Israel is stomping on Iran -- and it could bring one of the worst wars the Middle East has ever seen

Picture: Getty Images
  • Israel on Monday announced that its intelligence operatives had entered Iran, stolen a trove of secret documents about a clandestine nuclear program, and accused Tehran of cheating on the Iran deal.
  • On Sunday, experts accused Israel of striking and killing Iranian troops in Syria, a marked escalation of military conflict.
  • Israel has been punishing Iran and walking all over Syria as the US expresses its support for Jerusalem.
  • The result could be a massive war breaking out across the already heavily-conflicted Middle East.

Isreal on Monday announced that its intelligence operatives had entered Iran, stolen a trove of secret documents about a clandestine nuclear program, and then returned them to Israel to share with the world.

The day before, Syria got rocked by a massive missile attack that appeared to ignite a munitons depot hard enough to register as a 2.6 magnitude earthquake and reportedly killed dozens of Iranians, – and experts attribute the strike to Israel.

Though Iran denied its people died in the strike, the more aggressive approach to Tehran could bring a major clash, and possibly the biggest war the Middle East has ever seen.

Israel has not taken credit for the strikes in Syria, but Israel rarely takes credits for strikes within the country, though it maintains it will strike any Iranian activity within Syria that it deems a threat.

With an estimated 20,000-70,000 Shiite Iranian-aligned fighters, and tens of thousands of rockets, that’s a lot of activity for Israel to monitor.

Israel’s air force is reportedly battering Iran and Syria over and over

Two F 15I israel air force f 15TSGT KEVIN J. GRUENWALD, USAF via CommonsIsraeli Air Force F-15s fly in Red Flag 2004.

According to Jonathan Schanzer, an expert on Iran and Syria at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies think tank, Israel is picking up the pace of strikes and moves against Iran and staring down the barrel of a massive confrontation.

“For some time it really did look like the Israelis were holding back,” Schanzer told Business Insider. “They seemed reticent to engage, they didn’t want to expose themselves in the skies over Syria. “

But now, after an air battle between Israel, Syria and Iran in February in which Israel downed an Iranian drone and reportedly half of Syria’s air defences while losing an F-16 fighter jet of their own, Israel appears to be going much harder.

“They appear to have broken a seal of sorts,” Schanzer said of Israel, adding that it may see a “window” now that Syria’s air defences have reportedly been beaten down.

Both Iranian and Israeli sources have predicted a retaliation to the strike on Sunday, but before any such answer could be made, Israel dropped a massive cache of dirt on Iran.

‘A psychological operation’

“Spies steal documents all the time,” said Schanzer of Israel’s massive document dump on Monday, “but this was a huge cache. And usually, spy agencies keep it quiet after the intelligence is lifted. Not so with the Israelis, they are broadcasting this – making it as much a psychological operation as a revelation about Iran’s nuclear mendacity.”

The document dump came just as President Donald Trump has all of Europe revisiting the Iran deal.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also offered tough talk on Iran on Sunday, saying Trump would withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal “if we can’t fix it” and assuring Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the US is “deeply concerned about Iran’s dangerous escalation of threats to Israel and the region, and Iran’s ambition to dominate the Middle East.”

“The United States is with Israel in this fight, and we strongly support Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself,” Pompeo added.

Additionally, Iran’s ability to retaliate against Isreal is limited. Diplomatically, Iran doesn’t have much leverage. Though it’s allied with Russia, Russian air defences in Syria seem uninterested in protecting Iranian targets from suspected Israeli sites. It’s unclear whether Russia would remain so complacent if the US started accompanying Israel on strikes against its allies within Syria.

Iran’s main leverage over Israel is its influence with Hamas, a Palestinian group active in the already boiling Gaza Strip on Israel’s border, and its massive armies and rocket stockpiles near Israel’s border.

“There are things that Iran can do very quickly to make things miserable for the Israelis,” said Schanzer.

With Israel on the sidelines of Syria’s civil war, where over 70 countries have bombed or contributed to bombing efforts, the cold feud going hot between Jerusalem and Tehran could erupt into a rocket and missile fight that could be one of the worst wars the Middle East has ever seen.

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