In a long and exhaustive examination of the recent conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Iranian regime laid out its future strategy to wage war against Israel. The report was published by Fars News, which is considered close to the top leadership of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and quotes extensively from IRGC head Hossein Salami’s recent discussion about the conflict with the Jewish state.
What are some of the main points this article discusses and why are they important? By laying this out in public, the Islamic Republic is openly saying that this is its roadmap. Iran and its proxies often threaten Israel in rhetoric, so it is worth considering this to be part of that, but behind the rhetoric is also strategy.
Iran says that it is important for Palestinian groups to remain “unified” in their “resistance” against Israel. Iran tries to use Islamic Jihad, which is a relatively small group and an Iranian proxy, to show that Iran can threaten Israel. However, Tehran knows that this alone won’t create a unified command of Palestinian groups, such as Hamas, Fatah and the PFLP.
The report says that last May, Iran tried to achieve this unity by provoking tensions in Jerusalem, attempting to push the battle into Israel’s streets last year. “It seems that the Palestinian resistance against the Zionist enemy has entered a new phase. What characteristics distinguish the new era of resistance from the past?” the report asks.
“With the passage of time, the Palestinian movement has found considerable growth and maturity in continuity," Salami says.
The struggle is changing from an intermittent to a “continuous movement,” meaning that Iran wants to use Palestinians to create a new conflict every year, to continue this pressure on Israel. This is called “limited intensity, limited goals.” The goal is to test Israel and keep up the pressure while Tehran arms groups like Hezbollah with better weapons.
Iran wants to continue this pressure-cooker effect to increase tensions in the West Bank and also inside Israel. The report names “Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Tulkarm and Sheikh Jarrah,” as areas it is pushing for more tension. “There is no geographical connection between the West Bank and Gaza. They are like two separate islands, surrounded by the Zionist regime – and there, too, there are concrete walls with a height of, for example, six meters, with wide thicknesses and extremely modern and advanced electronic and optical sensors.”
Iran admits that “despite all these limitations, you have seen today that hundreds of rockets and missiles are fired in Palestine for a small operation. It is very difficult to understand the meaning of how the Palestinian movement managed to equip itself with a large number of rockets despite all these seemingly impenetrable security fences.” Indeed, Iran is equipping the Palestinians and studying Israel’s defensive capabilities.
Iran's plan to bring war to Israel
“When you add Lebanon's Hezbollah to this equation, you realize that, for example, hundreds of thousands of rockets are arrayed in front of the Zionist regime, and these can be fired from the north and west in the Gaza Strip and in the north, from Hezbollah's side, but not in a limited volume – make all the points of the Zionist regime the point of fire.”Fars News
Iran admits that Israel has made its borders almost impenetrable. It brags that the Palestinians in Gaza – deprived of access to weapons smuggled by tunnels, like they had in the era between 2000 and 2014 – are able to produce many weapons locally. Tehran has honed this via backing the Houthis in Yemen to build their own weapons as well.
The IRGC now believes that it can force Israel into a multi-front war. “When you add Lebanon's Hezbollah to this equation, you realize that, for example, hundreds of thousands of rockets are arrayed in front of the Zionist regime, and these can be fired from the north and west in the Gaza Strip and in the north, from Hezbollah's side, but not in a limited volume – [to] make all the points of the Zionist regime the point of fire,” the report says.
Iran is saying the following. First, its strategy entails constant pressure on Israel via Islamic Jihad, its proxy force. This is designed to heat up conflicts that force Hamas into unified command with it because Hamas doesn’t want to lose face. This in turn will bring in Palestinian factions in the West Bank and cause tensions in Israel.
Furthermore, Iran believes that despite Israel’s defenses, it can threaten Israel with a multi-front war. It has increased the local production of “resistance power in Lebanon and Palestine” via the creation of more missiles. Iran then mobilizes Hezbollah to control more of Lebanon and provide it with more “experience, self-confidence, knowledge, skills, equipment and techniques it has gained from the battle in Syria against the Takfiris [ISIS, which] can lead a full-scale ground war with victory.”
