Opinion| The Farce of the Iranian Attack and the American-Israeli Stance

Hatem Sadek
11 Min Read
Hatem Sadiq

A bizarre and almost theatrical event took place during the Iranian assault on Israel, characterized by the deployment of drones and ballistic missiles. The entire episode, from the initial declaration to the conclusion, was steeped in absurdity.

Numerous nations, including Israel, the United States, Jordan, and various Arab states, were privy to the details of the impending attack. They were aware of the precise timing and the armaments involved. This foreknowledge suggests that Tehran’s objective is not to escalate tensions but to seek the international community’s support, especially from Israel and the US, to pacify the Iranian populace following a recent assault on their consulate in Syria.

The circumstances of the purported attack are notably odd. A mere three hours after the onset, the Iranian delegation at the United Nations proclaimed the cessation of their military response. They also cautioned Israel against further provocations, threatening a more severe reaction. Iran’s choice to announce the operation’s end via the UN indicates a deliberate avoidance of further escalation.

It’s curious that despite the launch of numerous drones and missiles, the majority failed to reach Israeli territory. They were intercepted and neutralized by American, British, and French naval forces over the skies of Iraq, Jordan, and Syria. The involvement of these international forces seems to be a protective measure for Israel, simultaneously deterring Israel from leveraging the attacks as a casus belli for a direct and forceful retaliation against Iran—a move that would drastically alter the conflict dynamics in the Middle East, presumably desired by Tel Aviv.

Since Hamas initiated actions on October 7th near Israeli settlements in Gaza, Israel has been strategizing a response to Iran’s “unity of arenas” doctrine. This Iranian strategy is designed to wear down the Israeli military by spreading its defensive and offensive efforts across various fronts, avoiding a head-on clash. Given Israel’s technological and military edge, any direct conflict would likely be to their advantage. Iran is steering clear of such confrontation to prevent the potential downfall of its ruling regime.

Following the establishment of the new Islamic government in Iran, the Iran-Iraq war erupted, lasting nearly eight years and culminating in a demoralizing defeat for Iran—the first for the fledgling regime. Such a loss poses a profound quandary for any leadership, as a regime typically withstands only one military setback. A second defeat could spell the end for the regime, a reality of which the Iranian authorities are acutely conscious.

In light of this, Iran has opted for an alternative strategy to further its regional ambitions. Rather than engaging in direct military skirmishes that could end in additional losses, Iran has focused on cultivating proxy forces to act on its behalf. This has led to the emergence of factions like Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, and the Iraqi branch of Hezbollah. Through these proxies, Iran aims to fulfil its objectives without directly exposing itself to military defeats that could precipitate the regime’s collapse.  

 In the last six months, Iran and its proxies have been using the conflict in Gaza as a tool to advance their propaganda goals. They have been avoiding any significant escalation that could lead to their direct involvement in the conflict. Instead, they are trying to involve a large number of Arab countries in the conflict, starting with Lebanon and Syria, and extending to Jordan, Iraq, Yemen, and other regions.

     The October attack presented an unprecedented opportunity for Israel to deal directly with Iran, rather than just its agents, militias, and followers. This was made possible due to the presence of American and international support and sympathy. Many attempts were made to provoke Iran and drag it into a direct war. Most of the statements made by Israeli political and military leaders in Tel Aviv pinned the blame on Iran, declaring that the next war would be with Tehran. As a result, many Iranian military and security leaders were targeted in Syria and Lebanon to show that Israel could attack any of them at any time. However, Iran failed to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them and only responded with words of intimidation and threats. Even when Iran’s agents responded, it was with just a few missiles.

     The Israeli attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus was an unprecedented event, which resulted in the capture of the consulate by Iranian leaders. This was the first time that an Israeli air strike targeted an Iranian diplomatic mission, and according to international laws, it is considered an attack and assault on the territory of a sovereign state. As a result, a direct, decisive, and rapid response is required from the attacker. However, Tehran does not wish to engage in confrontation as it would bring them back to square zero, lose the advantage of multiple arenas that they have invested in for nearly three decades, and face the potential damage to the face of the mullahs of Tehran and the Revolutionary Guard leadership. Following the strike, it became clear that Israel had completed its military preparations for the confrontation it sought. All of its air and defence forces were placed on maximum alert, and its embassies and representations around the world followed intensive security measures. Israel even closed 28 embassies in several countries.

   The Israeli government has taken measures to reinforce its security after official American reports warned that Iran’s response to Israel was “inevitably coming”. While the United States denied any involvement in a recent raid and informed Iran that it did not know about the raid or its goal, Iran has asked the United States to “step aside” and not interfere with their response to Israel.   

      The tension between Iran and Israel worsened when Iranian officials announced that they had decided to attack Israel directly, intending to create deterrence. This is exactly what Israel wants. Iran has taken significant steps towards confrontation, and any retreat would be a final defeat for the regime. Therefore, they have no other choice but to beat the drums of war which have already been decided.

      Some Iranian newspapers have circulated several possible scenarios for Iran’s response to a potential attack on Israeli territory. The Iranian newspaper “Khorasan” stated that the response must cause heavy losses and damage, and must be visible and audible to everyone. The goal is to let everyone know that Israel’s war power is limited to killing operations in the Gaza Strip and that it no longer has any power. The response must be in a way that Israel knows that any future attacks will cost them exponentially. The media outlets affiliated with the Iranian axis believe that Iran could target the three power stations and 22 power transmission stations in Israel.

   The potential response from Iran to an Israeli strike may be restricted to actions such as attacking an embassy in a particular country or expediting its nuclear program. Nevertheless, the primary objective for Iran is not to appear weak in front of its citizens internally or its representatives in the region.

    It appears that Tehran has several options at its disposal to respond to Israel’s actions. One such option is to use its allied groups in Iraq, Lebanon, or Yemen to carry out a retaliatory attack. So far, Tehran seems to be keeping its plans a secret to create confusion about the nature and scope of its response. However, it is unclear how Tehran can achieve this without risking a broader conflict in the region, which it does not seem interested in provoking.

    According to CBS, American officials have said that there is intelligence indicating that Iran is planning an attack with a group of ‘Shahed’ explosive drones and cruise missiles. This is the most likely scenario, and it is also one that Washington can allow. The attack can help Tehran recover from its recent setbacks, but it will not harm Israel, which has the military technology to confront and neutralize such attacks. In this way, Israel can humiliate Iran instead of defeating it, which gives it some short-term satisfaction, particularly after its plan in Gaza was halted for a while.

   Due to the 7 October attack, there is a significant risk of a large-scale war resulting from miscalculations made by all parties involved. Every action taken by any party is perceived as a strategic move to eliminate the other side. This perception can lead to unintended escalation and even comprehensive confrontation, causing chaos and the possibility of dragging the entire region into war.

Dr. Hatem Sadek: Professor at Helwan University

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