11.04.2024 Author: Alexandr Svaranc

Israel awaiting Iranian retaliation

Israel awaiting Iranian retaliation. IRGC

Israel is continuing its military operations in the Gaza Strip, where the focus of a devastating war is shifting to the southern town of Rafah, threatening a massive catastrophe for the more than one million Palestinian refugees who have flocked to the borders with Egypt in the hope of humanitarian aid and rescue. Tel Aviv, represented by Prime Minister Netanyahu and the heads of the security services, has repeatedly declared the readiness of the defence forces to launch an operation. Each time, however, Israel has paused and limited itself to targeted military action in this direction.

The Arab death toll in the Palestinian-Israeli war has already reached 33,000, with more than 70,000 wounded. However, the authorities of the Jewish state do not compromise politically, contrary to the official opinion of the main ally – the USA, do not give up the planned operation to take Rafah with the motivation of the necessity to destroy the “last” citadel of Hamas.

What is Israel waiting for, if America is not a threat to it and tanks are fast? Obviously, Tel Aviv is less afraid of the reaction of the international community (in terms of UN resolutions or verbal shocks from foreign leaders). Apparently, the main deterrent for the Israeli authorities in this situation is the reaction of Iran, which is not officially involved in the conflict on the side of Hamas, but pro-Iranian proxy forces controlled and coordinated by the IRGC create additional problems for the IDF.

In this regard, Tel Aviv is not particularly embarrassed by Ankara’s constant anti-Israeli statements and Turkish diplomacy’s proposals to create an independent Palestine within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its centre, and to give the Ottoman heirs an international security mandate. Why? Simply because President R. Erdoğan, unlike President Ebrahim Raisi, does not pose a military threat to Israel, does not send military units, weapons or proxy forces to war against the IDF. And how could Erdoğan do otherwise when the USA, Israel’s main patron, has military bases on its territory?

The situation with Iran is different, because although Tehran is not in a direct military conflict with Tel Aviv, its IRGC is persistently and not without success expanding the resistance front against the Zionist regime and creating threats against Israel. The Houthis’ war of sabotage in the Red Sea basin and the Gulf of Aden is worth mentioning. In addition, the Lebanese Hezbollah in the north and the pro-Shiite forces in Syria and Iraq regularly carry out pinpoint attacks against installations in Israel as well as military bases and diplomatic missions of the Western allies (mainly the United States) in the Middle East.

Israel’s repeated attempts to draw the United States into a direct military confrontation with Iran have so far failed. Washington and Tehran are currently avoiding a military conflict between them. Nevertheless, Tel Aviv and its intelligence services regularly carry out new anti-Iranian provocations, not only to block the IRGC’s subversive activities in the direction of Israel, but also to provoke Tehran’s retaliation, which could trigger a wider regional war by diverting the forces and resources of the Islamic world and pro-Iranian groups from Palestine to Iran.

The situation in the Middle East continues to escalate

Once again, the Israeli side has carried out a large-scale sabotage and terrorist action against Iran on the territory of third countries. In particular, on 1 April 2024, the Israeli air force, using F-35s, carried out a massive air strike on the Iranian consulate building next to the Iranian embassy in Damascus, Syria. 16 people were killed, including the commander of the IRGC’s Al-Quds Special Forces, Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, his deputy, Brigadier General Mohammad Hadi Haji Rahimi, and 6 other IRGC officers.

Since October 2023, i.e. after the start of the Palestinian-Israeli war in the Gaza Strip, Israel has increased the intensity of its attacks on Syria (in particular, repeated attacks on the airports in Damascus and Aleppo, the Iranian diplomatic corps). Thus, on 25 December 2023, Israel killed IRGC General Razi Mousavi, who coordinated the combat activities of pro-Iranian forces in Syria and Iraq, and on 20 January 2024, Brigadier General Sadegh Omidzadeh, an al-Quds intelligence officer. The primary target of the 1 April attack appears to have been al-Quds Force Commander Mohammad Reza Zahedi.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said: “Israel is working to make it clear to all those who act against us throughout the Middle East that the price of acting against Israel will be high.

