Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :
Hanna Saleh

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : A Reading Of Iran’s Retaliation

It was an extremely brief but very loud battle. It took Iran two weeks to retaliate against Israel, and Iran achieved nothing. Not a single roof fell, and the Israelis did not suffer a single casualty.
A lot of suspense was generated in the build-up to the attack. Israel's targeting of the Iranian consulate in Damascus was a blow to the head that left all the Quds Force generals in the operations room dead. After Supreme Leader Khamenei threatened that Israel would regret the attack, emphasizing that his nation sought revenge (...), Tehran seemed obligated to launch a direct attack. Hiding behind Iranian proxies became untenable, and the mullah regime launched its first military operation since the Iran-Iraq war.
After the decision to retaliate directly had been made. The head of the IRGC claimed that Israel would cease to exist, alarming the world. The night of April 13-14 was zero hour. The retaliation was a show of force, with Tehran launching approximately 330 drones and missiles (both cruise and ballistic). Millions watched live, glued to their screens, as the drones and missiles crossed the skies of Iraq before reaching Jordan and Syria. However, the coordinated American-British-Israeli response disrupted it, starting from the Jordanian-Syrian border with Iraq. Only 7 ballistic missiles reached their targets, doing modest damage to the Ramon Airbase in the Negev, where the advanced F-35 fifth-generation jets are located!
Washington had been warned before zero hour. Iran's Foreign Minister, Abdollahian, has revealed that “Tehran informed Washington that the attacks would be limited and launched in self-defense.” The extensive attack mirrored Iranian’s actions following the assassination of Qasem Soleimani; it was Ain Al-Assad operation 2.0, the only difference being that hundreds of drones and missiles took hours to reach their intended targets. The fact that prior warning had been given makes one thing clear: this was an attempt by the Iranians to save face and avoid the full-scale war that Netanyahu seeks and Washington is trying to avert.
As for the results on the ground, Washington saw it as a victory for Israel. However, this major incident requires diligent and precise analysis. Although Netanyahu might want to say: “Thank you, Khamenei,” both Tehran and Tel Aviv scored points, though Israel has the edge. The following points should be considered:
Firstly, this is the first time that Iran has attacked Israel directly, meaning that it is a significant development that will have implications for Iran and the Axis of Resistance.
Domestically, the IRGC’s role in political life will be reinforced. Abroad, the morale of the Quds Force subordinates and regime loyalists (who had been shocked by the “strategic patience” approach that Iran had adopted, avoiding retaliation to Israeli strikes) will be boosted. Notably, despite the disparity between Israel’s Western arsenal and Iran’s, which seemed more loud fireworks than destructive weapons, the narrative that Israel has lost its superiority is beginning to surface, as reflected by protests in Tehran, Beirut, and elsewhere!
Secondly, the interconnectedness of the Iranian axis's arenas, from Yemen to southern Lebanon and Iraq, was evident over the five hours in which the attack unfolded. It affirmed that this linkage only serves Iran's supreme interests.
Thirdly, Iran has said that it launched the attack in self-defense; it does not want a full-scale war, nor will it let future attacks go answered. Indeed, Iran has maintained its right to retaliate, in the event that its interests are targeted, it would launch a larger and more decisive attack than the “Al-Waad Al-Sadiq” (Ture Promise) operation. This rhetoric is intended to open the doors for new understandings and a power-sharing arraignment. Tehran wants the West to recognize it as a prominent power in the region; its goal is to reinforce its position and be given free rein!
Fourthly, Netanyahu now has a pretext to strike Iranian territory. Some in Israel believe this is the right time to address the most prominent threats Iran poses: its nuclear program, ballistic weapons, and drones. Indeed, this assessment is broadly seen as the best way to deal with the Mullah regime, which is seen as a threat to regional and global security. In this context, what the attack demonstrated about Iran's technological capabilities grants Israel and its backers more time.
Retaliation is undoubtedly on the Israeli war cabinet’s agenda. However, Netanyahu let the success that has been achieved, by Israel and the West more broadly, sink in, allowing him to regain his authority and influence. The blockade his people had put him under has been broken, and the countdown to time in power has been paused after Tehran's audacious attack on Israel. The anti-government demonstrations and calls for early elections will likely be put on hold for the time being.
Fifthly, US and Western support for Israel will increase. Iran’s wings, its proxies, will be clipped to prevent another “October 7th.” Moreover, Gaza will become more isolated, the pressure on Rafah will be ramped up, and “surgical” military operations to undermine what remains of Hamas will expand in scope. Serious discussions regarding the fate of the devastated Strip will be delayed, and a resolution to the Palestinian question will be put on hold until the US elections!
Sixthly, the situation in Lebanon will be concerning. The severity of the strikes launched on April 14th, which hit sites in the South and in the eastern Bekaa, show what awaits the country, which the Israelis have turned into a bank of targets. Israel has also imposed a security belt along the towns close to the Blue Line dividing Lebanon and Israel and it has escalated its attacks on agricultural land. Locations that it believes to be Hezbollah supply lines, missile storage sites, and drone depots will be targeted, preempting an attempt to launch another “October 7” from South Lebanon. This is a priority for the Israelis, and the US and NATO support its efforts to bring security to northern Israel.
Those who have been overwhelmed by euphoria - especially Hezbollah, which claims it has not yet shown all the weapons it has in its arsenal, which it claims is merely a fraction of what Tehran has shown - would benefit from pondering a statement by Henry Kissinger: Nations’ success is not measured by how many wars they win, but how successful they are in preventing them.”