Iran's deterrence calculation when attacking Israel
Burning debris after Israel intercepted an Iranian UAV over the city of Jerusalem in the early morning of April 14. Photo: Reuters

Iran launched a large attack on Israel but exercised restraint to avoid escalating the conflict while establishing a deterrent against Tel Aviv.

The large-scale raid with about 200 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and missiles of all kinds from Iran targeting Israeli territory ended on the morning of April 14 with negligible damage, according to a military spokesman. Israel Daniel Hagari.

Hagari said the “vast majority” of weapons Iran launched during the attack were intercepted by Israeli air defense and air force networks, with support from “partner countries.”

“Several Iranian missiles fell within Israeli territory, causing incalculable damage at a military facility and causing no casualties. Only one child was injured in the attack,” Hagari said.

Iran’s IRNA news agency said the Kheybar ballistic missile hit the Israeli air force base in the Negev desert. They claimed this was the base used by Israel in the raid on the consulate building of the Iranian embassy in Syria on the night of April 1, killing 7 members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including two brigadier generals.

About 4 hours after detecting Iran’s firing, the Israeli government allowed people to leave the shelter, showing that Israeli intelligence assessed that Iran’s attack was over. Iran’s diplomatic mission to the United Nations also announced that this large-scale raid was the “end” of the confrontation between the two countries surrounding the Israeli attack on the Iranian diplomatic building.

Tehran emphasized that it “does not want escalation or conflict throughout the region,” affirming that the raid was a legitimate act of self-defense according to Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, but still warned that Israel would pay the price if there were more attacks act of provocation or attack on Iran.

The limited damage on the ground, the progress of the raid and the continuous diplomatic announcements from Iran on the morning of April 14 showed that the attack was a “calculated and measured” move by Iran, according to experts. Middle East security expert Hassan Barari of Qatar University. He noted that statements from Iran’s diplomatic mission at the United Nations repeatedly emphasized that the raid ended the incident of Israel attacking Iran’s diplomatic mission.

“This shows that Iran does not want any further retaliation. Iran is trying to carry out a calculated and restrained attack to re-establish deterrence with Israel, and at the same time not be seen as weak leadership in the eyes of the Resistance Axis militia groups they are leading,” Barari said.

Iran has long supported the “Axis of Resistance,” which includes many armed militia groups across the Middle East, such as the Hezbollah organization in Lebanon or the Hamas movement in Gaza, to fight Israeli and US interests in the Middle East. These groups are said to be heavily influenced by Tehran and receive instructions from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commanders.

War Israel met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the early morning of April 14 in Tel Aviv, monitoring the progress of the attack from Iran. Photo: AFP

Israel’s wartime Cabinet met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at dawn on April 14 in Tel Aviv, monitoring the progress of the attack from Iran. Photo: AFP

Al Jazeera journalist Rory Challands also made a similar comment about Iran’s long-anticipated attack. He said that Tehran both wants to send a message of humiliation and does not want to cause too much damage and then escalate tensions into a regional conflict.

“The damage in Israel was very small, only recorded at the air base in the middle of the desert, with a few injuries and no deaths. This is a test for Israel. The Israeli war cabinet has been awarded the right to organize a response to Iran, but will they be as calculating and moderate as the opponent? What will the US say to Israel? Will they advise a mild retaliation and call on all sides to calm down?” Challands asked. 

Dorsa Jabbari, an Al Jazeera journalist in Tehran, assessed that the Iranian military had acted in accordance with its warning message over the past two weeks that retaliation for the consulate raid would be carried out “accurately and within limits.” She said developments on the ground showed that the IRGC acted in accordance with the name “True Promise” of this campaign.

“This is the most serious response that Iran has launched. It clearly cannot be called an all-out attack, but it also helps Iran show its power. The world has witnessed an unprecedented scenario: missiles.” Iran’s ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and UAVs simultaneously headed toward Israel,” Jabbari said.

People of the capital Tehran marched in support of the government at dawn on April 14, after Iran attacked Israel. Photo: AFP

People of the capital, Tehran, marched in support of the government at dawn on April 14, after Iran attacked Israel. Photo: AFP

This is the first time in history that Iran has fired missiles on its territory to attack Israel. Although the two countries view each other as sworn enemies, past attacks have often targeted Iranian proxies, intelligence facilities or Israeli interests abroad, and both sides have avoided attacks directly into each other’s territory.

However, Jabbari expressed concern that the geopolitical crisis after Israel raided the Iranian consulate had only closed the first chapter. “Now, the world will have to wait for the next chapter. Israel’s next actions will determine whether this conflict remains at its level or escalates more seriously,” the commentator warned.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on the night of April 13 that his government maintained its stance that “anyone who harms Israel will be punished.” Israeli officials, especially members of the Security Cabinet and the far right are demanding that Tel Aviv launch a powerful response against Tehran.

Meanwhile, the IRGC warns that any further retaliation from Israel, at any level, will be met with a strong response. Iranian Defense Minister Mohammad Reza Ashtiani also threatened to punish any country that supports Israel or allows the Israeli military to use its airspace and territory to attack Iran.

“Iran and Israel are dragging the entire region into an unprecedented situation. This is an extremely dangerous period, and the potential consequences are catastrophic,” said Ali Vaez, director of Iran research at the organization. International Crisis Group (ICG), commentary.