Kamikaze drones struck Iran from the air again on the night of January 28-29, 2023. A number of cities, including Rasht, Khoy, Hamadan, Ban, Karaj, Tabriz, Mazandaran, Mahabad, and especially Isfahan, where nuclear research facilities and military factories are located were targeted. The sounds of gunfire and air-raid sirens rang out in Tehran itself, Javanrud, Rasht, Lorestan and other locations.
According to Israeli expert Doron Peskin, 14 Iranian facilities were targeted, including UAV and ballistic missile production facilities, the headquarters of the IRGC and Quds Force, and other defense facilities (including munitions production). By the evening of January 29, a series of strikes by unidentified warplanes had targeted pro-Iranian formations and a convoy of 25 Iranian trucks in the Syrian border town of Al-Bukamal.
At the same time, an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.9 on the Richter scale was recorded in the epicenter of the city of Khoy in northwestern Iran, killing over 800 people. This heightened tensions among residents of the Islamic Republic.
On the same night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated: “We took the decision to target terrorist organizations tonight. Our response will be strong, swift and precise. We will bring harm to anyone who tries to harm us.” The Mossad’s targeted attacks against Iran were praised by Israel’s allies. Israel did not acknowledge its involvement in this action, though, until less than a day later. As a result, the Al-Hadath TV channel claimed, citing American sources, that Israel was not responsible for the airstrikes on the Isfahan military factory. The Wall Street Journal, among other significant American media outlets, asserts, on the other hand, that Israel was responsible for destroying Iran’s strategic facilities.
The Arabic channel Al Arabiya TV claims that since the main attack radius involved Iran’s western provinces, the nature of the drones used in the attack on Iranian military facilities (e.g., in Isfahan) indicates that the drones were allegedly launched from the territory of the unnamed Islamic Republic bordering Iran. The issue here, of course, is the parameters of the drones and their flight range. Given the geographic location of the drones and the deed, it is reasonable to conclude that Israel is using the territory of an Islamic country in its vicinity. It is clear that Israel does not have many partners (allies) in the Islamic world, certainly not in the region. Therefore, it is unlikely that it could be a NATO country, Turkey, because the alliance will not test Iran today. Moreover, Azerbaijan is not interested in worsening its already strained relations with Iran’s leadership. That leaves Iraq, where Israel finds very favorable conditions after the invasion of Anglo-American coalition forces in 2003. But whether that is true remains a big question.
Azerbaijani military expert Agil Rustamzade has suggested that some military targets in Iran have been attacked by a modified Israeli kamikaze drone Harop, whose range after installation of satellite control (satellite antenna in the nose of the drone) exceeds 1000 km and is not affected by EWB means.
Iran’s Ministry of Defense responded by saying that its air defense forces had “shot down all enemy drones,” and local administrations in the cities attacked (e.g., Deputy Mayor of Isfahan Mohammad Reza Jan-Nesari) said that there had been little damage and that defense contractors had not been harmed. In other words, Iran has not yet publicly acknowledged the January 29, 2023, airstrikes by Israel and its partners; it believes that the objectives of these attacks were not achieved and that the defense complex has maintained its stability.
If Iran does not speak of an external attack, then the Islamic Republic’s partners can say no more than the Iranian Foreign Ministry. However, Iran and its intelligence agencies apparently have (or suspect they have) information about who, why, and how carried out the January 29 scare. Meanwhile, early indications of the Iranian bombings point to Israeli involvement, as evidenced by the military expertise of the means of the airstrikes and the particular activity of the anti-Iranian Israeli expert community (e.g., Avraham Shmulevich, chairman of the Jerusalem Institute for Eastern Partnership, international law specialist Michael Finkel, columnist Doron Peskin, and others).
The Persians reserve the right to retaliate, which, according to the traditions of Iranian politics, “may pursue the initiator and the instigator for the foreseeable future.” Depending on the geography of Iran’s counterattacks, Tehran’s version of the perpetrators and those involved in the Jan. 29 attacks will be determined. According to some reports, Israeli security services (Mossad, Shabak, and Aman) are already examining the possibility of an Iranian response and conducting the necessary consultations to locate such a threat.
Ukraine can be indirectly considered as one of the interested participants in this action, accusing Iran of supplying military equipment to the Russian side. It is known that attacks have been carried out, including against the production facilities of “Shahed-136” drones, which are allegedly supplied by Iranians to Russia and used in combat operations in Ukraine. It is no coincidence that Ukraine’s official representative, Chargé d’affaires Yevhen Kravchenko, was invited to the Iranian Foreign Ministry to make statements in connection with the statement made by Ukrainian Presidential Adviser Mykhailo Podolyak on the eve of the attack on Isfahan. It is known that the Ukrainian official noted in the social networks that “the attack on the military facility in Iran may be related to the events in Ukraine and the imaginary support of the Russian Federation by the IRI.”
For its part, the Pentagon has denied any involvement in the attacks on Iran. In particular, US military spokesman General Patrick Ryder told Reuters: “No US forces were involved in the attacks on Iran.” Iran’s permanent representative to the United Nations warned the United States that any attempt by Washington to launch a war against Iran would lead to a serious regional and global confrontation.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said at the same time that the United States now has every opportunity to preclude the success of Iran’s nuclear project. For some reason, Washington believes that in the current situation Moscow is reportedly willing to give Tehran the technology to make nuclear weapons. Moreover, the United States is extremely concerned about the possibility of military-technical cooperation between Russia and Iran.
The use of tactical and strategic nuclear weapons has recently become the subject of speculation by the United States and the collective West in general against Russia and its partners. At the same time, Iran and Russia, under sanctions, can maintain a long-term partnership in all areas of interstate relations, regardless of third party opinion and in accordance with common interests (including regional interests).
The “British footprint” is almost not mentioned in all the above actions in the public space. However, some Russian experts believe that the UK may have something to do with the night actions on January 29, 2023 in Iran. London is interested in the reincarnation of the “Great Game” of the edge of 19th-20th centuries, with access to Russian Turkestan, for which it is trying to revive the famous Great Turan project with the help of Turkey and newly emerged Turkic countries of the post-Soviet space. Britain prefers the “quiet signature” of its own intelligence agency, SIS, headed by the now seasoned professional Richard Moore. The geographic and communications docking line of the “Turkish arc” is believed to be in Transcaucasia near the Iranian-Armenian border, which angers Tehran. Iran is committed to preserving the existing borders in the region and opposes their redrawing at the instigation of Anglo-Saxon interference.
It should be recognized that Iran is the heir to the ancient and global civilization that has passed the peak of imperial domination and prefers a tough defense of its own interests. The leadership of the IRI, which is obviously under pressure from the social protests, will have to make certain changes in the life of Iranian society (the so-called revolution from above) in order to preserve the unity of the country. The “red lines” defined by the Iranian authorities represent the limit of what is acceptable, beyond which a global catastrophe could begin in the form of a regional and global conflict.
The perception that the January 29 anti-Iranian action is merely a shot in the dark and a warning to Tehran could cost the perpetrators of the provocations dearly and prompt the Persians to retaliate. In the meantime, Iran is not bending or breaking, but merely focusing…
Aleksandr SVARANTS, PhD in political science, professor, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”