As the possibility of Israel stiking Iran seemed to grow more likely in the last few weeks, Iran has undoubtedly used all of its clout in the Gaza Strip to unleash a barrage of missiles (close to 200 in the last few days) into Southern Israel.
They have reached further east and further North than ever before and have rained down upon civillian cities and towns (including a school yesterday).
Of course, the imporvement in missiles volumes and range is not surprising due two factors:
- Increased Funding by Iran
- The radicalization of the Sinai as the post Mubarak government in Egypt has lost control of this area and the Gaza border (unfortunately handed over to the Egyptions in the ill fated “Disengagement” in 2006
- In combination of the above – This same Islamic takeover in the Sinai and throughout Egypt also has allowed Iranian warships for the very first time since the Iranian Revolution in 1979 to cross the Suez and has given Iran access to the Mediterranean Sea. Unfortunately, these were moves not countered (hopefully just not yet countered) by Israel.
The above factors have been brought about due to two main miscalculations. Israel’s humiliating 2006 “Disengagement” and the West’s embrace for the “Arab Spring” which is often more of an Arab Winter. When the western liberal mindset tries to deal with the Arab world, the result is often that friends are not backed, and enemies are not fought.
Given this newly acquired access to the Mediterranean, Ahmajinedad has in wishful thinking spoken about breaking the Israeli naval blockade on the Hamas controlled Gaza strip. However he has thus far known that this is impossible. The best Iran could do there is end up donating one of its warships to the IDF if it gets close enough. However, Iranian ships now do have free access to the Sinai’s northern coast (directly bordering the lawless Egyptian-Gaza border) to unload weapons and money, as well as a direct and short shipping lane to its ally Syria and its embattled regime (headed by Hafez al-Assad).
Iran, in reality, is a giant paper tiger built up by the media, the left, and the many years of unexplainable refusal by the West to face it down. Iran by now believes its own hype of being a powerful Regional mini super power.
This fallacy will be better explained elsewhere and in more detail, but though the Iranian regime seems to believe in its economic, regional, religious and political power, (and perhaps even military power when it comes to resisting an actual invasion or occupation by the west), it is all to painfully aware of its extremely limited capabilities for responding to any Israeli attack. This very lack of response, could deflate the paper tiger, humiliate the regime, spur the opposition into action, and doom it to collapse.
Iran has a limited ability to send its Shahab-3 missiles directly to Israel. Iran is limited by the number of these available, their accuracy, payload vs range capacity, and most importantly by the sheer impregnability of the Israeli airspace. Israel has been developing a missile shield ever since the US provided Patriot missile batteries that proved only somewhat effective against Iraq’s Scud missiles during the first Gulf War in 1991. Improved versions of the Patriot system, followed by the Israeli Arrow System and finally the Iron Dome batteries now operational make Israel’s skies the most protected on earth. Of course, Israel’s small size is helpful in this regard, as though the US has comparable technology (though probably not as developed in this specific regard), it is a giant country spanning a continent and would be much more difficult to protect completely.
These Israeli missile batteries are close to being able to stop barrages of small rockets launched from only a few kilometers away, be they Kassams and Grad Rockets from Gaza, or Ketushas from Lebanon (the sad irony of Israel “intercepting” homemade flying pipes with million dollar high-tech missiles is another subject. They are in fact making the random rockets score huge “hits” as their $20 pipes destroy millions of dollars of IDF equipment instead of landing harmlessly in open fields).
The ease in which a very small number of large missiles (larger targets in the sky) such as Scuds or the Shahab missiles could be stopped from such a large distance is easy to imagine. All of this is ignoring and exluding the IAF, one of the most, if not the most, advanced Air forces in the world, and the fact it would likely destroy a significant part of any long range Iranian ballistic capability during the the initial strike.
All of this leaves Iran with little power to directly strike Israel. Alternatives are hard to imagine.
Trying to directly send ground troops to Israel’s borders nears on impossible. Iran could potentially receive permission to cross Iraq’s territory since Iraq is currently led by a Shia dominated pro-Iran government. This would be especially true if this followed an Israeli strike on Iran, and Iran rode on Arab sentiment of retaliation. Jordan, still in the way, is a different story. Actual approval would be impossible. The most that Iran could hope for in Jordan’s case, is that the King would “allow” for Persian ground forces to cross a narrow corridor between Iraq and Israel without its army interfering for the simple reason and under the excuse of trying to avoid a military confrontation with the much larger Iranian forces (especially only in order to defend the Jewish state).
