Analysis: From Iran to Gaza – connecting the dots

Listen to the news, and it seems that the country – in relation to security issues – is teetering on the abyss.

Confrontations with Iran in Syria, Hezbollah gaining political strength in Lebanon, tens of thousands on the march in Gaza.

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Yet talk to former senior Israeli intelligence officers, both in government and in think tanks, and the situation looks a bit different, even – as one official put it recently – “pregnant with opportunity.”

And that opportunity for a positive turn stems from one basic reason: Iran has had a few very bad weeks.

The nuclear agreement with the West, which provided Iran with critical oxygen for its adventurism in the region, is in jeopardy. Tehran has come up against a very determined Israel in Syria, which has bloodied its nose in attacks against its assets inside the country.

Russia is showing signs of impatience with Iran’s antics in Syria. Moscow is increasingly concerned that an entrenched Iranian military presence there could lead to a wider confrontation with Israel, something that would endanger the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and therefore put at risk Russia’s significant gains in the area.

Furthermore, Iran has had its nuclear archives revealed by Israel, suffered a setback in the election in Iraq, and continues to face daily demonstrations on its own streets.

And, to top it off, the rial is tanking.

In short, Iran is feeling the squeeze, and what is bad for Iran – what weakens Iran in the region – is good for Israel. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that Tehran still has areas where it can kick back – where it can pinprick Israel. Gaza is one of those areas.

There are many possible reasons why Islamic Jihad, obviously with a not-too-subtle wink and a huge nod from Hamas, decided on Tuesday to launch the largest barrage of rocket fire against Israel since Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

It could be a revenge attack for Israel’s shelling of an Islamic Jihad position in southern Gaza on Sunday, killing three men, in response to the Palestinians’ planting of an explosive device along the border fence.

It could be to avenge the death of Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives killed over the past few weeks in the “Great March of Return” toward the fence.

It could be because Hamas is cornered, with no significant victories to show for the deaths of so many Palestinians over the past month, and with soured relations with Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.

It could be a way for the terrorist organizations to show their domestic constituency they are still alive and relevant.

It could be out of frustration that the reconciliation process with Fatah has gone off the tracks. It could be to demonstrate to Israel why a hudna – a long-term cease-fire that some have reported is being discussed by Israel and Hamas through intermediaries – would be worthwhile. It could be because Islamic Jihad and Hamas simply hate Israel and want to see it destroyed and its people killed.

It could also be because Iran has an interest – as its sun appears to be sinking in the north, where its adventure in Syria is not going as well as it had hoped – to make Israel stand up and take notice in the south.

In the Mideast, everything is connected; there are few “localized incidents.” Islamic Jihad is, for all intents and purposes, an Iranian franchise, heavily sponsored by the Islamic Republic and ideologically beholden to it.

Having its Gazan proxy shooting rockets at Israel, especially at a time when it seems that Iran’s fortunes are waning a bit, is a way for Tehran to signal to Israel that it still has leverage.

And, after all, that is what Iran is after – leverage. That is one of the reasons it is in Syria, and why it has spent tens of billions of dollars on Hezbollah in Lebanon – to gain leverage against Israel, so that if Israel ever attacks Iran to end its nuclear program, Iran would be able to hit back extremely hard through conventional means – whether from Syria, Lebanon or Gaza.

was a reminder of one of those leverage points.