Iran is saying it used the excuse of the Syrian war to increase Hezbollah’s power and therefore enable Hezbollah to gain experience in Syria fighting weaker enemies to carve out a corridor to Iraq and Iran, and both enable the smuggling of weapons and infiltration into the Golan, to pose more threats to Israel.
“Missiles are great for deterrence and conducting static wars, but the rocket is not the liberator of the land – the infantry must set foot on the ground and liberate the land step by step.” Iran calls this the "geography of population, geography of politics and geography of militarism.”
Iran openly says that it wants to use a combination of a “ground operation” with “massive migration waves of civilians and military personnel” to overwhelm Israel. It compares this to the 1980s human wave attacks against Saddam’s forces during the Iran-Iraq War.
The Zionists' strategic and internal weakness
The IRGC believes that Israel’s small size makes it vulnerable to striking at strategic infrastructure such as transportation. Iran also believes that Israel’s population is not prepared for a large war because of its “prosperity and comfortable life.”
Iran is also gambling on Israel’s problems in the West Bank, continuous pressure that leads to “a gap, a kind of inexhaustible political conflict, social disintegration, the lack of identity and the lack of nationalism within the ruling Zionist regime.”
Tehran believes that “the Zionists do not belong to that land – some of them are of European descent, some of them are of African descent, some of them came from East Asia, America and other places, and they are a heterogeneous and loose fusion of nationalities with different languages, cultures, customs and traditions, and of different national origins.”
It is ironic for Iran’s regime to make the claim that diversity is a weakness for Israel since Iran itself is deeply divided by its own diversity. The regime relies on a number of groups, including Kurds, Azeris. The regime may be projecting its own problems onto Israel.
Iran is relying on a false reading of history here, claiming that “Zionists are not people who stay in the trenches. Even when they fled south Lebanon in 2000, their food was still on the fire and they left their wireless [communications equipment] on and fled. Are you paying attention? It means that the sense of escape is so strong in them.”
The Islamic Republic believes that despite Israel’s technological superiority, its defenses can be overcome. “Many people think that technological powers are unlimited and that they can do whatever they want. Powers, however complex, are limited. All material powers have limited. They run out, they bring less.”
Iran is arguing here for a doctrine of diminishing returns. It wants to pressure Israel into endless conflicts that offer less return for the Jewish state. One mistake and Israel has little to gain in each conflict, whereas Iran believes that time is on the side of the “resistance.”
The IRGC believes that there is some kind of quasi-judo element here: “When you gain strength, these weaknesses show themselves more. If their opposite side is weak, those weaknesses will not show themselves and the strengths will be seen more.” In short, Israel’s strength can be used against it by the weaker Iran-backed proxies.
Iran also knows that the “Zionists make a lot of propaganda about [the fact that] in the recent battle only one part of the resistance got involved and the other parts did not… The strategy was for the Zionists to act selectively against one group this time – meaning, for example, to target one group alone and announce that we have nothing to do with the rest of the groups so that they stop, too – and then when they have settled with one group, they go to another group.”
The IRGC wants to stop this salami politics, this divide and conquer strategy. It wants to use PIJ to unite Palestinians, despite constant failure in this respect. “Islamic Jihad was the field and the rest provided spiritual support. If the battle were to develop, all the Palestinian factions would certainly enter,” the IRGC believes.
The Guard Corps has several other strategies. As noted above, it wants to expand the conflict from Gaza to other areas such as the West Bank. “Just as Gaza was armed, in the same way, the West Bank can be armed and this process is happening,” the Guard Corps says.
Iran is looking closely at Jenin, according to this discussion with Salami. “Today, little by little, the young people of the '48 and '67 territories [i.e Israel inside the Green Line and the West Bank and Gaza], the Jihadist youth of the Bank and Quds [Jerusalem] have all come alive to revive Jihad. This will definitely happen in the not too distant future.”
The IRGC believes that despite Israel’s outward appearance of strength, it is unstable and vulnerable to “psychological operations.” Indeed, this interview may be seen as one example of such an operation. Iran’s goal is to use groups like Islamic Jihad to erode Israel’s power slowly.
The Guard Corps will marshal the strategies above, trying to use other Palestinian groups, create more conflicts, and use Hezbollah and others to threaten Israel in a multi-front war. Iran believes that time is on its side in this equation.