The night that linked April 13th to April 14th, 2024, marked an inflection point in the protracted Iranian-Israeli war of attrition. For the first time in its history, Iran launched attacks on Israel from its soil through an operation in Tehran named ‘Operation True Promise.’ Moreover, this attack also constitutes the first ‘state’ attack on Israel since the First Gulf War. In 1991, Iraq, under the rule of Saddam Hussein, targeted Israel with missiles.

The Context:

The Iranian attack came as a retaliation to the Israeli bombing of the Iranian embassy in Damascus on April 1st, 2024. The Israeli bombing of the Iranian diplomatic mission resulted in the death of at least seven high-ranking IRGC members.


With the recent Iranian attack, the rules of engagement between the two sides have dramatically changed, as Tehran has shown that it is capable of directly targeting Israeli soil, although Israeli air defense systems supported by the UK, the US, and some Arab countries like Jordan intercepted the vast majority of Iranian kamikaze drones as well as ballistic and cruise missiles. Prior to this direct Iranian attack, Iran had engaged in a protracted war of attrition with Israel through the non-state armed groups it supports in different Arab countries.

Tehran has been under heavy domestic and ally pressure to act against Israel due to the severe Israeli blows it was subjected to after the 7th of October, in the aftermath of Hamas’ Operation Al-Aqsa Flood. Thus, Tehran engaged in a ‘controlled retaliatory act’ against Tel Aviv. Announcing the attack in advance gave Israel time to prepare for it. Moreover, the prior announcement of the retaliatory act showed that Tehran did not intend to provoke a regional war. In addition to this, the attack was also meant to restore Iranian deterrence in the face of Israeli attacks. Since the 7th of October, Israel has increased its attacks on Iran-backed groups in Lebanon and Syria. Specifically in Syria, many high-ranking IRGC figures were killed in the Israeli attacks, showing a change in the Israeli conduct against Iran. Prior to the 7th of October, Israel focused on destroying Iran-backed groups’ infrastructure in Syria and primarily targeted non-Iranian militias. However, this modus operandi was shifted with the Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, and Tel Aviv started targeting the principal planners of attacks against Israel, namely the IRGC figures, leading to many casualties from the Iranian side. The embassy attack was the pinnacle of the Israeli response to Iran within the context of the Tel Aviv-Tehran protracted war of attrition.

Although the Iranian attack on Israel was very much contained in terms of scale and led to limited material losses, this does not change the fact that Israel was exposed to an essential blow in full view of the world, which is likely to deter it from any attacks on Iranian territory in the future without coordination with the United States, as Israel realizes it has the risk of being alone in any regional confrontation without American political and military cover.


Additionally, it is estimated that the interception of the Iranian missiles has cost over a billion USD to the Israeli side. In the long run, Israel is likely to face difficulty in financially managing the Gaza War.

Having said that, Tehran also does not seek a wider regional war due to its risks and costs. Iran has declared the end of its retaliation unless Israel attacks it again.

The US Position Vis-a-Vis the Iranian Retaliation

The main backer of Israel, the US, helped Israel defend itself in the face of Iranian retaliation. Nevertheless, to the dismay of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Biden administration is unwilling to provoke a regional war. US interests and priorities in the region necessitate avoiding a regional confrontation. The outbreak of an all-out conflict in the Middle East constitutes a threat of draining the USA’s political and military efforts and resources in a way that serves the interests of its most important opponents, China and Russia. The emergence of a multipolar world has already declined the popularity of the US in the Middle East. In the wake of the Gaza War, this trend has been strengthening. The countries of the region seek alternatives like China and Russia in their foreign policy ventures. 


Despite this reality on the US side, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long been trying to provoke a regional war and drag the US into it in an attempt to prolong his political life in Israel. Once the war in Gaza comes to an end, Netanyahu is highly likely to stand trial in his country for his mistakes/negligence in Hamas’ Operation on the 7th of October, accompanied by other corruption charges.

After the Iranian retaliation, the Israeli officials claimed that they would target Iran at a proper time and in an appropriate manner, indicating the USA’s unwillingness to help Israel respond immediately. Nonetheless, the Netanyahu government will likely capitalize on rhetoric in the fight against Iran. The Israeli war cabinet is also likely to capitalize on the ‘victory rhetoric’ against the Iranian attack, as Israel and its allies intercepted the majority of Iranian missiles.

Where Does Arab States Stand in the Recent Escalation

During the Iranian retaliation, some Arab countries exchanged radar tracking information and sometimes prepared their forces to assist. The Iranian attack was the culmination of years of American efforts to break the political and technical barriers that hindered an overt military cooperation between Israel and Sunni Arab governments to create an Arab-Israeli alliance against Iran. Now, Tel Aviv sees an opportunity to form an American-Israeli-Arab alliance against Tehran. In such a critical moment that can shape the future of the Middle East, another regional heavyweight, Turkey, may come to the fore in mediation efforts.  Recently, CIA Director William Burns asked Turkish Intelligence Chief İbrahim Kalın to mediate with Tehran.


What is next for Israel?

International isolation against Israel has been increasingly growing with each passing moment. The war in Gaza is stuck for Israel, which makes the Netanyahu government more vicious in its massacres in Gaza. Israel has also failed to free hostages from Hamas. A ceasefire between Hamas and Israel also does not seem within reach for the time being. Additionally, Israel is far away from its declared goal of destroying Hamas. Overall, things are not going well for Netanyahu at a time when the domestic pressure on him is amplifying. Therefore, it may take a lot of time for Israel to retaliate against Iran, explicitly taking into consideration that the US is very unwilling to back an Israeli step that can pave the way for a regional war.