The U.S. is offering up to $15 million for information on Iranian smuggling methods or direct help in thwarting such smuggling. Since the Iranian smuggling network depends on a lot of non-Iranians who have less loyalty to, or fear from Iran these bounties are more likely to work than those for Islamic terrorist leaders who are well connected and protected. In addition the Americans are using what they already know about non-Iranian participants in current Iranian smuggling schemes and hitting those foreigners with sanctions. This is particularly effective against those firms that obtain most of their business from nations that are not subject to sanctions. The U.S. is particularly interested in shutting down smuggling schemes that help keep the Assad government of Syria or the Hezbollah organization in Lebanon afloat or directly benefit Iran. These cash offers and sanctions threats have played a role in preventing the Iranian tanker seized at Gibraltar and later released, from unloading its oil cargo at Syria.
Iran is still importing key tech and components for its conventional and nuclear weapons programs. The conventional weapons include new UAVs and smart bombs Iran has introduced in the last year but not used much in Syria or anywhere else. That is mainly because it is easy enough to present a static example of the new precision weapons or UAV but it’s another matter to produce them in large quantities or even demonstrate a prototype actually working. The problem here involves efforts to gain access to lots of components that Iran does not or cannot manufacture. This includes many electronic and mechanical items that have to be imported, or, in some cases, hand crafted in small quantities in Iran.
In the Strait of Hormuz (the entrance to the Persian Gulf) Iranian armed speedboats and various aircraft (helicopters and UAVS) continue confronting commercial ships that Iranians believe are British. The Iranians are apparently still seeking to seize a British tanker or freighter to seize but so far British and other allied (U.S., Australia and Bahrain) warships have forced the Iranians to back off. India and China are planning to send warships to escort their own commercial shipping and not be part of the U.S. led coalition.
Iran, seeing its authority threatened in Iraq by the growing number of Israeli airstrikes against Iranian forces in Syria and Iraq, is demanding that Iraq expel U.S. forces (5,000 military, several thousand contractors). This is a dangerous move because the majority of Iraqis want the American troops to stay as insurance against an Iranian takeover of Iraq. Both Iraq and Iran have, until now, avoided confronting this issue. Israeli airstrikes have changed that and many suspect this was one reason for the Israeli airstrikes in Iraq. For one thing such attacks make Iran look weak because Iran cannot even detect the Israeli aircraft or UAVs. Then there is the issue of how did the Israelis know which of the hundreds of pro-Iran PMF (Popular Mobilization Force) bases were the ones containing targets worth attacking. The Israelis obviously have good information about that is going on in Iraq and that also makes Iran look bad since IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) experts helped establish these storage sites. Iran is forcing Iraq to choose and threatening civil war if the Iraqis do not comply with Iranian demands. Everyone wanted to avoid such a confrontation because it could create chaos in Iraq that could develop into something Iran could not handle.
In response to the three airstrikes in August, remaining storage sites for Iranian weapons are being secretly moved, at night, to new locations. If this does not make a difference than Iran has to face the fact that their pro-Iranian Iraqi allies are not as pro-Iran as they appear. This is part of another trend; t he reliability of the Iran-backed PMF militias is deteriorating as the leaders of the 67 PMF brigades demonstrate divided loyalties. That means more of these brigades, although pro-Iran and receiving weapons and other “aid” from Iran, can no longer be considered under Iranian control. One issue that divides these brigades is the debate over who to blame for these mysterious attack on pro-Iran PMF brigade bases. Among other things the attacks demonstrate that Iraq is unable to defend its own air space. That is a known issue but never considered critical because NATO warplanes have been operating from Iraqi bases since 2003 and they provide air defense for their bases and most of Iraqi airspace. The Americans have proposed Iraq purchase the Patriot air defense system, which has been in the region protecting U.S. forces for several decades. The Iraqis know it works. Iraqis are less enthusiastic about accepting the Iranian offer to have Iraq protected by an expanded Iranian air defense equipment. The Iranians use Russia systems, either bought from Russia or illegal copies. Even many pro-Iran PMF militiamen are less pro-Iranian when it comes to Iraqi air defense.
The Iraqi Shia Arabs don’t want to be dominated by non-Arab Iran, where Arabs are openly despised, especially the few percent of Iranians who are Arab. At the same time Iraq doesn’t want to be dominated by their Sunni Arab neighbors and especially not by their own Sunni Arab minority (which created ISIL and has been a major supporter of Islamic terrorism since 2003).