Other possible routes are even more difficult, and in the case of the aforementioned unlikely scenario playing out, and Iran achieving a ground route all the way to Israel in the hopes that it can now use its overwhelming advantage in numbers, a larger military disaster could not be imagined for Iran. At any and all points during the very long march, the forces would be decimated by full Israeli air superiority. If any ever actually reached Irsael’s borders badly mauled, at the end of an extremely over extended supply line, and lacking any element of surprise whatsoever, they would be decimated by the awaiting IDF.
Naval attacks and/or naval landings are even less plausible an option for Iran. Likewise paratroopers or commando insertions by air are pipe dreams.
Closing the strait of Hormuz. Iran’s saber rattling often mentions this threat due to its effective world wide effect. An extreme spike in oil prices scares everyone. However, that is the extent of effectiveness of this tactic; threatening the act. Since the last thing strained economies around the world need is a spike in oil prices and cut in supplies, this threat works well as a deterrent. World leaders apply pressure to ensure no attack on Iran that could threaten oil price stability takes place. Likewise, Israeli leaders fear being blamed by the world for $300 a barrel oil. But the tactic loses all meaningful value for Iran beyond the threat. Once Iran is attacked by Israel, responding by closing the strait will only immediately push the Gulf states and the Arab league against Iran, and invoke an immediate US intervention to reopen the strait. This would be accomplished within days (if not less) and Iran would be left beaten into submission, badly damaged, and with an open strait where everyone can ship oil through except her. Militarily defeated, bombed, blockaded and financially devastated it is hard to see the present regime surviving an attempt at closing the strait of Hormuz.
Retaliation by proxies and terror are really Iran’s only options. As the last few months have shown, they do not appear to be as efficient or able in plotting international terror plots as one would have imagined. Recent months have been full of Headlines about alleged Iranian agents detained around the world in strange circumstances. Some have blown themselves up accidentally, others have amateurishly blown their cover and been arrested. Frankly, some of the plots have been so odd and incompetent they are difficult to believe, (such as Iranian agents attempting to hire Mexican cartels to blow up targets in the US) since they describe an Iran, specifically an Al-Quds so drastically different than the professional, elite and fear inducing one of the media.
We are left with Iran’s only real weapon of retaliation. It remains the same as it has been for years, retaliation through proxies, namely Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Despite sensationalist headlines about WWIII and nightmare scenarios about the repercussions of a strike on Iran, there is realistically little Iran can do other then “order” Gaza terrorists and Hizbollah to lob missiles and rockets at Israel. There is no assurance, that Nasrallah, shrewd leader of Hezbollah, would obey such an order. The consequences for not doing so can only be loss of support and funding from the regime. This will happen anyways if the regime collapses, so Nasrallah may not wish to go down with his Iranian patrons (it would likely be dependent on the success of the Israeli strike). Though it suffered a terrible blow in 2006 at the hands of the IDF, Hezbollah knows it was lucky in the incompetence of the Olmert led government government and its inability to bring about a political victory in the Second Lebanon War. The IDF having learned its lessons, and with Netanyahu being no Olmert, Nasrallah knows all too well this round would be different. Israel launching any kind of attack on Iran includes planning for stopping any bombardment from Lebanon and the destruction of Hezbollah (at least from Southern Lebanon).
This overall inability to have any real answers to an Israeli attack, has pushed Iran into desperation. Senior officials often quote how they would “obliterate” Israel within hours of being attacked, rushed and amateurish terrorist plots have been hastily ordered abroad, and, with those measures having failed so far, Iran has pressed for a more real confrontation.
By having Hamas and Islamic Jihad assault Israel with this fury of missiles, it essentially bogs down Israel and the IDF. As usual, though Israel can relatively easily deal with her classic state enemies on the battlefield, she has no answers for the “palestinians”. The appearance of the entire might of the IDF bogged down in inconclusive operations in Gaza would most likely deter Israel from executing any plan on Iran. Basically, Iran has executed her “nightmarish retaliation” preemptively.
Had this retaliation happen after an Israeli strike on Iran, it would seem extremely benign compared to expectations. A humiliation for the Iranian regime. Instead, happening now, it has the opposite effect. If Israel can barely handle its own borders now, how can it possible even think about striking at Iran.
The question is weather Iran ordered Nasrallah to strike as well, and if he has already refused, or is keeping that wildcard in reserves. Finally, the question is how much pressure will Hamas and Islamic Jihad be able to take before they invariably ask for a ceasefire as the IDF’s response intensifies. Hopefully, the Netanyahu government will ignore them and not entertain those terrorist groups in negotiations, and keep its eye on the ball… Iran. No operation should be started in Gaza or anywhere else without it being part of a larger part to finally tame this paper tiger before its unfortunate acquiring of Nuclear weapons makes it a very real tiger; and ironically finally brings about the possible “nightmarish scenarios” that everyone seems to erroneously fear now.