Israel’s extraordinary seizure of Iran’s nuclear archive is an event with strategic implications whose repercussions will far outlast the headlines and the bloviations of Obama administration alumni and their legion of media apologists.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s presentation on Monday is having and will continue to have a huge impact on the Iranian regime.
First, the operation reinforced the regime’s antisemitic paranoia regarding Israel. By showing photographs of the inside of the top-secret storage facility, and broadcasting that Israeli agents entered the facility and physically removed a half ton of documents and computer discs, Netanyahu told the regime – and its domestic opponents – that Israel is watching everything the regime does. Israel can get anywhere and do anything.
While this is certainly not always the case, given the regime’s predisposition to believe antisemitic conspiracy theories that ascribe superhuman capabilities to Jewish people, there is every likelihood that this is the message the Iranians – in and out of the regime – received from Netanyahu’s dramatic speech Monday evening.
Second, as Dr. Harold Rhode, a recently retired adviser on Islamic Affairs in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, explains, Netanyahu’s exposure of Iran’s nuclear archive happened at a key moment in Iranian domestic politics. Today, the regime’s ability to stir fear in the hearts of the Iranian people is rapidly diminishing.
Rhode told Breitbart News, “When you ask Iranians where there are anti-regime protests going on in Iran, they invariably respond that the list of cities where anti-regime protests are not taking place is much shorter than the list of cities where they are taking place.”
People from all walks of life are sick and tired of the regime. That much is clear from, for example, the social media videos spreading like wildfire of Iranian women willing to risk prison to defy the regime’s religious edict requiring women and girls to cover themselves in Islamic robes and head coverings.
For their part, Rhode relates, regime forces are openly turning on one another — particularly over corruption — for the first time since 1979.
“The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps have always known better than to show their dirty laundry in public. But today various factions in the IRGC are squabbling in the open, mainly over corruption,” Rhode says.
Last week, Iranian blogger and writer Potkin Azarmehr reported on Twitter that Ayatollah Javadi Amoli, one of the senior ayatollahs being considered to replace Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the event of his death, recently warned that the regime is hanging on by a thread.
In Amoli’s words, “If the people rise up [against the regime] they will throw us into the sea! Many [leaders] have already fled and some have prepared where they will flee to, but we have nowhere to escape to.”
In this context, Netanyahu’s revelation that Israeli agents removed Iran’s darkest secrets from their secret storage facility and brought them to Israel most assuredly terrified many senior regime officials.
Ehud Yaari, Israel’s Reshet television’s Arab affairs commentator, reported Tuesday that the unit responsible for securing the nuclear archive is the IRGC’s intelligence unit. Khamenei personally founded the unit in 2009. At least as of Monday morning, it was led by Hassan Tayib, a cleric known for his cruelty and fanaticism.
Yaari related that Tayib can expected to “die of a heart attack,” as the regime is about to mount a major purge of the IRGC in the wake of Netanyahu’s speech.
The fact that Netanyahu made his announcement about the Mossad’s operational triumph in Iran the day after Israel allegedly carried out airstrikes against two significant targets in Syria made the announcement’s psychological effect on the regime even greater. Israel reportedly destroyed 200 precision guided surface to surface missiles, as well as a recruitment base for Shiite militia in Aleppo and Hama Sunday night.
And whereas Iran responded to Israel’s airstrike against its T-4 airbase outside Palmyra, Syria on April 7 pledging to avenge the attack, Iran’s response to Sunday night’s assaults, which were reportedly far more powerful, was muted. Iran denied that any of its personnel were killed in the blast, even as the generally accurate Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that 26 fighters, most of them Iranians, were killed in the strikes.
Iran’s feeble response indicates that it is rattled by Israel’s confidence and force. With the Iranian people engaging in anti-regime protests across Iran, the regime has no interest in highlighting its continued humiliation by the Jewish state.
This brings us to the third strategically significant aspect of Netanyahu’s statement and Israel’s decision to make the Mossad’s seizure of Iran’s nuclear arsenal public the day after Israel allegedly conducted air assaults against Iranian targets in Israel.
During the Obama years, the U.S. repeatedly leaked Israeli military operations in Syria. In so doing the Obama administration exposed Israel to elevated risk that the Syrian regime and its Hezbollah and Iranian overlords would retaliate against its covert operations.
The twofold message Obama sent by ordering the repeated leaks was clear. First, in the event of war – precipitated by U.S. leaks – between Israel and the Iranian-controlled parties in Syria, the U.S. would not have Israel’s back. And second, Obama signaled clearly to Iran – as well as to Israel – that he would not lift a finger to help Israel in the event Iran retaliated.
The net effect of the Obama administration’s hostile treatment of Israel and friendly treatment of Iran was to deter Israel from defending its interests against Iranian encroachment in Syria, Lebanon, Iran and elsewhere. That, in turn, emboldened Iran to entrench its forces regionally against Israel.
The tight coordination between Israel and the Trump administration in relation to Israel’s reported airstrikes in Syria, and Netanyahu’s revelation of Iran’s seized nuclear archive (as reflected by statements from both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Donald Trump) shows the Trump administration has adopted the opposite approach.
Under Trump, the U.S. is coordinating and cooperating with Israel in air and other operations against Iran in an unprecedented manner. It is this coordination with Washington that doubtlessly explains both Israel’s boldness and Iran’s passivity. Teheran has never faced a united Israeli-American front before. That, too, terrifies the regime.
This then brings us to the fourth and final strategic point. Many Obama administration alumni are insisting that Netanyahu’s remarkable presentation on Monday night, and Trump’s now expected decision May 12 to exit Obama’s nuclear deal, will increase the likelihood of all-out war between Israel and Iran that is likely to deteriorate swiftly into a larger regional war.
While it would be foolhardy to dismiss the possibility of war, the fact is that the events of the past week or so have made war far less likely than it was before.
The more powerful Israel’s airstrikes have become, the more powerful its intelligence services are proven to be. And the stronger and more open Israel’s cooperation and coordination with Washington becomes, the less likely Iran will be to respond to the challenge by initiating a war.
The regime knows the restive and angry Iranian public will not accept a war against a U.S. backed-Israel in Syria and beyond that will cost billions of dollars Iran simply doesn’t have. War would end in a stunning defeat for Iran.
Moreover, if Iran responds to the challenge by activating its terrorist sleeper cells and ordering them to attack Israeli or Jewish targets abroad, such action would only subject the regime to still sharper scrutiny from the U.S. — and, presumably, significant swathes of the international community — and consequently weaken the regime still further.
In short, by seizing and exposing the contents of Iran’s nuclear arsenal, Israel has further destabilized and weakened the regime. Its powerful airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria and its increasingly apparent operational cooperation with the U.S. have reduced the prospects for war.
And Israel has started running down the clock not to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, but to the overthrow of the regime by the people of Iran.
Caroline Glick is a world-renowned journalist and commentator on the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy, and the author of The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East. Read more at www.CarolineGlick.com.