Why Israel should desist from attacking Iran First Post 17 Apr 2024 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar



Why Israel should desist from attacking Iran First Post 17 Apr 2024

          Israel struck, Iran retaliated, what next? This is the question which the world is asking. While the Israeli air assault on Iran’s diplomatic compound in Damascus killed seven military officers, Iran’s retaliation (Operation Truthful Promise) caused partial damage to an air base and injured a child in the desert. As per the Tehran Times, Iran employed its Shahed-136 drones, along with 2nd or 3rd-generation missiles, like Paveh, Emad, and Rezvan. Its ‘fifth generation missiles and top-tier drones’ remain in reserve for future assaults.

Both sides claimed victory. Netanyahu tweeted on the Iranian strike, ‘We intercepted, we repelled, together we will win.’ There were celebrations across Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq supporting the Iranian action. Iran announced that it had achieved its objectives. Tehran, claiming to be satisfied with its strike, announced an end to the retaliation, vowing a response which will be ‘considerably more severe’ in case of another attack by Israel.

The two nations had thus far avoided direct confrontation, battles being fought between Israel and Iran’s proxies. Iran was compelled to respond due to domestic pressure, hence its actions could be dubbed as a face saver, while any Israeli retaliation would stem from political pressure, essential to keep Netanyahu in power.

Further, Israel is concerned that no counterstrike on its part could damage its regional standing, being surrounded by Arab states. The Iranian foreign minister addressed ‘resident ambassadors’ in Tehran, post the strike, and mentioned, ‘our armed forces did not target any economic or civilian location.’ It was evidently a message to Israel that it should follow similar norms in case it considers a response. Its major targets are its nuclear plants, ports and oil installations.

          Battle lines have also been drawn. Israel is backed by western nations (all of whom criticized Iran for the attack) as also some countries in the region, which stood by it. While Jordan shot down drones flying over its airspace, the UAE and Saudi Arabia possibly shared inputs thereby providing warning of the impending strike. Simultaneously, they closed their airspaces for any counterstrike on Iran while asking both sides to exercise restraint.

          Though the US has refused to attack Iran and demanded Israel desist, however, if the conflict enlarges due to Israel’s retaliation it will be drawn in. The US has announced that there would be no changes to its current deployment in the region, which implies it will continue to support Israel.

Iran has the backing of Hamas, Hezbollah, Houthis, Iraq based militia groups and Bashar al Asad’s Syria. These would now be far more active partners in the fight against Israel. Russia and China would provide Tehran with diplomatic support, unwilling to be involved. The UNSC will be hamstrung, unable to pass any resolution.

          Thus far, the battle was between Israel and Iran’s proxies but the Israeli strike brought Iran onto the picture. Iran had unsuccessfully tried to disassociate itself from its proxies. It is still hinting that it has no intention of escalating, the question remains, whether Israel will oblige.

Tehran, by its actions, has laid down its red lines but will Tel Aviv adhere to it, is questionable, after all the two nations hate each other. An enlarged conflict, drawing in Tehran’s proxies can have a major global impact. Oil prices would shoot, hurting economies. Nations in the region and even beyond would be drawn in.      

          While Israel did plan to target Iran’s commander of the Quds force, in its Damascus strike, Tehran had no intent of causing casualties in its counterstrike. It was sending a message that it possesses the ability to respond and would. Further, it shared its plans with Arab states as also with the US, enabling them to thwart the attack. Nor did Tehran coordinate its attacks with missile launches from its proxies, something which could have overwhelmed Israel and the west’s air defences.

          The strike has benefitted both adversaries. Iran now has inputs on Israel and the west’s anti-missile measures, all of which it could exploit in future launches. It conveyed the message that it possesses the wherewithal to target Israel and can cause requisite damage. It compelled the west to expend far more resources to block its fairly cheap missiles and drones, while keeping its main arsenal untouched for the future.

          Israel was seeking to build an anti-Iran coalition and the strike has given this move a boost. Additional sanctions would not be placed on Iran. More nations, including those in vicinity, now back Israel. Iran is now the common enemy of Israel, the west and major Middle East powers. Tel Aviv was facing global isolation for its actions in Gaza, which has been given a breather by Iranian actions.

Europe, which was demanding Israel scale down its Gaza operations is now silent. The US congress was seeking to place terms and conditions on Israel concerning its operations in Gaza for further military and financial support. That will not happen. In fact, Gaza has taken second stage. Israel could continue its Rafah operations with impunity in the near future, all the while threatening to retaliate.

World attention is now on the region. Israel’s supporters are now pushing Israel not to retaliate. However, everything can change and Israel termed the pariah in case it launches a direct attack on Iran resulting in the region being engulfed in conflict. It would be a catastrophe in case Israel targets Iran’s key economic and nuclear sites.