• Friday, May 24, 2024
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Israel versus Iran — What an open war between them could look like


The US and its European allies fear that an April 1 attack in Syria that killed several Iranian officers could push Israel and Iran to the verge of something they’ve avoided for decades: open war. Until now, Iran, with one exception, has used proxies to attack Israel, while Israel has avoided airstrikes on Iranian soil. Now Israel is bracing for retaliation for the strike in Damascus, a prospect provoking fears of a regional conflict.

How might a war between them be fought?
At this point, the two likeliest scenarios appear to be a missile barrage into Israeli territory, either from proxies in Lebanon, from Iran itself, or a swarming drone assault. A more remote possibility is that Iran could also direct proxies to deploy militants on the ground from Syria or Lebanon. The one precedent for Iran attacking Israeli territory came in 2018, when Tehran fired rockets from Syria on positions in the Golan Heights.
The details of Iran’s current capabilities contained in a US Defense Intelligence Agency assessment released with little fanfare on April 11 suggested that any Iranian attack on Israel would likely be a combination of missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones.

“Tehran’s missile force is increasingly augmented by Iran’s UAVs and serves as the regime’s primary conventional deterrent against attacks on its personnel and territory,” the agency said. It added that Iran has a “substantial inventory” of ballistic and cruise missiles capable of striking targets 2,000 kilometers, or about 1,250 miles, away — putting Israel well within range.

Israeli fighters would be expected to strike back, including those in its fleet of stealthy F-35I Adir and non-stealthy F-15I fighters. An F-35 made aviation history when the Israeli Air Force announced in November that it had shot down a cruise missile from the southeast headed toward Israeli airspace.

Israel scrambled navigational signals over the Tel Aviv metropolitan area early this month in preparation for an Iranian attack, a showcase of its capabilities.

Another likelihood is cyber war. More than a decade ago, malware known as Stuxnet compromised operations at an Iranian nuclear enrichment facility in what’s suspected to have been a US and Israeli operation. Iran has also launched attacks of its own, including a hack that sought to cripple computers and water flow for two Israeli districts, according to the Council on Foreign Relations