Hugh Fitzgerald, The Mullahs’ delusions.
Iranian leaders have a rich fantasy life. Possibly It has something to do with their deep belief in the Return of the Hidden Imam. Twelver Shi’ism may have its points, but a grasp of reality is not one of them. Iran has recently become convinced, despite all the evidence, that it has been outplaying Israel ever since its drone attack on the MV Mercer Street in the Gulf of Oman.
The report on this development is here: “Iran believes it has Israel on the run,” by Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, August 7, 2021:
When tensions rose with the US, UK and Israel after the attack, Iran shifted the frontline to Lebanon and Gaza, targeting Israel with rockets last week. When Israel responded, Iranian-backed Hezbollah fired more than 10 rockets from southern Lebanon at Israel on Friday.
Was the Iranian attack on the MV Mercer Street a success? It turned out that the vessel was Japanese-owned, and had been for some months; Israel’s only connection was that it managed the ship for its owners. Iranian naval intelligence had not kept abreast of that recent change in ownership. Now Iran, embarrassed at its mistake, has denied that it was behind the attack, but the intelligence seen by Israel, the U.S., and the U.K. have convinced all three that Tehran is lying. It is the U.K., one of whose citizens was killed in the attack, that has introduced a resolution at the UN Security Council condemning Iran for the attack. Iran’s denial of responsibility has convinced no one, but made it look even more foolish than if it had simply remained silent. The attack on the MV Mercer Street, any way you look at it, has become for Iran a public relations fiasco.
In an attempt to deflect attention away from the MV Mercer Street, Iran instructed Hezbollah to launch rockets into Israel, a response, so it was claimed, to Israeli artillery fire on Hezbollah targets. In its largest attack, Hezbollah launched 19 rockets toward Israel. Not one did any damage to Israel. Ten of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. Six were not intercepted because the Israelis, having calculated from their trajectories that they would fall harmlessly in open fields, didn’t need to shoot them down. The remaining three fell short, landing in Lebanon itself; the damage they may have done to Lebanese civilians is not known. This attack, like that on the MV Mercer Street, did no discernible damage to Israel or Israeli interests; the successful interceptions of all ten Hezbollah rockets that potentially could have caused harm showed how accurate are Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defenses.
Iran has been messaging about this [its belief that it has Israel on the run] for a week via media like Al-Alam TV, which claimed that the drone attack on the ship off Oman’s coast was a response to an Israeli airstrike near Qusayr, Syria. Iran’s Press TV also ran an article by Elijah Magnier noting how Iran is now making the commercial sea lanes a quagmire for Israel. He also asked: “Will Israel stop playing and breaking its teeth in the ‘Axis of the Resistance’ playground?”
The drone attack on the MV Mercer Street did no damage – repeat, no damage – to Israelis or to Israeli property. The main result of the MV Mercer Attack is a UNSC resolution, introduced by Great Britain, condemning Iran, which even if vetoed by China and Russia, will still be an embarrassment to Iran. During the recent past, Israel has attacked dozens of Iranian ships carrying oil and weapons to Syria, eliciting no response from Iran; Israeli naval commandos also badly damaged an Iranian spy ship, the Saviz, in the Red Sea, by attaching limpet mines below the water line. Israel is perfectly capable, in case any of its own ships are attacked by Iran, of retaliatory airstrikes both on Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, and on Iranian bases in Syria. The Iranians seem to think that they have Israel “on the run,” but there are no signs of this.
Tehran says that the “recent clashes between the Zionist regime and the resistance groups indicate a significant weakness and decline in the intelligence capabilities of this regime, which in turn shows the development of the resistance-oriented capabilities in the field of intelligence.”
It was Iran’s intelligence capabilities that failed, not Israel’s, when Tehran attacked the Japanese-owned MV Mercer Street. It is Israel whose Mossad agents continue imperturbably to run rings around the Iranian regime. They keep setting back the Islamic Republic’s nuclear project, in a multitude of ways. At the same time, the Mossad has been keeping the mullahs rattled with attacks on petrochemical plants, electric grids, and what are believed to be sites linked to Iran’s ballistic missile project, all around the country, and has conducted cyber attacks on Iran’s port at Shahid Rajaee, causing an enormous backup of ships at sea and trucks on land. Most recently, an Israeli cyberattack on Iran’s national railway caused a huge disruption in rail traffic throughout the country.
Iran’s argument is that the “Palestinian resistance” has shown its readiness to strike at Israel. This builds on the view that the Islamic Republic thinks that Hamas won the conflict with Israel in May, after Iran appears to have encouraged the terrorist group controlling the Gaza Strip to strike at the Jewish state with more than 4,000 rockets.
Another fantasy that the mullahs believe: that Hamas won the 11-day war in Gaza. Let’s see. Hamas lost 200 fighters, including 25 senior commanders, while Israel lost one soldier. 12 Israelis died, compared to 266 Palestinians. 459 large buildings in Gaza were completely destroyed, while none were damaged in Israel. 2,000 houses were destroyed completely, and 15,000 partly destroyed, in Gaza, while several dozen homes were hit – mainly in southern cities, Ashdod and Ashkelon – in Israel. Several factories as well as energy infrastructure, worth more than $100 million, were destroyed in Gaza. In Israel, factories in the south shut down for the duration of the conflict; a gas pipeline was damaged. That was it. In the conflict Hamas used up 4,500 of its pre-war supply of 14,000 rockets, with very little to show for it. Israel’s greatest triumph was the destruction of 62 miles (out of a total of more than 200 miles Hamas had built) of tunnels, part of a vast network the IDF has dubbed “the Metro,” that Hamas used to move men and weapons undetected throughout the Strip. It was Hamas that, as the clearly losing side, was eager for a ceasefire, while Israel only with great reluctance agreed to a ceasefire after intense pressure from Joe Biden and Anthony Blinken. Yet somehow, with all this data, Iran persists in believing that “Hamas won” the Gaza war.