Is all-out war in the Middle East now inevitable? — RT World News

Is all-out war in the Middle East now inevitable? — RT World News

A large-scale conflict is in nobody’s interests, but an Israeli retaliation to Iran is bound to happen. The question is, what will it be?

From the night of Saturday, April 13, Iran directly attacked Israel from its territory for the first time using drones and missiles. In many Israeli cities, air-raid sirens sounded, and explosions were heard in Jerusalem.

CNN described it as the most powerful single drone attack in history. The strike was a response to an Israeli attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus on April 1, which killed several Iranian officers, including a high-ranking general of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). This exchange pushed the Middle East closer to a full-scale regional war.

According to the Israeli army, the nighttime attack from Iranian territory consisted of more than 300 launches: Israel was targeted by 170 drones, over 120 ballistic missiles, and more than 30 cruise missiles. In addition to drones, Iran reportedly launched 150 cruise missiles, 110 land-to-land ballistic missiles (Shahab-3, Sajil-2, and Kheibar), and seven Fattah-2 hypersonic cruise missiles.

In addition to Iran, attacks on Israel were also carried out by Yemeni Houthis and pro-Iranian groups from Iraq. It is also reported that the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah participated in the attacks on Israel, launching missile strikes on the Golan Heights.

The attacks caused widespread panic in Israel when air-raid sirens went off at 2am, forcing citizens to seek shelter amid explosions in key locations, including Jerusalem, Haifa, and several military bases. The intensity of the attack overwhelmed Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, prompting retaliatory military actions by allied countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, and Jordan. As a countermeasure, Israel disabled the guidance systems of Iranian missiles and drones by blocking GPS signals.

This information is corroborated by reports from American and British media, which stated that drones launched from these territories were destroyed by the air forces of the US, the UK, and Jordan before they could reach Israeli territory. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed the participation of British fighters in repelling the attacks. Additionally, Israel expressed gratitude to France for assistance in monitoring airspace, which facilitated effective protection against the attacks. According to CNN, the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, as well as the Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 missile defense systems were involved in repelling the attacks.

According to IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari, Israel and its allies managed to intercept 99% of Iran’s munitions, with the overwhelming majority shot down outside the country. Only a few ballistic missiles reached Israeli territory, hitting an airbase in the south, where “minor damage” was inflicted on the infrastructure, the IDF stated. Iran claimed that its targets were exclusively military and governmental structures, highlighting the serious nature of the conflict and the complexities associated with regional geopolitical tensions.

Have Iran and Israel always been enemies?

Before the Iranian Revolution of 1979, Iran and Israel maintained relatively friendly and cooperative relations, characterized by strategic collaboration in various areas. Despite geographical and cultural differences, both countries found common ground in their shared geopolitical interests and the recognition of threats from neighboring Arab states.

Diplomatic relations between Iran and Israel were established in the early years after the formation of the state of Israel in 1948. Iran, under the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, viewed Israel as a potential ally in the region. Both countries shared concerns about the expansionist ambitions of Arab nationalist movements and the strengthening of Soviet influence in the Middle East during the Cold War.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Iran and Israel discreetly cooperated in various areas, including intelligence sharing, military training, and economic partnership. This collaboration was dictated by mutual interests in countering common enemies, such as Arab nationalism and pan-Arabism, led by figures like Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser.

One notable example of their cooperation was the joint Israeli-Iranian efforts to support Kurdish rebels in Iraq during the 1960s, aimed at destabilizing the Iraqi government, which was viewed as a threat by both Tehran and Tel Aviv.

Additionally, Iran and Israel maintained strong economic ties, with Israel providing Iran with advanced agricultural technologies and expertise, while Iran supplied Israel with oil, especially during times of regional instability, such as the Arab oil embargo of 1973.

Overall, the period before 1979 witnessed a pragmatic alignment of interests between Iran and Israel, driven by their shared concerns and pursuit of mutual benefits. However, these relationships changed dramatically after the Iranian Revolution, which ended the Shah’s regime and ushered in an era of hostility between the two countries.

The roots of Iran-Israel animosity

The rivalry between Iran and Israel is deeply rooted in political, religious, and strategic conflicts that have developed over several decades. This longstanding enmity has multiple aspects, each contributing to the tensions that shape their current relations.

Iran and Israel embody fundamentally opposing political and religious ideologies. After the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Iran established an Islamic Republic based on Shiite principles, which opposed what it perceived as Western imperialism and influence, including that of Israel and the US. Israel, on the other hand, was founded as a Jewish state in 1948 and is viewed by Iran as a Western outpost in the Middle East. Iran’s support for Palestinian groups and its calls for the elimination of the Zionist state have further fueled this ideological conflict.

Both countries strive to expand their influence in the Middle East, often at the expense of the other. Israel sees Iran as its greatest threat, particularly due to Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its support for anti-Israel groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Conversely, Iran views Israel’s military superiority and its close ties with the US as a serious threat to its own security and regional ambitions.

Iran’s nuclear program is the subject of intense scrutiny and concern for Israel. Israel fears that Iran’s potential to develop nuclear weapons poses a direct existential threat. As a result, Israel actively advocates for stringent international sanctions against Iran and does not rule out military action to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear capability. Iran insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but its opacity and resistance to international inspections have heightened suspicions and tension.

Iran and Israel have conducted a shadow war across the region, supporting opposing sides in various conflicts. Iran backs groups like Hezbollah and the Syrian government, aiming to establish a “Shiite crescent” from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon. Israel frequently conducts military strikes to disrupt these efforts and to weaken the military capabilities of these groups, particularly to prevent the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah and other Iran-allied groups.