There are constant reminders of the Iranian threat, which is considered equal, or even worse than the Sunni Arab Islamic terrorism attacks on Shia. For example in September 2017 a leader of one of the PMF Shia militias went public (for the first time) with his belief that his men would start killing American troops once ISIL was no longer a threat in Iraq. That was not a surprise to many Iraqi Shia. In August 2017 s enior Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al Sadr called on the Iraqi government to dismantle the Iran backed Shia militias and incorporate loyal (to Iraq) members into the armed forces. The Iraqi prime minister (a Shia), wants to dismantle these Iran backed Shia Arab militias with more care and take more time doing it. Two years later this hostility to Iran has grown and Iran sees this as another potential defeat for its militarized foreign policy.
In part that is because Iran has sent hundreds of IRGC officers, most of them from the Quds Force (similar to the U.S. Special Forces, but specializing in supporting Islamic terrorists not fighting them) and even more enlisted IRGC personnel to Iraq. Dozens of senior IRGC officers have been killed in Syria and Iraq since 2012. These IRGC personnel are seen by most Iraqis as hostile foreign agents.
This can be seen by the fact that since ISIL was defeated (even before mid-2017 when Mosul fell) the number of Shia religious and militia leaders who openly supported Iran was declining. More Iraqi Shia are doubting Iranian intentions towards Iraq and believe Iran ultimately wants to control the Iraq government or even partition Iraq and annex the largely Shia (and oil rich) south. At the same time Iranian efforts to discourage Iraqi Kurds from obtaining more autonomy are unwelcome with many Arab Iraqis who see this as another example of Iran treating Iraq like a subordinate, not an ally.
Adding to the fears are reports that Iran backed (and sometimes led, officially or otherwise by Iranian officers) Shia militia are ignoring earlier promises and entering liberated areas of Mosul and seeking “disloyal” civilians who can be arrested and perhaps murdered. There are still over a thousand Iranians providing training, advisory and support assistance to the PMF Shia militias. The Iraqi government fears that these IRGC advisors and trainers are secretly building pro-Iran armed militias in Iraq. That’s simply not true because the IRGC is quite open about what they are doing to encourage Iraqi Shia to organize armed groups so they can work with Iran someday to impose the same kind of religious dictatorship in Iraq, like the one that has existed in Iran since the 1980s. That is equally unlikely, because of quite open popular opposition inside Iraq, but the Iranians tend to think long-term. The Iranians like to pretend that they have l0ts of support in Iraq. They do have some, but it is declining, as it usually does after it is no longer useful for Iraq.
All manner of Iraqi leaders (government, military, religious) are becoming more aware of how Iran wants to dominate and control Iraq and most of these Iraqis, and their followers, don’t like. Iraqis have seen how Iranian control operates in Lebanon (since the 1980s) and Syria (since 2014) feel that Iraq has a choice, whereas the Lebanese and Syrians did not. While some pro-Iran Iraqi leaders call for attacks on Americans in Iraq that is not supported by most Iraqis, who see the Americans as a form of defense against several foreign threats (Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey). Many Iraqis also take satisfaction in how the Israelis quietly take apart Iranian military capabilities, including operations inside Iran. The Israeli 2018 raid that made off with large quantities of Iranian documents was particularly impressive. Other Arab states in the region agree, which is why Arab states long considered diehard foes of Israel are now openly referring to Israel as an ally. Iraqis are divided on going that far, but as time goes on there is less, not more, support for Iran inside Iraq.
Israel is doing whatever it can to make Iran feel unwelcome in Syria. The question is, how much is enough? The Syrian effort is costing Iran a lot of money (which they cannot afford), reputation (not much to lose) and lives (more affordable). So far Iran has tolerated the losses and continues to pour resources into establishing itself in Syria. Iran cannot afford to contribute large sums for reconstruction in Syria, but is allowing Iranian entrepreneurs to build factories and other commercial operations in Syria. Some of these commercial activities will be, as is the case inside Iran, partly owned, or controlled by the IRGC. These Iranian businesses will also end up on the Israeli target list, especially because of the IRGC connection. Iran is determined to finally achieve a victory over Israel using the growing presence it has in Syria but is encountering resistance from Russia, Syria, Turkey, Iraq and most NATO nations, in addition to Israel.
