Iran strikes back: A swing and a miss?

Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh

Infrastructure


Fig. 1. Post-collapse scene at the Fern Hollow Bridge, photograph by National Transportation Safety Board, January 29, 2022, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Rich Cholodofsky and Ryan Deto, “Barges break free on Ohio River in Pittsburgh; marina damage extensive, Sewickley Bridge reopens again,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 13, 2024, https://triblive.com/local/barges-break-free-on-ohio-river-in-pittsburgh/


Illiberalism

Gilead

White Christian nationalism


Fig. 2. If one weighs by geography rather than population, Pennsylvania is very much a white Christian nationalist kind of place. Photograph by author, January 5, 2023.

There is a new blog entry entitled, “Slavery and ‘law of the jungle’ economics.”

Heather Cox Richardson, “April 12, 2024,” Letters from an American, April 13, 2024, https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/april-12-2024


Imperialism

Israel


Fig. 3. John Bolton and Binyamin Netanyahu at a press conference. Office of U.S. National Security Advisor, August 20, 2018, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Iran launched its attack in response to a suspected Israeli airstrike on its embassy compound in Damascus on April 1 that killed officers of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the attack.

The Pantsir air defence systems that Iran operates from several air bases inside Syria were ineffective in downing any Israeli aircraft, both sources added, without giving further details.[1]

The first direct attack by a state military against Israel since Iraq’s Scud missile launches during 1991’s Gulf War, the Iranian salvo — slow, deliberate, and forewarned — appeared calculated not to escalate the situation. The same cannot be said of Israel’s strike against the Iranians in Syria.

While Israeli officials, not least Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have sought to portray the Jewish state as the victims of an unprovoked Iranian attack, it was their own deadly strike on the Damascus consulate that triggered the new phase of the conflict. Though the U.S. created the conditions that may have encouraged Netanyahu’s gambit, it was reportedly Israel, acting on its own behalf, without coordination with its allies, that precipitated the latest grave escalation.[2]

Iran tried to overwhelm Israel’s air defenses with five hours of missile and drone strikes overnight — but the offensive failed spectacularly.

Tehran targeted Israel with multiple waves of ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as explosives-laden drones, in retaliation for a deadly Israeli strike on Iran’s Damascus consulate earlier this month.

Despite the Iranian army claiming its blitz “achieved all its objectives,” the impact was small — minor damage was incurred at the Nevatim Air Base in the south of the country and a 7-year-old Bedouin girl was injured by fragments from an intercepted missile.[3]

The way I would resolve that paradox is to assume that Iran was mostly sending a message—and trying not to escalate, which a more serious attack might have done. The trouble with that is that this was a very large attack.[4] But,

Iran held back its most potent weapon—the Lebanese militia, Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated terrorist group that Israel says is largely funded by Tehran. The group has tens of thousands of precision-guided missiles that could overwhelm Israel’s air defenses and likely cause much more damage than Saturday’s attack, military analysts said.[5]

It could have been larger.

The limited impact was thanks to two factors — the resilience and efficiency of Israel’s advanced multilayered air defenses, which include the anti-ballistic Arrow system and the Iron Dome system, and the extraordinary close cooperation between Israel and its Western allies — the United States, Britain and France.[6]

Something to remember here is that Iran now has a better sense of Israeli defenses, including the help it got from the U.S., Jordan, Britain, and France.[7]

Iran’s mission to the [United Nations] confirmed early on Sunday [April 14] local time that the drone attacks were its response to the strike on its consulate in Damascus, adding that the matter was now “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!” Iran’s Permanent Mission added in its statement on X.[8]

I don’t know how much capacity Iran has to follow through on this threat.

Most of the Iranian drones flying over Syria’s airspace during Tehran’s strikes overnight were downed by Israeli and U.S. jets before reaching their targets in Israel, two Western intelligence sources said on Sunday.[9]

Whether or not this escalates further remains to be seen. Whether or not Joe Biden goes back to his full embrace of Israel’s genocide in Gaza remains to be seen.[10]

That begs the most important question of how Israel will respond, potentially raising the prospect of a massive conflagration in the region. According to Axios, Biden signaled to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that the U.S. will not join in on any retaliation by Israel for the first-ever direct attack on it by Iran.

The Iranian strikes have taken place “against the backdrop of waning global sympathy for Israel and growing strain in the relationship between Biden and Netanyahu,” said Carmiel Arbit, an analyst at the Atlantic Council, a think tank. “As has been the case with Gaza, further escalation may deplete that public support.”[11]

Despite reported pleading from the Biden administration to seek a diplomatic off-ramp, Israeli officials are promising an escalated response to Iran. They are threatening to target military sites inside Iran, as well as sites tied to the country’s nuclear program, a longtime Israeli obsession.

