How Israel could respond to Iran attack ? | DAILY MAIL

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How Israel could respond to Iran attack – from covert ops behind enemy lines to blitz on Tehran’s proxies or devastating missile and ‘bunker bomb’ strikes on nuke sites… amid fears escalation could trigger WW3 | Avi Melamed’s insights quoted in this article by David Averre, Originally published in The Daily Mail.

Iran sent more than 300 missiles and drones streaking towards Israel early Sunday morning in what was the first-ever direct strike on the Jewish state by Tehran.

The Islamic Republic announced the attack was in response to a suspected IDF strike in Syria on April 1 that damaged the Iranian consulate in Damascus and killed two of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) generals.

Tehran’s attack was ultimately ineffective – Israel said almost all the over 300 drones and missiles were shot down by its sophisticated air defence system, with only one person wounded.

But the attack has forced tensions in the region to breaking point, with the possibility of a full-scale clash between the two arch-enemies – and a wider confrontation that could consume the Middle East – looking closer than ever before.

Briefing an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council this morning, Secretary General Antonio Guterres said solemnly: ‘The Middle East is on the brink. The people of the region are confronting a real danger of a devastating full-scale conflict.

‘Now is the time to defuse and de-escalate.’

Now all eyes are on Tel-Aviv, with the next move of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his War Cabinet set to tip the scales toward an uneasy peace – or all-out war.

Benny Gantz, Israel’s former defence minister and a member of the War Cabinet said cryptically this morning that Tel-Aviv ‘will collect the price from Iran, in the way and at the time that suits us’ – but for now the exact course of action remains a mystery.

With that in mind, MailOnline assesses the myriad approaches Israel could take following Iran’s attack, and explains the potentially catastrophic consequences that could befall the Middle East – and the world – should Tel Aviv decide to strike back.

Experts said Iran’s strike changed its rules of engagement in its decades long shadow war with Israel – a shift in the conflict that must precipitate an Israeli response.

RUSI associate fellow and defence analyst Samuel Cranny-Evans told MailOnline: ‘Iran has deviated from its usual strategy of using proxies to exert influence and conduct conflict in the area and moved to direct state-on-state confrontation.

‘The dynamics have changed and made the risk of conflict greater – both between Israel and Iran, and in the wider region.

‘Israel has and can act independently (of the US) – they have to do something to restore deterrence… Netanyahu is all about security, and in the context of Hamas’ October 7 attacks is unlikely to want to be seen as weak in the face of Iranian aggression.’

Former Israeli intelligence officer Avi Melamed told MailOnline that Tel-Aviv would seek to exact some kind of cost from Iran, arguing that such a strike cannot go unpunished lest Israel be seen as more vulnerable by its foes.

‘Iran is watching to see if Israel is capable of mounting a response, and a failure to do so will result in added risk for Israel of future attacks from Iran and other enemies,’ he said.

One likely course of action – and perhaps the only one besides climbing down that could prevent a major conflict – would see Israel step up its strikes on Iran’s proxy forces.

It was an Israeli strike in Damascus that prompted Sunday’s attack from Iran – but several IRGC officers were killed, including two Quds force generals.

More intense strikes on Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen and targets elsewhere that are linked to Iran could demonstrate Israel’s willingness and military capability to Tehran, without costing any more Iranian lives.

Cranny-Evans said: ‘Israel could choose to strike against Iranian proxies in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon to undermine Iran’s strength in those regions. This is the safest for Israel, as the IDF is already conducting such operations.

‘Stepping up strikes of this nature allows Israel to deal blows to the Islamic Republic without direct escalation.

‘It’s also worth noting this course of action may give further grounds for the US and UK to continue their operations in the Red Sea, striking Houthi assets.

‘But there is of course still a risk that this could still be seen as escalatory by the Iranian regime.

‘If Israel goes for something bigger, that could trigger another retaliation,’ he warned.

Something bigger is exactly what some commentators are calling for, arguing that Tel-Aviv cannot afford to be seen to permit Iranian aggression and must strike back with force.

Avi Melamed said: ‘It’s very possible that Israel will respond to the direct attack with a series of covert operations within Iranian borders, telegraphing Israel’s deterrence capabilities, while highlighting Iranian exposure to Israel’s military and intelligence prowess.

‘These operations are likely to start in the near future,’ he concluded.

But Professor Gerald Steinberg, who leads the NGO Monitor organisation in Jerusalem, said that Israel would likely instead pursue a more overt form of retaliation on Iranian military infrastructure.

‘Israel must exact a significant cost – perhaps by targeting more key IRGC officials or destroying the bases where the attacks were launched from.’

Retired US Army Colonel Jonathan Sweet and security expert Mark Toth said Israel is more than capable of launching such direct attacks, thanks to its advanced air force, an array of rockets and bombs, such as the GBU-72 ‘bunker busters’ that are designed to destroy underground targets, such as Iranian nuclear facilities.

‘Israel can deploy one or all of its long-range assets – F-35 stealth fighter-bombers and precision strike missiles,’ they said.

‘(An Israeli attack) could take the form of the IDF striking Iran’s nuclear sites in an effort to kill two birds with one stone: deterrence and markedly setting back Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s nuclear programme.’

Any targeted attacks by Israel on Iranian soil would undoubtedly trigger another wave of missile and drone launches from Tehran.

