On the night of January 28-29, it was reported that a number of Iranian facilities in different parts of the country were attacked by drones.
According to initial reports, the attack on the military industry factory in the city of Isfahan was carried out by three drones, causing a massive explosion. However, Iranian authorities called the Isfahan attack unsuccessful, noting that the damage caused was not extensive.
Although the first information and videos of the attack referred to Isfahan, reports of attacks across the country soon followed. On the same night, a fire broke out in the Tabriz oil refinery.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the connection between Isfahan and Tabriz attacks is “not clear”. There were also reports on attacks on oil refineries in Karaj and Azarshahr.
Following the attack, active speculation began in the international media and social networks about the possible organizers and reasons behind the attack.
Although there is no official confirmation yet, the main “suspect” so far is Israel.
What does the international media write?
The Jerusalem Post reported that Israel was behind the attack, citing Western intelligence sources who claimed the attack was a “success” for Israel, although Iran claims the damage was not extensive. The Jerusalem Post headlined the article as “Israel’s drone attack on Iranian weapons factory was phenomenal success”.
The Arabic-language TV station Al Arabiya also announced that Israel was behind the attack, calling it a “special military operation”. The TV channel claimed that the goal was the destruction of Iran’s military industry. The broadcaster later backtracked on the previous statement, saying that the term “military operation” was an exaggeration.
The New York Times wrote that it is likely that the attacks were carried out by drones with a short flight distance, and Isfahan is far from the Iranian border, which could mean that they were launched from the territory of Iran proper.
According to a number of news outlets, including Reuters and The New York Times, Israel is behind the attack, as reported by American official but anonymous sources.
The Pentagon denied any US involvement in the attacks.
According to The Guardian, the target of the attack in Isfahan was the factory producing drones that are allegedly sent to Russia to fight against Ukraine.
Plausible and implausible speculation
Immediately after the attacks, along with opinions in the international press, various allegations appeared on social networks about who could be behind the attack or what geopolitical goals it pursued.
Ukraine claims that what happened in Iran was a “response” to the policy adopted by Iran in the context of the Russia-Ukraine war, in particular, the drones supplied to Russia.
Following the explosion, Mikhail Podoliak, adviser to President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, wrote on his Twitter page that Ukraine had warned Iran, and the representative of the Ukrainian Air Force, Yuri Ignat, said that what happened in Iran can be called a consequence of the latter’s policy.
Iran had previously been accused of supplying drones to Russia. Although the Iranian authorities denied the accusations, Zelensky claimed that the armed forces of Ukraine shot down about eighty Iranian drones in just two days at the beginning of January. Referring to the information provided by Ukrainian intelligence sources, CNN reported that the downed Iranian drones contained parts manufactured by more than ten American companies.
Unverified claims about Azerbaijan
A number of social network users wrote that the attack on Iran’s military facilities was launched from an “Israeli base” in the territory of Azerbaijan, while others said that it was Azerbaijan that sent the drones to the territory of Iran.
The first allegations about Israel’s military base in Azerbaijan were made about ten years ago by international experts. They refer specifically to the air base in the east of Azerbaijan. However, despite allegations and media publications that Israel has received permission to use the air base, the political elite of Azerbaijan denies this.
There is no evidence in open sources about the existence of an Israeli base in Azerbaijan.
Armenian Twitter users mainly discuss alleged Azerbaijani involvement in the context of tensions between Iran and Azerbaijan, on the one hand, and friendship between Israel and Azerbaijan against Iran, on the other hand. Another allegation is that pressures against Iran can help Azerbaijan “easily” capture Syunik province of Armenia.
The attack on Iran’s military facilities followed the attack on the Azerbaijani embassy in Tehran, as a result of which an embassy employee was killed, and Azerbaijan decided to evacuate the embassy staff and suspend consular services. Azerbaijani lobbyists used this opportunity to remind that Iran supports Armenia and Azerbaijan supports Israel.
This incident gave way to the allegation that what happened was a possible revenge by Azerbaijan. According to some claims, it was for this purpose that Azerbaijan evacuated the embassy staff before the attack.
This allegation is problematic in many ways, including the circumstance that the attacks did not target Tehran, but, rather, the infrastructure of Isfahan and several other cities, including Tabriz. Note that Azerbaijan has not evacuated the staff of the Azerbaijani consulate in Tabriz, which continues to provide consular services.
Hraparak.am also reports that the drone attack on Iran was organized by Azerbaijan. An analytical article claims that “pro-Western Armenians are happy, pro-Russians are hurt, but they are also looking around with cautious optimism, hoping that Iran will eventually strike Azerbaijan”.
Referring to the Azerbaijani media, some Armenian Telegram channels write that Azerbaijan is preparing a special operation to uncover the Iranian spy network in Baku.
At the same time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan announced the tightening of rules of travel to Iran, urging Azerbaijani citizens not to visit Iran unless absolutely necessary, and advising those who visit the country to “exercise extreme caution”.
The authorities of Iran are still silent about the potential involvement of Israel or another state.