Iran’s attack on Israel was not the failure many claim but it has ended Israel’s isolation

Iran’s attack on Israel was not the failure many claim but it has ended Israel’s isolation

Iran-Israel Conflict Analysis

Iran-Israel Conflict Analysis

None of this suggests that Iran’s attack was a slam dunk. Like any other attack, it had its fair share of unintended consequences. Chief among them is the virtual end of Israel’s international isolation due to its disastrous war in Gaza.

Here, Iran violated a Napoleonic dictum to ‘never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake’. Israel was making huge and unforgivable mistakes in Gaza with its collective punishment of the Palestinian people, but following Iran’s attack, the West has rallied behind Tel Aviv.

Jordan (and possibly Saudi Arabia) also shared intelligence, contributed military assets and downed a number of Iranian drones over its skies – a powerful image of Arabs, Westerners, and Israelis coming together to counter a common foe.

Iran forced Israel, and the United States, to spend more than a billion dollars to counter its attack. That’s not an insignificant outcome, considering that Iran paid roughly one tenth of that to mount its attack. In a fiscally-constrained and politically-charged environment in Washington, increasing US military assistance to Israel is not guaranteed.

So, when judged solely by its strategic goal from Iran’s perspective – to bolster Iranian deterrence and attempt to rewrite the rules of engagement with Israel – Iran’s attack was largely successful. Iran showcased more capability in its attack than its detractors would like to admit.

Additionally, this was a highly useful information-gathering exercise for Iran. Though hardly definitive, Iran’s assessment of Israeli and partner defences has much improved. In a potential war of attrition with Israel, which Iran would seek, such information and assessments will be invaluable.

It also would have integrated the significant combat power of its regional proxies – especially the capable Hezbollah – into its operation, turning this into a real multi-front conflict and a nightmare for Israel.

Instead of employing offensive tactics that would have significantly challenged and possibly overwhelmed Israeli defences, it did the opposite. Indeed, had Iran sought to inflict serious pain on Israel, it would have incorporated a heavier dose of fast-flying and precision-guided ballistic missiles, giving Israel very little time to prepare and respond.

Had Iran’s intent been to hurt Israel, it wouldn’t have violated a core principle of military operations – the element of surprise. But it did. It telegraphed its intentions to Washington and several Arab and European capitals, and assured them that its strike would be relatively limited.

It is easy to rush to the conclusion – and many have – that the attack was a massive failure given the near-perfect rate of interceptions of Iranian drones and missiles by Israel’s layered missile defence architecture.

Timing might be also key to Iran’s thinking. Aware that a broader direct escalation with Israel and between Israel and Hezbollah is on the horizon, Tehran has also sought to accelerate the timeline, calculating that any escalation is better played out in advance of the US election.

Iran’s consistent message has been that it seeks to avoid a broader regional war and this may have factored into Israel’s calculations around its new approach.

The direct and targeted strikes at Israel aimed at restoring Iranian deterrence also demonstrated Tehran’s changed calculus and risk appetite. This assertive posture was, as stated by Iran’s IRGC commander Hossein Salami, about ‘[trying] to create a new equation with Israel’.

For Tehran, its response was intended to define new red lines in its conflict with Israel, making it clear that Iran could and would take matters into its own hands should Israel’s degradation campaign against Iran and its partners continue.

Iran has long tried to shield its role in the axis under the aegis of plausible deniability. Moreover Tehran has not, until this past weekend, directly responded to Israeli provocations, choosing to outsource retaliation efforts to the axis or sidestep confrontation completely – leading to much internal and regional criticism that it has lost its deterrence capability.

Today these groups, which include Bashar al Assad, Hezbollah, the Houthis and Iraqi political and militia groups, are no longer proxies but rather partners who have domestic autonomy and coordinate transnationally.

Iranian-Israeli tensions have long simmered in the shadows of the broader Middle East. Iran has, since the 1979 revolution, taken an anti-Israeli posture and as part of its deterrence strategy has cultivated and financed support for the ‘axis of resistance’ network in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Palestine, surrounding Israel’s borders.

Iran’s direct drone and missile attack on Israel that lasted several hours on Saturday evening has changed the long-established terms of engagement between the two adversarial states. It has also taken the Middle East closer to a wider conflict that if uncontained will have serious and destabilizing ripple effects across the region.

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