Will Iran respond to the attack on Isfahan? - opinion

The Isfahan attack has a clear message for the Iranian regime. However, a response to that message may be some time in coming.

 EYEWITNESS FOOTAGE shows what is said to be the moment of an explosion at a military industry factory in Isfahan, Iran, last month, in this still image from a video. (photo credit: WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS)
EYEWITNESS FOOTAGE shows what is said to be the moment of an explosion at a military industry factory in Isfahan, Iran, last month, in this still image from a video.

The three-drone attack on the Iranian Defense Ministry’s military-industrial complex in Isfahan was not the first qualitative incursion of its kind in Iran. It was preceded by several intelligence operations, most notably the assassination of prominent nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, considered the architect of Iran’s nuclear program, in a very subtle operation in late 2020.

He was attacked near his home on the border with Tehran province by agents recruited in Iran and there the nuclear scientist’s car was shot at with a remote-controlled automatic weapon.

The latest attack on the Isfahan compound was likely carried out by drones controlled from Iran. According to a letter from Amir Saeed Irafani, Iran’s envoy to the UN, to the secretary general of the international organization, Iran has officially blamed Israel for the attack.

This is in order to uphold what Tehran considers its legitimate right to protect national security and respond decisively to any threat or aggression, reserving the right to respond at an appropriate time and place according to its own perception.

How was the Isfahan attack carried out?

The Isfahan attack reportedly used equipment and explosives smuggled into Iran from Iraq’s Kurdistan region with the help of opposition groups and in coordination with a foreign security service. Some analysts believe that the attack in Isfahan was not very violent, which explains Iran’s relatively calm response to the attack.

However, the issue is not so much the severity of the attack but its scale and consequences, as the breaching of the security wall erected by the IRGC with its tight security organizations indicates a loosening of the regime’s security apparatus. Iran’s response to the attack in Isfahan is not as simple as it seems to the supporters and followers of the Iranian regime.

We must not forget that the Iranian regime has so far failed to respond to several situations that were more serious than the bombing in Isfahan, including the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani, which the Iranian regime made a mammoth issue out of. It has not responded to the assassination, for which the US has clearly claimed responsibility.

But the regime has iced its response to the operation, sticking to limited and calculated missile strikes to throw dust in people’s eyes and claim a response. In truth, the regime has downplayed the issue to deny the US and its allies the opportunity to hit the Iranian regime with a direct military operation.

Why does Iran want to retaliate?

But this time, evidence analysis may show that the Iranian regime wants to retaliate because it fears that the latest attack is the prelude to a more dangerous series of attacks on nuclear facilities or prominent Iranian figures. What is holding Iran back from a possible response is the regime’s desire not to become embroiled in crises of which it itself might be the victim.

SO, THE idea of swallowing insults is firmly rooted in the attitude of the mullahs, whom in Khomeini’s time legitimized the “drink from the poisoned chalice” rule to save the regime from a fatal fate.

The Iranian regime is well aware that the current international environment is not conducive to a response to the terrorist attack in Isfahan. Against the backdrop of Iran supplying drones to Russia, fighting in Ukraine, Tehran’s relations with most major countries are very strained. Iran’s relations with France, the United Kingdom and Germany have been noticeably strained since it was revealed that Iran has supplied drones that strengthen Russia’s position in the war in Ukraine.

Iran is aware that it faces complex regional and international circumstances, particularly the right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, some members of which are pushing for an accelerated strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, and overwhelming European anger over Iran’s delivery of drones to Ukraine that primarily attack and target Ukrainian infrastructure.

After the Isfahan attack, three senior US officials visited Israel: CIA Director William Burns, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

Perhaps the order of these visits is not unusual, especially since they come after the largest such maneuvers between the US and Israel. This raises questions about what is going on between the US and Israel right now.

The attack in Isfahan coincided exactly with Burns’ visit. Iran’s real problem is not the party that carried out the attack in Isfahan, but more importantly the degree of deterioration of Iran’s security system. It is well known that the Isfahan factory is an important facility under the control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Moreover, the attack was very well planned and informed, as the drones hit the target with great precision, similar to Mohsenzadeh’s assassination with bullets that hit him precisely, but not his wife, who was in the same car with him.

This echoes the evolution of the technical means used in the attack, as well as the precise information available to the planners and perpetrators of the attack. The bottom line is that the Isfahan attack has a clear message for the Iranian regime. However, a response to that message may be some time in coming, as it is feared that any Iranian response would lead to an escalation of confrontation with Israel.

Netanyahu’s government is motivated and some of its members are determined to launch a direct military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, especially after receiving strong US support in the recent joint exercise, the largest of its kind between the two countries.

The writer is a UAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate.