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Israel and Iran: Between War and Deterrence

Israel and Iran: Between War and Deterrence

El-Watan, Egypt, June 15

For the first time ever, Israel targeted one of the most prominent civilian facilities in Syria – the Damascus International Airport – and took it out of service for an unknown period of time. The bombardment affected the airport’s runways and electrical infrastructure, as well as a nearby administrative building. Moreover, for the first time ever, an explicit Israeli admission of responsibility for the bombing was issued. Israeli sources justified the attack by claiming that it was designed to block Iran’s proxies and prevent them from transferring weapons, particularly guided munitions, to Hizbullah in Lebanon. Since 2018, Israel has launched more than 2,200 strikes on Syrian territory. Most of the attacks were done covertly. However, in a recent policy shift, Tel Aviv started to publicly own the attacks and even celebrate them in the media. This is done in an effort to deter Iran and its allies on the one hand, as well as appease the Israeli public, which is rapidly shifting toward the extreme right. Targeting the Iranian interior is another part of the shift. Recently, scientists and engineers associated with Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile program have been mysteriously killed across the country. Similarly, several military facilities within Iran have been targeted by surprise drone attacks. All of these events are in line with what Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett described as a new kind of confrontation strategy: instead of striking the tentacles, Israel is now targeting the octopus’ head. This is perhaps the most significant evidence pointing to the imminent outbreak of a regional war, for which Israel is preparing. Israeli experts predict that in an event of a direct confrontation between Israel and Iran, the latter will target several strategic facilities inside Israel. These include the nuclear research center in Dimona, as well as several undercover missile storage bases, housing tactical nuclear warheads, near Jerusalem. But practical matters are not so simple. Without explicit US approval, Israel will not be able to take any unilateral military action against Iran. Moreover, such a complex operation requires explicit American participation. American support for an Israeli strike on Iran is very unlikely, mostly because the retaliatory responses would be difficult to control. US assets in places like Syria, Iraq and the Gulf will become immediate targets for reprisal attacks carried out by the Revolutionary Guards Corps. In the US Congress, an attempt is being made to pass bipartisan legislation with the aim of forcing the Pentagon to prepare a plan to confront Iran within six months, including the preparation of a missile defense system in which Israel and Gulf countries would participate. Some describe this as an “Arab NATO” led by the United States. On the one hand, the American legislators believe that they control the actions of the countries of the region; a perception that does not exist anywhere except their minds. On the other hand, the countries mentioned in this project already have self-protection capabilities, and even those that have problems with Iran, don’t have a whole lot of enthusiasm for war. In general, the draft law aims to push the Arabs into a regional war to defend Israel without America bearing any costs. This is something that all concerned Arab leaders are fully aware of, and they will therefore refuse to participate in its implementation. –Hassan Abu Talib (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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