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The Iranian response will come

Iran believes an escalation in Israeli military activity is likely and Iran should prepare accordingly.

Video on social media reported to show an explosion at an Iranian facility in Isfahan on Jan. 28, 2023. Source: Screenshot.
Video on social media reported to show an explosion at an Iranian facility in Isfahan on Jan. 28, 2023. Source: Screenshot.
Yoni Ben Menachem
Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center. He served as director general and chief editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

On Jan. 30, 2023, Israeli drones allegedly attacked Iranian convoys carrying advanced weapons from Iran to Syria.

Drones of the Israeli Air Force have attacked convoys three times in recent days and destroyed trucks carrying advanced weapons. Eleven were killed in the attacks.

At the same time, the Israeli Mossad allegedly attacked a military complex in the center of the city of Isfahan where the production and research of missiles and drones are carried out. The attack was carried out using short-range quadcopter drones—Micro Aerial Vehicles (MAVs)—according to Iran’s Ministry of Defense, which carried explosives and crashed into the targets.

According to American and Israeli sources, the operation was successful and frustrated the Iranians because it occurred at the same time as the messages the United States sent through Qatar to Iran about its willingness to resume negotiations on a nuclear deal.

Israel is tight-lipped and has neither confirmed nor denied the attacks. Iran has suffered a public humiliation, Israel’s attacks received extensive international coverage and the world did not buy the Iranian claim that it thwarted the attack and the damage caused was minimal.

It seems that the Israeli establishment chose the target carefully: It is a military compound and not a nuclear facility, indicating that Israel also fears Iran’s conventional capabilities in the field of missiles and drones and not only its nuclear capabilities.

The drone attack on the military compound in Isfahan was late at night. Israel had no intention of harming the lives of Iranian scientists or senior officers of the Revolutionary Guards. The short-range quadcopter drones suggest that they were launched nearby inside Iran.

Israel also fears that Iran will develop hypersonic missiles, currently in the arsenals of Russia, China and North Korea, with which Iran maintains close relations.

Hypersonic missiles fly at Mach-5, five times the speed of sound and have a low trajectory and an unpredictable flight path. According to experts, such missiles may represent a threat to Israel’s air defense system. Israel is working to counter the threat with a new Arrow-4 anti-ballistic missile and, reportedly, a high-energy laser.

Iranian sources claim that the United States and Israel use a carrot-and-stick method: Israel uses the stick and hits Iran, while the United States uses the carrot and shows a desire to negotiate with Iran.

Iranian Patience

Iranian sources say that Iran’s response to the Israeli attacks is only a matter of time. Iran has patience, and every Israeli attack is recorded in the Iranian ledger.

In the past two years, Iran has strengthened its air defense systems following Israel’s attacks on the facilities in Karaj and Kermanshah and moved some of its military factories to protected buildings.

It is believed that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has already ordered the Revolutionary Guards to prepare the Iranian response to the Israeli attacks and that the preparations are underway and will take some time.

These are several of the scenarios for an Iranian response:

  1. Attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets abroad.
  2. Launching precision-guided missiles and drones from Iranian territory toward Israeli targets at sea (such as gas rigs in the Mediterranean) and on land.
  3. An Iranian missile or drone attack on targets in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, where the Iranians claim that a base of the Israeli Mossad operates.
  4. Launching of missiles and drones by the pro-Iranian militias in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen towards Israeli targets.

A Clear Message to Iran

In an unprecedented show of strength, the U.S. and Israeli armed forces launched the Juniper Oak exercise in January, deploying ships, aircraft, artillery and cyber weapons.

Iran is also worried about the visits of senior American government officials to Israel: Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser; William Burns, the head of the CIA; and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Moreover, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Joe Biden are expected to meet in Washington next month.

The Iranian assessment is that this indicates Israeli-American military coordination and that an escalation in Israel’s military activity against Iran is expected—and Iran should prepare accordingly.

Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israeli radio and television, is a senior Middle East analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He served as Director General and Chief Editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

This article was originally published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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