The War and Israel’s Iran Dilemma

Some new grim statistics, apt to be ignored by the self-appointed scorekeepers: on Sunday, Hizballah killed an Israeli civilian and wounded thirteen others by firing an antitank missile at a group of workers repairing electrical lines. Yesterday the same Iran-backed military proxy fired another missile at a moshav in the Galilee, wounding two more. These incidents have heightened concerns of more serious escalation on the northern front. In an attempt at a comprehensive analysis of the current war, Mark Helprin considers the dilemma posed by Hizballah and its backers in Tehran, who are still on the verge of obtaining nuclear weapons:

[T]he United States is entirely capable of relieving Iran of its nuclear infrastructure and a good part of its missilery, as it should have long ago. Whether it will or will not is an open and highly contentious question, and it is unfortunately reasonable to assume that the largely unreasonable Iranian government will conclude after decades of American propitiation that America won’t—even if it will.

Israel, however, if it can, must—though tactically, for the sake of surprise, it might strike Hizballah first. My longstanding and best estimate is that Israel can by force eliminate the Iranian nuclear threat, but that in doing so it would have to devote so much of its airpower as to risk its survival should the mission fail.

Hitting Iran’s nuclear infrastructure first (and as much of its missilery as possible) would demoralize its allies perhaps to the point that Hizballah would draw in its horns for fear of operating with a decisively weakened patron. Or perhaps not, in which case Israel would have sacrificed those benefits of surprise achievable by striking Hizballah first. The choice will remain open as long as Iran has no deployable nuclear weapons.

Read more at Claremont Review of Books

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hizballah, Iran

Iran’s Options for Revenge on Israel

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike on Damascus killed three Iranian generals, one of whom was the seniormost Iranian commander in the region. The IDF has been targeting Iranian personnel and weaponry in Syria for over a decade, but the killing of such a high-ranking figure raises the stakes significantly. In the past several days, Israelis have received a number of warnings both from the press and from the home-front command to ready themselves for retaliatory attacks. Jonathan Spyer considers what shape that attack might take:

Tehran has essentially four broad options. It could hit an Israeli or Jewish facility overseas using either Iranian state forces (option one), or proxies (option two). . . . Then there’s the third option: Tehran could also direct its proxies to strike Israel directly. . . . Finally, Iran could strike Israeli soil directly (option four). It is the riskiest option for Tehran, and would be likely to precipitate open war between the regime and Israel.

Tehran will consider all four options carefully. It has failed to retaliate in kind for a number of high-profile assassinations of its operatives in recent years. . . . A failure to respond, or staging too small a response, risks conveying a message of weakness. Iran usually favors using proxies over staging direct attacks. In an unkind formulation common in Israel, Tehran is prepared to “fight to the last Arab.”

Read more at Spectator

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria