With days to go until the Biden administration officially takes over at the White House, Israel launched another air attack on Iranian forces in Syria. While an attack on Syria by the IAF has become standard in the remaining days of the Trump administration, this time the IAF struck closer to the Iraqi border in Eastern Syria.
The attack targeted at least 15 installations housing Iranian weapons and acted as the main transit hub for the IRCG into Western Syria. There are claims that it killed 57 people – mostly IRCG members or affiliates.
From the outset of reports last night, it was already assumed that the US had given Israel the intelligence it needed to successfully carry out such an attack, which essentially crippled the Iranian forces in the area.
“The U.S. official, who requested anonymity to speak about the matter, said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed Tuesday’s airstrike with Yossi Cohen, chief of Israel’s spy agency Mossad, at a public meeting in the popular Washington restaurant Café Milano on Monday.”
It has been assumed that the Trump Administration would continue to give Israel the green light to take out as much Iranian hardware and personnel as possible before Biden is installed. After January 20th the sinophilic nature of Biden’s regime will make Israel’s overt strikes very hard to carry out. China wants a strong Iran and if past is prescience then so does the Biden administration.
With the region on high alert after the strike, the question remains whether Iran will hold back for a few more days until the Biden administration takes over or retaliate now. Most observers believe the Mullahs in Tehran will refrain from attacking, but if this is not Trump’s final gift to the Jewish state, then expect something far larger to test the Ayatollah’s resolve
The new alliance between Israel and the UAE as well as Bahrain has upended the Middle East in many ways. From technology and innovation partnerships to military drills and intelligence sharing, the Abraham Accords has made the countries involved the most powerful the region has seen.
None of this has been lost on the Iranians, who understand that despite Biden’s desire to jump back into the nuclear deal, there will be little he can do about the growing strength of the Sunni-Israel alliance.
This is why the Iranians are using Yemen as a forward battle against Saudi clout on the Arabian peninsula. This was clearly demonstrated when the new Saudi backed Yemen government arrived at the Aden airport only to be attacked by Iranian backed Houthis. 26 people were killed the triple bombing and more than 60 wounded.
The blasts were so loud they were heard in Israel.
The message from Iran is clear: Don’t think about joining the Abraham Accords.
Although most observers have focused their attention on the Persian Gulf, Yemen has strategic value to Iran as rests across the Bab al-Mandab Strait from Djibouti. This is one of the most important choke points for shipping in the world. Freighters travel through Bab al-Mandab Strait and bring oil and other commodities to the West.
This is why China has gone out of its way to build up its base in Djibouti, effectively giving it an advantage in controlling the Red Sea. Furthermore, Beijing has gone out of its way to invest in Eritrea and Ethiopia, securing most of the Horn of Africa.
This is why Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states have long seen the war in Yemen as critical in keeping the Chinese-Iranian alliance to only one side of the Bab al-Mandab Strait.
Message to Israel
With Israeli arms sales and agri-tech development in Ethiopia and other countries on the Horn of Africa, Israel is hoping to keep pressure on Beijing to play fair by keeping the struggle economic.
Iran’s message to Israel is clear. Yemen may have a new government, but it still the Houthis that call the shots and with them the Red Sea and its shipping routes are up for grabs.
Iran is effectively using much of China’s investment in its Belt and Road Initiative to help build a net against Israel and her Sunni allies.
Yemen is critical in controlling both sides of the Bab al-Mandab Strait and with it, a crushing blow to peace in the region.
The recently ended Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia concluded with Azerbaijan gaining far more territory than it had before the war. Baku’s success came by way of strong military support from Turkey including the use of Syrian mercenaries that had fought for Turkey against the Kurds.
Aside from Turkey’s involvement, proof is clear that Israeli drones and other advanced weaponry from Israel gave Azerbaijan the needed edge against their Armenian foe.
Israel and Azerbaijan have had warm relations since 1992. For years, it was one of the only Muslim majority countries to have relations with Israel. Besides that Azerbaijan is home to 30,000 Jews who live safely among their Muslim neighbors.
However, in recent years, Jerusalem and Baku have seen their relations fray as Azerbaijan has drawn closer to Turkey. During Turkey’s invasion of Northern Syria directed at pushing out the indigenous Kurdish population, it was Netanyahu who pledged support for the Kurds. At the same time Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev vocally supported the Turkish invasion.
Which is why Jerusalem’s continued arm sales to Azerbaijan makes both right and left in Israel nervous that these weapons are falling into the wrong hands.
Advanced weapons sales by Israel to a county like Azerbaijan, who is ready to parter with Turkey, a belligerent actor bent on hegemonic control over the Middle East is increasingly problematic from both a PR and a security standpoint. Given the above, why is Israel continuing to arm Azerbaijan, especially after the Abraham Accords brought UAE oil onboard for the Jewish State as well increased relations with more Muslim nations?