Israel sees itself at the greatest risk because Iranians in Syria might do something desperate, and stupid. Over the last year the IRGC has suffered multiple defeats, usually delivered by Israel or the Americans. Many of these embarrassments have occurred in Syria, where Israel finds and destroys IRGC projects will great regularity. Many Iranians do not see this as an Iranian defeat but just another reason why the IRGC is hated by most Iranians. Blame is most often directed at the IRGC and the Islamic dictatorship that has ruled (and mismanaged) Iran since the 1980s. Iranians see corrupt IRGC men and Shia clergy in general as responsible for their current economic and diplomatic woes. The IRGC is not seen as the protector of the Iranian people but rather the source of growing violence against Iranians who protest the proliferating poverty. The IRGC is accused, by Iranians and the rest of the world, of trying to taunt someone, preferably the United States or Israel, into attacking Iran itself. That would make the IRGC more popular inside Iran, but many Iranians are not so sure. Meanwhile the Americans concentrate their sanctions on Iranian leaders, including senior IRGC commanders, which is a popular move to most Iranians.
And then there is the Turkish problem. Russia and Iran oppose Turkish plans for northwest Syria (Idlib province) and Kurdish held areas to the east (all the way to the Iraq border). The Turks want permanent control over the Syrian side of the border to improve their own border security and, more importantly, cripple Syrian Kurdish efforts to establish an autonomous Kurdish region in northeast. This puts the Turks at odds with Syrians in general and especially the Iran backed Assad dictatorship in Syria. Now into its second generation, the Assad clan feels it has won a major victory that will not be complete until all foreigners (Turks in the north, Americans in the east and Israelis in the Golan Heights) are out of Syria. None of those foreigners want to cooperate because they feel the Turks, at least the current Islamic government, cannot be trusted.
Turkey finds that its allies in Syria (Russia, Iran and the Assads) are not willing to cooperate with Turkey in Syria and although the “allies” are generally polite in their refusals, there appears no way for Turkey to succeed. The allies have agreed to sit down and discuss this with Turkey in Turkey on September 16th but that is not expected to change the mess Turkey is confronting in Syria.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE (United Arab Emirates) are the core of the Arab Coalition supporting the Yemen government against the Iran backed Shia rebels up north. But disagreements between the UAE and Saudi Arabia over how to handle the war led to the UAE withdrawing most of its ground troops from Yemen earlier this year. The Saudis are mainly concerned about eliminating an Iranian ally operating on the southwestern border of Saudi Arabia and posing a threat to maritime traffic in the Red Sea. This is also of major concern for Egypt, which depends on Suez Canal transit fees for a major portion of its foreign currency income. Persian Gulf oil states depend on the Suez Canal to ship oil to Europe and receive exports from Europe. Since the Arab Coalition arrived in 2015 the Saudis have concentrated on air operations and defending their northern border and the Red Sea. The UAE concentrated on the south, the Islamic terrorist threat there and rebuilding the Yemen armed forces. The UAE feels most of its work is done and it does face an increasingly aggressive Iran in the Persian Gulf.
The Saudis accuse the UAE of being more interesting in supporting another partition of Yemen as a more effective solution to the perpetual Yemeni crises. According to the Saudis the UAE supports the Sunni separatist tribes in the south who want nothing to do with the Shia dominated northern Yemen. The Saudis believe that the UAE expects to be allowed to invest in new ports and other facilities in southern Yemen after the war. This is probably true, but investing in new or upgraded port facilities throughout the region is a major business activity for the UAE. Perhaps that provides the UAE with a different view of the mess in Yemen and a perpetual source of friction with Saudi Arabia.
