Israel strikes Iranian munitions facility with targeted drones

Iranian officials said that unmanned aerial vehicles struck a munitions facility in the central Iranian city of Isfahan overnight, a result of what US officials on Sunday said was an Israeli operation, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Tehran had not initially placed blame for the attack, and claimed that only minor damage was done to the rooftop of the facility. The Iranian defence ministry further claimed that several drones had been shot down by Iranian ground-to-air defences. It was unclear, based on multiple reports, if any drones survived the operation.

Israeli officials also did not immediately claim credit for the operation, though the Biden administration likely revealed their involvement with tacit support.

It wasn’t clear exactly what the attack’s intended goal was, but The Wall Street Journal reported that the site of the battle was directly next to a site designated for the Iran Space Research Center, which plays a role in Tehran’s ballistic missiles program.

The attack comes at a time of great uncertainty in the field of US-Iran relations. The Biden administration spent much of the president’s first two years in office attempting to revive the Obama-era nuclear accord signed by Iran, the US, and several European countries which was abandoned under the Trump administration. But White House and State Department officials, including the president himself, have recently indicated that the possibility of those talks resulting in success has all but evaporated.

Such operations therefore could become more commonplace in the months and years ahead as the US and Israel seek to hinder Iran’s various weapons and atomic development programs through nonpolitical and often violent means.

Meanwhile, cities across Iran have been rocked for months by widespread demonstrations in response to the killing of a young woman in police custody. The 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was detained for allegedly wearing a headscarf incorrectly in September; she died after reports say she was severely beaten.

Her death sparked a wave of protests against the country’s so-called “morality police” and the country’s conservative Muslim government in general; those demonstrations continue even as the Iranian government has responded with a brutal crackdown that has included arrests and sentences as severe as death for some of those caught.

The US Congress has voted in bipartisan fashion to support those protests, with conservatives finding rare common cause with the left on the issue. European legislative bodies have done the same, sparking a wave of retaliatory sanctions by Tehran; the Biden administration meanwhile, has responded with sanctions for a number of senior officials including members of the Revolutionary Guard over the crackdown.