The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Maj-Gen. Hossein Salami, has been boasting about Iran’s ability to “strike Israel.” He’s been a veritable miles gloriosus, the “braggart warrior” of Roman drama. A report on his exaggerated claims about previous attacks on Israel is here: “Iran IRGC head: Israel can be destroyed in one operation,” by Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, May 7, 2021:
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Maj.-Gen. Hossein Salami said that Israel “security” has been eroded, and its safety “bubble” burst in the last few months in a wide-ranging television interview.
He bragged at length about how the “Zionist regime” is supposedly in the midst of security, political and social disintegration. He then claimed that Israel has suffered strikes against its maritime interests, cybersecurity vulnerabilities and other security setbacks, including mysterious explosions and a rocket that flew over Dimona.
Israel does not appear to be suffering any “social disintegration.” The maneuvering among different political parties to create new parliamentary alliances, and a possible replacement for the prime minister, has certainly gone on for long, but this does not amount to “political disintegration.” It testifies, rather, to an exuberant democracy, so different from the frozen despotism that rules Iran.
But what about the supposed “security disintegration” in the Jewish state?
Salami pointed to a string of incidents over the last several months, appearing to take credit for them. He said that a mysterious explosion in Israel, allegedly at a rocket factory on April 20, was a huge explosion that he said “resembled that of a nuclear explosion.”
That “mysterious explosion” — hardly resembling “a nuclear explosion” — on April 20 was no mystery at all. The Tomer weapons plant promptly announced that the blast had been a “controlled explosion” set off as part of a “routine test.” There is no reason to disbelieve this account; the Israelis have as consistent a record of telling the truth as Iran does of lying.
This is part of a domino effect, which has included cyberattacks on Israel, “the killing of Mossad operatives in northern Iraq” and threats to a chemical factory in Haifa and Ben-Gurion Airport. His interview was headlined in most major Iranian media on Thursday [May 6] receiving front-page coverage.
What of Salami’s claim about the “killing of Mossad operatives” in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq? A spokesman for the Kurdistan Regional Government at the time said that reports of an alleged attack on a Mossad center in northern Iraq were “completely false,” stating that this wasn’t the first time claims have been made by Iran that an Israeli intelligence center was located in Kurdistan. The Iranian reports claimed that “Israeli forces” were injured or killed in the alleged attack and promised to release more details and footage “soon.” Months later, no further details nor footage has been released.
The “killings of Mossad operatives” was a fiction made up by Tehran, to convince its own people — and the world — that it was able to fight back against the Israeli agency that for years has been running circles around Iran, with its repeated attacks that have successfully delayed Iran’s nuclear program. These include the Stuxnet computer worm, the assassination of a half-dozen Iranian nuclear scientists, and two separate attacks on the nuclear facility at Natanz, the first the result of on-site sabotage, the second involving a cyberattack that destroyed the plant’s electric power supply, that then led to the damage or destruction of nearly 6,000 centrifuges.
And what about the supposed “threats” to a factory in Haifa and to Ben-Gurion airport? A fire broke out in one of the facilities at Bazan oil refineries in Haifa as a result of a damaged pipe, the Environment Protection Ministry reported in a statement.
Immediately after the fire broke out, the factory’s emergency team began working to extinguish the flames as fire and rescue forces were called to the scene before gaining control of the flames.
And the fire Salami described as being “at Ben Gurion airport” was, in fact, in an open field at Moshav Zeitan, more than six miles outside the airport’s perimeter; it was quickly extinguished, with no casualties or damage, and no disruption of flights at the airport.
The long list of incidents provided by Salami indicates that he wants Iran to be seen as somehow responsible. He pointed to the list, as well as cyberattacks on 80 companies. He also said that 90% of Israel’s trade is maritime and that Israel is vulnerable at sea. He noted that it is a relatively narrow country and has no strategic depth.
Israel may be “vulnerable at sea” but so far the Iranians have managed to inflict only minor damage on three Israeli-owned vessels, while Israel has done major damage to more than a dozen Iranian ships in the Mediterranean carrying oil and weapons to Syria. Israeli commandos have also affixed limpet mines to the Saviz, an Iranian military “spy ship” stationed in the Red Sea, causing major damage. The record suggests that it is Iran, not Israel, that is “vulnerable at sea.”
As for the claim of cyberattacks on “80 companies,” Iran has been able to inflict damage by corrupting data, but nothing it has done so far compares with the cyberattack of Stuxnet in 2010, nor the cyberattack on Natanz this past April that damaged or destroyed nearly 6,000 advanced centrifuges. And Hossein Salami surely remembers what happened when Iran carried out cyberattacks on Israeli water systems. The first attack was an attempt to raise the chlorine levels in a very small amount of Israel’s water supplies; It was promptly detected and rendered harmless before there was a single victim. Two more attacks this year hit agricultural water pumps in the upper Galilee and in the central province of Mateh Yehuda.
“These were specific, small drainage installations in the agriculture sector that were immediately and independently repaired by the locals, causing no harm or any real-world effects,” the Water Authority said in a statement. Pitiful in their outcomes, these tiny attacks were nothing to worry about. Hossein Salami surely remembers not only Israel’s Stuxnet cyberattack and its recent cyberattack that destroyed the electric power supply at Natanz, but also Israel’s response to Iran’s first attack on the Jewish state’s water infrastructure. An Israeli cyberattack managed to shut down Iran’s main port at Shahid Rajaee, disrupting traffic, both of ships in the port and of trucks on land, that took weeks to clear. In cyberwarfare, Israel has shown it can respond quickly to any Iranian attack, and far more devastatingly..
The extraordinary interview is not the first time Iran has bragged about attacks on Israel. Tehran likes to show that it is retaliating against the Jewish state, even if there is no evidence of the various examples even happening. Most of these Iranian “attacks” which have been reported in Iranian media have been revealed to be accidents or even total myths.
But that has not always been the case. Several Israeli-owned cargo vessels have been attacked in the Gulf of Oman. This includes a February incident involving the MV Helios Ray. The Hyperion Ray was attacked in April. In March an Israeli container ship, the Lori, was attacked in the Arabian Sea.
Iran has managed to hit exactly three Israeli ships – the Helios, the Hyperion, and the Lori – and none of those attacks caused serious damage. But since 2019, Israel has attacked more than a dozen Iranian ships carrying oil and weapons to Syria – some reports claim there may now have been as many as twenty Iranian ships attacked by Israel – with no signs of a letup. In many of these attacks, Israeli frogmen have managed to affix limpet mines to the hulls, demonstrating just how close Israel can come to its targets.
Salami’s main message is that Israel is suffering from a long decline and the “Zionist regime” is collapsing from within. He also says that the US is gradually leaving the region. The message is that Israel’s “security bubble” has been penetrated.
Hossein Salami has not been paying attention. While the Americans are indeed removing all troops from Afghanistan and decreasing troop levels in Iraq, they still have major military bases in Bahrain, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, and have given no signs of withdrawing from any of those bases. Furthermore, shared alarm over Iran and the MB has brought Israel — quite aside from the Arab states that have normalized ties with the Jewish state – ever closer to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the two most important Arab countries, which have stepped up their collaboration with Israel on security matters.
How’s that, General Salami, for a “security bubble”?
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