Forcing the dilemma into Iran’s court

Source: Forcing the dilemma into Iran’s court –

The missiles that were fired at Mount Hermon on the Golan Heights early Tuesday morning didn’t catch the defense establishment off guard. They were expected, as part of Iran’s new policy of responding to any attacks on its assets.

This new Iranian policy has preoccupied the defense establishment for the past two months. It began percolating following a series of incidents – chief among them the cruise missile and drone strike on Saudi oil fields, to which there was no response – which greatly increased Iran’s appetite and willingness to push the envelope further than ever before.

If, in the past, Iran mostly showed restraint when it was hit (and it has been hit hundreds of times in recent years), its new policy stipulates an eye for an eye. For any attack on its assets, it will respond. Sometime the response will be immediate, other times delayed. This is exactly why Iran’s Quds Force is deploying a broad arsenal which it can activate from several locations – mainly in Syria but also in Iraq and if the need arises (albeit less likely) from Lebanon or Iran itself.

As a result, Israel has altered its policy accordingly. The so-called “war between wars,” the brunt of the defense establishment’s activities in recent years, was limited to imperative operations only, meant to thwart clear and present dangers. We can assume the missile attack on Tuesday was Iran’s retaliation for some sort of Israeli activity in this vein, which both sides are aware of yet neither has openly acknowledged.

This was the fifth time in the past two years that Iran has openly attacked Israel. Prior assessments led the IDF to place Iron Dome batteries in the sector in advance, which intercepted the four Iranian missiles fired early Tuesday. As before, it seems the Iranian response was more like firing from the hip with forces and weapons that happened to be available, from the area around Damascus – in the heart of the territory that Russia had previously promised Israel that it would prevent Iranian activity.

In prior instances, Israel made sure to retaliate accordingly. For every hit it sustained, it struck back. In several cases, Israel exploited Iranian attacks to then carry out large-scale strikes against military infrastructure and weapons systems, while also hitting Syrian batteries providing cover for Iran and its proxies.

Now the Israeli dilemma is more complicated, and it fluctuates between the need to act to maintain deterrence and the desire to avoid a clash that could escalate into all-out war. Between these two considerations, and despite the tangible risks involved, Israel must insist on offense and deterrence, even at the cost of attempts to harm Israel, such as Tuesday’s missile attack, and perhaps attacks that are even more severe.

This is the only way Israel can send the dilemma back to Tehran’s court.

Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, has been extremely troubled in recent weeks by the demonstrations in Lebanon and Iraq (and now in Iran, too), and likely doesn’t want to open another front. As it is, he’s almost certainly asking himself what happened to the convoy of advanced weapons, which according to Arab media reports was completely obliterated early last week near Tadmor, in Syria, and what will happen with the base his people have tried building on the Syria-Iraq border – which according to a Fox News report Monday, is now under construction again after it was attacked twice in recent months.

Soleimani is a serious adversary, determined and clever. But he is not suicidal. He won’t jeopardize his project and he certainly won’t put his country at risk. If he understands that Israel is willing to go all the way, perhaps he will change his strategy. Israel needs to present him with this dilemma, before facing it first.


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