The Iranians have said continuing this cycle of strikes would trigger another reciprocal attack against Israel, far broader in scope and less likely to be coordinated with the U.S. or other regional powers to minimize damage. The result could be a full-scale war between two powerful states, including one whose security is all but politically guaranteed by the U.S. military. In that light, the prospect of the U.S. “pivoting to Asia,” or even recommitting fully to the defense of Ukraine would likely become farcical.[12]

Binyamin Netanyahu has a vested interest in prolonging or even expanding the war on Gaza to delay an election he and his coalition will surely lose.[13]

Andrew England and James Shotter, “Is time starting to run out for Benjamin Netanyahu?” Financial Times, April 12, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/ce0de70e-461a-4279-9a15-df45be1c0785

Lauren Izso et al., “Israel braces as Iran launches wave of retaliatory strikes,” Cable News Network, April 13, 2024, https://www.cnn.com/2024/04/13/middleeast/iran-drones-attack-israel-intl-latam/index.html

Suleiman Al-Khalidi, “Most of the Iranian drones over Syria were downed by Israel,US, intelligence sources say,” Reuters, April 14, 2024, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/most-iranian-drones-over-syria-were-downed-by-israelus-intelligence-sources-say-2024-04-14/

Jamie Dettmer, “How Israel foiled Iran’s attack,” Politico, April 14, 2024, https://www.politico.eu/article/israel-iran-attack-missile-drone-strike-defense-cooperation/

Murtaza Hussain, “Israel and Israel Alone Kicked Off This Escalation — In a Bid to Drag U.S. Into War With Iran,” Intercept, April 14, 2024, https://theintercept.com/2024/04/14/israel-iran-drag-us-war-netanyahu-biden/

Rory Jones et al., “Biden Pushes for Diplomatic Response to Iran’s Attack on Israel,” Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/biden-presses-for-diplomatic-response-to-irans-attack-on-israel-1c5452a1


  1. [1]Suleiman Al-Khalidi, “Most of the Iranian drones over Syria were downed by Israel,US, intelligence sources say,” Reuters, April 14, 2024, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/most-iranian-drones-over-syria-were-downed-by-israelus-intelligence-sources-say-2024-04-14/
  2. [2]Murtaza Hussain, “Israel and Israel Alone Kicked Off This Escalation — In a Bid to Drag U.S. Into War With Iran,” Intercept, April 14, 2024, https://theintercept.com/2024/04/14/israel-iran-drag-us-war-netanyahu-biden/
  3. [3]Jamie Dettmer, “How Israel foiled Iran’s attack,” Politico, April 14, 2024, https://www.politico.eu/article/israel-iran-attack-missile-drone-strike-defense-cooperation/
  4. [4]Rory Jones et al., “Biden Pushes for Diplomatic Response to Iran’s Attack on Israel,” Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/biden-presses-for-diplomatic-response-to-irans-attack-on-israel-1c5452a1
  5. [5]Rory Jones et al., “Biden Pushes for Diplomatic Response to Iran’s Attack on Israel,” Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2024, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/biden-presses-for-diplomatic-response-to-irans-attack-on-israel-1c5452a1
  6. [6]Jamie Dettmer, “How Israel foiled Iran’s attack,” Politico, April 14, 2024, https://www.politico.eu/article/israel-iran-attack-missile-drone-strike-defense-cooperation/
  7. [7]Suleiman Al-Khalidi, “Most of the Iranian drones over Syria were downed by Israel,US, intelligence sources say,” Reuters, April 14, 2024, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/most-iranian-drones-over-syria-were-downed-by-israelus-intelligence-sources-say-2024-04-14/; Jamie Dettmer, “How Israel foiled Iran’s attack,” Politico, April 14, 2024, https://www.politico.eu/article/israel-iran-attack-missile-drone-strike-defense-cooperation/
  8. [8]Lauren Izso et al., “Israel braces as Iran launches wave of retaliatory strikes,” Cable News Network, April 13, 2024, https://www.cnn.com/2024/04/13/middleeast/iran-drones-attack-israel-intl-latam/index.html
  9. [9]Suleiman Al-Khalidi, “Most of the Iranian drones over Syria were downed by Israel,US, intelligence sources say,” Reuters, April 14, 2024, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/most-iranian-drones-over-syria-were-downed-by-israelus-intelligence-sources-say-2024-04-14/
  10. [10]Jamie Dettmer, “How Israel foiled Iran’s attack,” Politico, April 14, 2024, https://www.politico.eu/article/israel-iran-attack-missile-drone-strike-defense-cooperation/
  11. [11]Jamie Dettmer, “How Israel foiled Iran’s attack,” Politico, April 14, 2024, https://www.politico.eu/article/israel-iran-attack-missile-drone-strike-defense-cooperation/
  12. [12]Murtaza Hussain, “Israel and Israel Alone Kicked Off This Escalation — In a Bid to Drag U.S. Into War With Iran,” Intercept, April 14, 2024, https://theintercept.com/2024/04/14/israel-iran-drag-us-war-netanyahu-biden/
  13. [13]Andrew England and James Shotter, “Is time starting to run out for Benjamin Netanyahu?” Financial Times, April 12, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/ce0de70e-461a-4279-9a15-df45be1c0785; Murtaza Hussain, “Israel and Israel Alone Kicked Off This Escalation — In a Bid to Drag U.S. Into War With Iran,” Intercept, April 14, 2024, https://theintercept.com/2024/04/14/israel-iran-drag-us-war-netanyahu-biden/

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