Iran and Israel are on the brink of catastrophe
It seems that the Iranian regime has provided Israel with the perfect excuse to take military action against Tehran. This opportunity came after the Islamic Republic was implicated in the drone strike on an oil tanker, owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, off the coast of Oman. Two crew members, a Briton and a Romanian, died in the attack.
This has led to heated exchanges between Israeli and Iranian leaders that have reached dangerous levels. Israel’s Defense Minister, Benny Gantz, warned of an armed response and urged to international community to stand with Israel, saying: “We are at a point where we need to take military action against Iran. The world needs to take action against Iran now.”
Iranian leaders, meanwhile, have made no attempt to ease tensions. For Tehran, backing down in the face of Israeli threats is a sign of weakness. That is why the Islamic Republic immediately signaled that it is prepared to respond to any potential military action carried out by Israel.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh tweeted: “We state this clearly: Any foolish act against Iran will be met with a decisive response. Don’t test us.”
Chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, warned in his address to naval forces on a visit to Iran’s southern coast: “Those who speak against us with a language of threats, including the Zionist regime’s prime minister and other officials of that regime, must be mindful of the dangerous consequences of their comments and exercise the necessary caution in their calculations.”
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett indicated that his country might “act alone” against Tehran. Although Iran boasts that it could easily annihilate its rival, Israel’s overall military capacity is superior to Iran’s. The Israeli air force is one of the best in the world, partially due to the combat experience of its pilots. Israel’s technologically advanced fighter jets, such as the F-4 Phantom II, F-15, and F-35 Lightning II, are much superior to Iran’s aircraft, which were either bought from the US before the 1979 revolution or obtained from Russia. While Iran has recently obtained the Russian-made S-300 system, Israel relies on three sophisticated anti-missile responses: Iron Dome, the US-made Patriot defense system and Magic Wand. Israel is also thought to have about 80 nuclear warheads, which can be delivered through ballistic missiles, drones or combat aircraft.
The Iranian regime has been setting up weapons factories abroad, and manufacturing advanced ballistic missiles and weapons in foreign countries
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
But it is important to point out that in the event of war, Iran would probably deploy its proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, to inflict damage on Israel. The IRGC has equipped Hezbollah with sophisticated missiles that are capable of striking Israel. Salami also famously told the state-run IRIB TV: “Today, more than ever, there is fertile ground for the annihilation, the wiping out and the collapse of the Zionist regime. In Lebanon alone, over 100,000 missiles are ready to be launched. If there is a will, if it serves our interests, and if the Zionist regime repeats its past mistakes due to its miscalculations, these missiles will strike at the heart of the Zionist regime. They will prepare the ground for its great collapse in the new era.”
Tehran can also employ its militia groups in Syria and Iraq to target Israel. The Iranian regime has been setting up weapons factories abroad, and manufacturing advanced ballistic missiles and weapons in foreign countries, including Syria. These include precision-guided missiles with advanced technology to strike specific targets. Iran’s foreign-based weapons factories give it an advantageous military capability for waging wars or striking other nations through third countries such as Syria.
In such a scenario, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Palestine would be dragged into the conflict. In addition, one should not exclude the possibility of the Iranian regime lashing out and wreaking havoc in the Gulf as well. Tehran has repeatedly threatened that it can shut down the Strait of Hormuz, used for almost a third of the world’s maritime oil trade. Former foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi previously warned Iran’s Arab neighbors against putting themselves in a “dangerous position” by aligning themselves with the US.
Furthermore, a war between Iran and Israel would probably drag in the US since Washington would be forced to back its ally Israel militarily. This means that other global powers, such as Russia and China, would view support for the Iranian regime as critical in order to secure their influence in the region as well as prevent the balance of power in the Middle East tilting toward the US and its allies.
In a nutshell, as tensions between Israel and Iran escalate, it is important to point out that any war between the two would probably turn the region into a conflagration, dragging global powers into the conflict as well.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh