It has been almost a decade since the direct military confrontation between Israel and Iran began. Recently, the Israel Defense Forces has started preparing for the possibility of war with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). In simple terms, the intelligence branch of the IDF is completing the outline of a war that no one imagined would ever come – the first Israel-Iran war.
In recent years, the tension between Israel and Iran has escalated. About 10 drones have been launched toward Israel, with the latest one being intercepted over the Hula Valley in northern Israel about two months ago. In addition, the Quds Force of the IRGC has sent several times in recent years terrorists who attempted to plant explosive charges against IDF forces, and terrorists from one of their units have tried to target Israeli tourists abroad, mainly in Turkey.
The increase in direct confrontations between the two countries has ended years of ambiguity in the struggle over the region. However, the stalemate in reaching a new nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers, along with assessments within the security establishment that the next war will be a multi-front conflict, led the Israeli military to enter a stage of preparations for direct warfare against Iran, or at least several days of conflict with forces of the Islamic Republic.
"This is a significant mindset change that the IDF is required to make. It is not similar to a war against Hezbollah or an operation in Gaza against Hamas or Islamic Jihad," explained Lieutenant Colonel T., head of the Research Department in Branch 54, the new Iran branch established in the Military Intelligence Directorate. "It is like briefing a senior commander in the IDF who trains all day for war in Lebanon or Gaza, and telling him that this time it is entirely different from what he has known until now."
According to T.: "We are responsible for providing the military with the knowledge infrastructure regarding Iranian military capabilities and strategic systems under their control. We are engaged in researching the elements of control in Iran from the senior level down to the operators at the frontlines."
The new branch is intended to be the first focal point in the IDF's preparations for a scenario of wide and overt military confrontation with the Iranian military. In general, the branch focuses on intelligence learning, similar to the preparations for up-to-date intelligence-based training for combat with Hezbollah and Hamas. One of the departments within the branch is considered operative, collecting intelligence on the regular army of the IRGC.
The branch consists of only 30 soldiers, it doesn't even have a name yet, but it is responsible for preparing the IDF for a war against Iran, as every day, the operatives dissect another layer of the Iranian army, revealing another doctrine, combat method or enemy training technique.
In their internal discussions, they are well aware that it is not like the scenario the IDF will be practicing in the coming months, as a two or multi-front war. It is an entirely different war altogether, one that will require great endurance from the Israeli public, almost akin to a modern-day total war.
The heads of the branch come from a background of Palestinian specialization. One of them, Lieutenant Colonel Y. leads the targeting department, a position that leaves no doubt about its purpose in preparation for a possible war.
Throughout Iran, there are thousands of military targets that Israel could attack, but the targeting department is required to locate and designate the primary targets. "We analyze the IRGC specifically within Iran, not the Quds Force," an officer described. "Iran is a very large country in terms of territory, and they know there will be consequences to our operations within their territory – but it's a mutual game of exposure."
"What we are currently collecting and researching about the IRGC directly influences the building of the IDF's power and the new multi-year plan outlined by the chief of staff, serving as a compass for shaping the IDF's force in the coming years."
Y. has not yet participated in the practical exercises with the forces that will lead the future warfare against the Iranian army, such as the Israeli Air Force, but he is already monitoring meticulously the deceptive capabilities of the Iranian army.
"Every day we gather more targets and objectives at a satisfying pace and learn how to strike them effectively. We have already doubled the target bank in Iran, regardless of nuclear facilities. It is very different from interwar operations. An overt military confrontation will be an entirely different story," Y. said.
The branch has already conducted several war games and scenario presentations with expert teams, some of whom are no longer on active duty. Alongside prominent representatives from intelligence units such as Unit 8200 and Unit 9900, and with significant assistance from its American counterparts, the intelligence branch complements the war mapping that no one ever imagined would come to fruition – the first Israel-Iran war.
First published: 23:55, 06.11.23