The international alliances of each country also contribute to their rivalry. Israel’s strong ties with the US, its peace treaties with certain Arab nations, and its growing relations with other countries concerned about Iran’s policies, such as Saudi Arabia, are perceived by Iran as strategic encirclement. Meanwhile, Iran’s support from Russia and China in the face of Western sanctions showcases the global dimension of this rivalry.

Iran’s ideological commitment to exporting its revolutionary principles and opposing Western influence directly clashes with Israel’s security interests and its alignment with Western values. This ideological export is manifested through Iran’s support for militias and political movements that actively oppose the existence of Israel.

Understanding the complex and multifaceted nature of the Iran-Israel rivalry requires considering these historical, ideological, strategic, and international factors. This rivalry not only affects the security dynamics of the Middle East but also has significant implications for global geopolitics.

What was the reaction to the Iranian attacks on Israel?

Following the Iranian attack, high-ranking officials from various countries heightened tensions. The chief of the Israeli General Staff immediately declared that a response would be forthcoming, without specifying its form or timing. At the same time, the rhetoric from world leaders emphasized the need to contain the conflict and prevent a large-scale war.

At a UN Security Council meeting, the Iranian representative asserted that Iran’s retaliatory strikes on Israel were conducted in self-defense and were necessary, proportionate, and targeted only at military sites. According to Hossein Amir Abdollahian, the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic, Iran informed the US administration that the attack on Israel was limited. Iran also threatened strikes on American bases in the region if the US continued to support Israel and oppose Iran during the attack. The minister noted that Iran had targeted an Israeli airbase from which F-35 planes had launched strikes on the Iranian consulate in Syria on April 1.

Immediately after the strikes by the Iranian Armed Forces and the IRGC on Israel, the US adopted a cautious approach. An official spokesperson for the US administration expressed concern about possible rash actions by Israel in response to aggression from Iran. He believed that Israel’s strategic decisions were not always optimal. According to CNN, during his first phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Joe Biden stated that his country would not participate in possible IDF offensive operations against Iran.

Moreover, Joe Biden suggested to the Israeli authorities that they should consider the repulsion of the Iranian strike a victory and end the escalation of actions on that note. Additionally, he did not openly comment on the Iranian attack in his address to the nation. Politico linked this to a desire not to provoke further escalation of tensions in the Middle East.

However, Joe Biden immediately reached out to the speaker of the US House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, urging him to urgently coordinate a new aid package for Israel.

At the same time, the readiness of the US to defend Israel was declared by the head of the Pentagon, Lloyd Austin. In conversation with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, he promised to do everything necessary to protect the country from “Iranian aggression.”

“Benjamin Netanyahu wanted to wait for a phone call from President Joe Biden. There were several options for retaliation, but the call stopped him. That train has left the station, and now we can take a breath and think again,” one Israeli official told journalists on condition of anonymity.

The Russian side also maintained a restrained stance, expressed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “We call on all involved parties to exercise restraint. We hope that regional states will resolve their issues through political-diplomatic means.”

Although the West believes that a large-scale conflict is in Russia’s interests, they overlook several reasons why Moscow would not want such escalation in the region. Firstly, many countries in the region are now priority trade and economic partners for Russia, and a conflict would severely impact the Russian economy. Secondly, a conflict in the Middle East could provoke prolonged instability near Russian borders and lead to undesirable destructive consequences within Russia itself, such as an increase in the terrorist threat.

All this shows that global players like Russia and the US, as well as regional players, including the Arab monarchies of the Gulf, are not interested in a large-scale war. Iran’s actions themselves indicate that it does not want to engage in a direct war with Israel, as the restrained and symbolic nature of the attacks confirms.

Will Israel respond and will there be a regional war?

The question remains open regarding the intentions of the Israeli authorities. In response to Washington’s reaction, Netanyahu stated, “We will make our own decisions. The State of Israel will do everything necessary to protect itself.” The Chief of the Israeli General Staff made an official statement, saying there would be a response, although the format and timing were not specified. Israeli President Isaac Herzog called Iran’s actions a declaration of war.

From the onset of escalating tensions in the Middle East following attacks by Palestinian militant groups on Israel on October 7, it was clear that the Israeli authorities would respond forcefully. Netanyahu wants to strengthen his position domestically to dispel dissatisfaction with his cabinet and stay in power. Regardless, for the citizens of Israel, security is of foremost importance. Netanyahu wants to prove to the electorate that he is the one who can provide this security by crushing all of Israel’s enemies.

Therefore, Israel will definitely respond, there is no doubt about that. The only question is how it will be done. The most logical scenario seems to be initiating an intervention in southern Lebanon to combat Hezbollah, an ally of Iran. This has been discussed for a long time in Israeli power circles, and Arab countries’ intelligence services have conveyed information about the high likelihood of an Israeli invasion to Lebanese authorities. Moreover, such a step is unlikely to lead to a regional war. It is also possible that Israel might respond by attacking pro-Iranian forces’ positions in Syria.

However, a direct attack on Iran could become a point of no return and lead to a major war. Washington understands this and is therefore pressing Netanyahu hard, as the outcomes of such a large-scale conflict are very uncertain, and it is far from clear that the US and Israel would emerge as victors. Anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiments are extremely strong among the general population in the region. The reaction of the Middle Eastern public in Turkish and Arab segments of social media showed that sympathies were with Iran during the attacks on Israel.

In conclusion, the start of a full-scale war still seems unlikely. Tehran is not interested in such a conflict, nor are Israel’s allies, namely the US and the EU. But this does not mean that the danger has passed. The possibility of a full-scale war always remains, and it is difficult to predict exactly which strike and which side might provoke it. What is clear is that the issues in the Middle East need to be addressed immediately and fundamentally.

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