Analysis.  Why did Iran attack Israel?

Analysis. Why did Iran attack Israel?

A new episode of a fight to the death between two irreconcilable regimes played out last week. At the risk of setting the entire Middle East ablaze.

It is the chronicle of a war announced almost half a century ago. With the flight of the Shah and the triumphant arrival at Tehran airport of Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini on February 1, 1979, the Islamic Republic forged, from its advent, its legitimacy in the hatred of Israel, “the little Satan”, a substitute hated by the United States. Conversely, the imperial regime brought down by the mullahs was Tel Aviv's main ally in the region, supplying it with oil, engaging in full military cooperation and exchanging intelligence. It took five decades for this hatred to lead to open war between two countries, which do not share common borders, nearly 2,000 km apart.

A night of anxiety

On the evening of April 13, at 11 p.m. local time, the IDF spokesperson announced that they had detected “an aerial vehicle not piloted by a man”, in fact swarms of drones, coming from Iran. A sign of the times, it is on the social network X (formerly Twitter) that the press release falls. The information was quickly confirmed by Iranian television. “The diabolical Zionist regime, which is nothing but devilry, evil, error, will be punished,” had promised, three days earlier, on the occasion of Eid el-Fitr, the celebration marking the end of the Ramadan fast , the Supreme Leader of the Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Tehran regime wants to obtain revenge after the unclaimed Israeli strike which killed, on April 1, within the consulate in Damascus (Syria), General Zahedi of the Al-Quds force, the unit of the Revolutionary Guards, the praetorians of the regime, responsible for external military actions, in this case arms deliveries to Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah and Hamas in Gaza. to establish. A few hours earlier, as a precaution, the authorities announced the closure of schools for the following days and prohibited any large gatherings. On television, civil protection measures are recalled. The high command asks the inhabitants of Dimona, where a nuclear power plant is located, to reach the shelters.

As the night of April 13 to 14 draws on, a long and agonizing wait begins for the Israeli population. The scale of the attack remains to be established. A few hours earlier, as a precaution, the authorities announced the closure of schools for the following days and prohibited any large gatherings. On television, civil protection measures are recalled. The high command asks the inhabitants of Dimona, where a nuclear power plant is located, to reach the shelters. In the dead of night, alarm sirens pierce the silence of darkness in big cities. In Jerusalem, the interception of missiles above the Dome of the Rock, the holiest site of Islam, illuminates the darkness.

A dramatic warning

In the morning, the results of the Iranian attack were limited. “Minor” damage on the Nevatim base in the south, a little girl injured by shrapnel. The Israeli fighter, assisted by American forces in the region, British planes which took off from a Royal Air Force base in Cyprus, the French army from its quarters in Iraq and Jordan but also by the Jordanian defense , helped destroy all 170 Shahed drones and around 30 Iranian cruise missiles over Iraq and Syria. Only a few ballistic missiles out of the 120 fired were able to enter the airspace of the Jewish state. The mobile anti-missile defense system, the “Iron Dome”, with its detection and tracking radars and its launchers, proves its remarkable effectiveness. Over the past ten years, it has intercepted thousands of rockets launched from Gaza.

Why did the Tehran regime embark on this adventure? Certainly, Shiite messianism, in power in Iran, carries within it, from the beginning, the dream of the destruction of the Jewish State. For this Islamic theocracy, the project on which the “Zionist entity” was founded, a cocktail of secular modernity, democracy, Western mass culture, individual autonomy, embodies an anomaly to be eradicated in the heart of the Muslim space. and the occupation of Jerusalem, the Holy City, a scandal which every good believer must put an end to. In 2001, President Hashemi Rafsanjani called for a Muslim state to destroy Israel with a nuclear strike. Four years later, his successor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, during a conference in Tehran entitled “A world without Zionism”, declared that “Israel must be wiped off the map” by describing the Jewish state as a “stigma (on) the face of the Muslim world. However, the attack of April 13, announced in advance, spectacular as it was, remains from a military point of view more symbolic than effective, more a warning than fraught with destruction. The allies of the “Axis of Resistance” (Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthi rebellion in Yemen) have only launched a limited number of drones.

Until now, Iran's military engagement against the “Zionist entity” took the form of a proxy war by arming and financing militias and terrorist groups in Iraq, Lebanon and Gaza (Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad). The massacres of October 7, “more important for the world order than September 11, 2001”, according to the words of Islamologist Gilles Kepel, mark a major turning point. “With the new strategic landscape after October 7, largely created by Iran, Tehran sees an opportunity to seize in the chaos, analyzes Suzanne Maloney, vice-president of the Brookings Institution. The war in Gaza has made it possible to “raise the stature of its regime, delegitimize Israel, undermine American interests and shape the regional order for its own benefit.” Last week's attack would be part of this hegemonic ambition displayed towards the other major regional region, Saudi Arabia tempted by opening towards the West, and the umma, the community of believers. “Iran is at the height of its power,” rejoiced Ebrahim Raïssi, President of the Islamic Republic. Incidentally, the operation helps divert Iranian public opinion from the difficulties caused by a disastrous economic situation (30% inflation, shortages, etc.) and facilitates the return of repression by the moral police against young people in revolt.

” Declaration of war “

“It is a declaration of war (…) We are examining all options,” replied Isaac Herzog, president of the Hebrew state. “Israel will make Iran pay the price, at the right time”: with this cryptic formula, Israeli Minister Benny Gantz reveals the divisions in the Jerusalem cabinet. In a regional environment that values ​​the use of force and disdains leniency, the Jewish State must fight back, or lose its capacity for deterrence, essential to its survival. But how? By a new clandestine war operation of the type that it has been leading for years (targeted assassinations, cyberattacks, sabotage, etc.) against Iran? Strikes against Hezbollah? By a targeted bombing in Iran but hazardous so far from its borders? Or, as the most radical wing of the government and part of the security apparatus want, with a massive pre-emptive strike intended to destroy Iran's nuclear program? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has built his political career by denouncing for decades the threat embodied by the Tehran regime. Weakened by unfavorable polls, he may think he has the opportunity to take action.

Avoid escalation

Will the United States, without whom no prolonged air campaign is possible, let this happen? In the middle of the electoral race, Joe Biden made it known that he did not want escalation. If Iran were in turn struck, it could block the Strait of Hormuz through which 20% of the world's oil passes. Or sponsor terrorist operations against the American fleet based in nearby Bahrain. An extension of the conflict across the region would cause the price of oil and the price of gasoline to jump at the pump. It would boost inflation and delay the rate cut. Not the optimal scenario six months before the American election. The Western G7 club condemns the Iranian strike but calls for restraint. In Berlin, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock expressed concern about a Middle East “on the brink of the precipice” while British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak warned: “No one wants to see another bloodbath .” “France is working on de-escalation with its partners,” assured Emmanuel Macron.

France in the Levant

“We have taken our responsibilities because we are actors in regional security,” declared Stéphane Séjourné, Minister of Foreign Affairs, on April 14, after the destruction of Iranian drones and missiles by French fighters in the Jordanian sky. These “interceptions”, carried out by the French forces of Operation Chammal (around 600 men), stationed in Jordan and Iraq as part of the international coalition against the Islamic State set up in 2014, confirm France's role as ally of the Jewish state. Rémi Barbet.

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