What Will Iran’s Attack on Israel Mean? Live Updates


Because they concluded they had to, a pair of analysts tell the New York Times:

“Iran’s government appears to have concluded that the Damascus strike was a strategic inflection point, where failure to retaliate would carry more downsides than benefits,” said Ali Vaez, the Iran director of the International Crisis Group, in an interview. “But in doing so, the shadow war it has been waging with Israel for years now threatens to turn into a very real and very damaging conflict,” one that could drag in the United States, he added.

“The Iranians have for now played their card,” said Sanam Vakil, director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House. “They made a choice to call Israel’s bluff, and they felt they needed to do so, because they see the last six months as a persistent effort to set them back across the region.”

At Foreign Policy, Daniel Byman and Kenneth M. Pollack note the ways Iran pulled its punch:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Nevertheless, while 300 or more attacking munitions certainly sounds like a lot, it also shows signs of restraint that signal Tehran’s own concerns about further escalation. First, Iran could have launched considerably more—not orders of magnitude more but probably at least double what it did without badly depleting stockpiles of its longest-range assets. Second, initial reporting indicates that the attack reportedly focused on one or more military targets, including an Israeli air force base outside Beersheba. That, too, suggests an important degree of caution on Iran’s part. It could have launched at Tel Aviv or Haifa, where any impact would have been far more likely to kill Israeli civilians.

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