The Saudis will carry on with efforts to defeat the Shia rebels despite UN pressure to make a peace deal the Shia rebels would currently accept. Such a deal would restore the Shia autonomy in the north and make it possible for Iran to continue supplying the Shia tribes with weapons that can be used to attack Saudi Arabia. To the Saudis that is unacceptable, given the fact that the Iranians are openly calling for the overthrow of the Saudi government, and Iran taking over as the “protector of the two Most Holy Islamic cities of Mecca and Medina”. Most Moslems do not want Iran in charge of Mecca and Medina. The Iranians are Shia Moslems and Shia comprise only about ten percent of all Moslems. The Saudis are largely Sunni, a version of Islam about 80 percent of Moslems belong to. Moreover the Iranians are not Arabs. Rather the Iranians are Indo-European and for many Moslems that is a big deal because Islam was founded by Arabs and the Moslem scriptures (the Koran) are written in Arabic. The Saudis will go to great lengths to prevent the Shia provinces in northwest Yemen from becoming an Iran base area. Meanwhile the Iranians have convinced many of the Shia Yemenis that getting their autonomy back should be non-negotiable because without that autonomy the Yemeni Shia will be vulnerable to retaliation from all the other Yemeni groups the Shia rebels have harmed during the years of civil war.
September 4, 2019: In eastern Syria (Deir Ezzor province) there was apparently another Israeli airstrike against Iranian weapons being stored near the Al Bukamal crossing into Iraq. This border crossings is vital for the Iran-to-Mediterranean land route. This road is essential to supporting any Iranian military expansion in Syria and Lebanon. Israel has bombed it before and will apparently continue doing so. That is what will also to happen to the new military base Iran is building here on the Syrian side of the border. The base is not complete yet but will be soon and expected to be occupied by the end of 2019. At that point the Israeli airstrikes usually begin.
Iran announced that is speeding up and expanding its “nuclear research” while only mentioning items related to nuclear power plants and keeping quiet about the work on nuclear weapons. Iran is seeking to make a deal with European countries to obtain aid in overcoming American sanctions, along with direct cash aid from Europeans in return for promises to halt their officially nonexistent nuclear weapons work. The Europeans are interested although the Americans and Israelis point out that this is as much of a scam as the 2015 treaty was.
September 3, 2019: The U.S. has placed sanctions on three organizations connected with the Iranian “Space Agency”. The Americans consider this space effort as a cover for developing long-range ballistic missiles.
Israel released photos of a new Iranian missile assembly and upgrade facility being built at Nabi Chit, in northeast Lebanon (Baalbeck Valley). This facility will be used to upgrade (with a GPS guidance system) a lot of the long range Iranian rockets Hezbollah already have. When completed it will probably be bombed by Israel.
September 1, 2019: In southern Lebanon Hezbollah fired several ATGMs (anti-tank guided missiles) at an Israeli border post. Israel ran a deception, with a fake helicopter medivac, to persuade Hezbollah to not fire anymore. In the meantime Israeli artillery nearby fired over a hundred shells at Hezbollah targets. Iran decides what actions Hezbollah takes against Israel and this exchange was apparently ordered to test Israeli responses because Israel has been reinforcing the troops it normally has along the Lebanese border. Hezbollah also wants to demonstrate it is not intimidated by the growing number of Israeli attacks on Hezbollah personnel in Syria and Lebanon. It is telling that Iran won’t allow Hezbollah to fire any rockets at Israel. The ATGMs are a short range (about five kilometers) weapon.
August 29, 2019: For the second time this year an Iranian Safir/Simorgh 1 SLV (satellite launch vehicle) test launch failed, this time by exploding on the ground as it was being fueled. The 50 kg communications satellite was not lost because it had not yet been installed in the SLV. In January a Safir 1 was launched but the mission failed when the third stage of the missile had a problem and was unable to release the satellite into orbit. It was possible this launch was a test for a long range ballistic missile as the same rocket design is often used for satellite launchers as well as along range ballistic missile. The only difference is that the satellite launcher is carrying satellites high enough to put them into orbit while the same missile with a warhead would be programmed to move in the direction of its target and at a lower altitude (and for a longer distance from the launch site) than when putting a satellite into orbit. Iran has been trying to develop a larger and more reliable Safir 2 SLV but has not achieved acceptable reliability yet. The last test launch was in mid-2017. This was the second test launch of the Simorgh/Safir 2 SLV. Simorgh is an 87 ton three-stage liquid fuel rocket that can put satellites of up to 350 kg (770 pounds) into a LEO (low earth orbit) of 500 kilometers. The first test was in early 2016. Iran plans to use Simorgh to put surveillance satellites into orbit. That was supposed to happen earlier in 2017 but apparently another test launch was considered necessary. The Safir 1 can only put satellites of up to 66 kg into lower orbits than the Safir 2.
