Iran and Israel: Weighing the National Interests Amid Rising Tensions

Iran says Israel bombs its embassy in Syria, kills commanders.

The recent few months have witnessed an unprecedented escalation in the Middle-East, specifically between the two regional powers, Tel Aviv and Tehran. It started with Hamas attack on 7th October, continued with the ongoing “Limited War” between Lebanese Hizbollah and Israel, and least but not last was the Israeli attack on the Iranian Consulate in Damascus. Therefore, there are lots of recent talks and analysis concluding that a war will probably kick-off between the two heavily armed countries.

The regional struggle between Iran and Israel is never new but it is steadily growing and getting fiercer year by year. Tehran never denied its links to the planning of the Hamas 7th October attack on Israel, it also reassured the need for Hamas efforts in defending Gaza and the Palestinians, even with arms. Meanwhile, Israel considers the recent Hamas attack -on its settlements- a direct and vivid Iranian interference in its fight against Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups. Therefore, it is the first time the Israelis feel threatened -by Iran- deep inside their land, in fact, the 7th of October attack is not precedented in its size, speed and result.

While Tel Aviv blames Iran for the direct support of Hamas, Tehran’s patience is running low with the intensified Israeli attacks on its forces and senior military personnels in Syria. Yes, the Iranian military advisors have been systematically targeted and eliminated by the Israelis for the past 10 years, but since last October, the number and size of Israeli attacks on Syrian and Iranian targets have clearly increased in size, quantity and frequency. Apparently, Tel Aviv is seeking “revenge” from Iran -due to its role in the October attack- by extensively targeting its high profile targets in Lebanon and Syria. Tel Aviv also stated, the military is targeting arms shipments to Hizbollah, transferred through Syrian lands to Lebanon – apparently, another reason behind the increased number of its air raids over the past 6 months.

However, the recent Israeli attack on Syria -on 2nd April- was different, it was a serious escalation as it directly targeted the Iranian Diplomatic Consulate in central Damascus, a move which has been criticized by regional and global powers. The recent Israeli action doesn’t only breach International Law -by targeting an official diplomatic mission on the territory of a sovereign country- but it could also throw the whole region in a dangerous unknown consequences.

Iran would never let such an incident to pass without retaliation, it was highly expected since the first moment after the attack, but even became more clear after the highest Iranian figure, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, promised to punish Israel for the Damascus attack that killed senior Iranian generals. Moreover, the Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, had also stated that the “cowardly crime will not go unanswered”. On the contrary, Israeli officials stated that the military is ready to handle any upcoming direct attack from Iran, warning Tehran not to do so. The recent statements come after the Israeli government had taken serious measures, it put the armed forces on high alert, cancelled leave requests for all military personnels and also jamming the GPS services all over Israel. Meanwhile, Washington sees the Iranian revenge an imminent one.

The Israeli attack on the Iranian Consulate is no-doubt a serious escalation, however, It is not an enough reason for Tehran to get into a direct confrontation. After all, a state’s decision to go to war with another regional powers is usually made for the sake of numerous and deeply-provocative factors. In fact, Israel did not target the Iranian mainland but rather its consulate in Syria – a country in the center of the “Cold War” between Tel Aviv and Tehran. Furthermore, Israel did not target a senior political figure, a military site or any of the Iranian nuclear sites in Iran- reasons that would definitely push Iran to retaliate by targeting Israel itself.

Studying the Iranian military tactics in the past 20 years, Tehran will most likely avenge the attack on its Consulate by targeting Israeli interests in the Middle-East rather than attacking the Israeli mainland, therefore, Israel won’t be severely provoked and pushed to retaliate. In other words, Iran will retaliate in a manner that would damage the Israeli interests, send a clear warning and calm down the anger of Iranian Public Opinion calling for an immediate revenge, but, it is not likely that the revenge would be fierce and direct enough to push Israel to retaliate even harsher – a move that would definitely push the two regional powers into a direct armed conflict.

On the other hand, it looks like Israel is avoiding to target any Iranian targets outside the region or on the Iranian mainland; as it also does not seek a direct war with Iran- a regional power that has one of the most powerful armies in the Middle-East, with proxies stretching over 5 different countries. Besides, the Israeli army is never ready to go to a full-scale war with Iran, it’s exhausted after 6 months of battling Hamas in Gaza, not to mention the ongoing daily clashes with the Lebanese Hizbollah, a highly-trained and well-equipped force which is not easy to reckon with.

To conclude, none of the two states is intentionally seeking a direct confrontation with the other. Yes, regional tensions are steadily rising but they still haven’t reached the boiling point of a full-scale war. Iran’s influence in the region is growing without the need for a full-scale war, moreover, it is managing to contain and damage the Israeli influence in the Middle-East by arming and supporting many anti-Israeli forces; such as Houthis in Yemen and Hizbollah in Lebanon. This is not to mention that a war with Israel will most likely drag the United States in as well, a scenario Tehran well knows and rationally avoids.

The war between Israel and Iran is not soon -yet- but this does not mean that the ongoing “Cold War” between them won’t be intensifying and gaining new dimensions and horizons. After all, a direct confrontation between Tehran and Tel Aviv will weaken both and allow other competing regional powers to rise on their behalves – a fact both countries are aware of.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply