Rami Dabbas
Rami Dabbas
Writer & Political Analyst

Biden Administration and Iran-Israel Escalation

In a rapid deterioration of the ongoing conflict between Iran and Israel, which took a more severe turn after the strike by Israel to the Iranian Natanz reactor, on April 11 (2021), Iran began a calculated heating up of all fronts with Israel, starting with the launch of a missile from an Iranian base in Syria that landed near From the Israeli Dimona nuclear reactor on the 22nd of the same month. To be followed by the announcement of violent clashes that took place in Jerusalem between its Arab residents and extremists belonging to the Israeli right, and the announcement by Hamas – which Iran supports – that it will not allow Israel to harm the Arabs of Jerusalem.

To confirm the seriousness of its threats, Hamas allowed Palestinian organizations, including Jihad and the Popular Front, to launch 36 rockets at southern Israeli cities in a precedent that has not been repeated for more than a year. It also appeared that the leaks about the content of the indirect negotiations that are taking place between the United States and Iran in Vienna behind Iranian officials, and these leaks show that the administration of US President Joe Biden is ready to return to the nuclear agreement from which the administration of former President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018 and that it (i.e., The Biden administration is ready to lift some sanctions on Iran without conditions that Israel requires from the United States to pass this return.

Iran’s attempt to regain the initiative from Israel, both on the security and diplomatic front, which was in the absolute best interest of the latter during the last three years at least, represents a battle within a long-term war between the two sides that will not have a possible end in the foreseeable future, as shown by the close examination of the recent Iranian escalation against Israel. But it is important to search for an answer to the question about the prospects and consequences of this escalation in reading the Israeli attempts to win the Biden administration to its side in the face of Iran, and in return, how will the White House react to these attempts?

In parallel with the announcement on April 21st of a high-level Israeli security delegation’s visit to Washington, to persuade Biden to deliberate and not rush to decide to return to the nuclear agreement with Iran, except with specific conditions that include tightening control measures over Iran’s nuclear activities and not lifting the sanctions imposed on it until after making sure of its commitment Not only by restricting its nuclear activities but also by ceasing to support countries and entities that target the existence and security of Israel. On the same day, the American “Wall Street Journal” published, citing unnamed sources.

However, it was believed to be among the Iranian negotiators that the United States is ready to lift Terrorism-related sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, the national oil company, shipping lines, and several major economic sectors and aluminum. The Israeli shock in the Biden administration was supplemented by the statement issued by White House spokeswoman Gene Saki, two days later, in which she said: “The visit of Israeli officials to Washington next week will not change the US approach to return to the so-called nuclear agreement with Iran.” Previous leaks and statements issued by the White House represented a victory for Iran and a net loss for Israel diplomatically. As it seems, the Biden administration – which is keen in the first place to erase the legacy of former President Donald Trump – is ready to take steps or decisions that Israel sees as a security and existential threat to it, as it could encourage Iran to continue its pursuit of nuclear weapons as well as its support for countries. And the entities that threaten Israel and the entire Middle East.

Israel, on the other hand, and as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did before with the administration of former President Barack Obama, is currently trying to use its influence in Congress to prevent Biden from returning to the nuclear agreement with Iran, as its friends in Congress submitted a draft resolution obligating President Biden to present any agreement with Iran. To Congress before signing it on the White House side. With regard to the visit of the Israeli security delegation, which would have included Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, the directors of the Mossad and Military Intelligence (AMAN) and the National Security Adviser, before Kochavi announced the cancellation of his participation in it under the pretext of being prepared to deal with any developments in the security situation in the Gaza Strip, no statements were issued about Schedule for the meeting of other Israeli security officials with their American counterparts who would accompany Kochavi, although it is likely that Israel will continue its efforts with the staff of the Biden administration to convince it that the recent developments prove the validity of its view (i.e. Israel), that merely the American hinting at the possibility of returning to the nuclear agreement and raising

The sanctions on Iran have encouraged the latter to take broader steps to threaten Israel’s security by launching a missile near Dimona and inciting proxies such as Hamas and Jihad to heat up the confrontation front with Israel. And suppose the meetings occur between the heads of the Mossad, Aman, and the Israeli National Security Adviser and their American counterparts. In that case, the topic that will dominate the meeting will not be the Iranian nuclear file alone, but rather Iranian interference in the region and Tehran’s relations with entities accused of terrorism such as Hamas and Jihad, as well as their missile capabilities, and it is not excluded that Israel raises the question of what all these developments mean because Russia – which Biden considers at the top of the list of enemies of the United States – is the most important sponsor of Iran and Syria. It is encouraging them not only to threaten Israel’s security but that it (i.e., Russia) is employing Iran and other countries. To undermine American influence in large areas of the world and that the Biden administration’s inability to confront it in Ukraine recently (Russia had massed its forces on the borders of Ukraine in blatant defiance of warnings of the United States and the European Union against interfering in Ukrainian affairs) shows how dangerous the tolerance of Iran will inevitably be. A fundamental pillar of the Russian strategy to win the competition and the ongoing struggle between it and Washington over political and military influence in the world.

What will give the Israeli point of view more credibility regarding the link between the impact of American complacency with Iran on Washington’s policy aimed at containing the escalating Russian influence in several regions of the world are the statements made by Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 21 in his annual message to the Federal Assembly. Where he stressed that he hopes that no one would think to cross the “red line” in relations with Russia, and launched a general attack on the US and Western sanctions policy against many countries (which indirectly serves Iran), saying: “It seems that everyone has really become accustomed to practicing Imposing illegal sanctions motivated by politics, and attempts to impose the will on others by force, but this practice is now deteriorating into something more dangerous. ” It is true that Putin specifically intended the US and European sanctions imposed on Russia years ago due to its policy against Ukraine, but it is certain that Iran – which has suffered for more years from similar sanctions – can benefit from his statements and Russia’s position on Western sanctions policy in general. In other words, Israel may try to link Iran’s moves against it and Russian support for its regime – on more than one political, security, and economic level – in a way that poses a serious threat to US interests in the Middle East by an alliance that Russia is trying to build and that includes Iran and other countries such as Turkey in the face of the United States. Can the Biden administration face the Israeli pressure, and on the other hand, can Israel impede this administration’s steps toward Iran?

Has Iran changed the rules of engagement with Israel?

On April 22, IDF spokesperson Avichai Adraei said on his Twitter account: “Israel detected a surface-to-air missile launched from Syria, exceeding its target and sliding towards Israel, but it was not fired to target a specific area in Israel. In response, our forces bombed the missile battery. Appointed in addition to other surface-to-air missile batteries inside Syria. ”

Additional information about the type of missile that fell near the Dimona reactor, in addition to other information about the location from which the missile was launched from inside Syrian territory, raised doubts about the authenticity of the Israeli army’s statement for several reasons:

  • It was remarkable to confirm the Israeli statement hastily that the missile may have lost its target or fired by mistake and did not aim to hit sites inside Israel. Still, this rush seemed understandable because the missile fell near the Dimona reactor. Israel expressed fears that its fall, just 30 kilometers from the nuclear reactor, is an important variable in the balance of deterrence. Israel overwhelmingly overcomes both Syria and Iran. For many years, Israel directed strikes on the Iranian and Syrian nuclear projects. The two countries were not able to respond to such attacks in the same way. Still, for a missile to fall near Dimona, whether it was Syrian or Iranian, this would indicate – if it was acknowledged that it was directed at the Israeli nuclear reactor. Israel lost its ability to deter the two states in this field, which was stable in its favor for many years.

2- Some news reports indicated that the missile site is the “Al-Dameer” area, which is about 40 km from Damascus and is controlled by militias affiliated with Iran. Which were fired at Israeli planes, and these allegations complement the first allegations that the missile was not targeting sites inside Israel, that the balance of deterrence between Israel and Iran has not changed, and that Iran does not dare to think about the possibility of attacking Dimona in response to Israel’s attacks on the Natanz reactor, which have been repeated more than Once by cyber means or sabotage operations by agents from inside Iran itself.

3- According to the Israeli statement, the missile in question was a SAM-5 (also called S-200), which is a surface-to-air missile designed to counter the marauding aircraft, and it is known that this missile explodes in the air automatically if it lost the way to its target. Pure science cannot continue its way horizontally for a long distance, so how did this stray missile travel a distance close to 400 kilometers, which is the separation between the supposed launch site and the area that includes Dimona in southern Israel?

This paradox in the Israeli narrative made some experts suggest that the missile was not a surface-to-air missile but rather a surface-to-surface missile model. Its launch and location were determined and directed to approach the Dimona reactor and not necessarily to hit it directly. Here, questions arise, none of which are in the interest of preserving the image of Israeli deterrence against Iran, such as: How were the radar devices and the anti-missile system unable to detect the missile, determine its model, and shoot it down before reaching Israeli territory? Has Iran been able to develop technology capable of misleading the defense systems? And make it unable to determine the type of missiles directed against it?

