Israel recently killed a military leader of the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad terror group in Gaza. Tayseer al-Jabari, who was killed by an Israeli airstrike on 5 August, was the key military commander for the said group and has been considered the group’s leader since 2019. The killing was the first step in what Israel named Operation Breaking Dawn to target Islamic Jihad operations and installations in Gaza.
The timing of the killing and the launch of the operation remains a mystery to some because the Islamic Jihad was not engaged in launching rockets against Israel at the time and the front with Gaza has been quiet since the last major confrontation in May of 2021.
Further, many, including some Israelis, are upping the ante by suggesting the said killing has “unnecessarily” provoked a confrontation. This argument embodies what is wrong with most analysts and so-called experts of the Middle East, they look at tactics and details and fail to see the bigger picture. To understand the bigger picture, one must examine the facts.
First, the Islamic Jihad is an Iran-controlled terror group. The difference between the Islamic Jihad and Hamas is that Hamas is an ally of Iran while the Islamic Jihad is directly controlled by Iran. It is considered an Iranian faction and its members are described by their rivals as “Palestine’s Shiites”.
There is another difference, Hamas agreed to an Egyptian-brokered undeclared armistice with Israel in January and has kept quiet since then. The Islamic Jihad has not agreed to this armistice despite being ideologically aligned with Hamas. Hence, the Islamic Jihad was theoretically free to engage in a war with Israel.
Nonetheless, it was not this that exactly promoted Israel to launch this operation. The threat has always been there, and both main terror groups in Gaza have a bad history of keeping their promises.
The real reason Israel has launched this war has a lot to do with what happened in Iraq last week. Oil-rich Iraq was handed down to Iran when Saddam was toppled in 2003. Iran has been ruling Iraq since. I personally got to see this first hand when I was serving for the US Embassies in Amman and Baghdad as the assistant policy coordinator. Iran’s men took over the Iraqi government and parliament. Iraq’s wealth has been squandered by Iran’s agents and American-made weapons delivered to Iraq are used by radical Iraqi Shiite groups waving Iran’s flag.
Iran and her men have turned the formerly wealthy Iraqi nation into one of the poorest in the region. Iraqis have been impoverished by Iran in the name of sectarian Shiite loyalty. The Iraqi Shiite majority seem to have collectively come to the conclusion that they are being manipulated by Iran and have been warning they would revolt for two years.
On the first day of August, the explosion came too soon for Iran. Millions of Iraqis took to the streets of all major cities chanting “Iran out, Iran out, Baghdad will be free!”. In the capital Baghdad, peaceful Iraqi protesters stormed the Green Zone massive compound where main government buildings and embassies are situated. At the same time, thousands of Iraqis stormed the Iraqi Parliament and have not left yet as these lines are being written. Some protesters besieged the residence of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Malki who is considered Iran’s strongman. It turned out he escaped to an Arab Gulf country two days earlier in what was nothing less than a narrow escape for him.
The Iran-controlled Iraqi government and parliament have been brought to a total halt by the protesters. The Iraqi army and police have been supportive of protesters and facilitated their marches, and the man behind all of this is a relatively young Shiite cleric named Muqtada Al-Sadir.
Iraq’s top Shiite religious leader calling Iran out and ordering his faithful followers to march against Iran; bringing down its government and parliament; means Iran’s control of Iraq is officially done.
This painful hit at Iran was magnified by similar challenges to her control in the same week. Lebanese activists called for riots against Iran’s offshoot terror group, Hezbollah, which has been ruling Lebanon for two decades.
Iran is losing ground very fast in the region as Arab people are seeking independence from it and seeing her as the enemy rather than Israel.
With the swift and gigantic hit Iran received in Iraq last week, it had one playground left to shake, Gaza. If the Islamic Jihad were to take the advantage of starting the war with its senior command intact, Iran would have gained by showing that no peace could be made in Gaza without it.
Unsurprisingly, the Israelis seem to have known about Iran’s plans for Gaza and took the initiative by killing the mind behind the group, Al-Rajabi, who has no successor with similar capability or organizational skills. They continued by killing other Islamic Jihad leaders. If they have accomplished their plans to decimate the leadership ranks of Islamic Jihad, agreeing to a ceasefire is timely.
For now, the Islamic Jihad is a headless beast and cannot wreak any subnational havoc in Gaza. Hopefully, Iran will keep losing more ground in the Middle East region.
Mudar Adnan Zahranis the secretary General of the Jordan Opposition Coalitionl and a Palestinian Arab leader.