The answer is: Iran. Israel still needs Azerbaijan for its location in order to keep close tabs on Iran for Israel’s continued Mossad operations. While the Mahabat region of Iran, which is Kurdish offers a great place for Israeli backed agents to spy and carry out operations, there is no strategic depth to it. The Iranian Azeri region on the other hand buttresses Azerbaijan.
Both Iran and Azerbaijan have had a rocky relationship. Iran supported Armenian claims to Nagorno-Karabakh in the past and also provided vital support to Armenia in past conflicts with Azerbaijan. Although in the present conflict, Iran claims to have stayed neutral, Turkey has insisted it secretly supports Armenia.
For Azerbaijan, its claims to the Azeri areas of Iran have given Tehran pause and concern.
With Israeli drone bases and listening posts in Azerbaijan and a close security partnership between the two countries, Israel can overlook Azerbaijan’s friends it does not approve of. This is because its geographical importance and friendly populace on both sides of the Azerbaijan-Iran border offers Jerusalem an indispensable forward operative base and strategic location unparalleled.
Taking Turkey out of the discussion makes it even more apparent that Israel is busy locking in partnerships with those countries surrounding Iran – the Gulf states to its South, Kurdistan to its West, and Azerbaijan to its North – in order to contain it and provide its intelligence units the locations they need to carry out targeted assassinations, information collection, and logistical support for minority actors in Iran that are focused on toppling the Ayatollahs.
In this light, Israel has made a strategic choice to continue selling Azerbaijan the arms it needs despite the drawbacks in order to secure help against a far larger threat.
President Trump has largely used his four years as president to refrain from foreign interference and regime change that had marked both President Bush’s and Obama’s foreign policies.
However, there are two areas where Trump has successfully held the line and utilized a strong approach in order to wield results.
Over the last four years we have seen the President use the might of the USA and proper diplomacy to push back on both Iran and China.
He has been emphatic on holding Iran accountable for its drive towards nuclear weapons and its strategic regional destabilization activities, namely in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.
On China, he pushed back using tariffs and held strong during trade negotiations. Furthermore, he strengthened America’s relationship with India, Japan, and others directly surrounding China.
With all of this in mind, it is important to understand the relationship these two American adversaries have. By doing so, one can understand why the potential for an attack on Iran before Biden takes over has merit.
The Growing Iran-China Partnership
What was once only a geopolitical convenience, both countries have now seen the necessity behind their growing alliance.
So why do these two countries form such a symbiotic relationship?
Firstly, China’s energy needs are one of the largest in the world. The challenge for China is that its domestic source of oil or gas no longer covers its needs. It relies heavily energy imports.
So where does it import oil and gas from?
On the face of it, China’s energy imports are pretty varied. However, there is another component, which makes Iran a key part to China’s equation. This is the Belt and Road initiative. China sees Iran as a key component in its ability to influence the Middle East. After all, while China may get energy from Iraq, Oman, and Kuwait, these countries are heavily influenced by policy decisions on Iran.
As an example, Oman has yet to join the Abraham Accords, because it fears retribution from Iran. Kuwait is heavily Shiite and although dislikes Iran, it is equally threatened by them. The same goes for Shiite controlled Iraq as well as part of the Kurdish North.
The latest cooperation agreement signed between Iran and China in June illustrates this. The cooperation agreement was further cemented this past October with a visit by Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif.
While the agreement focuses on economic and cultural ties, the use “terrorism” as a reason to partner together for security reasons or join support in international bodies should be understood as far more than just passive cooperation. Furthermore, the agreement stipulates China’s resolve to back the JCPOA nuclear deal and also help Iran with energy development, including nuclear.
While China has followed a policy of non-intervention in the Middle East, its growing alliance with Iran allows it to partner with someone who for its own reasons will be able to enforce Chinese hegemony in the Persian Gulf and over the rest of the region, thus ensuring a steady source of energy for years to come for Beijing.
In turn, Iran can rely on Chinese backing, both militarily and diplomatically for its drive to conquer Israel and the Sunni world.
Biden Will Strengthen The Chinese-Iranian Axis
If Joe Biden hold off President Trump’s legal challenges he will essentially be a compliant partner in allowing the China-Iran Axis to hold sway over the Middle East. It cannot be overstated how much Biden and his team are influenced by the CCP controlled China.
Jake Sullivan, Biden’s potential National Security Advisor was noted as saying that China’s rise is a foreign policy success.
He said the following in full remarks: “We helped create the conditions of stability and security in East Asia that allowed China to have this remarkable economic rise. So that it’s rising, in a way, is not the failure of American foreign policy; it’s the success of creating those stable conditions.”
Biden has issued positive statements as well about China’s rise.
Iran’s ability to act as China’s forward base and arm in the Middle East is perhaps Trump’s actual reason for considering a limited but serious strike on the Islamic Republic. Any action President Trump carries out or allows the new Israel-Sunni Alliance to carry out before he potentially leaves in January should be seen through a prism that takes China into it as well.