April 16, 2024

Iran Launches Drones and Missiles Toward Israel in Retaliation for Damascus Attack

Week of April 15, 2024 | Iran Unfiltered is a digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council 

Iran’s Launches Drones and Missiles Toward Israel in Retaliation for Damascus Attack

In a significant escalation of tensions, Iran initiated a direct attack on Israel on the early morning of April 14, launching hundreds of drones, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles. This event marked the first direct attack from Iranian soil on Israeli territory throughout the history of the Islamic Republic. Israeli Army spokesperson Daniel Hagari reported that the assault involved approximately 200 aerial projectiles targeted at Israel, though most were intercepted and destroyed by defense systems, primarily outside Israeli territory.

US defense officials stated that of the more than 100 ballistic missiles the Islamic Republic of Iran fired at Israel on Saturday night, “only 5 missiles” reached their targets within Israel. Still, the fact that Iran – heavily sanctioned for many years – presented a credible threat to Israel and executed a large strike with some missiles impacting on Israeli soil, despite Israeli backing from the United States, Jordan and the United Kingdom to intercept the projectiles, is quite significant.

In this attack, Iran utilized drones along with older Rezvan missiles and more advanced Khyber Shekan missiles, but did not deploy its most advanced Fatah missiles. The apparent strategy was for the drones and the older Rezvan missiles to engage the defense systems of Israel and other Western nations, laying the groundwork for the Khyber Shekan missiles to strike.

Iran asserted that the attack was strictly aimed at military targets, with strikes targeting various locations including Nevatim Air Base in the Negev Desert – known for housing sophisticated F-35 fighter jets. Although the base sustained damage to its infrastructure, no F-35 aircraft were present as they had been deployed to intercept the attack. 

Following the assault, the United Nations Security Council convened but failed to reach a consensus. Israel’s ambassador vehemently criticized Iran, demanding severe sanctions and Iran’s expulsion from UN bodies. In contrast, Iran’s representative defended the action as a legitimate defense under international law and criticized Western cooperation in thwarting the attack.

Global reactions were mixed. While some countries condemned Iran’s actions, others criticized the initial Israeli airstrike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, which preceded Iran’s retaliation. The diplomatic community remains actively involved, with ongoing discussions about the potential for further escalations and the broader implications for regional stability.

Leaders of the seven wealthiest and most economically significant countries – known as the G7 – held an emergency meeting to discuss Iran’s attack on Israel the previous night. At the conclusion of this virtual meeting, they issued a statement strongly condemning the attack and declared their full support for Israel and its people.

According to a Reuters report citing a White House official, Joe Biden informed Benjamin Netanyahu that the United States would not participate in any Israeli operations against Iran following the Islamic Republic’s attack. Biden emphasized that Israel has demonstrated considerable capability to defend itself against even unprecedented attacks.

However, Israel has announced that it will respond militarily to Iran’s attack, deepening fears that the crisis could lead to a regional war. The Israeli Foreign Minister stated that alongside military responses, diplomatic measures had been initiated in response to Iran’s attack. In a letter to 32 countries, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz urged that they join the United States in declaring the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization. Meanwhile, Iranian officials warned that they would deliver a ‘comprehensive’ response to any Israeli attack immediately.

Ali Bagheri, the deputy minister of foreign affairs, stated on Iran’s state television that the Islamic Republic’s reaction to a potential attack from Tel Aviv would be “in seconds.” He emphasized that Israel “will be hit harder, faster, and more urgently this time,” adding that “they should know that they will not have a 12-day deadline.”

Domestic Response Inside Iran

The domestic response in Iran was a mix of judicial crackdowns on dissent and public displays of support for the government’s actions. The potential for continued military conflict and its repercussions on daily life and the economy remain significant concerns among the Iranian public.

The dollar jumped over 66,000 tomans and was traded at around 66,400 tomans in the open market. Iran’s judicial system also summoned some political activists, media, and newspapers to court after they were perceived as criticizing the Islamic Republic’s retaliation or performance in the recent attack on Israel.

