29 January 2023   Leave a comment

There have been explosions near a military factory in Iran and there are suspicions that Israel was behind what appear to be drone attacks. The possibility has raised tensions, not only in the Middle East, but also in other areas of the world. Iran has supplied Russia with drones in the Russian war against Ukraine and that support has alienated (further) relations between Iran and the West. But it also comes as a very right-wing government in Israel has come to power that is dedicated to preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. The Guardian reports:

“There was no immediate confirmation about who was responsible, but the attacks appear to fit a pattern of strikes against strategic sites across Iran that have been attributed to Israel in recent years. A fire erupted at a fuel refinery in the north-west of Iran at about the same time as explosions were heard in Isfahan, at 11.30pm local time.

“Drones have played an increasing role in a shadow war being fought between Iran and Israel over the skies of Iraq and Syria, in the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and even the eastern Mediterranean, where tankers have been set ablaze by both sides since early 2019.

“However, the stakes have been highest in Iran itself, where Iran’s nuclear programme has been the target of repeated sabotage attempts. The country’s top scientist was assassinated in 2020 and the Natanz nuclear facility was struck one year later by a blast that damaged its centrifuges. The Karaj facility was struck the same year. An attack in 2022 damaged a drone facility, destroying at least 120 craft.”

Iran is already facing widespread domestic discontent triggered by the death of a woman, Mahsa Amini, in the custody of Iranian authorities on a charge of not wearing proper headcoverings. Suzanne Kianpour notes the significance of the protests which have been going on for the last three months:

“But what’s happening in Iran is not a political movement as much as it is a civil rights movement. Women don’t have basic human rights. In many parts of their existence, a man must make decisions for them, according to the law. And yet they are highly educated. The slogan of the revolution — “zan, zendegi, azadi” or “woman, life, liberty” — is not about politics but about equality.

“In the early days of the protests fueled by Mahsa Amini’s death, I was speaking with a U.S. intelligence official who said the regime would crack down on the protesters and they’d dissipate as in the past. But everyone I spoke with inside Iran said this time is different”

In addition, violence has been breaking out in Israel as well as the Israeli government has been responding to internal pressures to allow greater control to settlers in the Occupied Territories. The Israeli military conducted a raid on a refugee camp near the city of Jenin which resulted in the deaths of nine Palestinians on 26 January. That attack was followed by Palestinian attacks on Israelis leaving a synagogue which resulted in the deaths of seven Israelis.

There have also been large protests in Israel against the government’s plans to restrict the authority of the Israeli judiciary. Yesterday, nearly 100,000 Israelis protested against these plans. According to CBS News:

“To secure his sixth term as Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has formed a coalition with extremist political parties that support the introduction of more severe anti-Palestinian legislation, including banning the Palestinian flag in public spaces and expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank that are illegal under international law. Some coalition members also support amendments to Israeli laws that protect the rights of women, LGBTQ people and other minority groups…

“Netanyahu’s government has also proposed reforms to the country’s supreme court that could undermine the independence of the nation’s judiciary, allowing politicians to potentially overrule court decisions. That, critics say, is a direct threat to Israel’s democratic system of checks and balances and could benefit Netanyahu himself as he faces an ongoing trial over alleged corruption.”

The overall situation is incredibly volatile and we need to keep an eye on how these things develop. The US, moreover, needs to pay close attention to how the new Israeli government actually implements its policies, many of which contradict long-standing US concerns in the region. The Israeli government is taking actions which threaten its staus as a democracy as well as the possibility of some agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Posted January 29, 2023 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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