Iran’s attack on Israel full of sound signifying less fury E TV Bharat 15 Apr 2024 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar


Iran’s attack on Israel full of sound signifying less fury E TV Bharat 15 Apr 2024

          Almost two weeks after Israel struck Iran’s embassy compound in Damascus killing seven military personnel, including the Commander of its Quds force, Tehran retaliated. It launched an aerial assault at Israel from its soil, rather than exploit the military power of its proxies. An Iranian spokesperson mentioned, ‘We launched an operation using drones and missiles in response to the Zionist entity’s crime of targeting the Iranian consulate in Syria. The operation was carried out with missiles and drones to strike specific targets in the occupied territories.’ 

          Inputs mention that all 185 drones and 35 cruise missiles, launched by Iran, were destroyed in flight while 103 out of 110 missiles shot down. This was on account of coordinated actions by the US, UK, France, Jordan and Israel, having had hours of advance notice, considering distances involved. The Israeli defence spokesperson mentioned that while some missiles did strike the Nevatim Airbase there were no casualties. Visuals of aircraft operations from the airbase, soon after the missile strike, were released on social media.

          The Tehran regime had been under pressure to respond. US and Israel were aware that an attack was imminent from Iranian soil. President Biden had commented, ‘I don’t want to get into secure information but my expectation is sooner rather than later.’ Israel even stated that the attack was delayed by a day as it had yet to be approved by Iran’s highest-ranking officials. Thus, when the aerial assault was launched, it came as no surprise. Netanyahu tweeted, ‘We intercepted, we repelled, together we will win.’

          Did Washington and Tel Aviv base their assessment on the possible timing of the attack on intelligence inputs or did Iran deliberately pass an intimation, seeking to avoid escalation, while saving face. Iran-Pakistan cross-border strikes of Jan this year followed a similar pattern. Iran struck, Pakistan retaliated, then diplomacy took over, ending escalation and restoring normalcy. Neither of the two nations killed residents of the other but their own based in refugee or terrorist camps.

          Israel’s neighbours are joining hands to prevent the conflict from enlarging, engulfing the region. To avoid being drawn into the conflict as also restrict the US from sucking them in, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman and Kuwait and Qatar have prohibited Washington from using its bases in their countries as also their airspace to launch attacks on Iran. This restricts options.

          Immediately after launching its attack Iran announced that it ‘deemed the matter (retaliation to the Damascus attack) concluded.’ It added, ‘Should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe. It is a conflict between Iran and the Israeli regime, from which the US must stay away.’  

This message reiterates that Tehran’s actions were mere face-saving rather than targeting Israeli infrastructure and causing casualties. It was also a display of Iranian military power. Celebrations across Iran, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq indicates it Tehran achieved its aims.

The attack has given Israel an opportunity to target Iran’s nuclear installations, a long pending intent, however it will not be easy given airspace restrictions and no US involvement. Any such attempt by Israel would escalate the conflict across the Middle East. Arab nations would be forced to close ranks with Iran.

The Iranian response can also be compared to the Balakote strike. India struck Balakote compelling Pak to react as a face saver. It retaliated by dropping dud bombs on Indian soil, while releasing Wing Commander Abhinandan to prevent an Indian escalation. India’s subsequent silence led to Pakistan claiming victory. However, the Indian message of striking deep into the heart of Pakistan was registered. Celebrations across Arab states has the same implication.

A major fallout is that the US Congress can no longer block any arms transfer to Israel, a major benefit for Netanyahu. Support from Europe indicates that Iran will face additional sanctions while Israel would be under pressure to avoid escalation. The Biden administration has made it clear that while it is committed to ensuring Israel’s security, it will not participate in any attack on Iran. It also opposes any Israeli counterstrike on Iran. It has demanded that Israel keep it informed if it intends to escalate. If Israel does launch any attack, it would not have requisite support.  

Netanyahu knows that his government can remain only as long as the conflict rages. Demands for his resignation are rising. Hawks amongst his advisors are recommending escalation, seizing the opportunity provided by Tehran. If Tel Aviv does not retaliate, Iran will boast that it is the only Arab state to have struck Israel and compelled it into silence. Israel has not ruled out retaliation, mentioning it will strike back ‘when time is right.’

Netanyahu needs to be clear on Israel’s priorities. Either Israel should concentrate on Gaza and have its captives released or enlarge the conflict. Enlarging would leave Israel isolated even from country’s currently backing it. Simultaneously, Israel has assured US backing, which it could exploit, ignoring US warnings, thereby drawing it into a conflict even though it has no intention of being involved.    

          India, on its part, has called for restraint. Its foreign office statement read, ‘We call for immediate de-escalation, exercise of restraint, stepping back from violence and return to the path of diplomacy.’ Dr Jaishankar spoke to his counterparts in both, Israel and Iran, seeking restraint. Qatar, Pakistan, Venezuela and China, amongst others, also called for peace, while refusing to criticize Iran for the strikes.

The EU, Britain, France, Mexico, Czech Republic, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands condemned Iran’s attack. The G 7 in a joint statement mentioned, ‘We demand that Iran and its proxies cease their attacks.’        

The UNSC emergency meeting produced no tangible result other than ‘emphasizing de-escalation.’ Iran defended its actions, while the west and Israel accused it of expanding the conflict. With Russia and China in the UNSC no resolution against Iran is possible. The UNSC also did not condemn Israel’s strike on Iran’s diplomatic compound. The UN Secretary General mentioned that ‘neither the world nor the region can afford another war.’   

Pakistan which had sought a US waiver for its Iran-Pakistan pipeline will no longer receive it, adding to its financial woes. If the pipeline is not completed by Sept 2024, it would face a USD 18 billion-dollar penalty. The delay has been because Pakistan fears being sucked into sanctions imposed on Iran by the US.

          Meanwhile talks between Israel and Hamas have again stalled, leaving Israel with little option but continue with the seven-month long conflict. Tehran has captured an Israeli-linked vessel, reportedly headed to India with 17 Indians onboard, near the Strait of Hormuz, displaying it can act as a spoilsport. Talks are ongoing for release of the Indian crew, while diplomatic access has been provided.

The first signs of a possible thaw are appearing as both Iran and Israel have re-opened their airspaces for commercial flights. Is this truly a thaw or a lull before another storm remains to be seen.