Sunday, May 26, 2024

Must-Know: What Israel’s Calculated Attack on Iran Means

HomeWARMust-Know: What Israel's Calculated Attack on Iran Means

JERUSALEM – Amidst the smoldering embers of tit-for-tat strikes, Israel unleashed a carefully calibrated counterattack on Iranian military sites near the city of Isfahan early Friday. This measured response aimed to resuscitate Israel’s deterrence while treading the tightrope of escalation, multiple analysts contended.

The focal point? A military installation in the vicinity of an air base in Isfahan, a region housing Iran’s most cherished nuclear facilities. Iranian officials acknowledged the drone strike but swiftly downplayed its impact, claiming it failed to inflict significant damage – a narrative mirrored by satellite imagery reviewed by American officials.

Yet, the symbolism was profound. By brazenly targeting Iran’s nuclear jugular, Israel seemed to be issuing an unequivocal warning about its capability and resolve to neutralize the Islamic Republic’s most critical assets.

“Make no mistake, this strike telegraphed Israel’s intent to surgically dismantle Iran’s nuclear Achilles’ heel if provoked,” remarked Dalia Dassa Kaye, a senior fellow at the Quincy Institute. “While avoiding a conflagration, it reasserted deterrence by demonstrating Israel’s unparalleled reach.”

In this shadowy war of subterfuge between intractable foes, official acknowledgment is often a mere formality. But their actions spoke volumes, emblematic of the long-simmering conflict over Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its regional military footprint.

Last week, Iran mounted one of its boldest offensives against Israeli territory – launching a fusillade of missiles and drones that Israel’s vaunted air defenses deftly intercepted. That barrage, according to Tehran, was retribution for an Israeli airstrike that neutralized an Iranian military compound in Syria on April 1, claiming two lives from Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard.

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Israeli officials had subsequently vowed a muscular reprisal, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defiantly dismissing calls for restraint, even from stalwart allies like the United States.

“Let me be crystal clear,” Mr. Netanyahu informed his cabinet last Sunday. “We answer to no one but ourselves. Israel will do whatever is necessary to safeguard its citizens.”

Yet rather than unleashing devastation, Israel’s response was surgical and judicious, defense experts assessed.

Richard Haass, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, framed it as “a calculated maneuver to re-establish deterrence and discourage further Iranian aggression against the Israeli mainland.”

“But,” Haass added via X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, “Israel’s actions were equally calibrated to provide Iran an off-ramp, avoiding an uncontrolled escalation. There was no grandstanding from Israeli officials.”

Other analysts echoed this nuanced appraisal – that Israel had fired a strategic warning shot while extending an olive branch to avert a broader conflagration.

“Through this limited counterstrike, Israel effectively quarantined the confrontation within the shadowy realm of covert operations,” posited Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group. “It granted Iran a face-saving pretense of having weathered the strike, while underscoring that Tehran’s audacious missile barrage had spectacularly failed to erode Israeli deterrence.”

Yet the strike’s geographic implications reverberated ominously. The area surrounding Isfahan hosts not just an air base but also foundational nuclear infrastructure – including the deeply-buried Natanz uranium enrichment facility. While Tehran insisted no nuclear site was impacted, the specter of Israel’s strike was unmistakable.

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“Iran’s bombardment of Israeli cities represented a massive escalation,” warned Bradley Bowman from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Tonight’s calculated Israeli reprisal delivered a chilling rejoinder: we can penetrate the heart of your nuclear program without resorting to wanton missile barrages.”

This latest conflagration exemplified the intricate battle of wits and wills fueling the interminable conflict over Iran’s nuclear drive and burgeoning regional clout spanning Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.

Last year witnessed a spate of mysterious explosions, fires, and cyber-attacks on sensitive Iranian nuclear and military facilities – widely attributed to Israeli sabotage. In November, a drone strike on an Israeli-linked oil tanker in the Persian Gulf was blamed on Iran.

For decades, Iran has systematically armed and funded militant groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, enabling recurrent rocket barrages against Israeli population centers. Conversely, Israel has relentlessly bombed Iranian proxies embedded in Syria to cripple their supply lines and limit Iran’s strategic foothold backing Bashar al-Assad’s beleaguered regime.

The precipitating event for this latest crisis? Israel’s deadly April 1st strike against an Iranian base in Syria – an assault that claimed two Revolutionary Guard lives and prompted Tehran’s vowed retaliation via last week’s missile deluge.

As that unprecedented Iranian bombardment rained over Israel, hawkish voices and coalition hardliners clamored for Mr. Netanyahu to deliver a pulverizing riposte. But the Biden administration counseled de-escalation, cautioning both sides against fanning the flames of a conflict with catastrophic regional implications.

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“We absolutely do not want this situation spiraling out of control,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre stated on Friday. “Our focus remains de-escalation through consulting allies and regional partners.”

So far, neither adversary seems keen to provoke an all-out war – a scenario that could potentially entangle other powers like the United States and devastate the entire region.

Iran, its economy and military enfeebled, has limited capacity to meaningfully strike Israel’s dispersed defenses without inviting annihilating retaliation. Conversely, Israel is loath to jeopardize the hard-won concessions curbing Iran’s nuclear program under the 2015 multilateral accord.

“Both protagonists are veteran hands at this brinkmanship,” noted Ms. Dassa Kaye. “Neither wants uncontrolled escalation to the point of no return.”

For now, this tense cycle of retaliation appears paused, if momentarily. Yet its durability remains uncertain.

“The pivotal question is whether Israel’s message resounding loud and clear – that it can and will dismantle Iran’s nuclear Rubicon at will,” Ms. Dassa Kaye concluded. “But the fundamental drivers persist, rendering future confrontations inevitable.”

In this powder keg of enmity, the fuse remains lit, smoldering. The world watches with bated breath as these eternal foes engage in their delicate, dizzying danse macabre.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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