The U.S. sanctioned four banking and finance experts for making it possible for Iran to transfer over $20 million to various Islamic terror groups in Gaza. This was done using Hezbollah personnel based in Lebanon. American officials also confirmed that Department of Defense hackers had launched several successful attacks on the Iranian military and the IRGC.
August 28, 2019: President Rouhani publicly complained that he was unable to fix many problems with the economy because other, unnamed “state institutions” interfered and blocked or modified the presidential directives. Everyone in Iran understood that Rouhani was referring to the many IRGC owned or controlled companies or “supervisory commissions” established by the ruling clerics and enable the IRGC to ignore orders from the president or parliament.
The U.S. sanctioned two Iranians and the front companies outside Iran that were used to facilitate the procurement and smuggling into Iran items needed for weapons programs.
In southwest Saudi Arabia (Asir province) a Shia rebel cruise missile was used for an attack on the Abha airport The Saudis reported some damage but no casualties. Back in June there was a similar attack on this airport that wounded 26 people in the terminal building, and exploded while penetrating the terminal roof. The Saudis accuse Iran of continuing to supply the Shia rebels with these weapons.
August 27, 2019: In the northwest (West Azerbaijan province) a Kurdish IRGC member was shot dead, apparently by Kurdish separatists. Few Kurds join the IRGC because the IRGC is responsible for most of the attacks on or arrests of Iranian Kurds who oppose or simply protest the way Kurds are treated in Iran.
August 25, 2019: In western Iraq (Anbar province) an unidentified (probably Israeli) UAV attacked a pro-Iran PMF convoy, killing six militiamen, including a PMF commander. The pro-Iran PMF leaders blamed Israel. The attack took place near the Syrian border, which the PMF convoy was apparently going to cross. The Americans deny any involvement and the Israelis say nothing about airstrikes in Israel but did reveal that a recent attack in Syria was to halt an Iranian UAV attack on Israel.
In Lebanon two UAVs crashed near the capital and Hezbollah accused Israel of sending them. Photos of the UAV wreckage made it clear that the two UAVS were Iranian made and of the type used by Hezbollah. One of the crashed UAVs was equipped with explosives, which is a common way to use these UAVs. Apparently Hezbollah had trouble with two of their UAVs which crashed near the capital. Rather than admit the truth Hezbollah tried to blame it on Israel.
August 24, 2019: An Israeli airstrike outside of Damascus Syria hit an Iranian base that was described as preparing Iranian UAVs equipped with explosives that were going to be used for an attack on Israel. It was believed that Iran had resorted to these UAV tactics because Iran was desperate for a win against Israel, which was continuing to attack Iranian targets in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq with impunity and without suffering any losses. Iran backed Shia rebels in Yemen had used the explosives equipped UAVs for attacks on Saudi Arabia, with some success. These UAVs do less damage than ballistic missiles but are more difficult to detect and intercept. The Saudis have adapted but one of the many UAVs launched for each attack can still get through from time to time. Israel has detected and shot down these UAVs, launched by Hezbollah from Lebanon. But the small, low flying UAVs remain difficult to detect and intercept so the Israelis, like the Saudis, find it easier to bomb the bases the UAVs operate from.
In Iran a senior Shia cleric declared that Shia in Iraq must confront the Americans over U.S. support for Israel and recent Israeli airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria and Iraq. This declaration has no legal force and is meant to encourage pro-Iran Iraqis to expel or attack American forces in Iraq. Most Iraqi Shia clerics and politicians either remained silent or openly criticized this call to force the Americans out.
August 20, 2019: In Iraq, some 70 kilometers north of Baghdad, another apparent airstrike on a PMF base, this one next to Balad Air Base (where Iraqi F-16s are stationed). Once more a storage site full of Iranian weapons was destroyed. American contractor and military personnel work at Balad in support of the Iraqi Air Force and witnessed these attacks. Iran is upset about three attacks like this since July 19th because all of them hit stockpiles of precision missiles and other high-tech weapons, usually in shipping containers, awaiting movement to destinations in Syria and Lebanon. These weapons are meant to be used against Israel in a future war. Iran sees Israel deliberately trying to disrupt the 1,200 kilometer long route from Iran to Lebanon with attacks on weapons storage areas in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
In Yemen an Iranian surface-to-air missile was used to shoot down an American MQ-9 UAV flying a surveillance mission over the Shia held capital. The Shia rebels apparently used a Russian SA-6 missile that was captured from the Yemeni military. Actually, many Yemeni Army units joined the Shia rebels after 2014, including those that controlled SCUD ballistic missiles and the SA-6 air defense missiles. Iran supplied technical help and spare parts to keep some of the SA-6 systems operational, especially those around the rebel held capital. These missiles have been used to shoot down similar Chinese UAVs used by the Arab Coalition.