According to the latest news, Hossein Dehbashi, Abbas Abdi, and Yashar Soltani must appear in court on the charge of ‘disrupting the psychological security of society.’ Previously, Iranian judicial authorities had “declared a crime” against Jahan Sanat and Etemad newspapers. Mohsen Berhani, a lawyer and former university professor, criticized the arrests. As he wrote on the X social network, ‘basically, there are no such criminal titles in the existing laws of the country.’

Responses from political figures and activists to these attacks have varied. Former President Mohammad Khatami, speaking to his advisors, stated that Iran’s response to the Israeli atrocity was calculated, brave, logical, and lawful. He endorsed the action and praised it, adding that it was in retaliation for the “aggressive attack by the occupying regime on the Iranian consulate, which resulted in the martyrdom of several esteemed Revolutionary Guard commanders and a number of our compatriots.”

Hassan Khomeini, another reformist figure, also welcomed the attack in a message, stating, “Iran’s confrontation with the Zionist regime had become an inevitable necessity due to the regime’s audacity and erroneous analyses. This strike was a strategic decision to demonstrate power, security, and national pride. We must not forget how relentlessly the brutal Israeli regime has targeted Iranians and freedom fighters over the years, severely compromising our national interests and the Islamic identity of Muslims.”

Abbas Abdi, a political activist and journalist, wrote an analysis in Etemad newspaper on Sunday entitled “The Danger of Responding and Not Responding.” This appears to have been the commentary that has prompted his summons to court. According to Abdi, the costs of war are much higher than its benefits, even in the case of victory, and “contrary to popular belief, I believe that Israel’s attack was a reaction and it does not need Iran’s response.” Abdi continued, “Deterrence through conventional weapons is pointless with a country that does not recognize its existence or wants to destroy it.”

Also, lawyer and human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh, in a text published by her accounts on social networks, pointed to the direct attack of the Islamic Republic on Israel and emphasized that “we do not want war by any name.” In this message, which was published on Monday, April 15, she described the current situation as complicated.

Mrs. Sotoudeh wrote on the political challenges with weighing in on the matter: “We know that when we condemn the hostage-taking of civilians on October 7th, we find a common position with Israel, and when we condemn Israel’s continuous attacks on the Gaza Strip, unfortunately, our position is closer to the Islamic Republic.” Sotoudeh continued: “We cannot justify the military attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus with any point of view, just as we cannot justify the hostage taking of the members of the American embassy 44 years ago.” She emphasized that as an Iranian “we do not want to respond to the illegal action of a government with the illegal action of launching missiles and drones.” According to this lawyer, international laws and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights should be a guiding light in difficult situations.

Mrs. Sotoudeh described the action of South Africa charging Israel with genocide in the International Criminal Court as a “wise” solution, given her assessment that the actions of Israel in the last seven months could be considered “as a crime against humanity and genocide.” In the end, she emphasized that the recent actions of the Islamic Republic drew attention away from the “illegal actions of Israel” to the adventures of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In a powerful declaration, 350 Iranian civil activists, both residing within Iran and abroad, voiced significant concerns about the looming threat of a widespread war. They called on Iranians to unite under the “No to War” slogan. The statement detailed Iran’s dire straits amidst intense economic, political, and social turmoil, emphasizing how rising tensions with Israel could derail efforts towards democratization in the region. The activists accused prevailing war rhetoric of obscuring the Iranian political system’s failures and facilitating increased repression of dissent.

Highlighting the urgent need for democratic solidarity, the activists pointed to the escalating tensions between Iran and Israel, which have stoked fears of an imminent war. They asserted that adopting a “No to Warmongering” stance is essential not only to counter the militarism embedded in the Islamic Republic’s framework but also to clearly reject the ongoing conflict and violence in the region.

The statement also rebuked certain opposition figures supporting an Israeli assault on Iran. The activists contended, “The advocacy for democracy is inherently intertwined with ‘No to War,’ and this advocacy directly opposes any pro-war factions, whether from the Islamic Republic or opposition groups.” They noted that historical conflicts in the Middle East and Central Asia demonstrate that wars jeopardize civilian lives, destroy infrastructure, and are ineffective as strategies for sustainable development. Hence, they concluded, endorsing war under any pretext is indefensible.

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