45-Year-Old Enmity, Then A Syria Spark: Build-Up To Iran Attack On Israel

45-Year-Old Enmity, Then A Syria Spark: Build-Up To Iran Attack On Israel

Demonstrators in Iran celebrate after Tehran’s strikes on Israel

New Delhi:

Iran’s massive drone offensive against Israel comes against the backdrop of a nearly 50-year-old rivalry that emerged in the wake of the 1979 Iranian revolution. The Hamas attack on Israel cities last year and Tel Aviv’s brutal counterstrike triggered a war in Gaza and Iran is learnt to be backing several players such as Hezbollah in their offensive against Israel.

The drone attack, however, is the first instance in which Iran launched a strike against Israel from its own soil. Tehran has underlined that it is an act of self-defence after Israel’s suspected attack on its embassy in Syria’s Damascus earlier this month. Iran has now put the ball in Israel’s court, saying that it hopes there would be no further escalation and “the matter can be deemed concluded”.

Here’s looking at factors and build-up leading to the escalation:

The Origins

In the 1979 Iranian revolution, the Pahlavi dynasty that had aligned itself with the US was overthrown and a theocratic dispensation led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini took over. Khomeini effected a 180-degree shift in Tehran’s engagement with the US, describing it as the Great Satan. He coined the epithet, “Little Satan” for Israel for its backing of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last monarch of Iran, its close ties with the US and the Israel-Palestine tensions.

As the hostilities between Tehran and Tel Aviv increased, Khomeini also accused Israel of attempts to thwart Iran’s nuclear programme.

For decades, both Tehran and Tel Aviv have attacked each other, but have denied their hand in such offensives. Over the years, their conflict has been termed as a “shadow war”.

Lebanon and Syria emerged as two battlegrounds for this shadow war. Iran backed Hezbollah, which has been targeting Israel from Lebanese soil. In Syria, Tehran backed President Bashar al-Assad as Israel launched airstrikes in Syrian territory. Golan Heights, an area in Syria occupied by Israel after the 1967 war, is used by Tel Aviv for its attacks in Syria and Lebanon.

Hamas Attacks Israel

On October 7 last year, Hamas operatives launched a shock attack on Israel’s cities, killing over 1,200 people and taking more than 200 hostages. In public remarks, Iran denied any role in the Hamas offensive, but welcomed the attack on Israel cities. According to reports, posters with messages such as “the great liberation has begun” came up in prominent street squares in Tehran. Mutliple media reports said Iran had actively backed Hamas operatives in planning and executing the attack on Israel’s cities.

The October 7 attacks triggered a brutal counterstrike from Tel Aviv, which launched an all-out offensive in the Gaza Strip. According to UN estimates, more than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli retaliation so far.

Hezbollah opened another front by launching a volley of rockets at Israel from Lebanon.

The Trigger: Damascus Strike

On April 1, suspected Israeli warplanes bombed Iran’s embassy in Syria. Tehran said seven military advisors, including senior commanders, were killed in the attack. “We strongly condemn this atrocious terrorist attack that targeted the Iranian consulate building in Damascus and killed a number of innocents,” said Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad.

Asked about the strike, an Israeli military spokesperson said: “We do not comment on reports in the foreign media.”

Iran’s UN mission described the strike as a “flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter, international law, and the foundational principle of the inviolability of diplomatic and consular premises.”

It urged the UN Security Council to condemn the attack and said Tehran reserved the right “to take a decisive response”.

Hezbollah, too, vowed to retaliate and said “this crime will not pass without the enemy receiving punishment and revenge”.

The Drone Offensive

Last night, Iran launched a barrage of drones and missiles targeted at Israel. The Iranian army said its drone and missile attack has “achieved all its objectives”. “Operation Honest Promise… was completed successfully from last night to this morning and achieved all its objectives”, Mohammad Bagheri, Iranian armed forces’ chief of staff, told state TV, news agency AFP reported.

The Israel defence forces said most drones and missiles were successfully intercepted by the Iron Dome and the Arrow Aerial Defense System. “We intercepted 99% of the threats launched to the territory of Israel. It’s a very significant strategic success,” Israeli military spokesperson Daniel Hagari said.

Iran’s ally Syria said it was putting its ground-to-air defence systems and major bases on high alert, according to reports.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed a decisive response and said Tel Aviv has been preparing for a direct attack by Tehran for years.

Iran has warned that its response “will be much larger” than the drone strikes if Israel retaliates. Iran’s armed forces chief General Mohammad Bagheri has told state media that it would target US bases too if Washington backs Israel’s counterstrike.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button