Russia, China, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Non-Aligned Movement and the UN condemned the Israeli action on 1 April as a violation of international law, sovereignty, regional security and stability. The EU expressed concern and called for restraint, while the US said it was not involved. It is strange that Turkey, which has been so active in criticising Israel with accusations of genocide and other war crimes, has not yet joined the list of countries condemning the April 1 attack (although R. Erdoğan expressed his condolences to his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi).

So, Iran is being challenged, and the Persians always pay their debts. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has promised a tough response to this attack. In particular, he addressed Israel in Hebrew and said: “We will make the Zionists repent for their aggressive crime against the Iranian consulate in Damascus.

Khamenei’s political adviser, Ali Shamkhani, said the US “bears direct responsibility whether it knew of the intention to carry out this attack or not”.

Iran has told the UN Security Council that it reserves the right to respond ‘decisively’ to Israel. You could say the clock is ticking.

The US CIA warned the Israeli side of the high probability of an Iranian military response against one of the diplomatic corps in Israel, and the Americans asked the Iranian side not to take rash steps against its diplomatic missions in the Jewish state because of their non-involvement.

Amid rising tensions, the Israeli authorities began taking swift decisions to organise thorough preparations for an Iranian military retaliation. The Israel Defense Forces called up additional reservists (including operators of the Iron Dome air defence system) and temporarily cancelled military leave. A number of foreign diplomatic corps in Israel suspended operations for security reasons. GPS has been blocked in much of Israel to disrupt the satellite navigation of rockets and drones.

Undoubtedly, Iranian intelligence is monitoring all this, which will obviously lead to adjustments in the forms and methods of retaliation, but will not affect the retaliation itself. Israel is in a state of panic, while Iran is gripped by a thirst for revenge.

Meanwhile, the Iranian Majlis and some IRGC-affiliated media noted that the recent Israeli attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus was allegedly “not worked out without the participation of Azerbaijan”.

For example, Iranian MP Jalal Rashidi Kouchi called for an attack on the Israeli embassy in Baku in response to the attack on the consulate in Damascus. Specifically, Kouchi said: “I propose to openly and directly attack one of the diplomatic centres of the Zionists in one of the countries of the region, preferably in Azerbaijan”.

TG channel Sepah Pasdaran, in turn, notes that Israeli observation bases for Iran’s northern regions are located in Azerbaijan’s Zangilan. “You don’t have to go far to avenge Damascus. Israeli eavesdropping and spying bases are right next to us, in Zangilan, a few kilometers from the Iranian border,” the publication said.

Iran has previously accused Azerbaijan’s ruling regime of military and political partnership with the Zionist regime of Israel. So far, however, Tehran has limited itself to threatening rhetoric and demonstrations of military exercises on the border with Azerbaijan along the Aras River. After all, which party would announce to the whole world the direction and objects of such a strike (be it the Israeli diplomatic mission in Baku, be it the military airbase in Zangilan used by the Israeli Air Force) before striking an unexpected blow? Moreover, these facilities could become Iran’s military targets in the event of a large-scale regional escalation, but hardly as a response to the April 1 attack.

In any case, unfounded assumptions are no guide for a professional analyst. It is obvious that Iran is not going to play with words, and Israel is not expecting a less sensitive response (perhaps, while this article is being published, we will witness a further escalation of the situation in the Middle East due to the fact of the Iranian counter-operation). Whether such a retaliatory action by the Persians will draw the US into the Middle East war cannot be ruled out today, but whether it will help Israel is hard to say. Iran is not alone, for China will be behind it, Russia will not refuse, and the key countries of the Arab East will not support Israel.

What is clear is that there is no alternative to a political solution to the Palestinian question. The shortest way to eliminate Hamas as an existential threat to Israel’s security may be to recognise Palestinian independence. In the meantime, tensions in the region will only increase.


Alexander SVARANTS – PhD of Political Science, Professor, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook

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