‘Israel realizes that Iran has no need for escalation. If an opponent realizes that, you have lost your deterrent effect’

‘Israel realizes that Iran has no need for escalation. If an opponent realizes that, you have lost your deterrent effect’
‘Israel realizes that Iran has no need for escalation. If an opponent realizes that, you have lost your deterrent effect’

Jenne Jan Holtland, how important was the slain commander, Mohammad Reza Zahedi, to the Iranian regime?

“Since 2021, he was the top commander of the Revolutionary Guards in Syria and Lebanon. That is a very important figure for Iran. His deputy is also among the dead.

“And then he was also killed in the Iranian embassy complex in Damascus, in the consulate building, where the ambassador has his residence. Israel has killed more senior commanders and soldiers in Syria in recent months, but we have not yet seen a direct attack on an embassy building.”

Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei said on Tuesday he was seeking revenge on Israel. How do you expect Iran to respond?

“I was reminded of a double suicide bombing in the Iranian city of Kerman early this year, which resulted in almost a hundred deaths. We now know that IS was behind this, but the Iranian government pointed to Israel in its propaganda in an attempt to make it part of the war on the Gaza Strip.

“For that reason, Iran then said it wanted to strike back and fired missiles into northern Iraq, killing four. Iran claimed to have hit a base of the Israeli secret service Mossad, but that is a dubious claim. Evidence for this has never been found.

“You can think of such reactions because a direct attack on Israel out of the question is. Neither party will do that, because that is a declaration of war. Certainly Iran does not want that, the calculation remains that Israel is far too powerful an opponent with nuclear weapons.

“But Iran has relatively few options. The country itself is present everywhere in the region, but Israel is not. You might think of attacking the Kurds in northern Iraq because they sold oil to Israel in the past. Or Iran must hit American targets, because the US is an important ally. The Iranian Foreign Minister has already said that he considers the Americans partly responsible, but it is unclear whether the Americans even knew about the attack in advance.”

What is the significance of this attack for Israel?

“Firstly, Israel is in danger of becoming isolated, for example due to the unique position that the US took by abstaining from the UN resolution. By regionalizing the war and diverting attention from the Gaza Strip, they may keep the US closer by showing that this is not just about Hamas and Gaza.

“Second, a drone struck late Sunday evening in Eilat, the port city in southern Israel, causing some damage. A pro-Iranian militia in Iraq said they were behind it. It could be that Israel wanted to respond to this attack on Israeli territory.”

Has Israel crossed a new line with this attack?

“Israel has been continuously expanding the border since at least October 7. Israel realizes that Iran has no need for escalation. If an opponent realizes this, you will lose your deterrent effect. So Israel is trying to draw out the Iranians without involving Iran in a regional war. Since October 7, Israel has been eliminating more and more senior members of the Revolutionary Guard, especially on Syrian soil.”

Finally, you are making this phone call from Jordan, where there are protests against the bond between Israel and Jordan. What exactly is going on there?

“These protests have been sporadic since the start of the war, but have been happening almost every day for a week now. This has to do, among other things, with Ramadan. The demonstrators meet at iftar (the meal consumed by Muslims during the fasting month of Ramadan immediately after sunset, ed.) and then head to the Israeli embassy in the capital Amman after ten.

“Last night there were several thousand and a lot of police. There were rows of police officers standing next to the demonstration who at one point said: ‘Dear people, it’s over at midnight.’ And that is what happens.”

Why do people take to the streets?

“Jordan is relatively pro-American and pro-Western and receives a lot of development aid, for example from the Netherlands and Germany. The country made peace with Israel in 1994, mainly for strategic reasons. But many ordinary Jordanians say they are not familiar with that treaty and say that the government should now terminate the treaty because of what they call the genocide in the Gaza Strip. They also oppose various trade agreements.

“That is in solidarity with the Gazans, but also to put an end to what is called the normalization of Israel. Before October 7, more and more Arab countries were signing peace treaties with Israel. The Jordanian demonstrators see the war in Gaza as a tipping point for this normalization. They believe that Hamas has taken the lead in this. I heard a lot of pro-Hamas chants yesterday.”

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Israel realizes Iran escalation opponent realizes lost deterrent effect


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