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From proxy war to head on confrontation

Iran’s unprecedented attack this week shows it is no longer content with fighting Israel through its proxies

By Nizamuddin Siddiqui |
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PUBLISHED April 22, 2024

What seemed to be unthinkable once has finally happened as Iran, the country that has since long been locked in a shadow conflict with Israel through proxies, has hit the latter directly, with its projectiles causing damage to at least one military base in Israeli territory. Although the attack on 14th April was quite spectacular in scale (as no less than 300 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and ballistic and cruise missiles were let loose by Tehran in a publicly promised action meant to ‘avenge’ the martyrdom of its two generals in a controversial Israeli attack last month), military personnel of Israel, the US, Britain, France and Jordan joined hands to shoot down most of the drones before they could enter Israeli territory, according to sources in Israel and its allies. Some Iranian missiles, however, did manage to enter Israel and cause some damage there.

From the looks of it, Israel and its allies did manage to foil the attack. So, did the Iranian attack come to naught? Well, one would suggest that this was not the case at all.

The fact of the matter is, Iran’s attack was radically different from the stealthy and sneaky assault carried out on April 1 by the rogue regime of Israel, which seems to have gone rabid ever since the Hamas attack of October 7. Keep in mind that Tehran’s attack came in response to a Tel Aviv attack on an embassy/consulate building in Syria, which left seven Iranian military personnel martyred. (We all know how lowly an attack on an embassy/consulate building fundamentally is).

In contrast, Iran’s attack was a measured response as it was largely in accordance with international law. As is public knowledge by now, Iran had informed all the parties concerned well before time that an attack on Israel was imminent. That’s why the Israeli prime minister had stated just a few hours before the arrival of Iranian drones near Israeli territory that Tel Aviv was fully “prepared for the attack”. Israel and Jordan proceeded to close their airspaces well in time as well.

Tehran had actually put both Israel and the US on notice way back on April 2 that the stealthy and ghastly attack on the Iranian consulate building in Damascus would not go answered. Come to think of it, that’s a telling difference between how the two archenemies behaved in this conflict, but the West is largely blind to all that; they have yet to criticise Israel for targeting a consulate/embassy building, by the way.

Anyway, once the Iranian leadership had declared publicly that the martyrdom of the two Iranian generals would definitely be ‘avenged’, the element of surprise went out of the equation and the Israeli leadership began to set its defence mechanisms — read its ‘Iron-Dome System’ — in order so that an expected missile attack could be foiled. The other major factor in the equation was the distance of about 1,700km between the two enemies; any UAV that leaves Iran takes hours to reach the doorstep of Israel. The missiles, however, take a fraction of that time.

This makes us wonder why Tehran decided to use a large number of rather slow-moving drones instead of much faster alternatives, in the attack. Was Iran more interested in creating an awe-inspiring spectacle rather than in killing people? Well, one definitely gets that impression.

A critical factor that cannot be ignored is the help that Israel got from its allies in fending off the Iranian attack. Here again the absence of surprise allowed Israel and its western and Arab allies in shooting down the UAVs unleashed by Iran. According to some sources, Iran had let loose more than 150 missiles and over a hundred explosives-laden drones during the attack. Had Israel’s allies not taken part in defending Israel the results could have been far worse for it because Iran’s attack was huge by any standards.

In the ultimate analysis, its April 14 attack shows conclusively that Iran is no longer content with fighting Israel through its proxies like Hamas, Hezbollah and Houthis. The unleashing of aircraft and missiles that flew directly from Iranian territories to Israeli areas shows Iran is now willing to openly challenge Israel to a grand duel, as the world looks on in shock, and in awe.

That’s a drastic change in how Iran perceives matters relating to its archfoe and the unending plight of the Palestinians. If its war with Israel escalates further, Tehran may be required to render considerable sacrifices for the people of occupied Palestine “who have largely been left in the lurch by Arab countries.”


Nizamuddin Siddiqui is an author and teaches journalism at Hamdard University, Karachi

All facts and information are the sole responsibility of the writer