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Israel-Iran Conflict in danger of boiling over

by Adrian David

NEW YORK, 23 APR –  The on-going Middle-Eastern conflict involving Israel, Iran, Syria and Palestine is in danger of boiling over to a full-scale war.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C.’s fellow and its ‘Missile Defence Project’

deputy director Shaan Shaikh wrote that the latest Iran-Israel conflict served as a reminder that countries did not just stumble into war.

Shaan opined that while Iran had shown that attacks on its diplomatic facilities in Syria would not be tolerated, Israel had demonstrated that its air and missile defences – coordinated with the United States and its regional partners – were extremely capable and that it would respond to Iranian attacks on Israeli territory.

“We’re back to a tenuous status quo.

“Leaders climb onto the escalation ladder willingly and in turn generate dynamics that they cannot easily unmake.

“The question now is how the United States and others can unwind these dynamics for a more stable, peaceful security environment,” said Shaan.

He analysed that missile defence systems played a critical role, but technology would not save Israel from having to answer hard questions over its security strategy.

“Looking forward, Israeli policymakers will face difficult trade-offs in managing their national security priorities.

“Hamas’s October 7 attacks last year inevitably pulled Israel into Gaza, but Israeli policymakers have chosen a maximalist approach that has pushed allies and partners away.

“These same relationships, particularly with the United States and Israel’s Arab neighbours, are especially important given their mutual aims in deterring and defeating Iranian aggression.

“Perhaps, the latest conflict – and the cooperation it prompted – may serve as a reminder of that common goal,” said Shaan.

He recapped on how last April 13, Iran launched a large salvo of missiles and drones at Israel.

Shaan analysed that the designated ‘Operation True Promise’ attack reportedly included around 170 drones, 120 surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, and 30 cruise missiles.

It came in retaliation to an Israeli airstrike on April 1 against an Iranian diplomatic base in Damascus, Syria which killed seven officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including the Quds Force’s General Mohammad Reza Zahedi.

“Iran’s attack marked the first time that Tehran has directly attacked Israel from Iranian territory.

“On April 18, Israel responded in turn with air-strikes near Isfahan and Tabriz, Iran.

“Unconfirmed imagery suggests Israel struck at Iranian targets with some number of Sparrow air-launched ballistic missiles. “Iranian leaders have claimed that their air defences fended off the attack, which is unlikely but signals that they will not respond,” Shaan wrote.

On the type of missiles and drones used by Iran, Shaan said that is was difficult to identify them.

“Identifying Iranian missiles, which come in a bewildering, visually similar number of derivatives and modifications, is even harder.

“Iranian state-run media has claimed the use of the Emad and Kheibar Shekan-1ballistic missiles, Paveh cruise missiles, and Shahed drones,” he said.

Shaan added that other reports mentioned possible use of the Ghadr ballistic missiles.

The drones employed, he said, were widely reported as Shahed-131 and -136 variants.

Shaan also revealed that Brigadier General Hajizadeh, commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force, had stated that Iran did not use its supposedly higher-end Khorramshahr, Sejjil, Kheibar Shekan-2, or Fatah ballistic missiles.

He further added that the Washington Post had reported that Iran did not appear to launch the Shahab-3.

Asked if Iran intended to limit Israeli casualties during the April 13 attack, Shaan opined that US and Iranian leaders had reportedly engaged in back-channel conversations to discuss redlines and expectations over the past few weeks.

“The Iranian leadership publicly warned about the forthcoming attack, and Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian claimed to have given neighbouring countries a 72-hour notice before the attack.

“Once ‘Operation True Promise’ commenced, incoming drones appeared on social media hours before reaching Israel.

“To be sure, Iran’s decision to fire over 300 projectiles at Israel still suggests a high acceptance of risk for casualties, damage and further escalation,” Shaan wrote.

He further claimed that following reports of air defence successes, one IRGC leader claimed that Iran had used ‘older and less sophisticated missiles’ in its attack.

“Perhaps this is why one US official found that roughly 50 percent of Iran’s ballistic missiles failed on launch or in flight. “However, it is difficult to validate Iran’s claim.

“It is doubtful that Iran held off using Khorramshahr missiles, for example, to avoid additional escalation risks,” Shaan stated.

He added that media reports had also exaggerated Iran’s intentions to limit casualties in the past.

“When Iran struck Al-Asad air base in Iraq in January 2020, for example, reports quickly established a misperception that Iran purposefully avoided killing American service members.

“It took time before analysts noted that Iran did not ‘aim to miss’ US service members.

“Over 100 US service members suffered traumatic brain injuries, with 80 troops awarded Purple Hearts.

“It is a miracle that Americans did not die,” he said.

On the Israeli air defence against the Iranian attack, Shaan figured that the episode represented an outstanding success story for the former.

“Despite over 300 ballistic missiles, drones and cruise missiles launched, there appears to have been minimal damage to Israeli infrastructure and military assets, and the attack resulted in only one Israeli casualty.

“It was also a joint effort. The coalition was led by the United States and featured the United Kingdom, France and Jordan, in addition to Israel.

“Coordination took place at the Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, which helped to prevent any friendly fire incidents.

“Although Saudi Arabia has denied direct involvement, the kingdom at least allowed US aircraft stationed in the country to engage Iranian air threats.

“Israel’s Arab neighbours also may have contributed intelligence and sensor assets to detect and track Iranian air threats, although the extent of this cooperation remains unclear,” Shaan said.

He added that US policymakers had long advocated for an integrated missile defence in the region, and this joint operation helped illustrate it.

“In an era of missile warfare, missile defences have proven their worth.

“This has been demonstrated repeatedly in Saudi Arabia against the Houthis, in Ukraine against Russia, and now in Israel against Iran.

“It was only a few years ago that analysts confidently claimed that defences do not work.

“Yet in this operation, US Central Command stated that it took down at least six ballistic missiles; the U. Navy employed SM-3 interceptors for the first time in combat, which were reportedly successful; and the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) of course employed its own air defences,” Shaan said.

He perceived that air and missile defence worked, saved lives and reduced pressure on policymakers to respond immediately or excessively.

Shaan revealed that an IDF spokesperson had claimed a 99 percent intercept-rate.

“It is unclear if this figure includes Iranian missiles that failed at launch or in flight, or those that struck uninhabited areas.

“It is also unclear if Israel is identifying smaller surface-to-surface rockets as ‘ballistic missiles’, which fly farther and hit harder.

“In any case, even if the IDF eventually lowers this figure, coalition air and missile defences clearly performed well in this operation,” Shaan concluded.

On Israel’s response to external attacks, Shaan said that most defence analysts correctly assessed that Israel would retaliate militarily.

“The question on everyone’s mind was the magnitude of the response.

“The Biden administration lobbied to minimise the strike to reduce further tit-for-tat attacks.

“If Israel’s attack was sufficiently limited, Iran may not respond, having dealt what it deems to be sufficient damage. “That, at least, was the hope.

“It increasingly appears that those hopes were actualised,” he said.

Shaan felt that current reporting suggested Israel’s strike was limited and the IDF gave notice to US policymakers before engaging Iran.

“The IRGC claims that its air defences fended off the attack, which seems unlikely given Iranian capabilities but suggests that Iran will not respond,” Shaan said. – airtimes.my

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