A gathering in Tehran in support of IRGC attack on Israel, April 13, 2024

Khamenei’s Retaliation: A No-Choice ‘Slow-Motion Blitzkrieg’

Sunday, 04/14/2024

Iranian regime’s direct retaliation against Israel from Iran’s soil establishes beyond any doubt that the ruling clerics are reeking in desperation in the face of Israel’s humiliating April 1 strike.

Israel, escalating its attacks against Iranian targets in Syria, raised the bar and hit a building in Iran’s embassy compound in Damascus, killing seven IRGC officers, who were key in Tehran’s proxy operations. For 13 days, Khamenei was facing a Hobson’s choice.

Khamenei’s regime has been suffering from an unprecedented crisis of legitimacy and credibility in recent years and it seeks to reassure its “armed supporters” within and without the Iranian borders of its enduring rigor and robustness. The retaliation seems to have been a desperate face-saving attempt by Khamenei against all odds.

From the outset the operation was doomed to fail as the low-tech Iranian drones and cruise missiles had to traverse a 1000-mile distance between the two countries. It was inevitable that the behemoth of the Israeli, American, and British regional and satellite surveillance capabilities would detect and track down this cavalcade of slow-moving projectiles en route to the Israeli air space. Thus, the bulk of the Iranian swarm, except for a handful few, amply became an easy prey for American, British, Israeli, and Jordanian air defenses that managed to intercept and shoot them down with agility and precision. Based on early estimates by the Israeli Defense Forces, few of the said projectiles did reach the Israeli air space and even fewer managed to effectuate an impact on any target on Israeli soil. The Iranian regime’s propaganda machine has already staged out jingoistic carnivals on major Iranian city streets that seek to replay the militant Islamic youths’ parades of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) years.

An anti-Israel billboard is seen from a street in Tehran, Iran April 14, 2024.

In fact, the gap between the Iranian regime and people at large has been widening at levels reminiscent of the last couple of years of the Iran-Iraq War when the Iranian masses could no longer bear chronic shortages in basic goods, food, high fuel costs, and commodities. The poverty index in the country has reached heights never seen before in contemporary Iranian history and the regime’s lack of legitimacy has even reached the traditional working classes that supplied the bulwark of the volunteer fighters during the Iran-Iraq War. Khamenei’s regime has even lost that critical support base in the recent years.

Since 2018 when US President Donald J Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran (JCPOA), the Iranian economy has been in a ruinous downward spiral. The ruling clergy and their praetorian IRGC have been struggling to preserve their regime from economic collapse at the hands of runaway inflation, rampant government rentier corruption, a twenty-year drought, widening international sanctions, and dwindling oil revenues. Over the past 6 years the regime has had to face off mass nationwide protests that have called for the regime’s ouster. From November 2019 nationwide brutal crackdown to the unprecedented suppression of the 2022 Woman, Life, Freedom uprising, the regime’s security forces have committed countless crimes against humanity toward civilians. The magnitude of this brutal suppression has led to a fact finding mission mandated by the UN Human Rights Council.

A regime that once professed to be the patron of all “oppressed peoples” is now only in power through its security and military industrial complex. Since 7 October 2023 Hamas attacks on Israel, Iran’s Shia Imperium has unleashed the arsenal of suicide drones, rockets, and missiles (ballistic and cruise) of its armed proxies from Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen upon Israel, the US bases, as well as the maritime navigation in the Red Sea.

For years, the Islamic regime engaged Israel via its armed proxies, primarily and chiefly, the Hezbollah of Lebanon, Hamas, and the Islamic Jihad of Palestine. The humiliation of having two his top generals killed by Israel on April 1 was, however, a tremendous blow to Khamenei’s brand as a truly anti-Israeli leader amongst Iran’s friends and foes alike. He could no longer hide behind its proxies and had to confront Israel directly.

Irrespective of the miserable failure of the Iranian retaliation against Israel, the Israeli war cabinet has effectively called Khamenei’s bluff by vowing to respond to the Iranian retaliation. As Iran and Israel have no common borders, the war of attrition with Israel will inevitably be an all-out asymmetrical war through proxies. The question is whether Russia and China would continue to economically bail out the Iranian regime. Only time and the continuing strategic value of Iran in the West-East rivalries can answer such a question with certainty.

In the end, Khamenei’s direct attack against Israel from the Iranian soil represents a radical “doctrinal shift” that can only preserve his legitimacy amongst the regime’s regional proxies. In the 1980s, many Iranians perceived the war against Iraq as just. Except for the regime’s ever thinning armed supporters, any war of attrition, direct or asymmetrical, will further burden the collapsing Iranian economy. In this context, most Iranians are economically impoverished and politically discontented with the regime. Moreover, great many of them do not perceive any conflict with Israel as just. Khamenei may soon realize that his gamble to save face will backfire, within and without the Iranian borders.

The opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily the views of Iran International.

Follow developments on Iran International's Live coverage of ongoing tensions between Iran and Israel.

More News