In an unprecedented yet well-calculated move, Iran launched direct air attacks against Israel in retaliation to its attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus on April 1, 2024, which killed many IRGC senior members. The attack on the Iranian diplomatic mission was against the UN Charter, Geneva Conventions, and diplomatic norms/practices.

Iranian officials stated that by striking a diplomatic mission, ‘Israel has crossed our red line.’ Earlier, Israel had been using indirect means against Iran, killing many of IRGC’s high profile members and nuclear scientists, and launching cyber attacks, but this time Iranian supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, announced that ‘Israel will be punished’ for Syria strike.

He said “The evil Zionist regime will be punished at the hands of our brave men. We will make them regret this crime and the other ones.” (Aljazeera, April 2). Therefore, it had become imperative for the Iranian Armed Forces to take retaliatory action.

Iran through public statements and official announcements made clear its intentions to take imminent retaliatory action against Israel.

Though the US announced its ‘Ironclad Support’ to the Israeli defense on April 12, Iran captured an Israel-bound container ship in the Persian Gulf. Subsequently, on April 13, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) launched operation ‘True Promise’ that struck more than 300 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles UAVs/drones ‘Shahed’ and ‘Emad’ missiles on ‘Navatim’ an Israeli air base, 1100 kilometers away from Iran. Israel activated its ‘Air Dome’ defense system supported by the US forces but ‘Israel’s air defense system has not faced an attack of this magnitude before.’ (Aljazeera, April 14). The runway and one C-130 were destroyed. Israel paid a price of $1.3 billion to defend itself against Iranian strikes.

The Israeli airbase is the home of the F-35 air squadron and was used to launch an attack against the Iranian diplomatic mission in Syria. The Iranian officials claimed that the operation had achieved all its objectives, which was carried out under Article 51 of the UN Charter ‘right to defense’ and should be considered closed; “The matter can be deemed concluded. However, should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe. It is a conflict between Iran and the rogue Israeli regime, from which the US must stay away.” (Guardian, April 14)

There are conflicting reports about the damage /destruction done to Israel. Iran claims that it had destroyed the air base inside Israel and the Israeli intelligence centre near the Syrian border. Whereas, Israel has said that it had destroyed 90% of incoming objects with the help of the US and some Arab states. However, important is that Iran did not target any civilian residence, school, hospital or synagogue but an airbase.

A social media tweet says ‘I don’t know how many missiles hit the target, but this sentence of Abboud, a young Palestinian journalist from Gaza is enough for Iran’s success; ‘this is the first night in the last 190 days that we have slept without the sound of airplanes.’”

There was jubilation in Gaza, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq and Iran, people came out on the streets celebrating the Iranian retaliatory attacks against Israel.

The majority of the world leaders have urged restraint and caution, and an emergency session of the UN Security Council held on April 14, failed to decide as Israel was accused of violating the earlier UNSC resolution by Iran.

Pakistan has also shown its extreme concern about the deteriorating situation in the region and urged for calm and restraint. ‘Pakistan had pointed to the danger of the attack on the Iranian consular office in Syria as a major escalation in the already volatile region.’ (MOFA, April 14)

Pakistan expects an early release of two Pakistanis onboard the captured ship by Iran.

Earlier, President Asif Ali Zardari spoke to his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, and offered his heartfelt condolences on the loss of Iranian lives in the Israeli attack on the Iranian embassy in Damascus. (PID, April 11)

After the attacks, the Israeli war cabinet held its meeting and decided to halt the operation in Rafah and take counter-retaliatory action against Iran but was divided on when and how. Israel war cabinet minister Benny Gantz said that Israel will “exact a price from Iran in a way and time that suits us.” (CNN News, April 14) On the other hand, the US president Joe Biden, after his meeting with the National Security informed Israel that the US would not participate in any offensive action against Iran (CNN News, April 14).

This is the first such attack on Israel since the 1973 October War when Egyptian forces crossed the Bar Lev line and jeopardized the very survival of Israel but the US intervention saved Israel. Again, this time, the Iranian air strikes were intercepted by the US, UK, France, and some Arab states. However, Iran has shown its utmost resolve and absolute commitment to safeguard its national security interests and restore its prestige and pride at home and abroad.

Iran was being accused of inaction over the Gaza genocide, the retaliatory airstrikes have established Iranian supremacy and won larger public support in the Palestinian territories and on the Arab streets. Iran has also restored its domestic popular base of nationalistic vision.

The frantic US diplomatic moves asking its Arab allies and even China and Russia to urge Iran to restrict and restrain Israel prove Iranian political clout and military credibility.

Iranian foreign minister received scores of calls from friends and foes but if the UNSC could have condemned the Israeli attack on the Iranian diplomatic mission in Syria or the same diplomatic pressure could have been used against Israel to stop the genocide in Gaza, this situation could have been averted.

Iranian unprecedented direct response was limited and restricted to a message that it could reach Israel to punish its enemies. Iran also wanted to demonstrate its military technological capability that it has the largest arsenal of drones and missiles that can reach/hit anywhere in the region. Iran possesses a hypersonic ballistic missile ‘Fattah’ that can reach Israel in 7 minutes (Aljazeera, April 14).

Therefore, Iran has the capability and resolve to strike back at its strategic timing. For Israel, the choice is between a strategic restraint or a calculated risk of escalation to destabilise the entire Middle East and the world at large. In that case, Iran is expected to launch massive airstrikes and similar attacks by its proxies from Yemen, Lebanon and Syria.

There is less likelihood of Israeli counterstrikes because it would require the Jordanian and Iraqi airspace, which under the Iranian retaliation would not be possible. The US is reluctant, European states do not want escalation, Russia and China may side with Iran, the Israeli war cabinet is divided, and Iran has conveyed the possible response.

Though Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is fighting for his political survival to appease his right-wing coalition partners to enlarge the war.

However, neither the US, EU Russia nor China want to enlarge the conflict into a full-blown regional war, especially since the US president would not gamble his political career for the sake of Israel.

Therefore, sanity should prevail and the world must urge Israel to accept the ceasefire in Gaza and work for a lasting peace through a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue.

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