Israel has said it is shifting gears against Iran in the region. This apparently hints at a public shift from the campaign between the wars, in which thousands of airstrikes were carried out against Iran in Syria, to other types of operations.
"Israel fell into the trap and fought the octopus's tentacles tactically," Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said. "But the octopus itself is Iran. My doctrine states that in this Cold War between Iran and Israel, I won't allow it to be one-sided. I want to weaken them and hurt their forces in all dimensions. They have no business in our region, 1,000 kilometers from home. I don't want to see Iran in Syria or on any border of ours."
This is an important public shift. But the question that is also raised is how these new tensions have unfolded. Here are some key incidents in the recent rise in tensions.
The drone threat
Iran has embarked on expanded drone operations against Israel. This began in earnest in February 2018 when the Islamic Republic launched a drone from Syria. Then it tried again in early 2021 and later in May from Iraq. It sent drones to Yemen and attacked a tanker in the summer of 2021. Earlier this year, it also tried to fly drones over Iraq headed for the Jewish state.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz discussed the drone threat numerous times over the past year, highlighting how Iran is training drone operators from the region and pointing to areas where it trains and operates with drones. On May 17, he discussed the Iranian drone threat and noted that two drones were downed over Iraq in February. Israel will continue to block Iran's precision weapons transfers, he said. On May 29, Iran unveiled a secret drone base.
On May 22, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Col. Hassan Sayad Khodayari was assassinated in Iran. He was accused of being involved in plots against Israel abroad. Over the next few weeks, another two of the IRGC's officers also died in mysterious circumstances, and the Iranian military complex at Parchin suffered some kind of incident. Reports abroad hinted that Parchin was struck by a drone. Iran, angry at these incidents, appears to be threatening Israelis and Jews abroad, including in Turkey.
The Greek ships
The US seized Iranian oil off a Greek island on May 26, saying that it had confiscated the oil held on a Russian-operated ship near Greece. Iran then seized two Greek ships in the Persian Gulf, claiming it was retaliation. The US and others condemned Iran.
Tehran has engaged in other operations at sea, mining ships in 2019, attacking them with drones and also moving IRGC assets toward the Red Sea. There is an emerging shadow conflict at sea involving Iran's trade and its targeting of commercial vessels.
The International Atomic Energy Agency's Board of Governors has slammed Iran for enriching uranium. On May 31, Israel said Iran had stolen IAEA documents. The Board of Governors condemned Tehran on June 8. Iran then said it would retaliate, limiting inspections and turning off cameras that monitor sensitive sites.
Israel ups laser and other defenses in military drills
Bennett heralded Israel's progress in laser defenses in early June. Israel carried out the Chariots of Fire drill as well, sending troops to Cyprus for training.
This massive drill appears to be preparation for a complex multifront conflict. US Central Command has come to observe some of the aspects of the drill. On June 7, Bennett said Israel was acting throughout the region against Iran, targeting the head of the Iranian octopus.
Claims of Israel airstrikes in Syria
On June 7, Syria said it had intercepted an Israeli airstrike. Two days later, foreign reports said the IAF had carried out airstrikes on Damascus International Airport. This was a major strike, with satellite photos revealing massive damage on June 10.
Iran ups attacks on US in Iraq
Iran has carried out some 29 attacks in recent months against the US in Iraq and Syria. It attacked Erbil on June 8, using its proxies in Iraq, and there have been many other attacks in recent months targeting US forces in northern Iraq or in Syria.
Washington warned Iran after an attack on the Tanf base in Syria last year. But the rogue nation continues to increase its attacks, using proxies.
Seth Frantzman is a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and senior Middle East correspondent at The Jerusalem Post.