January 28, 2015
Iran Tracker Blog: Iran Commends Hezbollah Attack That Killed Two Israeli Soldiers
Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah’s desire for additional retaliation against Israel for the airstrike that killed IRGC Quds Force Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Allah Dadi and several Lebanese Hezbollah senior officers puts Hezbollah in a difficult position. Hezbollah is focused on supporting Bashar al Assad in Syria, where it has deployed thousands of fighters, and on relieving increasing Israeli military pressure on its position and logistics in the Golan Heights. Hezbollah will attempt to limit the scale of the current operations against Israeli Defense Forces to avoid a wider conflict while still satisfying its need—and Tehran’s—for revenge.
Iranian regional policy encountered another complication in Yemen, where Tehran wants to ensure its allied al Houthi rebels have a dominant role in a unified state, but where the recent al Houthi coup d’état risks escalation that could damage the al Houthis’ position. Yemeni President Hadi’s January 22 resignation and the continued degeneration of the Yemeni situation could encourage southern secessionists, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and other groups to confront the al Houthis more directly.
In Iranian domestic politics, the five-year sentence handed down to former Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi indicates the regime’s anti-corruption campaign may be more serious than previously assessed, although the campaign is still expected to focus on figures from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration, rather than current senior officials. Russia will continue to use the potential delivery of the advanced S-300 air defense system to Iran as political leverage against the West, but its eventual transfer to Tehran remains doubtful.
IRGC praises Lebanese Hezbollah following attack on Israel:
The IRGC released a letter expressing support for Lebanese Hezbollah after Hezbollah claimed responsibility for an attack against Israeli Defense Forces in the Shebaa Farms region on January 28 which killed two Israeli soldiers. Tehran warned Israel, via the United States, that Israel crossed a redline with Iran by killing IRGC Quds Force Brigadier General Mohammed Ali Allah Dadi in an airstrike near Syria’s Golan Heights on January 18. Deputy IRGC Commander Brigadier General Hossein Salami vowed revenge for the attack and stated earlier that opening a new front with Israel in the West Bank would be part of its eventual retaliation. Several senior Iranian officialssignaled last week that Lebanese Hezbollah will take the lead for executing any retaliation.
Tehran navigating new political vacuum in Yemen:
Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham called on all Yemeni parties on January 21 to practice “self-restraint” and remain committed to a peace deal in which the Iranian-backed al Houthi rebels would withdraw from the capital in exchange for greater inclusion and power-sharing in the country. The al Houthis rejected former-Yemeni President Hadi’s implementation of the deal, which prompted the abrupt dissolution of the government on January 22. Rebel leader Abdel Malek al Houthi reiterated Afkham’s message on January 27, urging all factions to work together to solve the crisis, and released Hadi’s chief of staff whom they had abducted last week.
Iran putting positive spin on latest nuclear discussions:
The P5+1 partners are attempting to meet a March 24 deadline to outline the political framework for a final nuclear agreement. Deputy Iranian Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi described a series of bilateral talks with US officials in Switzerland last week as “useful” and said the P5+1 showed seriousness during negotiations. Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani also hinted on January 26 that a nuclear agreement was not far from reach, although Western sources have not reported any progress.
Former Iranian vice president sentenced for corruption:
Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s first Vice President, Mohammad Reza Rahimi, was sentenced to five years in prison on corruption charges. He is the highest-profile current or former government official to be convicted in Iran’s current anti-corruption campaign.
Will Iran finally get the S-300 advanced air defense system?
Russian state media has reported that Moscow may finally deliver S-300 (SA-20) missile defense systems to Tehran in retaliation of Western economic and political pressure. Russia reached a deal with Iran in 2007 to provide the air defense system, which would significantly upgrade Tehran’s ability to protect key military and nuclear facilities from US or Israeli airstrikes. Moscow cancelled the contract in 2010 under pressure from the West.
J. Matthew McInnis is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. This report was produced in cooperation with the Iran Team of the Critical Threats Project. It analyzes the most important Iran news events of the past week and provides an outlook of the regime’s strategic calculus.