Opinion | Balance Is Of The Essence Amid Iran-Israel Tensions

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In a startling turn of events, Iran unleashed a daring aerial assault on Israel last week, using drones and missiles to wreak havoc in the skies of Jerusalem and other important locations. Although Israel's air defences intercepted the threats, including cruise and ballistic missiles, Iran's attack has sent shockwaves through the region

Israel, a nation with a vast military apparatus, operates with over 1.6 lakh active military personnel across the army, navy, and paramilitary, as reported by the International Institute for Strategic Studies' (IISS) The Military Balance 2023. In addition, Israel has 4.6 lakh reserve forces and 8,000 paramilitary members. On the other hand, Iran's military is said to have more than 5 lakh active members, with an additional 2 lakh reserve personnel divided between the army and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), according to The New York Times.

Far-Reaching Effects

Iran's decision to launch such a direct assault on Israel comes amidst escalating tensions between the two nations. Over the past year, Iran has faced numerous threats and attacks from Israel, including targeted assassinations and military operations. The recent strike on Iran's embassy compound in Damascus served as a catalyst for Iran's retaliatory strike, signalling its resolve to stand up against what it perceives as Israeli aggression.

The repercussions of Iran's aerial assault extend far beyond the immediate area of attack. West Asia, already grappling with various conflicts and proxy wars, now faces heightened tensions and instability. The international community, particularly the US, has been closely monitoring the situation. President Joe Biden's reaffirmation of Washington's commitment to Israel underscores the gravity of the situation and the need for a swift and decisive response.

West Asia On Tenterhooks

The October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel and the subsequent war in Gaza have had significant implications for West Asian politics. Israel's objectives are to destroy Hamas and secure the release of hostages, but doubts have emerged about the feasibility of these goals. The US has supported Israel but expressed concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza. Iran, meanwhile, has publicly supported Hamas and activated proxy groups to carry out attacks against Israel and the US. The Axis of Resistance, led by Iran, consists of militant groups that target Israeli and US interests. Hamas aims to disrupt the normalisation process between Israel and Arab governments. Saudi Arabia, too, is coordinating with Israel but it has called for restraint in the battle with the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Palestinian Authority has condemned Hamas, while Egypt worked with Israel to blockade Gaza. The situation remains fluid, with various actors pursuing their own interests and alliances.

For Israel, the challenge lies in formulating a measured and strategic response to Iran's aggression. The nation must tread carefully, considering the consequences of further escalating the conflict. A delicate balance must be struck to ensure the safety and security of Israel and its citizens, while also avoiding exacerbating tensions in the region.

Handle With Care

The conflict between Iran and Israel highlights the broader complexities in West Asia. Arab Gulf monarchies, already on edge due to regional instability, must navigate the situation with caution. The Abraham Accords, aimed at normalising relations between Arab states and Israel, now face uncertainty amidst escalating tensions. Turkey, straddling alliances with NATO and Russia, must carefully weigh its response, while Qatar's role remains uncertain amidst the chaos.

At its core, this conflict is one that lacks a clear method or rationale. Escalation between Iran and Israel would only lead to a devastating war of attrition, with no clear winner. It is imperative that all parties prioritise dialogue and seek a peaceful resolution to prevent further escalation and loss of innocent lives. Only through diplomatic efforts and restraint can the region hope to emerge from this crisis unscathed.

The aerial assault on Israel has sparked widespread concern throughout West Asia, raising fears about regional instability. The international community is on edge too. As the situation unfolds and the potential for escalation looms, there is a critical need for diplomacy and careful action. With global attention focused on the unfolding events, the urgency for dialogue and a peaceful resolution has never been greater. It is imperative to prevent further loss of innocent lives and preserve the stability of the region's future. 

(The author is former Special Secretary, Government of Andhra Pradesh)

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author