PHOTO: Majid Saeedi / Getty Images

Four observations on Iran’s military response to Israel

The Palestine Project
3 min readApr 14, 2024

By Ziad Majed

First, following the recent consulate attack, Iran conveyed the message that repeated Israeli raids on its forces, facilities and supply routes in Syria would provoke multiple military responses, directly and through allies and regional proxies.

Second, Iran simultaneously signaled its reluctance to engage in a full-scale conflict, whether with Israel or its ally, America. Its retaliatory actions were not aimed at inflicting significant harm or damage within Israel to justify further escalation. Tel Aviv and Washington had ample time to intercept most of the drones and ballistic missiles used. This represents a [desire to] return to the established rules of engagement, with the attack on the Iranian consulate violating these rules and triggering a demonstrative Iranian show of force in the regional skies, creating tension and anticipation without resulting in Israeli casualties on the ground.

Third, Israel is using the Iranian response to divert attention from its genocidal war in Gaza and its settler atrocities in the West Bank, and to rally new Western support, some of which had waned after its six months of crimes against Palestinians. Nevertheless, Israel’s maneuverability may now be constrained (outside Palestine), and its customary military strikes, carried out without fear of reprisal, may be curtailed. Consequently, Israel has to take this restraint into account and improve coordination with the Americans before launching further large-scale attacks against Iran.

This brings us to the fourth observation: the United States, in the midst of a presidential election year and a highly tense global climate, is averse to broad regional escalation. While expressing a willingness to defend “Israel’s security” on the ground, the Biden administration has conveyed its “hesitance” to participate in Israeli offensive actions against Tehran. Washington is urging Tel Aviv to refrain from entangling and “embarrassing” its other regional allies and to adhere to the limits of the confrontation that preceded the consulate bombing, recognizing the calculated outcomes and repercussions.

Will Israel heed America’s “advice”? Will it retaliate against the Iranian response beyond what is deemed “acceptable” in order to regain the initiative? What will Iran’s next move be? It remains uncertain.

Between the influence of the fascist elements surrounding Netanyahu’s government, which are eager to expand the conflict to cover expanded military operations against Palestinians in the occupied territories, Netanyahu’s own desire to seize what he sees as an opportunity to weaken Iran and Hezbollah, pressure from Washington to limit Israeli military action (outside Gaza), and between Tehran and its allies, especially Hezbollah, obliged not only to weather the storm but also to counter it within defined parameters (while avoiding the risk of escalating into a full-scale war), lies a potential scenario that could outstrip calculated responses and thereby undermine Washington’s ability to control the geography, intensity, and consequential outcomes of the tension.

In any case, it is clear that we are in the midst of a phase characterized by prolonged violence and confrontation in various forms that will shape future developments within the directly involved nations and in the broader “Middle East” region.