Iran Lashes Out at Israel

The Middle East is on the brink of a nightmarish conflict

4 mins read
Photo via X / Collin Rugg

In the past few hours, hundreds of Iranian suicide drones, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles have been careening through the air over Iraq and Jordan toward targets in Israel. It was a massive aerial bombardment, and a watershed moment in the Middle East, as Iran lashes out at Israel directly, and as more violence embroils this troubled region.

Frankly, this is a game-changer. 

The Middle East finds itself on the brink of what could be a truly cataclysmic conflict, one that has already drawn in the United States, and which could easily suck in other regional and global players. This is an attack originating from Iranian soil, authored by Tehran, but tacitly supported by Iran’s numerous regional proxies and militias across Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. 

At this point, it’s impossible to predict the outcome of such a massive strike. It’s an unprecedented escalation, inherently destabilizing, and perhaps a decisive turning point in the region. But one thing seems quite clear: Israeli retaliation is all but assured, based on the scale and scope of Iran’s attack, despite what seems to be Israel’s mostly successful effort to intercept the incoming missiles and drones. The IDF’s longtime spokesman Johnathan Conricus wrote this on X:

Masks are off. Iran has attacked Israel directly from Iranian soil and will now pay a totally different pricefor their actions. 

This is day 1 of a new Middle East, Opportunity for Israel, the US and Sunni states to bring security to the region. 

Indeed, events in the Middle East are rapidly spiraling out of control, and Israel and Iran’s long twilight war has emerged from the shadows, and violently burst out into the open. It’s a treacherous new reality, as a wider war threatens the entire Middle East, even as a hot war continues to consume eastern Europe, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

It’s clear that Iran has lurched far up the ladder of escalation with this attack, and it’s almost certain that Israel will climb it further in response. It’s the kind of escalatory dance that is nearly impossible to control or contain, once it begins in earnest. 

The widening violence has profound implications for America’s own national security at home and in the region, and for global stability writ large. U.S. military assets are already on the ground, and have been engaging these incoming Iranian missiles and drones, as U.S. and Israeli fighter jets and naval assets work to defend Israeli cities from the onslaught. 

At this early hour, it seems that Israel and the U.S. have successfully intercepted the vast majority of these drones and missiles, a potent reminder of America and Israel’s profound military and technological superiority on the battlefield. The Biden administration declared that America’s commitment to Israeli security is “ironclad,” and U.S. military support tonight further demonstrated the strength and durability of that alliance, despite recent tensions between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Israel’s 6-month war against Hamas in Gaza.

A cycle of mutual escalation

It’s important to note that this Iranian attack was itself a retaliatory strike, launched in response to Israel’s recent precision airstrike against an Iranian consulate facility in Damascus, Syria, during which 7 IRGC commanders were killed. But this is a massive attack, rather than a carefully calibrated strike designed to save face, and avoid a larger conflict. 

It’s a demonstration of how major wars can begin even when both parties are seemingly seeking to avoid a larger conflict, amid what becomes an uncontrollable cycle of military escalations, strikes and counterstrikes.

After the U.S. assassinated Gen. Qassem Soleimani with hellfire missiles at an airport in Iraq, Tehran responded with about two dozen drones and missiles fired at a remote American military base, an attack that resulted in several traumatic brain injuries, but no fatalities. Iran’s massive aerial barrage feels different, a major military escalation that will conceivably incur casualties, and which will demand a harsh Israeli response. 

The idea that Bibi Netanyahu’s far-right wartime cabinet would not respond leaves me incredulous. Indeed, Israel has already promised a ferocious response, and at this moment, the only question seems to be how far they’ll go in trying to reestablish deterrence. It’s unclear if the Biden administration’s call for Israeli restraint will matter, or be brushed aside.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah continues launching glancing attacks from Lebanon into Israel, as do the Houthis in Yemen, even as Israel continues to fight against Hamas in Gaza. It’s a tidy demonstration of the so-called Axis of Resistance that Iran has created as a regional instrument to project power across the Middle East, without directly engaging. This is what Iran refers to as its ”Ring of Fire,” designed to pressure Israel and the United States; it’s a reminder that any full-blown war with Iran would likely be a fairly expansive conflict, one that would almost certainly envelop much of the Middle East, and perhaps beyond.

Regime change

There are important factions in the uppermost echelons of both America and Israel’s political, military, and security establishments who have long wanted a chance to confront Iran, destroy its budding nuclear capabilities, and perhaps even pursue regime change, a la Iraq. Right now, that perspective is sure to be ascendant, following this brazen attack.

Of course, Iran has a long and noxious history of targeting Western interests and assets, supporting global terrorism, and generally destabilizing the entire Middle East through its proxy forces. The revolutionary Islamic Republic of Iran was born in an act of violence against the United States, when they took the entire U.S. embassy hostage. 

Since then, Tehran has authored dozens of bloody terrorist attacks around the world. They’ve been linked to the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Argentina, the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, and the downing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, among many other attacks. 

Likewise, Iran has sponsored Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, and they flooded Iraq with improvised explosives devices that took a gruesome toll on coalition soldiers during the American war there. They’ve used their proxies to grievous effect across the Middle East, even as they’ve pursued nuclear weapons at home. Iran is a tyrannical religious dictatorship, which oppresses its citizens at home, and foments violence abroad.

And yet, Iran has never fought directly against either Israel or the United States. After tonight’s audacious attack, that stasis may change. This attack sets the stage for what could be a horrific conflict, and an explosion of violence that may be impossible to control. As regime supporters celebrate Iran’s attacks in the streets of Tehran tonight, the rest of the world comprehends the incredible danger of this moment, and the risk of a terrible conflagration of biblical proportions. 

Alexander Ziperovich

Alexander Ziperovich is a Political analyst and Opinion columnist. He writes about politics, justice, foreign affairs, and culture, dissecting the larger historical and social context behind important events.

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