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analysisIsrael at War

Israel navigates Tehran’s multiple fronts as regional tensions rise

“Who told you that we do not attack in Iran?” Netanyahu asked.

An IAF fighter jet in the skies of Israel, April 26, 2023. Photo by Anthony Hershko/TPS.
An IAF fighter jet in the skies of Israel, April 26, 2023. Photo by Anthony Hershko/TPS.
Baruch Yedid

In a recent press conference, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted at Israel’s involvement in countering Iranian influence across various fronts.

The comment shed a little light on what Israel’s security establishment and media refer to as the “multi-arena campaign,” a complex geopolitical challenge that Jerusalem finds itself entangled in.

Asked by a reporter why Israel was attacking Iran’s proxies and not Iran, Netanyahu replied, “Who told you that we do not attack in Iran?”

Israel, traditionally discreet about such operations, is now openly acknowledging its involvement in a multi-arena campaign. Declarations by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and military Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi affirm Israeli activities in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and the Red Sea.

“Israel is gradually finding itself facing a multi-arena campaign, as evidenced by a series of assassinations attributed to it,” a high-ranking source in the Israeli security establishment said.

In Lebanon, the most recent events include the assassination of two members of Hezbollah’s security unit in Southern Lebanon as well as the elimination of Ali Haderaj, who was responsible for coordinating between Hezbollah and Hamas. The highest profile strike was the January assassination of Saleh al-Arouri, killed at the Hamas headquarters in southern Beirut’s Dahiya district, a Hezbollah stronghold.

Syria has also witnessed a surge in attacks attributed to Israel. On Saturday, an air strike attributed to Israel killed five Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps figures. Most senior among them was Gen. Sadegh Omidzadeh, who held the Iranian intelligence file in Syria.

Iran’s extensive network of militias in Iraq, including the popular Hashd al-Shaabi (“Popular Mobilization Forces”), Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (“League of the Righteous”) and Badr Brigades groups, poses a significant challenge. Fueled by Iranian funds and influenced by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, these militias are actively marking Israeli cities and strategic targets as part of Iran’s broader regional strategy. Their primary goal is safeguarding Iran’s land bridge that allows Tehran to move weapons across Iraq to eastern Syria, and from there, to Lebanon or even Mediterranean ports.

These Iraqi militias have fired missiles at Israel and are responsible for numerous attacks on U.S. bases. Since Oct. 7, 70 U.S. servicemen have been wounded in escalating rocket attacks on bases in Iraq and southeastern Syria.

Most complex of all, however, is Yemen, where the Iran-backed Houthis vowed in early December to target any Israel-bound ship in the Red Sea, regardless of its ownership. However, the majority of vessels attacked have not had any apparent connections to Israel.

According to Sky News Arabia, joint American and British operations against Houthi strongholds in Yemen resulted in the death of at least 75 terrorist operatives, including members of Hezbollah and advisers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Recent reports indicate Iran and Hezbollah’s collaboration in assisting the Yemeni Houthis in establishing a Red Sea outpost, providing weapons, drones, missiles, intelligence and personnel.

The ongoing war in the Gaza Strip is putting pressure on Jordan, as Iran’s proxy militias seek access to Israel’s eastern border. Jordan’s 1994 peace treaty with Israel is deeply unpopular, and an Islamist takeover of the kingdom would add another arena for Jerusalem to deal with.

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