Why is Iran attacking Israel?

Foreign Policy Brief #139 | By: Arvind Salem | April 26, 2024
Featured Photo: www.msnbc.com


In the midst of conflict between Israel and Gaza, tensions rose as Israel and Iran are now trading attacks. The two historical enemies have usually traded barbs on the international stage and attacked each other through proxies or involvement in other countries, but this is the first time that they are attacking each other directly.

Like most of Israel’s current offenses, this one goes back to the attack on October 7th, which was perpetrated by Hamas: a proxy group of Iran. After launching an offensive in Gaza meant to eradicate Hamas, Israel is now beginning to fight the interests behind Hamas: Iran themselves.

On April 1, Israel launched a strike that killed several senior Iranian commanders at Iran’s embassy complex in Syria. They were fairly confident that Iran would not retaliate in a serious way, so confident that they only told the US, their biggest ally, about the strike  moments before it happened. However, this proved to be a miscalculation as Iran launched a retaliatory barrage of more than 300 drones and missiles at Israel. However, Israel, working with a U.S.-led international coalition led by the United States, said it intercepted 99% of the incoming fire, though  some missiles landed, damaging an Israeli military base and wounding a young girl. Israel recently responded with a strike that hit a military air base near the city of Isfahan. However, after this strike, both sides had very tempered responses, indicating that they did not seek to escalate tensions further.

 Policy Analysis:

World Leaders are putting their attention on this evolving conflict as a full scale war would be disastrous for a region that is already being devastated by the conflict in Gaza. The Group of 7, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, is devoting a meeting towards addressing ways to de escalate this issue and other world leaders, like Jordan’s foreign minister Ayman Safadi, are calling for a quick de escalation and a renewed focus on the situation in Gaza.

Fortunately, the tensions don’t appear that they will escalate: mainly because no side has any incentive to escalate tensions at this point. The United States, Iran, and Israel are  in the unique position where they could all credibly claim victory. Iran can say it has attacked Israel, Israel can say that they attacked Iran and subsequently defended themselves from a counterstrike, and the United States can say that they defended Israel and deterred Iran from further escalating. With such a stable combination of incentives, the situation is unlikely to escalate further. In any other situation, this delicate balance will be upset. More attacks from Israel will risk harming their already poor international reputation. If Iran attacks, it will lead to them getting in a fight with the United States, and likely the rest of the G7, which is something that they are not equipped to deal with. The United States, although not in a position of agency, has in interest in maintaining their position as a fair international diplomat and authority in these negotiations to further boost their international credibility as threats from China and Russia threaten to destabilize that position.

In the future, things will likely revert back to how they were before: Israel will likely renew their focus on their offensive in Gaza, Iran will try to assist their proxies in the region, and the United States will try to strike the fine balance between supporting Israel while being conscious of international human rights considerations and perhaps negotiating some sort of compromise.

Engagement Resources:

  • Alliance for Middle East Peace, This is an organization that seeks to promote peace in the Middle East, especially between Israel and Palestine in light of the current situation. Readers who are worried about destabilization in the region may be interested in this organization.
  • The Road to Recovery, The Road to Recovery is an Israeli association of volunteers that helps vulnerable people in Gaza and the West Bank get treatment in Israeli hospitals. Readers who are worried about continued conflicts in the region and its humanitarian implications for Gaza may be interested in this organization.

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