Iran is staring down the barrel of a very large gun

Iran is staring down the barrel of a very large gun

Iran is staring down the barrel of a very large gun
Mohamad Hassouna points to a hole caused by a projectile that injured his daughter Amina in their Negev desert home. (AFP)
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After all the bluster, posturing and rhetoric, Iran has finally done its worst, firing hundreds of rockets and explosive drones at Israel in retaliation for an airstrike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus. The result was about as ruinously destructive as a fireworks party in your next-door neighbor’s back yard.

Certainly the attack was substantial and complex, launched from several states, and involved sophisticated long-range ballistic and cruise missiles — but 99 percent of them were intercepted without causing harm. The worst Iran can claim was light damage to a Negev base and an injured 10-year-old Bedouin Arab girl.

Hezbollah also fired dozens of rockets into already evacuated areas of northern Israel and the Golan region, provoking a heavy-handed Israeli response against Lebanese targets. Wiser heads in Tehran will realize that the ball is now in Israel’s court for retaliation that could be of an exponentially greater magnitude.

Nevertheless, these strikes provoked jubilant celebration from Iran and its allies. President Ebrahim Raisi boasted that the attack had “taught a lesson to the Zionist regime.” Iranian MPs waved their fists in the air, chanting “Death to Israel! Death to America!” Hezbollah supporters were out on the streets of southern Beirut honking vehicle horns and celebrating. Iranian officials warned that Jordan would be “the next target” if it took any measures in Israel’s defense.

Iran has therefore not only escalated the conflict, but also — through the embarrassingly pitiful nature of these strikes — handed a win to Benjamin Netanyahu and given greater confidence to hawkish Israeli leaders who have long been spoiling for a decisive confrontation with Tehran, and now want bold retaliation. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant bluntly stated that Israel’s confrontation with Iran “is not over yet.” Israel’s lunatic Public Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir demanded a “crushing attack” against Iran. Another minister, Ofir Sofer, declared: “Iran’s audacity in such an attack must be erased.” Iran’s mission to the UN threatened: “Should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe,” and warned the US to “stay away.”

America and Britain unhesitatingly rushed to Israel’s defense. Joe Biden described how the US deployed aircraft and missile defense destroyers before the attack, boasting that “we helped Israel take down nearly all of the incoming drones and missiles” fired from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. British fighter jets and refueling aircraft were despatched from bases in Cyprus. States such as Germany and Austria have scrambled to declare their support for Israel (I wish they had demonstrated a fraction of this enthusiasm and sympathy for Palestinians in Gaza), and such Western support for Israel would be no less decisive in a broader regional conflict.

Iran’s allies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, who are facing imminent apocalyptic conflict, should warn Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that the game is up and waging war against Israel and the West can end only one way.

Baria Alamuddin

Any meaningful Israeli response would almost certainly mark the point of no return on the road to a regionwide war. Israel’s hawkish political echelon would be sorely tempted to exploit the opportunity to severely cut Tehran’s warmaking capabilities down to size, perhaps by targeting Iran’s nuclear installations and its immense missile arsenal.

We should be clear sighted about what such a widened conflict would look like. Much of Lebanon would be destroyed, given its proximity to Israel’s war machine and Tel Aviv’s determination to neutralize Hezbollah. Undoubtably, Hezbollah and allies would fire tens of thousands of missiles at Israeli cities, but that would only strengthen Israeli and American resolve to — in Netanyahu’s words — turn Lebanon into Gaza.

Beyond Lebanon, Iran’s regional proxy forces are hundreds of thousands strong, in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq, along with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Although such forces would be hopelessly outmatched by Western and Israeli military capabilities, the outcome of fighting in those states would be devastating.

The closure of regional airspace and disruptions to Red Sea shipping are a mere foretaste of the chaos that would ensue. Iran would certainly seek to exploit the Hormuz Strait and Bab Al-Mandab chokepoints to impose a disproportionate cost on the global economy, and has already seized a commercial vessel. Its proxies meanwhile boast of their zeal for renewed strikes against economic targets in the Gulf.

Israel’s airstrike on Iran’s embassy compound in Damascus on April 1 was indeed an illegal act, probably intended to provoke exactly the reaction that ensued — but it was merely another round of a years-long shadow conflict as Iran’s paramilitary proxies steadily leverage their political and military positions in Arab states. Israel meanwhile continues to attack Iranian assets in Syria, while assassinating nuclear scientists and Revolutionary Guard figures inside Iran itself. A further reason we’re locked into this escalatory deathroll is the genocidal Gaza conflict, which must be brought to an immediate end before it causes even more harm to global security.

Instead of joining in this deadly game of mutual provocation, if Iran’s leaders possessed a shred of a sense of self preservation they would be rapidly seeking de-escalation and sending signals to their enemies that they intend no further harm — while pledging the demobilization of their paramilitary hordes, and the dismantling of their nuclear program and ballistic arsenals that have brought them to this self-destructive nadir. Iran’s allies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, who are facing imminent apocalyptic conflict, should warn Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that the game is up and waging war against Israel and the West can end only one way.

Iran and Israel are equally hostile to most of the Arab world, and their interminable grudge match has had a calculatedly destructive impact on Arab national sovereignty, prosperity and security. Although it is tempting to say “a plague on both their houses,” the Arab world and the West must do all in their power to compel both sides to de-escalate — including genuine efforts for peacemaking, justice for Palestinians, and long-term stability — before these menaces take us all down with them.

Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.

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