Viewpoint | Iran’s Missile Attack: Bridging a Divide

Iran’s retaliation to Israel’s assault on its Consulate in Syria on April 1 was Operation “True Promise,” which began on April 13 and resulted in the deaths of many IRGC personnel as well as General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, who was allegedly in charge of coordinating the activities of the Quds Force in the area. More than 300 drones and missiles were launched by Tehran toward Israeli military sites. This was the first time that an assault has been conducted directly from Iranian territory against Israel. At a time when the globe is already captivated by two ongoing wars and escalating tensions in the South China Sea, a Rubicon has been crossed.

The huge onslaught, which included precisely targeted and timed missile attacks, was intended to overwhelm Israel’s missile defense system. It went beyond simple signaling. Many observers believed that Iran’s retribution for Israel’s attack in Damascus was inevitable. However, it was unclear until the drones and missiles took flight whether they would turn an indirect and covert fight involving proxies into an overt and direct one.

However, when the specifics of Iran’s reaction and Israel’s ability to thwart it emerged, the majority of decision-makers voiced hope that a further escalation would be prevented. But while both sides are still brandishing their swords, it is too soon to assume that the chance that it would blow up into a larger conflict has subsided. The possibility of escalating blows in the US and Russia is still a worry.

THE ATTACK
Although an Iranian counterattack was anticipated, it was far more extensive than anticipated. Israeli military sites were the target of more than 300 drones, ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles fired from various areas around Iran. A representative for the Israeli military, Daniel Hagari, said that 99 percent of the rockets were intercepted by US support planes and Israeli air defenses, including as the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and the Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 systems. There were no recorded deaths, and the physical damage was minimal.

However, Iran executed the strike in a way that revealed flaws in highly developed air defense systems. It began with a lot of sluggish drones, then dozens of ballistic missiles aimed at the Negev Desert, and then more advanced missiles hitting the Netavim Air Base, which housed the squadron that launched the attack on Damascus. These attacks, however, barely damaged the structure. The strike demonstrated the effectiveness of the missile defense system by overwhelming the air defense system and compelling it to engage several low-grade rockets. However, it’s claimed that the expense of fending off the approaching missiles was more than the expense of the missiles launched into Israel.

Hardliners in Israel, however, insist on reprisals. “We need a crushing attack,” said National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir on X, previously Twitter. “If Israel hesitates, we will put ourselves and our children in existential danger,” said Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich. After the strike, Iranian Chief of Staff General Bagheri remarked, “We see this operation as a complete result and there is no intention to continue the operation,” despite his earlier claims that “Israel had crossed a red line that was unbearable” by bombing the Iranian Consulate in Damascus. This remark was designed to strike a delicate balance between threatening Israel with reprisal and displaying military might. The incident seems to have been planned to minimize deaths while maximizing spectacle, according to CNN.

USE OF PROXIES BY IRAN
Iran has been attempting to undermine Israel for many years by arming and supporting a group of proxies that includes Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and Hezbollah. Syria, the Houthis of Yemen, and paramilitary groups in Iraq are also included. These organizations served as their line of defense against the US, Saudi Arabia, and ISIS; but, since the Gaza War broke out in October of last year, these proxies have aided Israeli operations. Apart from the use of proxies, there is also the nuclear aspect. According to sources, Iran is getting closer than ever to developing a weapon that Israel considers to be an existential danger.

Although the West believed that Iran had been controlled, if not isolated, it devised a plan to influence activities in the area and provide strength to proxy militias while preserving plausible deniability. Iran has also always supported the Palestinian cause and maintained an unyielding anti-Israel attitude.

Israel has responded to Iranian proxies by taking direct aim at Iran. It has often engaged in covert operations on Iranian land, focusing on conventional installations, scientists, nuclear sites, and important generals like General Qasem Soleimani.

The delicate balance between the two sides’ willingness to stop their tit-for-tat strikes from getting out of hand was upset on October 7th, when Israel employed overwhelming force in Gaza in retribution for the attack by Hamas. The Middle East’s perception of Israel and Iran’s proxies has changed as a result, particularly in light of the Houthis’ increased assaults on Israel in an effort to show sympathy. US forces stationed in the Middle East have suffered 186 casualties as a result of these attacks. The Houthis’ attacks on ships in the Red Sea significantly reduced the amount of traffic passing through the Suez Canal. General Michael Kurilla, the chief of US Central Command, testified before Congress in March that the US military’s reaction to Iran’s partners’ increasing attack activity had given impetus to non-Iranian terrorist groups like ISIS.

Iran benefited from a change in the area that was expedited by the Israel-Hamas War. Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, issued a warning ten days after Hamas attacked Israel, stating that a ground invasion of Gaza may “open the gates of hell”—that is, cause an overwhelming retaliation aimed not just at Israel but also against American interests and assets in the area. Israel retaliated by attacking organizations with Iranian support in Syria and Lebanon, followed by Iranian military soldiers. Israel murdered around a dozen IRGC officers and personnel between early December and late March, culminating in the attack in Damascus. The Damascus attack had detrimental effects. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, said that “attacking our Consulate is like attacking our soil.” He vowed to punish Israel, as did a number of other political and military figures.

CHANGE IN IRANIAN CONSCIENCE
Iran claimed in a letter to the UNSC that the action was within its inherent right to self-defense as guaranteed by Article 51 of the UN Charter. Iran’s answer, however, reveals a noticeable change in its perspective. Its strategy regarding the US and Israel for many years was centered on supporting proxies rather than taking direct, aggressive action against them. Iran’s capacity to interact with Israel without running the danger of direct conflict and exact expenses while preserving plausible deniability was the foundation of the strategy. However, Iran’s “strategic patience” could not be seen as a show of weakness any more. Some experts believe that even though Iran was aware of its flaws and vulnerabilities, it was necessary because of the prestige at stake.

However, over the last several months, there has been a build-up to this confrontation-oriented escalation. Iran attacked locations in Syria and northern Iraq in January, citing connections to the Islamic State and Israel. They also claimed to have hit Iran while attacking terrorists’ bases of operations in Pakistan. Israel has now been attacked by Iran. The attack’s symbolism is more significant than the harm it did, but its effects will be felt globally, as seen by the spike in oil prices and the collapse of financial markets.

THE BREACHES
Iran may be jubilant about exacting revenge on Damascus and showing off its military might, but since so many of its weapons were intercepted, it has shown the limits of its offensive might. The focus of the world narrative has simultaneously changed from the humanitarian situation in Gaza to Iran’s missile attack on Israel.

President Biden has been under fire both domestically and internationally for failing to stop Netanyahu in Gaza. But now that Israel has been attacked, the Jewish lobby and public opinion will force him to give Israel more assistance. The day after the incident, President Biden issued a statement reiterating the “ironclad” US support for Israel’s security and urged calm in a phone conversation with Netanyahu and the G7 leaders.

The situation can get out of hand if Israel strikes Iranian territory in retaliation. In addition to causing significant losses, direct confrontations have the potential to draw the US and Russia into the conflict with global repercussions. Additionally, there is concern that any sanctions or other measures against Iran would cause it to move closer to China and Russia.

An conflict between Iran and Israel is more detrimental to India than one involving Russia and Ukraine. This is because both of those nations are closely related to us and are geographically lot closer to us. We have defense relations with Israel, are a member of the I2U2, and our intended IMEC passes via Israel. We have a long-standing historical tie with Iran. They were among our main crude suppliers. There, the Chabahar Port is being constructed, and Iran is traversed by our North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC). Aside from this, the Straits of Hormuz and the Red Sea serve as our main commercial routes. Our ties to this area go much deeper.

FINAL VERDICT
Iran’s assaults show that they were prepared to jeopardize their own safety by going up against Israel head-to-head, maybe including the United States in the fight. Iran is still relevant and resilient in the face of sanctions. When Iran began its onslaught, it would have assessed the dangers and determined that it would need to cross the Rubicon. It would be regrettable if Israel reached the same decision.

Any prospects for a peace process and a de-escalation of the Israel-Gaza conflict have also been dashed by the strike. On the other hand, Israel has benefited, as the US will now have to provide them with additional military equipment. Should Israel respond in like, Iran may also go up the escalation scale. Though the area did not blow up on April 13, it is still on the verge of doing so, and there is still a chance that the conflict may spread and become more deadly. Even while Iran and Israel could see turmoil as a chance, there are other ways in which instability can be dangerous. Risk calibration has its bounds.

Everyone’s thinking the same thing: what will happen next?