April 7, 2024 | The Jerusalem Post

After Damascus strike, Iran’s goal: Isolate Israel, deter the US

It can then also invest in its nuclear project while it tries to distract the region with the Gaza war.
April 7, 2024 | The Jerusalem Post

After Damascus strike, Iran’s goal: Isolate Israel, deter the US

It can then also invest in its nuclear project while it tries to distract the region with the Gaza war.

After Iran has been signaling about “punishing” Israel for almost a week since the Monday airstrike that killed Mohammed Reza Zahedi, an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps general, Tehran appears to have set a course on its messaging and response.

Iran’s regime has a message for the US, Israel, and the region. The message is this: Iran wants to punish Israel, and it wants America to be deterred.

Washington said on Tuesday that it was not involved in the airstrike, which hit a building next to the Iranian consulate in Damascus. Tehran views that as an attack on Iranian soil and a major breach of the concept of consulates being off-limits from attacks.

The Iranian Revolution took place amid the storming of the US Embassy in Tehran and the taking of hostages by the regime, but Iran apparently doesn’t see that as being a similar event.

On Friday and Saturday, the IRGC continued to say it would respond. It claimed that the Quds (Jerusalem) Day event showed that “the issue of Palestine remains the first issue of the Muslim world and that of the awakened non-Muslim societies. It reaffirms the righteousness of the Palestinian people including the oppressed Gazans.”

Iran’s Chief of Staff of Iranian Armed Forces Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Baqeri claimed that the US is also responsible for the strike on Iran’s consulate. Tehran thus continues to threaten America and claim that it is an accomplice in the attack.

“Gen. Baqeri reiterated that the US should be held accountable for the Israeli regime’s carnage in Gaza and other crimes the regime is committing in the region out of desperation,” Fars News reported.

Iran’s top commander also claims that Israel has become “bogged down” in Gaza. He compared this to how Israel was portrayed before October 7, when it was seen as projecting power throughout the region. Iran wants Gaza to become a “quagmire” for Israel. Israel has been fighting Hamas for six months. Baqeri is openly saying that the October 7 attack was the “tip of the iceberg regarding the prowess of the Palestinians,” Fars News says.

Iran’s plan is to drag Israel into a long Gaza war and isolate it in the region. October 7 was one part of the plan. Now the Islamic Republic is also pushing proxies to attack the Jewish state on multiple fronts. For instance, it has prodded Iraqi militias to target Eilat with drones.

Hezbollah joining the war

As Iran tries to isolate Israel and still hold out the chance it could retaliate against the US for the Damascus incident, it also had a message for America. “Iran advises US not to fall into Israeli trap,” the same Fars News said on Saturday, October 6.

“Tehran has warned Washington to stay away from any potential clash between itself and the Zionist regime, while the United States has cautioned Iran against targeting American facilities and interests.”

Iran is trying to distance the US from Israel. In the wake of October 7, the US turned around an aircraft carrier and sent it back into the Eastern Mediterranean to deter Hezbollah, Iran or others from joining a major war against Israel. Hezbollah did join the war, but primarily by firing a small number of rockets per day. This has now become more than 2,500 rockets, but nevertheless, the full power of Iran’s proxies has generally been held back, their powder still dry.

Iran wants to isolate Israel, distance the US from it, or make the US feel deterred, and then it will be able to carry out more attacks on the Jewish state. Iran sees this as a “ring of fire” strategy to surround Israel and also to open multiple fronts.

It also thinks October 7 exposed Israel’s weaknesses. Iran’s long-term goal is to weaken the US in the region and get it to leave, but until that happens, it wants America deterred. Tehran challenged Washington via 200 attacks by proxies in Iraq and Syria and also killed three US service members in Jordan in January.

Iran is now portraying itself as being in dialogue with the US. It says it has warned the US, and says Washington has “asked Iran not to target American facilities.”

Tehran sees this as a major propaganda victory. Iranian propaganda has long been designed to put out messaging in the West that tries to characterize US backing of Israel as potentially leading to a US-Iran war.

For instance, in the lead-up to the Iran deal, pro-Tehran lobbyists in the West put out hundreds of messages about how the US had to choose between a deal or “war.”

Later, during the Trump administration, Iran’s foreign minister used to put out messages talking about the US and Israeli “B team” and portraying the Trump administration as being led by Israel into more war in the region.

As such, Iran seeks to prey on talking points in the US that prefer isolationism, or others also arguing that the “Israel lobby” has influenced US policy to be “anti-Iran.” Tehran is cognizant of how these messages play out and it uses them selectively. Now it calls the current conflict in the region an Israel “trap.” It knows US elections are coming and it would like to prey on this issue.

Iran wants the US-Israel rift to grow. It can then also invest in its nuclear project while it tries to distract the region with the Gaza war. Iran is exploiting US messaging after the Damascus attack as well, trying to show that there is daylight between the US and Israel. This is how Iran is angling to exploit the airstrike in Damascus to influence things in the region.

Seth Frantzman is the author of Drone Wars: Pioneers, Killing Machine, Artificial Intelligence and the Battle for the Future (Bombardier 2021) and an adjunct fellow at The Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


Hezbollah Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War Military and Political Power