Iranian officials have already promised as much – and the next round of strikes would almost certainly be launched not as a warning shot, but with the intent to kill.

Sweet and Toth told MailOnline: ‘It has been widely reported of course that Tehran wants to avoid such a direct conflict with Israel and the US.

‘This is likely because the Iranian leadership knows that it might be very difficult for it to control the national and regional repercussions of such a development,’ he concluded.

Iran is also politically isolated in the region.

Besides its proxies in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon, it lacks any meaningful support from other powers in the Middle East, with several Arab countries condemning Sunday’s attacks and urging restraint.

Jordan participated in downing several Iranian missiles and drones in coordination with Israel, US, French and UK air defence systems.

Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni Muslim Gulf Arab states have tended towards improving ties with Israel in recent years, and have long been opposed to Iran’s Shia regime.

After Iran’s attack, White House national security spokesman John Kirby told NBC that President Joe Biden does not want an escalation in the regional conflict or a ‘wider war’ with Iran, and is ‘working on the diplomatic side of this personally.’

Meanwhile, a senior US official told AFP that US President Biden told Netanyahu that his administration would not offer military support for any retaliation on Iran.

But Biden himself declared Washington would provide ‘ironclad’ support for Israel, leading some analysts to suggest that although Washington has urged restraint and campaigned for de-escalation, the US would be compelled to come to Israel’s defence if all-out war did occur.

Nomi Bar-Yaacov, an associate fellow at Chatham House, said: ‘Netanyahu’s plan is clear – to distract attention from the war in Gaza and to drag the US and other Western allies back into the Middle East.’

This sentiment was echoed by RUSI geopolitical analyst Dr H A Hellyer, who said in comments to Al-Jazeera that Netanyahu will choose ‘to take advantage of Western sympathy for Tel Aviv following Iran’s highly telegraphed attack.’

Justin Crump, British army veteran and CEO of global risk analysis firm Sibylline, added that escalation may even benefit Netanyahu, arguing that the prospect of major conflict with Iran reduces the political pressure over Israel’s war in Gaza.

Prior to Iran’s attack, the Israeli Prime Minister was facing a torrent of international criticism amid a rapidly increasing Palestinian death toll in Gaza, the deaths of seven aid workers following an Israeli drone attack, and outcry over a planned military incursion into the southern Gazan city of Rafah.

‘Permacrisis suits Netanyahu at this stage,’ Crump told MailOnline.

‘This situation has certainly helped Israel and its leadership, reversing the trend of pressure over Gaza and helping defuse some political tensions that were once again building.

‘It is to be expected that Netanyahu will leverage this environment. The Israeli public stance from the War Cabinet will therefore remain belligerent, whatever goes on behind the scenes.’

Iran’s attack not only prompted Washington to reaffirm ‘ironclad support’ for Israel, but also pushed Rishi Sunak to declare Britain would ‘continue to stand up for Israel’s security’ – just weeks after UK politicians seriously debated the possibility of reducing or halting its arms supplies to Tel Aviv.

But although Sunday’s attack was unprecedented and an unquestionable escalation in the historically vitriolic relations between Tehran and Tel Aviv, further conflict could be avoided should cooler heads prevail.

Despite the ferocity of the missile and drone launches, Iran took steps to limit their impact.

‘They gave enough warning that this was coming, and I think they knew that they (the drones and missiles) would be brought down before they reached Israeli territory,’ said Maha Yahya, the director of the Carnegie Middle East Center.

Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said Iran has ‘no intention of continuing defensive operations’ at this point unless it is attacked again, and considers the business ‘concluded’, while UN ambassador Saeis Iravani said his nation ‘does not seek escalation or war’.

Iranian officials also stressed that its strikes exclusively targeted Israeli military facilities involved in the Damascus attack, not civilians or ‘economic areas’, and military chiefs said they considered the strikes a ‘success’, even though next to no damage was dealt to Israel’s infrastructure.

With this in mind, Mona Yacoubian, vice president of the Middle East and North Africa center at the US Institute of Peace, said both sides could climb down now without losing face.

‘Both (Iran and Israel) are able at this point to claim victory and step down off the precipice, particularly since there were no Israeli civilians killed,’ Yacoubian said.

How Israel could respond to Iran attack – from covert ops behind enemy lines to blitz on Tehran’s proxies or devastating missile and ‘bunker bomb’ strikes on nuke sites… amid fears escalation could trigger WW3 | Avi Melamed’s insights quoted in this article by David Averre, Originally published in The Daily Mail.

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Avi Melamed
Avi Melamed
Avi Melamed is an expert on current affairs in the Arab & Muslim World and their impact on Israel & the Middle East. A former Israeli Intelligence Official & Senior Official on Arab Affairs, Fluent in Arabic, English, and Hebrew, he has held high-risk Government, Senior Advisory, Intelligence & Counter-Terrorist intelligence positions in Arab cities & communities - often in very sensitive times - on behalf of Israeli Government agencies. He is the Founder & CEO of Inside the Middle East | Intelligence Perspectives - an apolitical non-partisan curriculum using intelligence methodology to examine the Middle East. As an Author, Educator, Expert, and Strategic Intelligence Analyst, Avi provides Intelligence Analysis, Briefings, and Geopolitical Tours to diplomats, Israeli and foreign policymakers, global media outlets, and a wide variety of international businesses, organizations, and private clients on a range of Israel and Middle East Affairs.

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