Yochanan Visser is an independent journalist/analyst who worked for many years as Middle East correspondent for Western Journalism.com in Arizona and was a frequent publicist for the main Dutch paper De Volkskrant. He authoreda book in the Dutch language about the cognitive war against Israel and now lives in Gush Etzion. He writes a twice weekly analysis of current issues for Arutz Sheva.
Last Thursday, TV Channel 10 in Israel, citing Israeli and American officials, aired a report which claimed that Israel and the United States had secretly signed a memorandum of understandings on how to confront Iran.
The accord was reportedly signed on December 12 after intensive talks between Israeli and US intelligence and defense officials and the ceremony was attended by the heads of the national security councils of the two countries according to Channel 10.
The agreement outlined “steps on the ground” against the various threats emanating from Tehran and culminated in the forming of three joint teams.
The first team is to deal with the growing threat to Israel and the Sunni Arab countries and plans to focus on Iran’s creeping encroachment on the Syrian Israeli border and its aid to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The second team was set up to gather intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program, which both the Trump Administration and Israel think is covertly commencing, despite the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers.
A third team would grapple with Iran’s ballistic missile program and the Iranian efforts to build underground missile silos, factories which manufacture precision weaponry and military bases for the Quds Force of the IRGC in Syria.
The Channel 10 report was aired a couple of days after Arutz Shevareported Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani had offered Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza “ to provide the Palestinian people with all the means at the IRGC's disposal in the struggle for Jerusalem.”
Soleimani has virtually overseen every major battle in Syria and Iraq and was the architect of the plan to carve out a land corridor that would connect Tehran to the Mediterranean Sea and the Syrian Golan Heights.
As I pointed out in last week’s analysis “Iran is closing in on Israel” the Islamic Republic has now a proxy force of 125,000 Shiite fighters in Syria, outnumbering the regular Syrian army and indicating that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has become a puppet of Tehran.
These forces take their orders directly from Soleimani who apparently decided to increase pressure on Israel recently, directing commanders of Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria to the Israeli border in order to antagonize Israel and deliver a message to the Netanyahu government that the rules of the game have changed.
First, Qais al-Khazali, the commander of the Iraqi Shiite militia Qais al-Khazali was filmed standing a few meters from Fatima Gate, the so-called ‘Good Fence’ near Metulla, Israel’s most northern town on the Lebanese Israeli border.
Al-Khazali predicted Israel would soon be replaced with a “state of Allah’s justice” and called upon “The Islamic Resistance” to act upon this goal.
Two weeks later, Al-Hajj Hamza, a commander of Liwa al-Baqir, a Syrian Shiite militia trained by Soleimani’s Quds Force and affiliated with Hezbollah, was filmed visiting South Lebanon.
At the same time the Iranian-backed pro-Assad coalition, which today is dominated by Iranian-trained Shiite forces and coordinates all its actions with the Iranians, suddenly launched an offensive against Sunni Islamist rebels in the area of Mount Hermon, Israel’s highest mountain, located near the Druze village of Magdal Shams on the Golan Heights.
Iranian and Arab media later reported Assad’s forces laid siege on Beit Jinn and Mughur al-Mir near Mount Hermon and that 250 fighters of the former Al-Qaeda branch Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly known under the name Jabhat al-Nusra, had been killed during the offensive which brought the Iranian Syria coalition within a few kilometers of the Israeli border.
The Islamist rebels in the area were handed a 72-hours ultimatum which included a forced transfer to the Sunni dominated Idlib Province in northern Syria.
Over the weekend the pro-Assad coalition retook the northern part of the border region with Israel, something PM Netanyahu and DM Avigdor Liberman constituted the crossing of a red line.
Israel initially demanded a 40-kilometer wide buffer zone free of any Iranian or Hezbollah presence along the Syrian Israeli border on the Golan Heights under the so-called de-escalation agreement between the US, Russia, and Jordan.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu addressed the acute threat posed by the Iranian dominated forces on the Golan Heights and warned again Israel wouldn’t “allow Iranian military forces to establish bases in Syria “ in order to attack the Jewish state.
Calling Israel “an island in a stormy sea” Netanyahu vowed the IDF and IAF would “act to prevent the manufacture of precise and deadly weapons” aimed at Israel.
Netanyahu touted the “tremendous power” of the Israeli air force and claimed the IAF is “at the peak of its abilities – with the best technological tools, the best planes in the world, the best pilots in the world, with offensive and defensive capabilities and with awesome firepower that can reach both short-range and distant targets as necessary.”
His remark on the IAF’s ability to carry out strikes against “distant targets” was most likely directed at Iran and indicated the so-called ‘military option’ remains on the table to stop the Mullah’s quest for nuclear weapons and Iran’s hegemonic drive, which has now brought its proxies to the Israeli border on the Golan Heights.
However, Rafi Eitan, the former head of the Mossad’s operations department, doubts Israel’s ability to neutralize Iran’s extensive nuclear program, since most of the nuclear sites are built deep under the ground. The bombs at Israel’s disposal would only be able to destroy the entrances to these sites, according to Eitan.
Eitan, former head of the Pensioners Party and a veteran Iran-expert toldJerusalem Post’ Editor in Chief Ya’akov Katz that “the only way to deal with Iran is regime change.”
Coincidence or not, the day the interview with Eitan was published, thousands of Iranians took to the streets and demanded an end to the Islamic Republic.
While the mainstream media suggested the unrest in Iran, which by now has spread all over the country, was only about soaring prices and other economic hardships, in reality, the new uprising is mainly directed at the extremist Islamist regime of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the growing influence of the IRGC and the regime’s policies abroad.
The Iranian people have not profited from the enormous amounts of money which filled the coffers of the regime during the negotiations about the nuclear agreement and after the implementation of the JCPOA when billions of dollars in sanctions relief were released.
Iranians are still encountering growing inequality, high youth employment and diminished domestic productive capacities along with widespread corruption and a lack of economic diversification - to name just a few of the grievances.
The military budget of the Islamic Republic, on the other hand, increased 145 percent in 2017, while Iran’s contribution to Hezbollah has risen to $800 million annually, up from $300 in 2009 when the Obama Administration entered the White House.
Iran is also funding Iraqi militias which operate under the umbrella organization Hashd Al-Shaabi and is providing extensive aid to the Ansar Allah (Houthi) militia in Yemen.
The young protesters in Iran, most of them in their twenties, called upon the Iranian army to join the protest against the regime of the Mullah’s, while burning photographs of the Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei and even images of Al Quds commander Qassem Soleimani.
The demonstrators also shouted “Death to Khamenei,” something that rarely happened beforehand, causing one insider to conclude that the protest is a “deep and desperate cry against an unjust and repressive system.”
Other reports coming from citizen reporters in Iran mention people calling for the return of Reza Pahlavi, the son, and heir of the late Shah (who currently resides in the United States).
“’No Gaza, No Lebanon, our lives are devoted to Iran,’ expressing resentment towards Iran's Islamic regime for financially supporting Hezbollah and Hamas while ignoring its own citizens,” Iranians in the city of Mashad chanted according to Tarek Fatah the author of “The Jew is not my enemy” and “The tragic illusion of an Islamic State”.
Nobody is able to predict the outcome of the current uprising against the Iranian Islamist regime but as Christopher Hitchens,who, by the way, was far from a Zionist, already pointed out in 2011, the moment has come when the old order cannot continue in the old way. Young Iranians – who make up half of the population- clearly have no desire to be ruled in the old way.
“They have raised a generation who completely sees through religion,” Hitchens, an expert on Iran and Hezbollah, who passed away in that same year, said about what was going on in Iran.