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Source: Forbes

Jan 29, 2023

Paul Iddon, Contributor

Israel is the prime suspect behind the suspected drone attack on Saturday against a military target near the central Iranian city of Isfahan. The attack occurred a little over a day after an Israeli official disclosed that his country does much to help Ukraine "behind the scenes."

A U.S. official cited by Reuters said it appeared Israel was behind the attack. The U.S. has officially denied that any American military forces were involved. Initial reports indicate small drones, reportedly quadcopters, struck what the Iranian defense ministry described as one of its "workshop sites." Israeli sources reported that a building related to the Iranian missile program was the target of the surgical attack.

There are a number of sites related to Iran's missile and drone program near Isfahan. Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industries (HESA) has a production facility in Shahin Shahr. On May 23, 2021, an explosion struck that complex mere days after Israel said that Iran was supplying drones to Hamas in Gaza.

In mid-February 2022, six Israeli loitering munitions reportedly struck an Iranian base near the western city of Kermanshah. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz cited estimations claiming the attack destroyed "hundreds" of Iranian drones.

Shahed-136 loitering munitions, now being used in large numbers by Russia against Ukraine, on ...


Ukraine, which Russia has repeatedly attacked using hundreds of Shahed-136 loitering munitions (self-detonating drones) supplied by Iran since August, welcomed Saturday night's attack. Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, tweeted: "Explosive night in Iran. Did warn you."

On Dec. 24, Podolyak called for the "liquidation of plants" Iran uses for producing drones and missiles.

Saturday's strike came shortly after the Israeli Ambassador to Germany, Ron Prosor, mentioned Iranian drones and missiles when he said Israel does more to help Ukraine than is publicly known.

"We help – albeit behind the scenes – and much more than is known," he told German media on Friday.

Asked why Israel has so staunchly refused to supply Ukraine military hardware, Prosor pointed to the Russian military presence in Syria. "As you know, the Israeli army regularly blocks arms shipments from Iran to Syria and Lebanon," he said. "These include Iranian drones and missiles that Russia is using in Ukraine."

Russia currently relies on shipments of hundreds of cheap Shahed loitering munitions to sustain the campaign against Ukraine's cities and electricity infrastructure it launched in September. It may also receive short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) by the end of the year, which would be far more difficult for Ukraine to defend itself against.

UNSPECIFIED, IRAN. - Members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps conduct a military drill with ...


Destruction or sabotage of Iranian factories could hinder this ongoing campaign and successive ones, something Kyiv would doubtlessly welcome.

Ukrainian officials, including Zelensky, have repeatedly criticized Israel for its reluctance to supply Kyiv arms. Israel refused to provide Ukraine with its much-vaunted Iron Dome air defense system and even its older American-made Hawk systems. Israeli officials like Prosor invariably point to the Russian presence in Syria and note that Israel has provided Ukraine medical aid and intelligence on Iran's drones and offered Kyiv a missile early-warning system.

There are likely substantive limits to what Israeli covert operations against Iranian facilities can achieve without sparking a full-fledged war with Tehran. Furthermore, Iran established a military drone factory in Tajikistan in May 2022 and reportedly reached an agreement with Russia for assembling Iranian drones inside Russia in early November.

Nevertheless, Israeli operations against Iranian military facilities could help Ukraine in the short term if it results in delays of drone resupplies when Russia depletes its second batch of Shaheds or, more crucially, delays in any potential SRBM transfer. If there is a noticeable letup in Russian drone attacks on Ukrainian cities in the near future, it could well be the result of "behind the scenes" Israeli operations.

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