Israel plays Iran at its own game. Finally

Iran’s massive missile assault on the Israeli home front has thus far gone unanswered.

Iran’s barrage consisted of 170 drones, 30 cruise missiles, and an unprecedented 120 ballistic missiles. Virtually all were knocked out of the sky before they ever reached Israeli territory. Thanks in great part to the excellent defensive cooperation Israel enjoys with the US, UK, France, and a variety of Arab Sunni states including but not limited to Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Iran’s assault has generated three landmark successes. Unfortunately for the Iranian regime, none of them are successes for the ayatollahs, all are successes for Israel and the Iranian civilian population.

Three major wins for Israel. Three major losses for Iran
Firstly, the Iranian regime succeeded in achieving something that no Israeli politician has managed in 75 years: it brought together both Muslim Arab states and large swathes of the West in a remarkable show of unity with the Jewish state against Iranian hegemony.

Secondly, Iranian civic society has been further galvanized into activity against the ayatollahs. Every night new graffiti and posters appear throughout Tehran supporting Israel and asking the Jewish state to rid Iran of the ayatollahs’ thuggish theocracy so people can return to normal lives.

Thirdly, terrified of Israel’s expected retribution, Tehran has turned tail and is pulling every single military operative out of Syria for fear they will be eliminated.

In short, without (yet) firing a single shot at the Iranian home front, Israel has successfully expelled the Iranian regime’s military assets from Syria. It’s a massive win for Israel.

And there is still Israel’s military response to come
In their usual fear-driven bid to placate Iran, the West is working overtime to persuade Israel not to respond militarily, to avert a wider conflagration. Israel is finally playing the Iranian regime at its own game: keeping the ayatollahs waiting nervously, taking its time, keeping its adversary on tenterhooks and playing the waiting game. Meantime the Israeli Prime Minister is taking a leaf out of the Islamists’ book and demanding reciprocity: in exchange for holding off on a major military response to the Iranian attack on the Israeli home front, PM Netanyahu appears to have secured Western approval for a final push in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip to rid the territory of Hamas’s last bastion of power, demolishing the terrorist organization’s remaining battalions and its last reserves of weaponry and military infrastructure.

UN Resolution 1701 of 2006
A decimated Hamas in Gaza will still be able to conduct occasional attacks against Israeli civilians but while serious, this will no longer be an existential threat for the foreseeable future.

This will leave Israel with the freedom to act against Hezbollah and Iran. Not necessarily in that order. The West – and most Arab Sunni states – have now finally realized the very real threat that Iran and its Shia proxies pose to civilian populations and regional – even worldwide – stability. Momentum is increasing even in that last redoubt of Islamist power, the UN, to finally live up to its commitments and ensure a diplomatic means of pushing Hezbollah to north of the Litani River as per the legally binding UN Resolution 1701 that the Shia terrorist organization has utterly ignored.

Even the UN is finally waking up
There is increased understanding – even at the UN – that absent a Hezbollah withdrawal in accordance with Resolution 1701, the result will be a truly epic war that neither Hezbollah nor Iran wants, and Israel certainly does not want. Unlike Hezbollah and Iran, however, who have nothing to lose from not going to war, it is now widely recognized in the West that if Israel does not go to war with Hezbollah, Hezbollah itself will go to war against Israel together with its Iranian masters. October 7th and April 13th showed that with utter clarity.

The onus is therefore firmly on the West, the UN, the EU, to ensure that Hezbollah lives up to the legally binding Resolution 1701 commitments and withdraws its forces from the Israeli border. This would allow more than 80,000 internally displaced Israeli civilians to return to their homes – homes they have not seen since Shia Hezbollah launched its war on Israel to support Sunni Hamas on October 7th.

And if Hezbollah does not withdraw?
Then Israel’s next war is a fact. Israel will pay a terrible price in terms of civilian lives and damage to civilian infrastructure – targeting civilians is how terrorists like to wage their wars.

But that war will come anyway, even if Israel decides to do nothing, even if Israel agrees to a continuation of the status quo. It’s the sole reason for Hezbollah’s existence. It’s the sole reason why Iran has spent 40 years training, financing, arming and supporting Hezbollah.

Iran’s response to a Hezbollah-Israel war
The world made much of Israel’s purported “fear” of tackling Hamas’s elaborate and hugely expensive terror tunnel system. Much of that system is now destroyed, with remarkably few Israeli military casualties. The world has also made much of Israel’s purported “fear” of tackling Iran’s massive military build-up. As we saw on April 13th, a significant proportion of Iran’s ballistic missiles failed to get off the ground, some landed in Muslim Iraq, the damage to the Jewish state was so slight that within minutes Israeli military aircraft were taking off and landing on the one air force base that was hit.

Iranian paper tiger?
This doesn’t mean Israel has nothing to fear from Iranian missiles. But Iran certainly has a lot to fear from an Israeli ballistic missile attack, and Iran’s air defenses are nothing like as advanced or capable as Israel’s. The Iranian regime does not have a multitude of countries willing and demonstrably able to help defend it against an all-out air assault.

The ayatollahs want nothing more than to preserve their power. If they want to survive what’s coming, they will rein in Hezbollah and persuade it to declare a “victory” and retire to north of the Litani.

After Iran’s attack on Israel and the demonstration of its true aims, the reality today is different. Today we may finally see a change. And for once, a positive change.
Provided Israel bides its time, keeps the Iranian regime waiting and guessing, and keeps pressing the international community to push Hezbollah beyond where its 130,000-190,000 rockets can target Israeli civilians.

The ball is in Iran’s court to rein in Hezbollah. The Iranian regime does not want to commit suicide by missile.

About the Author
Served as deputy chair of the West Sweden branch of the Sweden-Israel Friendship Association. Written three political thrillers about Sweden-Israel-Gaza in The Hart Trilogy: "Bridges Going Nowhere" (2014), "The Threat Beneath" (2015) and "From the Shadows" (2016), where the action switches seamlessly between Samaria, Gaza, Israel, Sweden and Iran. Work has started on a fourth book, "Picture Imperfect".
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