Defeating targets in at least three nations this weekend, Israel escalated against Iran (without actually bombing Iran). Two factors play a role here: Iran's efforts to invade Israeli territory and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's electoral interest seems determined.
The new actions of Israel are significant. In Syria, Israeli warplanes have killed two members of Lebanon's Hezbollah. Israel says people have backed a plot by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps to launch explosive drones in Israel. The Israelis say that the responsible section of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps is the Quds Force, led by Kassem Solemimani. If true, the Quds Forces probably use Hezbollah as a disputant proxy to avoid direct links between the plot and Tehran.
In another operation in Lebanon, Israel targeted another allied Iranian group ̵
What's going on here?
First, it is important to note that these strikes take place with an ongoing Israeli security strategy. Although Israel is relatively tolerant of Hezbollah's activities in Lebanon and Syria, it does not want to allow Iran or any other group its indisputable ability to strike Israel with high threat. This means that Israel will strike a drone, a rocket, or other forces wherever it is seen threatening Israel. Desperate to pressure President Trump to reduce sanctions on Iran, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard is likely considering Israel's attack as a way to force Trump to abandon fears of another escalation.
But the strikes in Iraq, of which there appear to have been two in the last seven days, are particularly interesting. Iraq is the preferred site of the Quds forces and other Iranian elements, but Israel is well aware of the US interests in maintaining the fragile balance of forces in Baghdad. Although the Trump administration reflexively refers to Netanyahu, it would likely seek compelling Israeli evidence as to why strikes inside Iraq were necessary.
All this said that Netanyahu was probably also motivated by domestic politics here. With the new elections scheduled for Sept. 17, Netanyahu wants to double his stance on strong leadership. Faced with the growing challenge of the newly adopted Conservative Party and the center-left alliance led by a former senior general, Netanyahu wants to emerge as a top security candidate.
In short, Iranian threats are forcing Netanyahu's hand in a politically advantageous way to his premiership.