Iran Approach toward Israel: from Strategic Patience to Strategic Deterrence

Iran implemented Strategic Patience and restraint for more than a decade. Israel has been behind all of the US and international economic political and military sanctions against Iran since ۱۹۹۵. It was involved in killing Iran nuclear scientists between ۲۰۰۹ to ۲۰۲۰
24 April 2024
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Nabi Sonboli

Iran implemented Strategic Patience and restraint for more than a decade. Israel has been behind all of the US and international economic, political and military sanctions against Iran since 1995. It was involved in killing Iran nuclear scientists between 2009 to 2020, all on Iranian soil. Israel was involved in cyber-attacks (Stuxnet virus) against Iran nuclear facilities in 2010 in violation of International law. In September 2018, the Israeli Air Force stated that “it had conducted over 200 airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria in 2017–2018 alone.” While Iranian forces were there to fight with ISS, not Israel. Israel actually partnered with ISS against Iran and others.

Israel was behind the US withdrawal from JCPOA and led the most important EU multilateral diplomatic achievement into failure. Former military intelligence chief of Israel confirmed that his country was behind the US assassination of General Suleimani. Israeli military  intensified its attacks against Iranian targets in Syria After October 7 and the attack against Iranian diplomatic premises that killed 7 Iranian Military advisors and commanders, including Brigadier General Zahedi, was the last round of the attacks.  Furthermore, Israel has been engaged in a genocide against Palestinians during the past 6 months.

These attacks and behaviors gradually ended the consensus on strategic patience toward Israel in Iran and led many people in strategic circles to believe that Iran need to answer to Israeli attacks and aggressions, before October 7th. It seems that Israeli decision makers miscalculated Iran’s reaction. They either thought that Iran will continue to refrain from taking any action or, they intentionally, wanted to provoke a new war and bring Iran and the US into conflict with each other.

Iran had no choice but to react.  Repeated Israeli attacks and aggressions forced Tehran to change its approach from Strategic patience to strategic deterrence. However, Iran did not react emotionally. Before any response to Israeli attacks on Iranian diplomatic premises, Iran asked the UNSC to condemn the attacks and provide guaranties that it won’t happen again.  UNSC failed to condemn the Israeli attack. Based on the UN charter, self-defense is among the sovereign rights of all nations and there is no question about the legitimacy of Iranian reply to Israel on April 13th.

The main purpose of Iran’s military response to repeated Israeli attacks and aggressions is to stablish a clear strategic deterrence, not escalation of the war. Iranian reply was calculated and balanced. Within the framework of good neighborhood policy, Iran informed its neighbors about its decision to react three days before. The message of Iran response on April 13th was clear;

  • Iran is able to target Israel and is able to decide to do so;  
  • Iran would reply to any attacks against Iranian assets and personnel;
  • Iran targeted military and intelligence bases that were used against Iran, as legitimate targets. Iran acted responsibly and did not do anything to damage civilians and civil infrastructures.
  • The main purpose is to bring back peace and stability to the region not to provoke any regional conflict. All countries in our region need peace and security to concentrate on economic, social and environmental developments.
  • Iran follows deterrence against all threats emanating from inside the region. Iran replied to the US attack, too.

It’s too early to evaluate that a deterrence has been stablished. However, from Israeli response, till now, we can say that they are reconsidering their previous assumptions. The attacks demonstrated that not only Israel but also its partners are vulnerable. Even with the support of about 10 countries, they were not able to control all missiles and drones. This is how they reacted to a military response that had previously been announced. However, military attacks will not always be announced beforehand and others are not always there to provide support.

It is expected that Israeli vulnerabilities force the regime to think twice before any new aggression. That’s the meaning and purpose of deterrence. However, the rationality of Netanyahu administration is under question. We are facing with a regime that have violated all International and humanitarian laws and regulations, and committed genocide. But Israel needs the US, European and some others to attack Iran. There are some rational people in Washington, London and other capitals to prevent Israel from further behaving irrationally and escalating the conflict and they are able to do so if they want to.  

Based on past experiences in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, de-escalation is necessary. Now one will benefit from another war in the region. Netanyahu is the person that encouraged the Bush administration to lunch Iraqi war in 2003. That war imposed seven trillion dollars and thousands of casualties on the US and much more on Iraq, Syria and the whole region. Any new war in the Middle West will be much costlier for regional and international community. That’s why de-escalating the tensions and conflicts are necessary.

To de-escalate, the decision makers who are escalating the conflict needs to be discouraged and controlled. That’s something that can only be done by Israeli supporters, especially the US. Washington need to reconsider its support for Israel. Netanyahu is not able to continue her aggressive policies without the US military, economic and political supports. Biden is partly responsible for what Netanyahu has done during the past 6 month. Washington cannot support Israeli attacks, and refrain from accepting any responsibility for that.

Ending the war in Gaza and stablishing a permanent ceasefire there will de-escalate all tensions in the region. Palestinian side is ready for an agreement but not any agreement. They have been suppressed and humiliated for many decades and tolerated genocide and ethnic cleansing twice.

The conflict is escalating in the European neighborhood, while the continent is engaged in another war in Ukraine. EU needs to be more active to end the ongoing genocide in Palestine and de-escalate the conflicts in the region. We see minor changes in the European positions however that’s not enough. Comparing EU and the US reactions to suppression of people in Libya and Gaza, demonstrate the depth of double standard and hypocrisy of the Western countries.

Netanyahu have turned Israel as the only “some sort of democracy” into a pariah state.  Civilized nations and international organizations are expected to condemn genocide and aggression very clearly. Lack of reaction toward Israeli genocide in Gaza may normalized violation international and humanitarian laws and regulations in other parts to the world. Genocide is happening under the security umbrella of nuclear weapons. A country that commits genocide does not deserve to have nuclear weapons.

Regional problems need to be discussed and solved regionally. These agreements can pave the way for a regional security forum to discuss regional issues. Such a forum can provide a mechanism for exchange of views and contribute to de-escalation at regional level.

Iran has been besides many Arab nations against aggression, invasion and occupation during the past decades. Iran supported Lebanon against Israeli occupation; Kuwait Against Iraqi invasion; Iraq and Syria against ISS; and Palestine against Israel. Iran is committed to bilateral security agreements signed with Arab countries.  

Resistance is basically a defensive approach, not an offensive one. It is against occupation, invasion, intervention and aggression. All resistance movements from Lebanon to Yemen developed after occupation and invasion of their countries or collapse of inefficient and exclusive political systems there.

Nabi Sanboli, a senior expert at the Institute for Political and International Studies

 (The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS) 

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