The apparent attacks and counterattacks by Israel and Iran provide new insights into both armies

FILE – Iranian worshipers walk past a mural depicting the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini (right), Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (left) and the paramilitary Basij force, holding posters of Ayatollah Khomeini and Iranian and Palestinian flags during an anti-Israel rally after Friday prayers in Tehran, Iran, April 19, 2024. This month’s unprecedented direct attacks between Iran and Israel reveal deeper insights into both militaries. Experts say Israel’s apparent precision strike deep inside Iran on Friday demonstrated Israel’s military dominance on almost all fronts. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Israel demonstrated its military dominance over hostile Iran with its apparent precision strikes that hit military and nuclear targets deep in the heart of the country, projecting few significant challenges to Iran’s defenses and giving the world new insights into both militaries was offered. ‘ possibilities.

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The international community, Israel and Iran all expressed hope that Friday’s airstrikes would end a dangerous 19-day series of strikes and counterstrikes, a very public test between two deep rivals that had previously stalled without the most direct confrontation.

The move toward open fighting began on April 1 with the suspected Israeli assassination of Iranian generals at an Iranian diplomatic complex in Syria. That prompted Iran’s retaliatory fire last weekend with more than 300 missiles and drones, which the US, Israel and regional and international partners helped crush without significant damage in Israel. And then came Friday’s apparent Israeli attack.

As all sides took stock, regional security experts predicted that the far-right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the country’s allies, emboldened by the superior performance of the Israeli military, would emerge. However, in response to international calls, both Israel and Iran appeared to withhold their full military force during the more than two weeks of hostilities, aiming to send messages rather than escalating into full-scale war.

Crucially, experts also warned that Iran had not brought its biggest military advantage over Israel – Hezbollah and other Iran-allied armed groups in the region – into the main battle. Hezbollah in particular is capable of straining Israel’s ability to defend itself, especially in any conflict.

Overall, “the big lesson to be learned is that unless Iran does absolutely everything at its disposal at once, it is just the David in this equation, not the Goliath,” said Charles Lister, a senior fellow and longtime regional researcher at the Washington-based Middle East Institute.

Apart from these Iranian proxy forces, “the Israelis have all the advantages at every military level,” Lister said.

In Friday’s attack, Iranian state television said the country’s air defense batteries were fired in several provinces after reports of drones. Iranian army commander General Abdolrahim Mousavi said the crews had attacked several flying objects.

Lister said it appeared to have been a single mission by a small number of Israeli aircraft. After crossing Syrian airspace, they appear to have fired only two or three Blue Sparrow air-to-surface missiles at Iran, most likely from a standoff in the airspace of Iran’s neighbor Iraq, he said.

Iran said its air defenses fired on a major air base near Isfahan. Isfahan is also home to sites linked to Iran’s nuclear program, including the Natanz underground enrichment site, which has been repeatedly targeted by suspected Israeli sabotage attacks.

Israel has taken no responsibility for the April 1 or Friday strikes.

The Jewish Institute for National Security of America, a Washington-based center that promotes security ties between Israel and the US, was quick to point out that Friday’s small attack underscored that Israel could do much more damage “should it decide to launch a larger attack to launch at Iran’s nuclear facilities. .”

Iran’s barrage last weekend, by contrast, appears to have used up most of its 150 long-range ballistic missiles that can reach Israel, more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) away, said retired Gen. Frank McKenzie, a former U.S. Army commander. Central Command.

Especially given the distance involved and how easy it is for the US and others to track missile deployments through space sensors and regional radar, “it is difficult for Iran to generate a lightning bolt against Israel out of thin air” , McKenzie said.

For their part, the Israelis have “demonstrated that Israel can now strike Iran from its territory with missiles, perhaps even drones,” said Alex Vatanka, director of the Middle East Institute’s Iran program.

Friday’s Iranian performance may have cast doubt on Iran’s ability to defend itself against such an attack, Vatanka said. Iran is about 80 times the size of Israel and thus has much more territory to defend, he noted.

Moreover, Israel has demonstrated that it can rally support from powerful regional and international countries, both Arab and Western, to defend itself against Iran.

The US had taken the lead in helping Israel crush Iran’s missile and drone attack on April 13. Jordan and the Gulf states are believed to have provided varying degrees of assistance, including by sharing information about incoming attacks.

The two weeks of hostilities also marked the largest demonstration yet of Israel’s growing ability to work with Arab countries, its former enemies, under the U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. forces in the Middle East.

The US under the Trump administration shifted responsibility for its military coordination with Israel to Central Command, which already hosted US military coordination with Arab countries. The Biden administration has worked to deepen the relationship.

But while the exchange of Israeli-Iranian strikes revealed more about Iran’s military capabilities, Lebanon-based Hezbollah and other Iran-allied armed groups in Iraq and Syria appeared to remain largely on the sidelines.

Hezbollah is one of the most powerful armies in the region, with tens of thousands of experienced fighters and a huge arsenal of weapons.

After an intense war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006, which killed more than a thousand Lebanese civilians and dozens of Israeli civilians, both sides have refrained from escalating into a new full-scale conflict. But Israeli and Hezbollah armies still routinely shoot across each other’s borders during the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

Hezbollah “is Iran’s only remaining potential advantage in this whole broader equation,” Lister said.

Six months of fighting in Gaza have left the Israeli army “completely stretched”, he said. “If Hezbollah went all out and launched the vast majority of its missile and rocket arsenal at Israel at once, the Israelis would have serious difficulty dealing with it.”

And as for ground forces, if Hezbollah were to suddenly open a second front, the Israeli army would be “incapable at this time” of fully fighting both Hezbollah and Hamas, he said.

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