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Missiles fired at Israel from Syria

What happened: Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system intercepted four missiles fired from Syria over the Golan Heights. The IDF said it “identified four launches from Syrian territory toward Israeli territory that were shot down by soldiers operating the Iron Dome missile defence system.”

  • Explosions were heard shortly after at Damascus airport, according to Syrian official news agency SANA.
  • But no special safety precautions have been implemented in northern Israel today.
  • Also yesterday US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US will terminate sanctions waivers related to Iran’s Fordow nuclear facility on 15 December
  • Unrest continued in Iran yesterday in which at least 20 protestors have been killed and more than 1000 wounded. Internet access has been blocked for a second day. The government is responding with direct payments to 60 million Iranians to compensate for large increases in petrol prices. Under the scheme, eligible Iranians will receive means tested benefits of between $13-$48 per month.

Context: The assessment of the Israeli military is that Iran has decided to respond aggressively to any Israeli action against Iranian forces or its proxies. This missile fire is likely to be linked to Israeli action against Islamic Jihad, an Iranian proxy based in Gaza, last week when the IDF killed Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al Atta.

  • Iran is now facing further US sanctions. Fordow had previously benefitted from sanctions waivers to allow Iran to undertake research, but these waivers will now come to an end on 15 December after Iran resumed uranium enrichment at the facility, in violation of the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal
  • The IAEA announced yesterday that Iran has breached another limit in the JCPOA by accumulating slightly more than 130 tonnes of heavy water.

Looking ahead: A recent study by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London concluded that “the balance of effective force in the Middle East is now in Iran’s favour.” Iran appears to be taking a more confrontational stance vis-à-vis Israel and with France, Germany and the UK slowly moving towards the US position over Iranian nuclear violations, and anti-regime protests in Iran and much of the region, there are signs Iran may have overreached.