Wed 17 Apr 2024 8:13 pm - Jerusalem Time

Foreign Policy: Pros and cons, 3 options before Israel to respond to Iran

Suddenly, Gaza disappeared from sight, and the world began to wait to see whether Israel would launch a counterattack, or, more correctly, how it would respond to Iran’s attack, and to what extent US President Joe Biden would go to contain the situation, so that 3 options emerged before Israel, according to the American magazine Foreign Policy. 

The magazine warned in an analysis by its editor of defense and security issues, Jack Deitch, that the Israeli leaders’ pledge to launch a counterattack should not blind them to careful thinking about how to do so so as not to lose the international support they gained in the wake of the Iranian attack.

The magazine identified the following options for the Israeli response, indicating each time the potential pros and cons of each of them:

First: Attacking the Iranian nuclear program

Tehran may be able to produce a nuclear bomb within a few months, some senior US officials indicated last year. This makes Iran's nuclear facilities an attractive target for the Israelis, despite it being a target of the highest level of escalation.

Michael Mulroy, a former American defense official, comments on this option by saying that Israel's success in striking Iran's nuclear weapons facilities or Iran's defense industrial base would be confirmation that Iran has made a strategic mistake in launching its attack on Israel.

But if it fails to achieve this, Jonathan Lord, a former US defense official and director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, believes that this would represent a major setback for Israel and would threaten the alliance with the Arab countries, according to him.

Bilal Saab, an associate fellow at Chatham House in London and a former US defense official, warns that such a step could cause tensions and some contradictions between the Americans and the Israelis, explaining that the last thing Israel should do now is lose the American ally “at a very critical and dangerous time”, according to his expression.

The second option: targeting Iranian leaders, military personnel, or sites inside or outside Iran

Israel could strike targets on Iranian soil that are not directly linked to the country's nuclear program. For example, it could target a high-value military commander such as the commander of the IRGC Air Force, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who is accused of masterminding the drone and missile attacks on Israel.

Israel could also pursue military sites or weapons depots inside the country, or even the headquarters of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Mulroy believes that Israel will likely choose to respond directly in Iran, although it is possible that the United States will try to dissuade it from doing so to contain the situation.

The magazine believes that Israel's elimination of a high-value target may give it more time, and may be enough to send a deterrent signal to Iran without angering Washington.

However, there remains a risk of operational failure in attacking a leader like Hajizadeh or an IRGC facility given the Iranians' high alert.

Pressure from the United States and other countries to act calmly may discourage Israel from responding quickly.

Option Three: Strike “Iranian proxies” or launch a cyberattack

If Israeli leaders are concerned about escalating tensions with Iran, they may opt for a minimal response: targeting what Washington calls Iranian proxies in the Middle East or engaging in cyberattacks against Tehran.

In this context, the magazine believes that Hezbollah is the closest and most important proxy group to Iran in the region, and Israel has already launched retaliatory strikes against the armed group in Lebanon over the past six months, but it may choose to launch a more intense military campaign.

But, according to the magazine, this carries with it special risks for Israel, as Hezbollah has been trying since the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, 2023, to avoid being drawn into a comprehensive war with Israel.

But the magazine quotes one of its writers as saying that if Hezbollah decided to engage in an all-out war, it would represent a dramatic escalation, in light of its large missile arsenal and its well-trained and battle-hardened fighters.

There is no doubt that the group will suffer heavy losses, but the same may happen to Israel, according to the magazine.

However, Foreign Policy says that Israel finds itself forced to respond to Tehran after it dared to strike it directly on its soil, indicating that Netanyahu may find great pressure from hardliners in his war government for a stronger response.

Source: Foreign Policy +Aljazeera


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Foreign Policy: Pros and cons, 3 options before Israel to respond to Iran