Israel and Iran's apparent strikes give new intelligence to both militaries

WASHINGTON (AP) — Israel has demonstrated its military dominance over rival Iran Its apparent accuracy is striking It struck military and nuclear targets deep in the heart of the country, faced little significant challenge from Iran's defenses, and provided the world with new insights into the capabilities of both militaries.

The international community, Israel and Iran all signaled hope that Friday's airstrikes would end 19 days of deadly strikes and counterstrikes, the most public test between the two deep-seated rivals.

The move to open fighting began on April 1 Israel is suspected of killing Iranian commanders At the Iranian Embassy in Syria. prompted that Iran retaliates Last weekend, more than 300 missiles and drones were deployed by the United States, Israel and regional and international partners, helping to strike Israel without significant damage. Then came the apparent Israeli strike on Friday.

With all parties surveyed, regional security experts predict that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right government and the country's allies will be encouraged by the Israeli military's better performance. However, in response to international appeals, both Israel and Iran appeared to have withheld their full military might throughout the more than two weeks of hostilities.

Importantly, experts cautioned that Iran is not bringing its huge military advantage over Israel — Hezbollah and Iran-allied armed groups in the region — into a major battle. Hezbollah in particular is capable of stifling Israel's ability to defend itself, especially in any multi-front conflict.

Overall, “the big lesson to take away is that unless Iran does everything at once, it's the David, not the Goliath, in this equation,” said senior fellow and longtime Charles Lister. Regional researcher at the Washington-based Middle East Institute.

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Aside from those Iranian proxy forces, Lister said, “the Israelis have every advantage at every military level.”

In Friday's attack, Iranian state television said the country's air defense batteries were fired upon in several provinces following reports of drones. Iran's military chief, General Abdolrahim Mousavi, said the groups targeted several flying objects.

Lister said it appeared to be the sole mission of a small number of Israeli planes. After crossing Syrian airspace, they appear to have fired only two or three Blue Sparrow surface-to-air missiles into Iran from a deadlock in the airspace of Iran's neighbor, Iraq.

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

Israel has not claimed responsibility for the April 1 or Friday attacks.

The Washington-based Jewish Institute for National Security, which promotes Israel-US security ties, said Friday's small strike underscored the potential damage Israel could do if it decides to launch a major strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. .”

Iran's barrage last weekend, by contrast, appears to have used most of its 150 long-range ballistic missiles capable of reaching Israel 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers), said retired General Frank McKenzie, a former commander of the US Army. Central Command.

Especially given the distance involved and how easy it is for the U.S. and others to track missile deployments with overhead space sensors and regional radar, “it's hard for Iran to make a bolt out of the blue against Israel,” McKenzie said.

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The Israelis, for their part, “have shown that Israel can now strike Iran from its soil with missiles, possibly drones,” said Alex Watanga, director of the Iran Program at the Middle East Institute.

Meanwhile, Iran's performance on Friday may have raised doubts about its ability to defend against such an attack, Watanga said. He noted that Iran is 80 times the size of Israel and therefore has more territory to defend.

In addition, Israel demonstrated that it could mobilize the support of powerful regional and international powers, both Arab and Western, to defend against Iran.

On April 13, the United States helped Israel defeat an Iranian missile and drone attack. Jordan and Gulf states are believed to have provided varying degrees of assistance, including sharing information about incoming attacks.

The two-week standoff provided the biggest showcase yet of Israel's growing ability to work with its former adversaries, Arab states, under the framework of the US Central Command, which oversees US forces in the Middle East.

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

But the exchange of Israeli-Iranian strikes revealed more about Iran's military capabilities, with Lebanon-based Hezbollah and Iranian-allied armed groups in Iraq and Syria seemingly largely sidelined.

With tens of thousands of experienced fighters and massive arsenals, Hezbollah is one of the most powerful armies in the region.

After a fierce war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006 that killed more than a thousand Lebanese civilians and dozens of Israeli civilians, the two sides have backed away from escalating another full-scale conflict. But the Israeli and Hezbollah armies still routinely exchange fire on each other's borders. Israel-Hamas war In Gaza.

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

Six months of fighting in Gaza have “absolutely stretched” Israel's military, he said. “If Hezbollah were to go all out and launch most of its rocket and missile weapons at Israel, the Israelis would seriously struggle to deal with it.”

As for ground forces, he said, the Israel Defense Forces “would be incompetent at this point” to fully combat both Hezbollah and Hamas if Hezbollah suddenly opened a second front.

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