Geopolitics

Is Iran Behind The Outbreak Of Israeli-Palestinian Violence?

Israel had struck Iranian interests in recent months without significant reprisals. Meanwhile, Iran is growing impatient that nuclear talks in Vienna are stalling, and may have turned to the Palestinian groups it arms to provoke the violence.

Rockets are seen in the night sky fired towards Israel from the northern Gaza Strip on May 14, 2021
Hamed Mohammadi

-Analysis-

LONDON — Heavy rocket fire on Israel from Gaza began four days after Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei declared in a speech on Quds Day that "fighting the Zionist regime is a general duty." He was addressing the youth of the Muslim world, and told them to "build suitable weapons and strengthen the line of holy war and martyrdom."

Khamenei reacted to the rocket attacks at another gathering in Tehran, saying "force is the only language the Zionists understand," and the best way for Palestinians to "force the criminals to surrender and stop their savagery."

Israel has dealt Iran's clerical regime several blows in recent years, both inside the country and against its allies and positions in Syria, each time with Iran unable to retaliate. Furthermore, while the suspect deaths of two Revolutionary Guards generals (Mohammad Hossein-Zadeh Hejazi and Mohammad Ali Haqbin) cannot be directly attributed to Israel, reactions by senior Iranian officials suggest they suspect Israel's hand. Some regional reports on Hejazi's death have suggested he was poisoned.

Revolutionary Guards commander Hossein Salami said at his funeral that "I heard Israel is rejoicing, but it will disappear." The latest violence in Gaza seems, at the very least, to be a consolation to Iranian officials, after months of helpless resentment against Israel. But Iran may have had a more direct hand.

The Iranian ayatollahs are telling Israel its attacks and sabotage in Vienna will not go unanswered.

Talks have stalled to revive a nuclear pact between Iran and the West, as Israel and Saudi Arabia pressure the administration of President Joe Biden to prevent its waltzing into a any-old deal with Tehran, and dashed Tehran's hopes of dealing with an "Obama-style" administration. Iranian officials have repeatedly accused Israel in past weeks of blocking the talks. With the country heaving under economic pressures, the regime has few bargaining chips with the West, besides threatening to rev up uranium enrichment or fueling regional violence.

It seems that speaking through the rocket fire of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the Iranian ayatollahs are telling Israel its attacks and sabotage in Vienna will not go unanswered. Khamenei thus likely gave the green light for strikes on Israel. He had to take this dangerous step to show Iran's sway over the groups it arms, and how closely they listen to Tehran.

Ayatollah Ali Khameini condemns Israel in a May 11 speech — Photo : Iranian Supreme Leader's Office

Salami, the Revolutionary Guards chief, told an interviewer that Israel was "in decline" and "this time the Zionist regime may even collapse internally." He was one of several personalities in Iran and Lebanon who have claimed this violence is not unrelated to the U.S. strike that killed the Guards general Qasem Soleimani in early 2020. One Iranian legislator, Mohsen Dehnavi, had already threatened a "shower of missiles' on Israel, after a recent strike near its Dimona installation.

The other factor inside Iran is the presidential election slated for late June, with the attacks also bearing a message to the candidates in Tehran, that "real" revolutionaries don't negotiate — they strike.

The attacks may have sought to ruin the Abraham Accords, between Israel and Sunni countries in the Gulf. as Israel's predictably crushing response puts Arab countries on the defensive as regional media and opinion will be sure to blame Israel for civilian deaths rather than Hamas, which regularly uses human shields.

Iran is well practiced at using proxies to strike at the West. And Israel must respond, knowing that failure to do so will only embolden its foes. Right now, the Islamic Republic of Iran is in a hurry to have sanctions lifted, which can only happen if negotiations get moving in Vienna. Will their gamble pay off? It depends largely on how Israel reacts in the coming days. But the West should not ignore the triangular link between Iran's weakened position, talks in Vienna and the rockets flying between Gaza and Israel.

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Thousands of migrants in Del Rio, Texas, on the border between Mexico and the U.S.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Сайн уу*

Welcome to Friday, where the new U.S.-UK-Australia security pact is under fire, Italy becomes the first country to make COVID-19 "green pass" mandatory for all workers, and Prince Philip's will is to be kept secret for 90 years. From Russia, we also look at the government censorship faced by brands that recently tried to promote multiculturalism and inclusiveness in their ads.

