|Israel-USA: Iran in the Crosshair|
The clash, shrouded in mystery like similar past incidents in the ethnic Baloch province of Sistan and Baluchistan and Kurdish areas in the West, occurred amid mounting speculation that the Trump administration, backed by Saudi Arabia and Israel, is striving for regime change in Tehran.
Iran and Jaish-al-Adl (the Army of Justice), a splinter group that traces its roots to Saudi-backed anti-Shiite groups in Iran, issued contradictory statements about the incident. Iran said three militants and two of its Revolutionary Guards were killed in the incident. Jaish-al-Adl claimed it had killed 11 Guards while suffering no losses.
US and Israeli officials insist that their anti-Iranian moves aim to increase domestic pressure on Iran to change its policies at a time that the country is witnessing multiple protests related to economic policies and water shortages rather than at regime change
US and Israeli officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, have resorted to social media to support the protests.
At the same time, debate within the Trump administration pits proponents of regime change like national security advisor John Bolton, backed by Mr. Netanyahu, against those that believe that domestic pressure is pushing the Iranian regime to the brink and simply needs a degree of encouragement.
In a series of tweets, Mr. Pompeo supported Iranian protesters and charged that “Iran’s corrupt regime is wasting the country’s resources on Assad, Hezbollah, Hamas & Houthis, while Iranians struggle.”
Mr. Pompeo’s comments were echoed in one of several video clips by Mr. Netanyahu, celebrating the brilliance of Iranians and their achievements in technology. “So why is Iran so poor? Why is unemployment so rampant? The answer is in two words: the regime. Iran’s dictators plunder the country’s wealth… The Iranian people are the ones that suffer,” Mr. Netanyahu said.
The messages appeared to be the result of a joint US-Israeli working plan drafted late last year to counter Iran with covert as well as diplomatic actions.
A participant before joining the Trump administration, Mr. Bolton this year stayed away from an annual gathering in Paris of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, a controversial Iranian opposition group that since being dropped from US, Canadian and European terrorism lists has garnered significant support in Western political, military and security circles.
There is widespread doubt that the Mujahedeen, that advocates the armed overthrow of the Iranian regime, commands popular support in Iran
That did not stop President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, and former House of Representatives speaker and Trump ally, Newt Gingrich from attending alongside former US officials, former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and European politicians. The US State Department said the Americans were not representing the administration.
Read more: The battle for Iran: Policy or regime change?