Why did Iran launch an Attack on Israel?

Iran has reportedly launched drones and missiles towards Israel in response to a deadly strike on its consulate in the Syrian capital Damascus.

There has been speculation about the party responsible for the consulate strike, with Israel being a commonly discussed possibility.

This marks a significant development as Iran has launched a direct attack on Israel.

In the past, Israel and Iran were involved in a prolonged conflict, where they targeted each other’s assets without openly acknowledging their actions.

The frequency of those attacks has significantly increased during the ongoing conflict in Gaza, which was initiated by the Palestinian group Hamas’s attack on nearby Israeli communities last October.

What is the reason behind the hostility between Israel and Iran?

The two countries were once allies, but their relationship changed after the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran. The new regime that came into power has made opposing Israel a central part of its ideology.

Iran does not acknowledge the existence of Israel and aims to eliminate it.

In the past, the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has made strong statements regarding Israel, referring to it as a “cancerous tumour” that he believes will be eradicated.

Israel holds the view that Iran presents a significant threat due to various factors. These include Tehran’s inflammatory language, its support for proxy forces that are openly hostile towards Israel, its financial and military backing of Palestinian groups like Hamas, as well as the Lebanese Shia militant organisation Hezbollah. Israel also expresses concerns about Iran’s alleged covert pursuit of nuclear weapons, despite Iran’s denial of such intentions.

Iran sought retaliation following the assault on the consulate

Iran claims that the recent attack on Israel is a direct retaliation for the airstrike on an Iranian consulate building in Damascus on April 1st, resulting in the loss of senior Iranian commanders.

Iran accuses Israel of being responsible for the air strike, viewing it as a breach of its sovereignty. It is widely believed that Israel was responsible for the incident, although they have not officially claimed responsibility.

Thirteen individuals tragically lost their lives, among them Brig Gen Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a highly respected commander in the Quds force, the overseas branch of Iran’s elite Republican Guards (IRGC). He played a significant role in the Iranian operation to supply weapons to the Lebanese Shia armed group Hezbollah.

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Several high-ranking officials were slain in the attack on the Iranian consulate

The consulate attack is part of a series of air strikes targeting Iranian facilities that have been frequently linked to Israel. There have been reports of multiple senior IRGC commanders losing their lives in airstrikes in Syria over the past few months.

Arms and equipment, including high precision missiles, are channelled through Syria to Hezbollah by the IRGC. Israel is making efforts to halt these deliveries, while also aiming to hinder Iran’s efforts to bolster its military presence in Syria.

Which countries have formed alliances with Iran?

Iran has established a network of allies and proxy forces in the Middle East, which it claims are part of a “axis of resistance” that opposes US and Israeli interests in the region. It provides different levels of support for them.

Syria holds significant importance as a key ally for Iran. Iran, together with Russia, provided support to the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad throughout the prolonged civil war in the country.

Hezbollah in Lebanon holds significant power as one of the armed groups supported by Iran. There has been a consistent exchange of fire between Israel and Hamas since the outbreak of war. Countless civilians from both sides of the border have been compelled to abandon their residences.

Several Shia militia in Iraq, Syria, and Jordan have launched rocket attacks on US bases, with Iran’s support. In response to the tragic loss of three soldiers at a military outpost in Jordan, the United States took retaliatory action.

In Yemen, Iran offers assistance to the Houthi movement, which holds sway over the most densely populated regions of the nation. In a recent series of events, the Houthis have taken aggressive actions, including launching missiles and drones towards Israel and targeting commercial shipping in the vicinity, resulting in the sinking of a ship. The US and UK have taken action against Houthi targets in response.

Iran also supplies weapons and offers training to Palestinian armed groups, such as Hamas. This support led to the attack on Israel on 7 October last year, which triggered the ongoing conflict in Gaza. As a result, Iran, its proxies, and Israel’s allies in the wider Middle East have become involved in the confrontations. On the other hand, Iran vehemently denies any involvement in the attack that took place on 7 October.

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What is the relative strength of Iran and Israel’s military forces?

Iran’s size and population greatly surpass that of Israel, with a population of nearly 90 million, almost ten times larger than Israel’s. However, this advantage does not necessarily equate to superior military strength.

Iran has made significant investments in missiles and drones. It possesses a wide range of weaponry, and has been providing substantial quantities to its allies – the Houthis in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

One area that could use improvement is the incorporation of more advanced air defence systems and fighter jets. There are reports suggesting that Russia and Iran are working together to enhance their military capabilities. It is believed that Russia is seeking to manufacture Shahed attack drones, which Iran has previously provided, as a result of the military support Tehran has given Moscow in its conflict with Ukraine.

In contrast, Israel boasts one of the most technologically advanced air forces globally. As per the IISS military balance report, Israel possesses a formidable fleet of jets, consisting of various models such as F-15s, F-16s, and the cutting-edge F-35 stealth jet.

Israel has a track record of carrying out strikes in enemy territory.

Are there any nuclear weapons in the possession of Iran and Israel?

It is widely speculated that Israel possesses nuclear weapons, although the country has chosen to adopt an official policy of deliberate ambiguity.

Iran maintains that it does not possess nuclear weapons and denies any intention of using its civilian nuclear programme for military purposes.

Last year, there was a significant discovery made by the global nuclear watchdog regarding uranium particles found at Iran’s underground Fordo site. These particles were enriched to a purity level of 83.7%, which is dangerously close to weapons grade. Iran acknowledged that there may have been some unintentional fluctuations in enrichment levels.

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It has come to light that Iran has been openly enriching uranium to 60% purity for over two years, which is a clear violation of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Nevertheless, the agreement has been on the brink of falling apart ever since US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew and imposed severe sanctions on Iran in 2018. Israel had expressed strong opposition to the nuclear deal from the beginning.

What is the underlying message conveyed by Iran’s attack?
“We encountered an obstruction.” We intercepted. “We will emerge victorious,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confidently stated.

According to Tom Fletcher, a foreign policy advisor to multiple UK prime ministers and a former UK ambassador to Lebanon, the recent actions by Iran serve as a concerning indication of their power and influence.

The leaderships in both Iran and Israel are currently facing significant challenges at home and abroad. They are navigating through a complex political landscape and are willing to take risks, despite the potential consequences.

However, he informed the BBC that the attack by Iran seemed to have been meticulously planned.

“Iran did indicate these attacks beforehand, which made them more manageable to prevent,” he remarked, drawing a parallel to instances of gunfire he had witnessed during his time as ambassador to Lebanon, where the aim was to demonstrate capability without necessarily escalating the situation.

Additionally, he expressed satisfaction that Iran opted for a direct response rather than involving Hezbollah. There are Israelis who are advocating for the military to escalate its confrontation with the Lebanese armed group in order to create distance from the border.

According to Sanam Vakil from the Chatham House think tank, the recent attack can be seen as a success from Iran’s perspective. Vakil suggests that Tehran is challenging Israel’s actions.

“This marks a significant moment as Iran has crossed a line by directly infringing upon Israel’s sovereignty,” she stated in an interview with the BBC.

“The strikes were carefully planned and targeted at military installations, with the intention of minimising damage and avoiding harm to individuals.”

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