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Breaking News: The Tactical Victory Over Iran and the Strategic Entanglement

Yesterday, Iran made a move that, on a typical day—a day without Israel embroiled in multiple arenas - would have undoubtedly been considered a Casus Belli, a cause for war.

The silver lining tonight is that from a military-tactical standpoint, Iran's efforts were an abject failure following the first comprehensive activation of the regional alliance forged through the Abraham Accords. This alliance linked the radar systems of Israel and the US with those of regional countries, facilitated joint military exercises, and even led to the sale of Israeli air defense technology. Such cooperation enabled the early detection and interception of an astounding 99% of the 300 UAVs and missiles launched by Iran at Israel.

However, yesterday’s attack on Israel was not a mere isolated incident; it marks the onset of a new epoch in the Middle East and even globally. It signals the beginning of a protracted war of attrition between Iran and Israel, a conflict that promises to see many fluctuations. Over the long haul, Iran is posing a challenge not just to Israel but to the US-led world order, bolstered by a historic self-perception of a superpower and by diplomatic support from China and Russia and its proxies. Similar to the pre-October 7 situation with Hamas, it seems Iran was motivated by perceived Israeli strategic vulnerabilities amid escalating tensions with the US and increasing social polarization within Israel.

The U.S. Arena

The week started with the news of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signing a letter urging President Biden to halt arms supplies to Israel but concluded with unequivocal American support for Israel.

Two boxers: iran and Israel

However, American support is likely to come with strings attached. If Israel wishes to maintain international backing it lost quite shortly after October 7, it must closely coordinate with the US. Israel will likely see a reduction in its unilateral freedom to act against Iran. From the perspective of the US administration, the paramount goal is to restore peace and stability, and significant pressure is anticipated on Israel to restrain its responses (a stance we believe contradicts long-term American interests). Thus, any Israeli action must be strategically targeted, or else it would be pointless.

Maintaining a regional and international alliance against Iran over time will be a formidable task, necessitating sophisticated political and diplomatic maneuvers from Israel, the likes of which we have not seen thus far during the war.

The Palestinian Arena

The month of Ramadan ended with Sinwar feeling thwarted in his efforts to agitate the Arab world and the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria. Now, with Ramadan over, Sinwar is facing the multi-arena campaign he desired, ignited by the Iranian attack and the tragic murder of a 14-year-old Israeli boy Benjamin Ahimeir z”l. This likely means that a hostage deal is off the table for now, and significant doubts hover over the potential IDF incursion into Rafah.

The US will likely seek to leverage its support against Iran to make gains in the Palestinian arena. The “shareholders” of the Palestinian Authority, which the US is pushing to be part of any future settlement related to Gaza, are probably satisfied today. Despite its reservations, Israel must develop a contingency plan that outlines its desired parameters to a revitalized PA. We have previously discussed the ideal parameters for such an arrangement, focusing on bolstering aspects of sovereignty that do not threaten Israel while minimizing those that do.

The Strategic Dilemma

We might be witnessing the final direct conflict between Israel and Iran before Iran reaches the nuclear threshold. With the necessity of long-term international and regional support for this enduring struggle, Israel is on the brink of a critical strategic decision. Which risk is Israel prepared to take: Vis-a-vis Iran or or the Palestinians? (See here on the strategic dilemma Israel faces between the Iranian and Palestinian challenges).


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