[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="512"] Photo: Israel Defense Forces[/caption]
Developments this week highlighted the destabilizing role played by Iran's conventional arsenal, in regions far beyond the Islamic Republic's immediate neighborhood and in contexts independent of its military and terrorist efforts against Israel.
Inside Syria, opposition leaders stressed to CNN that Iran's military coordination with Bashar al-Assad's regime has escalated, and that the Iranians are now providing fixed-wing drones to the Syrian government. The new reports come in the aftermath of intelligence published in September that documented how "planes are flying from Iran to Syria via Iraq on an almost daily basis, carrying IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) personnel and tens of tons of weapons." The Associated Pressreported at the end of the week that the death toll from the Syrian war had crossed 36,000.
Meanwhile Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi took credit this week for the drone that Hezbollah dispatched into Israel from Lebanon in early October, which penetrated Israeli airspace before being intercepted and shot down by the Israeli Air Force.
Iran's transfer of advanced air assets to its Syrian and Lebanese proxies calls into question several lines of analysis from Western foreign policy experts, some of whom had insisted that Assad's regime and Hezbollah's leaders ought to be diplomatically engaged in order to split them from their Iranian sponsors. Assad's reliance on the IRGC and Hezbollah's willingness to provoke Israel on behalf of Tehran indicate robust alliances and strategic calculations resistant to Western efforts.
In Sudan, two Iranian warships docked in Port Sudan on the Red Sea. State-controlled Iranian media described the naval group's purpose as promoting "peace and friendship," but the arrival came just after an explosion at an Iranian-linked Sudanese weapons factory brought renewed international scrutiny to the relationship between Khartoum and Tehran. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has described that relationship as "deeply rooted," and Israeli officials have extensively outlined how Sudan operates as a pipeline for Iranian weapons destined for Palestinian terrorists.
Iran's naval ambitions, which include efforts to project power into the Red Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean, have heightened fears among U.S. and Middle East analysts that Iran is "rapidly gaining new capabilities to strike at U.S. warships" and have led the U.S. Navy to upgrade its defensive capabilities against Iranian threats.