Iran’s retaliatory attack on Israel signals major change in the region’s dynamics

A direct attack was launched by Iran on Israeli territory on the night of April 13-14, following an unjustified strike by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on the Iranian consulate in Damascus that resulted in the deaths of 11 diplomats and two high-ranking generals of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Initially, Israel denied responsibility but later indirectly admitted to targeting the building under the belief that it served as a military base coordinating Hamas operations. However, this act clearly violated the Vienna Conventions of 1961 and 1963 which protect diplomatic missions. Typically, such an infringement would lead to the severance of diplomatic ties, but since Iran and Israel have had no such relations and have been on the brink of conflict for decades, Israel’s abrupt move can be interpreted as a declaration of war. Faced with this provocation, Iran felt compelled to act.

Almost two weeks of suspense followed as the world waited for Iran’s response, which seemed logically inevitable. Analysts mostly considered two obvious options that Iran could use: either give a mirror response and hit Israeli territory or one of its diplomatic offices in the region, or use its proxy forces, which are as much of a problem for Israel as Iran itself. But Tehran decided to take a third course, both launching a direct attack and using its allies in the region. This attack made history as it was Iran’s first direct assault on Israel. Among other things, it was the most massive drone attack on record, estimated to have involved more than 200 UAVs, as well as 150 cruise missiles, 110 Shahab-3, Sajil-2 and Kheibar surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, and seven Fattah-2 hypersonic cruise missiles. The strikes were launched from multiple locations including Iran, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and the part of Yemen controlled by the Ansar Allah Houthi group.

At 2 a.m., air raid sirens echoed throughout Israel. Panicked citizens flooded the streets, rushing to find shelter as explosions rocked Jerusalem, the port of Haifa, a military base in the Negev desert, and an air force base near Be’er Sheva. The IDF urged residents of Dimona, near a nuclear facility, to remain close to bomb shelters, and news feeds were filled with increasingly alarming messages. The barrage overwhelmed Israel’s renowned Iron Dome defense system, with the sheer volume of incoming drones and missiles proving too much to handle. In response, the air forces of the United Kingdom, the United States, Israel, and Jordan scrambled to intercept the projectiles. In a desperate countermeasure, Israel jammed all GPS signals to disrupt the guidance systems of the Iranian missiles and drones. Tehran promptly declared that its targets were strictly military bases, airfields, and government installations.

One step from all-out war?
As the attack unfolded, US President Joe Biden publicly stated that he had spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “to reaffirm America’s ironclad commitment to the security of Israel.” All European capitals echoed the sentiment. Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin, while confirming his president’s resolve to support the Jewish state, added that Washington is not seeking conflict with Tehran. These words are unlikely to be welcomed in West Jerusalem. Netanyahu made several statements in light of Iran’s counterattack, first noting that everything was intercepted and blocked, referring to the success of the missile defense system. He then vowed that Iran will be held accountable for its actions. Israeli military reports claimed that almost 99% of the missiles and UAVs launched by Iran were shot down, but many military experts both in the West and in the Global South doubted this statement, relying on footage published in the media.

At the same time, sources of several influential American publications report that Washington is making every effort to dissuade Israel from directly striking Iran in order to “end this cycle of escalation.” Remarkably, but two days after the incident, Netanyahu made less belligerent statements, noting that the Jewish state would respond to Iran’s attack “wisely and without emotions.” Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Israel will retaliate directly asymmetrically, but rhetoric in this matter is also important, and it is possible that Netanyahu will try not to drag the entire region, and subsequently the world, into the abyss of catastrophe. Especially considering that Israel is not an American puppet, and therefore Washington cannot guarantee that Netanyahu will sit idly by. Hence, the independent actions of the Israeli prime minister will carry significant weight.

Again, the opinion of the former Israeli defense and foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, now an opposition figure, appears quite notable. Lieberman stated that Israel was only able to repel the Iranian attack thanks to US assistance, specifically through the capabilities of American intelligence and early interception. Based on this, Lieberman believes that Israel should seek maximum coordination with Washington regarding a retaliatory strike against Iran. According to him, by doing so, the US “will acknowledge that Israel has no alternative but to retaliate against Iran for its attack.” CNN’s sources report that Israel has even decided to postpone the operation in Rafah in Gaza, which it had been planning for several months, due to the situation with Iran. Now, Israeli authorities are focused on responding to the attack, resulting in the active phase of the operation being postponed for at least several days. In simpler terms, Israel is now in the position that Iran had been in all those days since the strike on the consulate in Damascus until the events of the night of April 14.

In turn, Iran’s IRGC issued a statement just minutes after the operation ended, noting that it was practically a ‘final warning,’ and in the event of a reverse reaction from Israel, Tehran would respond with more powerful actions. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian stated that the Islamic Republic does not desire an escalation of tension in the Middle East but acts in defense of its national security and interests. Additionally, according to the Iranian foreign minister, Tehran took into account the inaction of the UN Security Council regarding Israel’s use of force against the Iranian consulate in Damascus, as well as the irresponsible behavior of the US, Britain, and France.