Iran attacks Israel: the day after.

by Claudio Bertolotti

Teheran has carried out the retaliation announced for the attack it suffered on April 1st, when its consulate in Damascus was targeted, an event that resulted in the death of at least 16 people, including two commanders of the Revolutionary Guards. Overnight, more than 300 drones and cruise missiles, launched by the Islamic Republic and its regional allies – the Ansar Allah Houthis from Yemen, the Iraqi Shiite militias, and Lebanese Hezbollah – targeted Israeli military installations, with most of these intercepted by the Iron Dome defense systems.

The attack by Tehran on Israel is an event that finally highlights the conflict dynamics in the Middle East that until now have seen Tehran strike Israel indirectly, without ever exposing itself. Today everything has changed, and this is the historical event that marks a change of pace, beyond the actual results achieved on the ground. Perhaps a result achieved by Israel is that of having drawn out of the shadows those who, over the last twenty years and more, have managed attacks and offenses against Israel hiding behind its regional proxies, from Syria, to Lebanese Hezbollah to Ansar Allah Houthis in Yemen, the Iraqi Shiite militias, and more recently Hamas itself.

A historic event that could be decisive in resolving conflicts unresolved for decades but that the United States will not allow to be resolved and this not out of a fear of regional expansion of the conflict but because the event itself takes place in full electoral campaign and the incumbent president fears losing the votes of the significant Arab and Muslim component.

On the tactical level, the less relevant one, we can read it as an attempt to saturate the Israeli air defense system by sending a high number of drone aircraft to then strike the targets with ballistic missiles. A failed result.

On the strategic level, the most relevant, and which allows us to make a forecast on the future scenarios of the ongoing conflict, although many analysts argue that it was a demonstrative act, almost symbolic, with the hope on the part of Iran of considering the direct confrontation between Jerusalem and Tehran concluded, personally I believe it was instead an option without choice in relation to the role of Iran in the so-called “Axis of Resistance”: asking its proxies for years to fight consistently with Tehran’s power ambitions would no longer have been sustainable after the Israeli attack on the Iranian embassy in Syria. Coherence, opportunity, sharing of effort: if Tehran had not acted, the entire Axis of Resistance would have weakened, progressively shattered, leaving Tehran alone to face Israel.

Tehran is also particularly fragile on the domestic political front, with a generational discontent increasingly acute and evident.. the search for an external enemy representing an existential threat is a political ruse as old as war. On this we must not be surprised.

However, I fear that the game is still open, although we can expect a diplomatic pause strongly desired by the Biden administration, and this for reasons of electoral campaign rather than strategic opportunity of Washington.

Terrorism: Islamic State threatens football championships.

by Claudio Bertolotti.

The so-called Islamic State, reigniting fears in Europe after the attack in Moscow, has threatened to launch an attack against the four stadiums where the Champions League quarter-finals will be played starting tonight. Al-Azaim, one of ISIS’s propaganda organs, confirmed these intentions by publishing the image of the four stadiums where the first-leg matches will be held – Parc des Princes in Paris, Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid, Metropolitan also in Madrid, and Emirates in London – accompanied by the caption “Kill them all.”

It is necessary to clarify at the outset: ISIS’s experience, as we knew it in Iraq and Syria, ended in June 2014 with the proclamation of the Caliphate by al-Baghdadi and the establishment of the Islamic State. ISIS no longer exists; in its place is the Islamic State. This is not a minor clarification, as it marks the beginning of the post-territorial era of the movement, which we are observing and suffering from today, both in the West and in the Middle East, as demonstrated by the increasingly manifest strength of this group especially in Syria and Afghanistan.

How serious do you think this threat is? We recall a similar alert on March 30 in Germany.

Firstly, in this case, as in most episodes, it is not the Islamic State itself but its affiliated groups that are calling for the fight. And the current one seems not so much a warning as a call to strike, hence not a direct threat. Also, as the recent history of the Islamic State and its franchised affiliates has shown us, when the group strikes, it does so without warning – effectively exploiting the element of surprise to achieve maximum results. What happened in Russia is confirmation of this. However, and this is the second aspect, consistent with attacks in recent years, attributed to or claimed by the Islamic State, it is the appeal to strike that is captured by individuals, or more rarely by small groups, often disorganized or poorly organized, that constitutes the driving force of the group which, as a rule and for obvious opportunity, only claims the successful ones, a small part, not mentioning the more numerous ones that end in failure.

After the attack in Moscow, these threats, and the arrest yesterday in Rome of a Tajik former ISIS militiaman, do you think there are conditions to understand what ISIS’s strategy is? Is it raising its head? Is it regaining strength?

The Islamic State is indeed raising its head, and it is doing so disruptively and effectively, emotionally bringing us back to the terrible years 2015-2017 when Europe was overwhelmed by a series of disruptive events, in turn evoking the emotions of the al-Qaeda attacks in Europe in 2004, in Madrid and London. Today, it is enough to look at Syria, where it was thought – also due to the media spotlight being directed elsewhere – that the Islamic State had been defeated: this is not the case. On the contrary, the progressive increase in Islamic State attacks, continuous and repeated assaults on prisons to free fighters detained by the Syrian regime, the ability to strike essentially anywhere. It is a very loud alarm bell that anticipates a new wave that is self-sustaining: from the rhetoric of the Taliban victory in Afghanistan, to competition with the Taliban, to the increase in affiliates, individuals, and groups from the Middle East to Southeast Asia, to Europe. Not a new Islamic State, but a phenomenon that is awakening.