Two of the prophetic Fall feasts of Israel, the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonements, are now behind us. Beginning at Sunday evening at sundown, Israel began to celebrate the seventh and final feast, Succot (the Feast of Tabernacles). Officialdom in Israel (government offices, schools and all kinds of businesses) will be closed for eight days, with the first and last days being major feast days. After this holiday, Israel will settle down and return to normal activity, while children wait for the next school-holiday, Hanukkah, in December.
Tensions remain high in the region, particularly because of the on-going civil war in Syria and the constant threats from the leader of the Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, and from the chief mucky-mucks in Iran. The situation was made even more tense following the terrorist attack that took place on Saturday against the military parade in the southern city of Ahvaz, which left some 30 people dead, about half of them from the Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, and another 70-plus wounded. Even though at least two organizations claimed responsibility for the attack, no evidence was forthcoming from them to prove that they carried it out. Other organizations, which were named as being possible perpetrators of the attack, denied having any involvement. At the end of the day, it was not known who was responsible for the attack.
That event was an embarrassment for the theocratic regime of Iran and its Revolutionary Guard Corp. The fact that the attack was carried out at this time and within the borders of Iran was a particularly difficult blow to Iran’s security establishment, which has boasted of its ability to repel any external threat and revealed that even Iran’s best military unit is vulnerable to a properly coordinated military action. Therefore, it was necessary for them to quickly accuse one or more potential aggressors. In this regard, Zarif accused the United States of being behind the attack, while a spokesman for the Revolutionary Guard accused Saudi Arabia of backing the terrorists. Zarif threatened revenge and the Guards vowed retaliation. “Iran holds regional terror sponsors and their US masters accountable for such attacks. Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of Iranian lives”. Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia are fragile, to say the least. Whatever may have been the situation in the past, it never reached such a scale, where so many soldiers were killed inside Iran itself. Even more embarrassing for Iran and a serious blow to its national pride is the fact that the attack was carried out at a military parade commemorating the 30th anniversary of the 8-year war with Iraq. Moreover, the attack came only days before U.S. President Donald Trump’s address today to the U.N., where he spoke, among other things, about Iran’s destabilizing “aggression and expansion” and sponsorship of terrorism in the region. It is doubtful that Iran will be affected by anything that Trump said.
It would appear that Iran is once again looking to further its threats against both the United States and Israel and may try to use the attack against its Revolutionary Guards as an excuse for additional military action in the region. Even though Iran has no evidence of U.S. or Israeli involvement, the deputy head of the Revolutionary Guards accused them both and said they they should expect a “crushing and devastating” response from Tehran.
Iran chooses to ignore, at least officially, that this particular attack was in response to Iran’s aggressive actions in the Middle East theatre. Iran (formerly known as Persia) is a Shiite-dominated theocracy. It has become more and more involved and entrenched in this region. Its proxies include not only Syria to the northeast of Israel, but the terrorist Hezbollah in Lebanon, which is directly north of Israel and which has played a significant role in the Syrian civil war, supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Last week, Hezbollah’s General Secretary, Hassan Nasrallah, threatened that his organization “possesses precision and non-precision rockets and weapons capabilities…If Israel forces a war on Lebanon, Israel will face a fate and a reality it has never expected on any day.”
Earlier this month, Iran openly fired multiple missiles on a base in northern Iraq, housing an Iranian Kurdish opposition party. A dozen people were killed and several dozens of people were wounded as a result. The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (“PDKI”), an anti-Iranian organization, accused Iran of using “long-range missiles in a coordinated attack on PDKI’s bases and adjacent refugee camps”. The Kurds, who number about 30 million, have sizeable communities in various countries in the Middle East. The PDKI threatened retaliation for Iran’s actions and it is reasonable to credit that organization with carrying out its threats. If Iran can attack Kurds outside of Iran’s borders, then the Kurds can attack Iranians within Iran’s borders. If, in fact, they were the ones responsible for the attack on the military parade of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, then it would be another example of the eye-for-an-eye mentality so prevalent in Middle East conflicts and portends that more of such incidents will follow.
Iran’s accusation are like “the pot calling the kettle black”. It loves to blame others for behaving as it does.
According to the United States Department of State’s Annual Country Reports on Terrorism 2017, released 19 September, 2018, at page 218: Iran creates “instability in the Middle East and “uses regional proxy forces to provide sufficient deniability to shield it from the consequences of its aggressive policies” Iran’s nature being what it is, the cycle of cross-border attacks that we’ve seen take place this month will most likely not end soon. The only real question for Israel is: How far will Iran, itself, go to carry out its threats against Israel?
We’ve gone through a few “almost war” scenarios since the beginning of the year, but the actions and threats have fallen short of actual international belligerence.
The two countries weren’t always at odds with one another. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Israel and Iran were actually friendly and cooperated with one another on many levels, including military cooperation, even after Iran cut diplomatic ties with Israel following Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979. Today, however, the situation is completely different and Israel views Iran as an existential threat.
In the light of the present, on-going tensions between the two countries, it is difficult to imagine that the two of them ever got along with each other. The “friendly” relationship between the Jewish people and Iran goes back to the time of the Persian King, Cyrus the Great, who allowed the Jews living in Persia to return to Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-2, 7-8; 3:7; 4:3; 5:13-14, 17; 6:14; Isaiah 44:28; 45:1, 13). Fast forward to modern times, Iran served as a convenient intermediate point of transit for Jews fleeing Iraq shortly following Israel’s independence in 1948. Ironically, Iran followed Turkey’s lead and, in 1950, it became the second country with a Muslim majority to recognize Israel, although in a de facto manner at first and more officially several years thereafter. The relationship was mutually beneficial for many years, with Iran supplying oil to Israel when other oil-producing countries would not. Israel, for its part, provided assistance to Iran in many different areas, such as agriculture, medicine, construction and military intelligence.
During the 1950’s and 1960’s, Iran was split between its secular and religious elements, with the latter pushing for Iran to join Arab countries in their opposition to Israel. However, the country maintained its secular perspective until the Shah was deposed in 1979. The primary issue that divides Iran and the Arab world today is a religious one. Most of the Arab world are Sunni Moslems (headed up primarily by Saudi Arabia), while Iran leads the minority Shi’ite element. After the secular Shah was deposed in 1979, the religious fringe which took over the country was overtly anti-Israel and promptly severed all relations with Israel and, over time, eventually led to the establishment of local proxies, like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, as well as in other places. However, even after the ties between the two countries were “officially” at an end, Iran purchased hundreds of millions of dollars worth of arms from Israel during the early years of the Iraq-Iran War in the early 1980’s. Religious zeal yielded to secular needs.
When the former U.S.S.R. came apart, things became progressively worse between the two countries and former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an ardent denier of the Holocaust, openly called for the annihilation of Israel. The U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran – a move strongly encouraged by Israel – added to the anti-Israel stance of Iran. It is no wonder that Iran condemns and threatens Israel at every opportunity.
With Russia’s entry into the Middle East arena, Israel needs to re-evaluate its strategy for multi-front warfare. After Syria shot down a Russian plane, resulting in the death of
some 15 Russian personnel, Russia blamed Israel for what Syria did and now plans to reward Syria and supply it with S-300 air-defense systems – a serious concern for Israel.
Pray for wisdom for our political and military leaders, for strength and boldness for those who stand ready, day and night, to defend us from attacks from our enemies.
“No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn.” (Isaiah 54:17)
Celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles with joy.
Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.