analysisIsrael at War

Iran’s attack has left it vulnerable

Tehran is now in a worse geopolitical position than prior to the strike.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with U.S. President Joe Biden about the Iranian attack on April 14, 2024. Credit: Prime Minister’s Spokesperson.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with U.S. President Joe Biden about the Iranian attack on April 14, 2024. Credit: Prime Minister’s Spokesperson.
Meir Ben Shabbat
Meir Ben Shabbat
Meir Ben Shabbat is head of the Misgav Institute for Zionist Strategy & National Security, in Jerusalem. He served as Israel’s national security advisor and head of the National Security Council between 2017 and 2021. Prior to that, for 25 years he held senior positions in the Israel Security Agency (Shabak).

Iran’s assault on Israel gives Jerusalem leverage to pressure the United States to extract painful concessions from the Islamic Republic. In any case, Israel need not rush to respond. It would be wise to keep Iranian nerves tense, allow the Iranian rial to continue plummeting and enable internal criticism of the regime to intensify.

In addition to preserving its deterrence, Israel’s main goals vis-à-vis Iran are dismantling its nuclear capabilities and neutralizing the threat posed by its proxy forces, chief among them Hezbollah. In response to the pressure Washington is exerting on Israel to refrain from retaliation, its willingness to join a practical plan with a binding timeline for achieving these goals should be examined.

The attack leaves Iran in a worsened geopolitical position: It invested in building proxy forces to avoid direct confrontation with its adversaries, yet became embroiled in a direct clash with Israel. Its attack, while impressive in scale, was countered by an effective air defense array and did not cause significant damage.

It prompted a cohesion of regional states and provided them with a successful experience of regional cooperation against it—which could encourage a trend, contrary to its desires.

It provided legitimacy for direct strikes against it—and unlike Israel, it is not well protected.

It gave Israel leverage to extract concessions that will make things difficult for Iran. Russia and China, its allies, stood on the sidelines.

It exacerbated Iran’s domestic situation, created a sense of tension and anxiety and impacted the value of the rial.  

What does Iran still have in its arsenal that it has not yet employed against Israel? It mainly boils down to Hezbollah. The terrorist group’s set of considerations is broader and not solely focused on Iranian interests.

The Biden administration, which once again impressively stood by Israel’s side and assisted in forming a coalition of states that participated in thwarting the Iranian attack, fears a widening of the regional war due to the geostrategic and economic implications, especially in an election year. 

Therefore, it is trying to amplify the achievement against Iran, settling for that and a few diplomatic steps whose significance regarding neutralizing Iran’s capabilities is unclear. From Washington’s perspective, the developments reinforce its approach of hastening the establishment of a strategic regional alliance, and it will try to push for that to happen.

Israel, for its part, even if the prospects are unclear, must examine the possibility of seizing the opportunity created to advance its overarching goal: Thwarting Iran’s nuclear capabilities. If that concession can be obtained, restraint on its part would be justified.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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