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Aaron Kalman
Business and GenAI by day, public policy by night

Iran’s attack: A strategic opportunity for peace

Iran’s direct attack against Israel in the early hours of April 14, 2024, will go down in history as the dawn of a new Middle East. Regardless of the end result (one casualty and close to no damage caused), we witnessed a historic moment in the region, with an Israeli-Arab-Western coalition working together against Iran. The big question now is whether this success can be translated into broadening and deepening the cooperation between Israel and Arab countries.

Three significant things happened the night between April 13 and 14. First and foremost, Iran openly attacked Israel. After decades of hiding behind its proxies in Syria, Gaza, Lebanon and elsewhere, Iranian leaders gave a directive to attack sovereign Israeli soil directly from Iran.

For years Iran assisted, trained, funded and armed terror groups all over the Middle East. Their goal: attack Israel, the United States, and anyone else Tehran orders them to. Guided and directed by officers within Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, these terrorists allowed Iran to support its friends and harass its enemies while maintaining a safe distance. Iran’s decision to attack Israel with hundreds of munitions and to openly take responsibility is a strategic shift. From a cold war fought via proxies, Iran is now in a direct conflict with Israel.

The second aspect, which came as a result of Tehran’s aggression, is the impressive work of the anti-Iranian coalition. This well-coordinated effort resulted in the interception of 99 percent of the hundreds of UAVs and missiles directed at Israel. Compare this to 2019, when Iran successfully attacked Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure at Abqaiq and Khurais. Then, vital targets were damaged when dozens of missiles and UAVs hit them, sometimes taking months to repair.

This time it was different. A number of countries worked in sync – from early detection and warning systems to various levels of air defense activation – to thwart Tehran’s attack. The US and Israel did so in a very public manner, while others kept a lower profile. One example is the coordination and cooperation between Jordan and Israel. Reports show that Jordan not only allowed Israeli fighter jets to use its airspace to intercept the Iranian attack, it also scrambled its own air force and actively shot down missiles. All of this at a time of public Jordanian criticism of Israel’s actions in Gaza.

While Jordan’s actions are somewhat public, most of the coalition’s work remains in the shadows. In many ways, the cooperation against Iran was the first public demonstration of the strength of the security ties Israel has with countries in the region. These ties led to the Abraham Accords, and continue to cause various Arab countries to secretly strengthen their relations with Israel.

Finally, the third aspect of Iran’s attack on Israel is that of sounding the alarm for many decision makers around the world. Simply put, it is a reminder that Israel – and others in the Middle East – remain the frontline of defense in the global war against radical Islam and genocidal terror regimes.

For the past six months, the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen have attacked ships in the Red Sea, disrupting global shipping routes and supply chains. This forced the US, Britain and others to act militarily. However, while the West actively engaged this threat, Iran remained distant – true to the proxy strategy it had perfected over the years. The missiles and UAVs aimed at Israel are a different story.

Iran’s statements and actions leave no room for Iran to hide behind others. Tehran – not Hezbollah, not the Houthis – publicly attacked Israel. Decision makers understand that the missiles launched by Iran have the range to hit European countries, not all of which have the same air defense capabilities Israel demonstrated.

All of these shifts have strategic implications. Talks of a US-brokered normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia (which dominated the news before Hamas’s October 2023 attack on Israel) have resurfaced – and the Saudis are not the only Arab country interested in such a move.

Iran’s attack brings with it the potential for new normalization and peace initiatives. With Iran openly attacking Israel, Jerusalem should strengthen its ties with those opposing Tehran’s fundamental regime of terror. The successful implementation of the Abraham Accords continues to demonstrate some Arab countries are willing to move beyond their historic boycott of Israel. The successful thwarting of Iran’s attack presents all those involved with a unique chance to pursue these opportunities.

About the Author
Currently the Chief of Staff at Lightricks, Aaron previously served as a diplomatic advisor to Israeli Cabinet Members and a Jewish Agency emissary in Australia, among other things.
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