[*Sain uu - Mongolian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• U.S. facing multiple waves of migrants, refugees: The temporary camp, located between Mexico's Ciudad Acuña and Del Rio in Texas, is housing some 10,000 people, largely from Haiti. With few resources, they are forced to wait in squalid conditions and scorching temperatures amidst a surge of migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. Meanwhile, thousands of recently evacuated Afghan refugees wait in limbo at U.S. military bases, both domestic and abroad.

• COVID update: Italy is now the first European country to require vaccination for all public and private sector workers from Oct. 15. The Netherlands will also implement a "corona pass" in the following weeks for restaurants, bars and cultural spaces. When he gives an opening speech at the United Nations General Assembly next week, unvaccinated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will defy New York City authorities, who are requiring jabs for all leaders and diplomats.

• U.S. and UK face global backlash over Australian deal: The U.S. is attempting to diffuse the backlash over the new security pact signed with Australia and the UK, which excludes the European Union. The move has angered France, prompting diplomats to cancel a gala to celebrate ties between the country and the U.S.

• Russian elections: Half of the 450 seats in Duma are will be determined in today's parliamentary race. Despite persistent protests led by imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny, many international monitors and Western governments fear rigged voting will result in President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party maintaining its large majority.

• Somali president halts prime minister's authority: The decision by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed marks the latest escalation in tensions with Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble concerning a murder investigation. The move comes as the Horn of Africa country has fallen into a political crisis driven by militant violence and clashes between clans.

• Astronauts return to Earth after China's longest space mission: Three astronauts spent 90 days at the Tianhe module and arrived safely in the Gobi desert in Inner Mongolia. The Shenzhou-12 mission is the first of crewed missions China has planned for 2021-2022 as it completes its first permanent space station.

• Prince Philip's will to be kept secret for 90 years: A British court has ruled that the will of Prince Philip, the late husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth who passed away in April at 99 years old, will remain private for at least 90 years to preserve the monarch's "dignity and standing."

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

With a memorable front-page photo, Argentine daily La Voz reports on the open fight between the country's president Alberto Fernández and vice-president Cristina Kirchner which is paralyzing the government. Kirchner published a letter criticizing the president's administration after several ministers resigned and the government suffered a major defeat in last week's midterm primary election.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

€150

An Italian investigation uncovered a series of offers on encrypted "dark web" websites offering to sell fake EU COVID vaccine travel documents. Italy's financial police say its units have seized control of 10 channels on the messaging service Telegram linked to anonymous accounts that were offering the vaccine certificates for up to €150. "Through the internet and through these channels, you can sell things everywhere in the world," finance police officer Gianluca Berruti told Euronews.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

In Russia, brands advertising diversity are under attack

Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

❌ "On behalf of the entire company, we want to apologize for offending the public with our photos..." reads a recent statement by Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi after publishing an advertisement that included a photograph of a Black man. Shortly after, the company's co-founder, Konstantin Zimen, said people on social media were accusing Yobidoyobi of promoting multiculturalism. Another recent case involved grocery store chain VkusVill, which released advertising material featuring a lesbian couple. The company soon began to receive threats and quickly apologized and removed the text and apologized.

🏳️🌈 For the real life family featured in the ad, they have taken refuge in Spain, after their emails and cell phone numbers were leaked. "We were happy to express ourselves as a family because LGBTQ people are often alone and abandoned by their families in Russia," Mila, one of the daughters in the ad, explained in a recent interview with El Pais.

🇷🇺 It is already common in Russia to talk about "spiritual bonds," a common designation for the spiritual foundations that unite modern Russian society, harkening back to the Old Empire as the last Orthodox frontier. The expression has been mocked as an internet meme and is widely used in public rhetoric. For opponents, this meme is a reason for irony and ridicule. Patriots take spiritual bonds very seriously: The government has decided to focus on strengthening these links and the mission has become more important than protecting basic human rights.Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"Ask the rich countries: Where are Africa's vaccines?"

— During an online conference, Dr. Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance, implored the international community to do more to inoculate people against COVID-19 in Africa and other developing regions. The World Health Organization estimates that only 3.6% of people living in Africa have been fully vaccinated. The continent is home to 17% of the world population, but only 2% of the nearly six billion shots administered so far have been given in Africa, according to the W.H.O.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

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