People of Iran celebrating the missile strikes on Israel on April 14th, 2024.

Shifting sands: Iranian attack on Israel challenges West Asia’s power dynamics

Foreign Affairs

Iran’s April 14th attack on Israel was its first direct strike and the maiden one from another country for Tel Aviv after the Arab-Israel war.

Iran conducted its first-ever direct strike on Israel-occupied territories on April 14th to retaliate against the latter’s attack on the consular section of the Iranian embassy in Damascus, Syria. This Iranian retaliation has changed the once-embedded perception of Israel’s military superiority.

On April 1st Israel bombed the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria, killing two generals of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and five other officers.

Since its foundation in 1948, the Israeli state received state-of-the-art Western military equipment and training that enabled it to showcase a superior military prowess in the region. This helped it achieve victory over the Arab armies, primarily in the 1967, Six-Day War.

The Iranian strike on Israel now challenges the latter’s technological superiority, as Tehran’s missiles have penetrated its unassailable air defence systems.

This Iranian strike will have major repercussions in the region, as the US, the primary security guarantor for the Arab Gulf and Israel, will certainly have to re-adapt to this Iranian boldness.

The failure from the Israeli side—exhibited in its failed retaliatory strike—changes the perception of Iranian strength and will certainly have consequences on the American security role in the future.

How events in April shaped the West Asian security landscape

Iran’s retaliatory strikes against Israel on April 14th presented a pivotal moment in the West Asian geopolitical scene.

Israel has always gone away with its violations, like the attack on the Iranian consulate, with impunity. However, the Iranian retaliation of launching around 300 drones and cruise missiles towards Israel has changed the power dynamics. It has been the first strike by a foreign state in Israeli territory since 1991 Iraqi missile strikes.

Iran has responded with a calculated response, which aimed at sending a clear message of deterrence to the Israelis.

Iran despite losing at least seven IRGC members, conducted the attack as a severe warning, which showed the Israelis what the Iranian defence is capable of.

The targets of Iran’s retaliation were primarily the Navatim Airbase and the Ramon airport which are situated in the Negev Desert in Israeli-controlled territories.

Reportedly these were the airbases which were used to conduct the attack on the Iranian consulate. 

Iran redefining the power dynamics

According to Scott Ritter, a former intelligence officer and a military analyst, this strike from Iran was methodical. Iran reportedly used Shahed 136 drones, Emad ballistic missiles and the Paveh cruise missiles.

These missiles were able to penetrate Israeli defence, and Iran did not deploy its state-of-the-art hypersonic capabilities in this attack, such as the Fattah and Khorramshahr-4 hypersonic missiles.

The weapons used in this strike were already known to the Israelis and were not surprise elements. By utilising this method, Iran has gained substantial knowledge of Israel’s defence capacities, and its striking capabilities and, therefore, this will give Iran a strategic advantage that could be leveraged in future conflicts.

According to Ritter, this attack has changed the perception of power in the region and solidified Iran’s position as a formidable military player in West Asia.

The Iranian foreign minister emphasised, that the Iranian operation provided a new definition of the balance of power in West Asia.

The Israeli defence reportedly intercepted the majority of the missiles and drones. However, the Iranian strategy was to overload the air defences with less expensive drones and missiles to penetrate the shield. Israel spent around $1.3bn in intercepting Iran’s missile and drone attacks, which cost Iran a fraction of that amount at around $280m, some reports suggest Israel spent 39 times more amount of money than Iran to repel the strike.

The IDF spent a large amount of its stockpiles, and its budget repelling an Iranian attack in one night, which significantly exhausted its resources.

When compared at the base level, Iran boasts a $1.7 trillion economy (in PPP terms), while Israel boasts $530bn. Iran has a population of 88.5m and Israel 9.5m. Reports have suggested that the Israeli economy has plunged by 20% since October 7th.

On the other hand, Iran despite crippling sanctions has enabled itself to grow a strong industrial base, and without the aid of Western military technology, has domestically developed modern weaponry that can now challenge state-of-the-art Western air defences.

Furthermore, Iran has a network of allies across the region, who would come to aid in a full-scale conflict with Israel. Iran has been a key supplier to Russia in its war with Ukraine and NATO, as it supplies the Shahed class attack drones. Iran’s military production capacity has significantly grown over the years.

