Saturday , 25 May 2024

Despite Warnings Of Imminent Attack, Iran Keeps Suspense

iranintl – President Joe Biden all but confirmed Friday night that his “Don’t” message to the Iran’s government would not stop its looming retaliatory attack against Israel.

“Sooner rather than later,” he said, when reporters asked him about the timing of Iran’s seemingly imminent attack, reiterating that the US is “devoted to the defense of Israel” and would not allow Iran “to succeed.”

Many Iranian officials have been walking the line drawn by their Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei during his speech on Wednesday, that Israel has to be “punished” for bombing Iran’s consulate in Damascus, and killing two senior Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) commanders.

On Friday, IRGC’s deputy commander of operations General Abbas Nilforushan posted an image resembling a missile with the quote by Khamenei written on it: “The Zionist regime made a mistake by attacking the Iranian consulate. It should be punished and it will be.”

For a moment Friday night, it seemed like the ‘punishment’ had started, with Hezbollah firing 40 rackets towards Israel. It had no follow up, however. The Israeli army announced that it had shot down most rockets and that those slipping through had hit open spaces.

After three days of speculation, laden with media reports quoting anonymous American sources, some began questioning the veracity of the underlying intelligence, suggesting that the regime in Iran could be playing a mind game, sowing confusion, and shaking Israel without so much as raising a finger. 

But most governments seem to continue to take the threat seriously, advising their citizens to avoid traveling to –or even leave– Iran and Israel. European airlines Lufthansa, Austrian, and Air France, have suspended their flights to and from Tehran. Australian airline Qantas has paused its non-stop flights from Perth to London because the 17.5 hour flight is possible only by using Iranian airspace.

Airlines are perhaps more concerned because the memory of Iran’s last “hard revenge” is still fresh –when on January 8, 2020, following the assassination of Iran’s preeminent military man, Qassem Soleimani, the IRGC shut down the Ukrainian passenger flight PS752, killing all 176 on board. First Iran denied it had targeted the plane with two anti-air missiles, but then grudgingly admitted its role but claiming it was a missile operator error.

Many in Iran fear that they would end up paying the price, however the current crisis unfolds. A ‘significant’ attack on Israeli interests, as predicted by US intelligence, could beget severe retaliation from a beleaguered Netanyahu looking to reassert his authority. And a decision to not retaliate against Israel, many Iranians fear, could mean their government channeling its rage and anxiety inwards, taking it on the people instead of foreign militaries.

“Ali Khamenei is trying to start a war to save his failing regime,” Iranian Prince Reza Pahlavi posted on X. “But this is not a war that our nation wants. Iranians have made it clear: the criminal mafia occupying Iran does not represent our nation, our values, or our aspirations.”

In reality, the wishes or aspirations of ordinary Iranians has very little bearing on the looming crisis. The likeliest scenario, still, is Iran attacking Israeli interests through allied armed groups in the region.

CNN reported late Friday that US intelligence has observed some movement of Iranian military assets, including cruise missiles and one-way drones around the country. This may hint at direct strikes against Israel from Iranian territory, which contradicts other intelligence suggesting any potential operation would be launched by Iran’s proxies.

According to the report, US officials are unsure if these movements are offensive preparations or defensive measures in anticipation of a joint Israeli-American retaliatory strike.