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Friday Feature – Israelis Awake to a New Strategic Reality

Friday Feature

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Posted on: 
3 Jan 2020
Friday Feature – Israelis Awake to a New Strategic Reality
Israelis awoke Friday morning to two big news stories which carried enormous implications for every single person living in the Jewish State and for many people living in the surrounding countries as well. The first news item which dominated the headlines of all the major news outlets was the death of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani and his protégé’, Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, in a US airstrike near Baghdad’s International Airport in the early morning hours.

"At the direction of the President, the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization," the Pentagon's statement read. "General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region," the statement continued. "General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more."

"General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the US Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week," the Pentagon added. "This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans. The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world."

The strike on a convoy of vehicles carrying the two terrorist leaders, which also killed ten other people and wounded others including, according to unconfirmed reports, a senior Hezbollah field commander, prompted hysterical demands for revenge on the US and Israel from senior leaders of Iran and its terrorist proxies throughout the Middle East. Iraqi PMF spokesman Ahmed al-Assadi issued a statement declaring that "The American and Israeli enemy is responsible for killing the mujahideen Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Qasem Soleimani." This call was echoed by officials of other Iraqi Shi’ite militias and the Lebanese Shi’ite terror militia Hezbollah. Meanwhile, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a formulaic statement Friday calling for revenge and warning that his followers would now have even more motivation to destroy Israel and America.

However, some analysts pointed out that similar statements were made following Israel’s 2008 assassination in Damascus of Hezbollah leader Imad Mughniyeh, but little ever came of them in large part because Mughniyeh was the only terrorist leader who had the competence and charisma needed to organize and carry out the kind of attacks threatened by Hezbollah in revenge for his assassination.

Also, the denunciations of the strike from some groups and government’s which have been occasional and/or mild supporters of the clerical regime in Teheran were rather subdued, indicating that along with eliminating two of its most competent terrorist leaders, the strike did serious damage to Iran’s diplomatic and political value in the eyes of some of its erstwhile friends. 

Another piece of diplomatic fallout from the strikes might be an increase in the respect and popularity of the US among Iraqis, Lebanese and others in the Middle East as Soleimani was widely feared and hated as the leader and symbol of Iran’s attempt to dominate its neighbors. Protests against those Iranian efforts have broken out in Lebanon and Iraq in recent weeks, featuring violent attacks on Iranian diplomatic missions in several cities including Basra, in the Shi’ite dominated south of Iraq.

Analysts have long warned that Israel’s security is closely tied to the degree to which it’s main ally, the US, is feared and respected in the Middle East. Therefore, the American elimination of two of Iran’s most senior terrorist leaders is sure to incur diplomatic and security benefits for Israel as well, at least in the short term.

Here is a video of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu responding to news of the strike

However, the other piece of news making headlines in Israel on Friday will also bring many benefits to the Jewish State, and those benefits will probably last much longer. That other piece of news was the signing on Thursday evening by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of a pact, along with his colleagues Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, to build a pipeline to carry Israel’s natural gas reserves to the European market.

“This is a historic day for Israel, because Israel is quickly becoming an energy superpower, a country that exports energy,” Netanyahu said upon signing the agreement. “We opened the Leviathan gas field days ago. It brings us great outputs, but with the exports that will be possible by way of this pipeline, we will have hundreds of millions of shekels in income for Israeli citizens, for welfare, health, young people and the elderly, for everyone.”

Energy, Water and Infrastructure Minister Yuval Steinitz, who accompanied Netanyahu on his trip, told Channel 11, “This is the first time Israel and Europe are cooperating on a major infrastructure project. Israel will become one of Europe’s energy suppliers.”

Far beyond the large amount of money that will come into the Israeli economy and the large number of jobs which this infusion will produce, Israelis can look forward to improved strategic, political and diplomatic relations with the European Union as the Jewish State becomes a major supplier of energy. The pipeline is scheduled to begin transporting around 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year by 2025, with a forecasted doubling of that capacity by the end of the decade.

Here is a video of Netanyahu's remarks in English and Hebrew at the signing ceremony

Taken together, these two pieces of news meant that Israelis awoke Friday morning to a new strategic reality. Their most dangerous enemy has suffered a great strategic setback while Israel’s strategic alliance with the Western countries who have been its traditional friends and allies has been greatly strengthened. Although Israelis know they must still be watchful and project strength, as shabbat approaches the nation will be able to take a deep breath of relief and look forward to better times in the future.

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