August 16, 2019: In Iraq the government ordered all foreign aircraft operating over Iraq to inform the Iraqi government about each of their flights. No more blanket permission to fly in Iraq. Despite this NATO aircraft still provide air support for Iraqi troops while Iran often sends transports through Iraqi airspace to make deliveries to Syria or Iran. Iraq also accused Israel of using its new (F-35) stealth warplanes to evade Iraqi air control radars and make these attacks. The reality is that Israel is probably using air-to-ground missiles fired by warplanes in Syrian airspace or long-range UAVs. Iraq later clarified that its new rules did not apply to American warplanes carrying out airstrikes in support of Iraqi forces or using American helicopters to evacuate casualties.
August 15, 2019: A British court in Gibraltar agreed to allow the Iranian tanker Grace 1 to go free because of assurances its cargo of Iraqi oil would not be delivered to Syria in violation of sanctions. The tanker had been seized on July 4th by British commandos because of evidence that was transporting Iraqi oil to Syria. The Iranian super tanker was there to resupply after a long voyage around Africa. Britain claimed the tanker was breaking sanctions by transporting two million barrels of Iraqi oil to Syria for Iran. This was part of an enormous (and expensive) Iranian effort to get the Syrian government the oil it needs to continue fighting rebels and Islamic terrorists. The tanker was acting suspiciously as it avoided travelling via the Suez Canal and instead took the longer and much more expensive route around Africa. The Egyptians would have carefully scrutinized the tanker if it had used the canal. The U.S. promptly issued a warrant for the seizure of the oil on the Grace one, plus $995,000 as part of a forfeiture (of Iranian assets) so satisfy American financial judgements against Iran. The Gibraltar court refused to hold the Iranian tanker any longer and now the tanker, renamed Adrian Draya-1 and its registration changed to Iran, plans to move to Greece. The U.S. asked Greek courts to allow execution of the American warrant but that failed. On the 20th Adrian Draya-1 left Gibraltar. The oil was later reported sold to an unnamed buyer. At the end of August the U.S. blacklisted the Adrian Draya-1 and warned other nations that the U.S. was seeking to seize the tanker for sanctions violations and anyone dealing with it would be subject to legal action. At that point (September 4) the tanker had turned off its tracker but was spotted off the Syrian coast. At the same time the tanker captain (Indian citizen Akhilesh Kumar) is refusing to follow orders from his Iranian employers to illegally transfer the oil at sea to smaller ships. Kumar wants to quit and is asking to be replaced or relieved of command.
August 12, 2019: In Iraq (south of Baghdad), another mysterious airstrike hit a PMF base (at the former U.S. Camp Falcon) used by a pro-Iran PMF brigade. There were loud explosions as Iran-supplied rocket and ammo storage areas blew up.
August 11, 2019: In Iraq, some 80 kilometers northeast of Baghdad another pro-Iran PMF base suffered several explosions.
August 7, 2019: In the last week at least three videos of Iranian politicians having sex with girlfriends or subordinates were posted on the Internet. Such behavior was not unknown and some officials have been prosecuted after being caught in a brothel or seen in a video that was not made public. One of the videos was a selfie taken by the politician but the other two were apparently taken by a hidden camera.
August 6, 2019: Israel revealed that it is also assisting in the American led effort to provide security for ships in the Persian Gulf. Israel will provide intelligence and other assistance. Yesterday Britain announced that it would join with the U.S. to provide warships to escort shipping into and through the Persian Gulf. Earlier South Korea also agreed to contribute a destroyer to participate in the effort. Iraq later announced that it would not join any international effort to protect access to the Persian Gulf if Israel were involved. This announcement was a favor to Iran which, otherwise, is seen as a threat to Iraq. Iran realizes that and both countries are pretending that they get along with each other. That’s a normal way to handle foreign affairs in the Middle East.