Vidisha Arora
Geopolitical Risk Intelligence Analyst

Iran and Israel: The Global Ramifications

Prelude to Conflict: Operation True Promises

The late-night hours of April 13 witnessed a dramatic escalation in tensions between Iran and Israel as Iran launched a bold assault on Israel, code-named “Operation True Promises.” This offensive, employing a combination of Iranian drones and missiles, is purported to be the first direct Iranian-driven attack on Israel. The audacity of this move reverberated across the region, marking a significant departure from previous tactics employed by Iran.

Retaliatory Motives: Assassination of Mohammad Reza Zahedi

The attack was widely anticipated as a retaliatory strike following Israel’s alleged assassination of Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a top Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander, in Damascus on April 1. Zahedi’s role in orchestrating Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel added weight to the significance of his assassination. The loss of Zahedi, the highest-ranking Iranian military official since the killing of Gen Qassem Suleimani, further fueled tensions between Iran and Israel.

Historical Context: Decades of Hostility

Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran and Israel have been locked in a perpetual state of hostility and tension. Iran’s steadfast refusal to recognize Israel as a legitimate state has been a cornerstone of its foreign policy. Over the decades, this animosity has manifested through various means, including support for proxy groups such as terrorist groups including Hezbollah, Hamas, and Houthis, who have frequently clashed with Israeli forces.

Shifting Strategy: From Limited Responses to Direct Assault

The recent attack represents a seismic shift in Iran’s approach towards Israel. Unlike previous retaliatory measures, such as limited ballistic missile strikes, this assault signifies a more aggressive and direct strategy. The scale and scope of the operation underscore Iran’s evolving tactics, potentially aimed at broader strategic objectives beyond mere retaliation.

However, what is worth noting is that this may have been the first ever direct attack on Israel, the Islamic Republic of Iran has previously attacked Israel abroad by targeting Israeli consulates, Israeli embassies including the attack on Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 which killed 29 people, as well as the attack of 1994 in Jewish centre that killed 85 people in Buenos Aires. 

Vulnerabilities and Preceding Events

Tehran has been exhibiting vulnerability for several months. The year began with a grim reminder of Iran’s precarious position when Islamic State terrorists orchestrated two explosions near the grave of General Qassem Soleimani, resulting in the loss of at least 84 lives. Soleimani, the revered head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, had been assassinated in a US drone strike in Iraq four years earlier, and the solemn anniversary turned tragic amid the attacks.

Prior to this, in the preceding month, Iran suffered another blow when Jaish al-Adl, a Sunni terrorist group, claimed the lives of 11 Iranian police officers. Eager to assert its strength, Iran retaliated by launching missiles into Pakistan, citing Jaish al-Adl as the target. However, Pakistan, armed with nuclear capabilities, refused to yield, responding with retaliatory missile strikes and deploying fighter jets within Iranian territory. This marked the first bombing attack on Iranian soil since the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, underscoring Tehran’s vulnerability in the face of regional threats.

Israeli Response and Multifaceted Calculations

Israel, cognizant of the threats posed by Iranian proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah, remains steadfast in countering Iranian influence in the region. Israeli leaders view Iran’s support for these groups as a top security priority and are prepared to respond forcefully to any aggression.

Global Economic Implications: Disruption of Trade Routes

The ongoing tension between Iran and Israel has profound implications for global trade and commerce. Disruptions in key maritime chokepoints, such as the Strait of Hormuz and the Red Sea, threaten to disrupt vital trade routes and increase shipping costs worldwide. This geopolitical standoff poses a significant risk to global energy markets and supply chains.

The potential disruption of key maritime chokepoints poses a grave concern for the global shipping industry. With approximately 80-85% of global cargo transported by sea, any escalation in hostilities could lead to disruptions in oil shipments and impact global energy markets. The vulnerability of critical waterways like the Strait of Hormuz underscores the fragility of global trade networks.

The conflict’s impact extends beyond maritime operations to terrestrial transportation networks. Disruptions in road and railway transportation could cause delays in goods movement, leading to supply chain disruptions and increased costs. Manufacturers and retailers may struggle to acquire essential raw materials and deliver finished products, resulting in inventory shortages and production slowdowns.

Heightened tensions between Iran and Israel are likely to reshape global trade patterns and supply chains. Businesses may reassess their sourcing strategies and supply chain resilience, potentially shifting supplier bases to more stable regions. Increased tensions could lead to delays and bottlenecks at ports and border crossings, disrupting the smooth flow of goods and increasing transit times and costs.

Future Outlook and Diplomatic Efforts

The Iranian strike on Israel wasn’t just a local or regional affair; it had far-reaching implications on a multinational scale. In today’s global landscape, with the US on one side and Russia and China on the other, how Israel responds will speak volumes about the credibility of the US as the leader of the Western world. Essentially, it will shape perceptions of Western commitments to any nation that aligns itself with the ideals of the free world.

As such, Israel’s retaliation to the recent direct attack by Iran is largely inevitable but Israel is likely to approach the retaliation in a more strategic manner, particularly considering the Hezbollah’s recent attack on Northern Israel that killed 11 on 17 April. While the recent escalation in tensions raises concerns about regional instability, continued diplomatic efforts are imperative to de-escalating the situation and preventing further conflict. Both Iran and Israel must tread carefully to avoid the catastrophic consequences of all-out war. The volatile dynamics of the Middle East underscore the urgent need for sustained diplomatic engagement and dialogue to defuse tensions and promote peace and stability in the region.

About the Author
Geopolitical Risk Intelligence Analyst, Vidisha Arora, from India. Masters in Diplomacy, Law, and Business with a specialisation in Economics and Foreign Policy.
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