Analysis: Israel’s Return Strike has Reestablished Deterrence

Last night I published a quick analysis of how I see the situation playing out:

“Tonight, Israel responded to Iran’s attack on its soil with a simultaneous aerial attack across targets in Syria, Iraq, and Iran(!!). The attack seems to have taken Iran by surprise. Iran had previously stated that any Israeli attack would be met with an immediate and stronger response, and the IRGC has since said it will retaliate by targeting Israeli nuclear facilities. The situation is incredibly tense. But no Iranian response yet.

Iran can’t win an escalation game that results in war. This is why Iran telegraphed its April 13th attack on Israel a week in advance, including by back-channeling with the West to warn of the attack: it would ensure that Israel & its partners successfully defended against the strike, thus precluding the need for Israel to respond with the type of force that could in turn force Iran’s hand. However, Iran seemingly underestimated Biden’s ability (or willingness, as evidenced by the USAF KC-135s over western Iraq earlier tonight) to constrain an Israeli response, and it now finds itself in a dilemma. It needs to respond to Israel’s strike, but it’s running out of moves that can be credibly portrayed as a strong (i.e. adequate) response; after attacking Israel directly, there aren’t many options that can make it seem like Iran is ‘upping the ante.’

In the past hour, Iranian state media and IRGC-affiliated media outlets have said several things of note to an amateur analyst. One, that its air defenses have successfully downed many hostile targets, which it has since qualified as ‘drones.’ Two, that the Israeli attack failed to produce any real damage, particularly on the airbase in or the nuclear facility near the city of Isfahan, where the bulk of the attack apparently took place. It has also claimed that any damage is light and produced by debris from successful interceptions. Three, that reports saying the Supreme National Security Council convened after the initial attack are false. And four, Iranian media has suggested that the Israeli attack was carried out or enabled by actors located in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Taking together Iran’s initial statements, its strategic vulnerabilities, and the Biden Administration’s signaling that it will tacitly-support Israeli strikes on important, sensitive areas inside of Iran, Iran has no choice but to take the off ramp and prevent further escalation. A large increase in militia activity can be expected. These groups (& maybe IRGC forces outside of Iran) might take aim at Israel’s nuclear facilities in the coming weeks, but these attacks will likely be demonstrative and not meant to incur any real damage. Iran’s state and state-affiliated media will likely continue attempts to downplay the situation, Western-media will portray the strikes as ‘limited,’ and Israel will refrain from undue saber rattling.”

Henry Smith
Henry Smith
Intel analyst for Atlas News. Undergraduate student at the University of Chicago studying political science. Passionate about international relations, national security, and foreign policy.


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