The dilemma facing Iran: attack Israel or not

Israel and the entire Middle East await in a tense and long wait the possibility of an imminent Iranian attack in response to the bombing by the Defense Forces against the Consulate of the mullahs' regime in Damascus that occurred eleven days ago. The Israeli operation resulted in the death of seven officials of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including the commander of the Al Quds Force in Lebanon and Syria, Brigadier General Mohamed Reza Zahedi, and his second, General Mohamed Hadi. Haj Rahimi.

American media reported yesterday that Israel is already preparing for a response within 48 hours. The White House also assured this Friday that an Iranian attack is “real and viable”, without specifying when it may occur. Not in vain, the head of the US Army Central Command (CENTCOM), General Michael 'Erik' Kurilla, held a meeting in Tel Aviv on Thursday with the top Israeli military leaders to coordinate the response to a possible Iranian aggression.

Meanwhile, the Iranian mission to the United Nations issued a statement on Thursday afternoon ensuring that the regime's eventual response to Israel could have been avoided if the Security Council had condemned the Damascus attack. Several countries have asked their nationals to avoid traveling to Israel amid a climate of maximum tension.

The big question at the moment does not seem to be so much whether the mullahs' regime will carry out some type of aggression against the interests of Israel or those of its main ally, the United States, in the Middle East, but rather when and how that response will occur. Until now, aware of its military inferiority, Tehran has always avoided a direct confrontation with Israel.

In its asymmetric and almost invisible war against the “Zionist nemesis”, the Islamic Republic has chosen since October 8 – and before that date – to hit Tel Aviv and Washington through a plethora of proxy forces scattered throughout the region. Despite the increasingly bellicose rhetoric, the regime born in 1979 knows that an Israeli response could mean its end. “As a whole, Israel is more powerful than Iran, and a large-scale attack could lead to massive retaliation and threaten the survival of the Tehran regime,” concludes emeritus professor of Political Science at Bar Ilan University Gerald M. to LA RAZÓN. Steinberg. Along these lines, professor at the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University Ronen Zeidel predicts that “if Tehran reacts immediately, it will be risking national interests, such as its nuclear program, international sanctions or a larger reaction from Israel and the United States.” Joined”.

For his part, Iranian affairs specialist Daniel Bashandeh reminds this newspaper that “since the outbreak of the crisis, Iran has remained in the background. Despite Israel's attacks in Syria, Iran has not responded directly. This is because Iranian leaders will not enter into direct conflict if it means endangering the current political system. This has been their modus operandi since October 7, especially regarding the crisis in Gaza and the open fronts between Israel and Hezbollah.”

“We must also differentiate between what happens outside the Persian borders and internally. “Iran’s advantage is its regional power that serves to deter threats.” “Iran's foreign policy involves guaranteeing the survival of the regime in Iran and based on that, that is how the calculations are made. Therefore, Persian leaders will have to evaluate whether entering into conflict really serves to stay in power in Iran,” the political analyst explains to LA RAZÓN.

Meanwhile, Iranian leaders are aware that the situation of tension and bellicose rhetoric plays a positive role for the regime at a time of strong internal contestation, especially marked since the end of 2022. In this sense, Bashandeh asserts that “as it is shaped the power and political dynamics of Israel and Iran, their political leaders tend to rely on confrontation over diplomacy to reinforce their internal power. The wild card of the Israeli and Iranian threat allows leaders to secure the internal support necessary to remain in power. “None will take a false step that would entail a loss of power within their borders, especially if the national context of both countries is taken into account: the leaders are being questioned by a large part of the population in different ways.”

Consequently, the mullahs' regime can find itself caught between rhetoric, the need to keep its word, a large investment in war, and the more pressing urgency of survival. “The Iranian regime faces a difficult decision: its leaders have invested massive resources in weapons to be used attacking Israel, and a mistake in that response could be perceived as weakness. But if Iran attacks, the Israeli response will be devastating,” summarizes Professor Steinberg.

For all these reasons, an operation against Israel through interposition forces such as Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese militia party, or the Yemeni rebels, the two most active fronts since last October 8, seems the most plausible hypothesis at this time. How and when remain a mystery that keeps the entire region in suspense. For Bashandeh, the regime could be using the current situation to “refocus attention on its nuclear program as a deterrent measure. In this way, Iran could counteract Israel's intentions to condition the international agenda and pressure to resume negotiations.”