Meanwhile, Israel is dependent on US supplies for its air defence interceptors, its missiles for the fighter jets and various equipment, which it cannot produce. The US supply to Israel has been constant since October.

However, the US is also entangled in the Russia-Ukraine war theatre and the rising tensions in the South China Sea strategically over-stretches the US military supplies.

Ukraine has consumed a lot of the US military equipment, and the collective West is struggling to compete with Russia in its production of military equipment. This certainly has impacts on Israel’s current capacities against Iran. Therefore, the US’s supply to Israel is limited and that’s a boon for the Iranians and the resistance in the region.

Decoding the events

From Israel’s response to Iran’s retaliation, it is evident that the US has stepped in, and Israel was prevented from further escalating the conflict. If Israel were to retaliate that would certainly cause a serious escalation. Such an event would drag the US into the conflict, and this could result in the US bases in the Arab Gulf being targeted by Iranian missiles. This was seen during the Iranian retaliation to Qasem Soleimani’s assassination.

A further escalation would severely disrupt the maritime trade routes, in the Gulf, and the Red Sea, disrupting the oil supply and the global economy. Furthermore, the US elections are scheduled to take place later this year. An escalation would certainly have a daunting impact on the prospect of Joe Biden’s re-election.

The Financial Times reported the US and Iran held talks mediated by Oman before Iran’s retaliation.

The Iranians would also be significantly impacted if a further escalation occurs, as Iran is already suffering from sanctions instituted by the West. It has recently de-escalated with Saudi Arabia, with the brokerage of China and Iraq.

This de-escalation is a major strategic gain for Iran in the region, as the Israelis were attempting to ally with the Gulf Arabs against Iran, brokered by the US. The Gaza War has also disrupted Saudi-Israeli normalisation talks, and the Saudi, Egyptian, Emirati and Iranian membership in BRICS+ are among major political gains for Tehran.

Much of these political gains could be severely disrupted if a war breaks out between Israel and Iran. Iran has also recently purchased high-profile military hardware from the Russian Federation, which includes training aircraft and the SU-35 fourth-generation fighter jets.

The diplomatic responses on Iranian strikes

The Iranian strike was met with widespread condemnation from the Israeli allies in the West. This includes the European Council President Charles Michel, the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and US President Biden. However, the same leaders failed to condemn Israel’s blatant violation of international law and norms in its attack on the Iranian diplomatic mission in Damascus.

Despite receiving diplomatic support from the West and its mainstream media, it appears Washington did not entertain Israel’s demands for further escalation. This further implies that Israel’s diplomatic position globally seems more volatile than ever.

Many of Israel’s non-Western allies have also not supported its provocation with Iran. For instance, India one of Israel’s recent non-Western ally has expressed “concern” over the attack in Damascus. Furthermore, many non-Western and non-Muslim states have already ended diplomatic relations with Israel, including South Africa’s ICJ case against Israeli genocide in Gaza.

Additionally, the Gulf governments’ denunciation of Israel’s bombing of the Iranian embassy in Damascus has significant ramifications for the idea of Israeli hegemony in the area. The UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia have all condemned the act.

Also, these countries did not condemn the Iranian retaliation after Israel’s provocation. This is a significant shift in the position of the Arab Gulf as Iran was once seen as the primary threat to the security of the Gulf countries.

This divergence from traditional alignments suggests a recalibration of regional dynamics, with Arab states demonstrating a more unconvinced stance against the Western-backed scaremongering of the Arabs against Iran. Especially after the normalisation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and their subsequent membership in the BRICS+ organisation raises serious questions about the once-historic unilateral influence of Washington on the Arab Gulf.

Challenges and consequences

After Israel is outmuscled by Iran in this exchange, it seems likely that Israel will push for a more hostile response against Palestinian resistance by an invasion of Rafah. 

In the aftermath of Iran’s bold move, and Israel’s failure to uphold its position of strength, the sands of power continue to shift. This now reshapes the regional dynamics and tests the once dominant position of the US-backed Israeli defence industrial capacity and the US influence in the Gulf capitals. Events since October 7th only showcase Western and Israeli losses in the fields of military deterrence and political authority.

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MSc in International Management, University of Exeter (2019). Specialised focus on Political Economy, Development in the Global South, and the Gulf region. BA in International Business and International Relations (Dual Honours at Keele University, 2018) with Interests in International affairs, history and economics. Editor and founder of

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