 p.m. local time on Wednesday, resulting in three U.S. service members being wounded at Conoco. One service member was treated and returned to duty, according to a Central Command statement, and two others were being evaluated for “minor injuries.”
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, in a conversation with Fox News, applauded the Biden administration’s decision to approve the airstrikes against Iranian-linked militants in Syria.
There was a third round of U.S. strikes on Thursday in Al-Mayadin. A senior U.S. official told BBC, “we took out a number of enemy fighters and rocket launchers with U.S. Apaches, AC-130 gunships, and M777s.” Summarizing on Thursday the developments over the last 24 hours, U.S. Central Command released a statement saying its attacks resulted in four enemy fighters killed and seven enemy rocket launchers destroyed.
Senior IRGC Officer Killed in Syria
Iranian media outlets reported this week that General Abolfazl Alijani, a senior Islamic Revolution Guard Corp (IRGC) officer, has been killed in Syria. On August 23, DEFA Press Agency reported on his death, without providing more details regarding the attack in which he was killed. Alijani was a regional commander of the IRGC’s Ground Forces in the central city of Isfahan. Some outlets hinted to Israeli responsibility for the attack that killed Alijani.