What is certain is that Iran – which did not announce its responsibility or the responsibility of its militias in Syria for obvious reasons – nonetheless gained from behind this incident in terms of media and psychology as long as doubts remained about its role in launching this missile, but Israel could also achieve some gains. Despite what befell the credibility of its deterrence and its image as a major military and technological power. As it is expected to raise in closed rooms with the Trump administration the danger of excluding Iran’s missile capabilities from the negotiations to return to the nuclear agreement, a goal that Israel has been seeking for years and fears that Biden’s return to the nuclear agreement is not conditional on the entry of Iran’s missile capabilities into the negotiations.

Does Iran ignite the Palestinian front against Israel?

In a sudden development and coinciding – raising suspicions – with the announcement of the Israeli security delegation’s visit to Washington and the missile incident that fell near Dimona, clashes erupted between activists from the most extreme Israeli right and the Arab residents of Jerusalem. It is a prelude to a full-fledged Palestinian uprising. As a result of these clashes, several rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip against the adjacent Israeli cities, numbering 36 rockets, and Hamas linked the launching of the rockets with the Israeli right-wing attacks on the Arab residents of Jerusalem.

Then the question was: Has Iran moved some of its regional arms to tighten the stranglehold that it is trying to impose on Israel, whether through its contacts with Washington regarding the return to the nuclear agreement or by questioning the credibility of Israeli deterrence (the missile incident)?

This synchronization cannot be understood without suspicion of Iran’s moves that may use the Palestinian file as a pressure tool against the Biden administration, whereby the price of its role in de-escalating or increasing the escalation between Hamas and Israel depends in part on the American position, which will be agreed upon regarding the return to the nuclear agreement and the lifting of the sanctions imposed on it. Especially since the Biden administration is currently working on drafting a project to launch negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel, and Biden will have to, to ensure the success of this negotiation project, bargain with Iran in the framework of an equation under which the latter reduces its rhetoric against the settlement project between the Palestinians and Israel and refrains from inciting Hamas and Palestinian Jihad to The failure of the project, in exchange for greater flexibility on the part of Washington in terms of reviving the nuclear deal and reducing the sanctions imposed on it. And this equation seems to be in the interests of Israel on both sides. The latter seeks to pressure Biden to tighten measures to monitor Iranian nuclear activities when it does not welcome any project to resume negotiations with the Palestinians following the principle of the two-state solution and the reference to the borders of June 4, 1967, as the Biden administration plans.

The best solution for Israel is to drop this equation altogether by exploiting the Jerusalem clashes and portraying it as a sign of the sabotage role that Iran is practicing to thwart the American efforts in support of holding the Palestinian elections on time and seeking to resume the settlement process between the Palestinians and Israel, especially since the events in Jerusalem took place a few weeks before the conduct of The Palestinian elections. It is known that both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas compete to monopolize the card to defend Jerusalem. Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) threatens to postpone the elections if Israel does not allow its Arab residents to vote in them, while Hamas – and Iran behind it – is trying to spread allegations about They are the only party that defends the rights of Arabs and Muslims in Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. They do not bargain for these rights politically, whatever the price.

All these complications would push the Biden administration to postpone any settlement projects between the Palestinians and the Israelis and also convince it not to link the issue of reviving the nuclear deal with Iran and the latter’s position on the issue of the settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis, or on other regional issues of concern to US interests.

In the end, Iran and Israel – each with their own means – are pushing for an escalation of tension in the region for opposing reasons. Iran wants the Biden administration to lift the sanctions imposed on it without requiring any amendments to the agreement that Washington withdrew from three years ago, whether concerning inspection procedures on its nuclear facilities or about its freedom to conduct missile tests. As for Israel, its goals – in contrast to Iran’s goals in logical and actual terms – are to prevent the revival of the nuclear agreement with the latter and not to enter into negotiations with the Palestinians under the pretext that Iran’s control over the decision of Hamas – which rules Gaza and rejects any settlement with Israel – will not achieve the aspirations that The Biden administration is trying to finalize this file.

Israel believes that if it does not succeed in persuading the Biden administration to stop trying to pull Iran out of its isolation, then it will at least be free to deal with what it sees as an existential threat to it on the part of the latter, which means that it may continue its policy of targeting Iranian nuclear capabilities without consulting with Washington. Israel may try this path soon, especially as it wants to strike Iran, which will erase from memory the missile incident that fell near Dimona and caused doubts about the credibility of Israeli deterrence.

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