Iran Israel analysis

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This is a podcast episode titled, Iran Israel analysis. The summary for this episode is: <p>In this podcast Janes analysts discuss the Iranian attacks on Israel on the 14 April. They highlight the military systems used by Iran and the performance and impact of these on Israel. </p><p><br></p><p>They also discuss the implications of this attack going forward, potential avenues of Israeli retaliation and considerations for further escalations in global tensions.</p>

Speaker 1: Welcome to the World of Intelligence, a podcast for you to discover the latest analysis of global military and security trends within the open source Defence Intelligence Community. Now onto the episode.

Louis: Hello there. Welcome to James. This is a podcast session covering the missile and UAV attacks overnight on Israel, on the 13th to 14th of April 2024. My name is Louis Smart. I am the manager of the James Country Intelligence Middle East and North Africa team. Today, I'm joined by Jeremy Binney, who is our James Middle East Defence specialist. I'm also joined by Elliot Chapman, who is Country Intelligence Senior Analyst covering Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. And we also have Suraj Gainsan on the call, who is a Country Intelligence Research Analyst covering Lebanon and Syria. Hi everyone and thanks for joining. Now, today I wanted us to discuss the Iranian attacks on Israel. In particular, I'd like us to look at a few things like the military systems used by Iran and the performance and impact of these on Israel. And then I wanted us to talk about the implications of this attack going forward and to consider potential avenues of Israeli retaliation, and risks between Iran and Israel that aren't just a full scale war, which many in the media think is coming. So to begin, let's kick off with you Jeremy, and the report you wrote yesterday on the attack itself, and what systems were used and how effective these were. Could you give us an overview of the attack itself and then maybe talk about your main assessment and findings on the main systems and weapons used?

Jeremy: Yeah, sure, Louis, thank you. I think it's probably useful to note, just from the offset, that the Iranians probably had a tough time calibrating this retaliation for the attack on their embassy in Damascus. So, on one hand, they need to do that directly from Iran because they can't really do it through one of their allied groups. It wouldn't seem right because it's a direct attack on the Iranian embassy, and they have to attack the Israelis somehow. We were looking at it last week, and it's quite difficult to attack an Israeli embassy within range in a similar sort of way that the Israelis do. So, that leaves perhaps doing an attack on Israel. And then we were wondering, okay, so what do they do? They can't really risk firing maybe 12 ballistic missiles and having them all shot down because this is going to look quite lame. So, what they ultimately did on the night of the 13th or 14th, is launch quite a lot of weapons. So, the Israeli figures are 320 in total. 120 of those being ballistic missiles. So, quite a big attack that they've judged in terms of we need to get some of them through because they will be expecting quite a high level of attrition to Israeli defenses, but they still need to get some through to show their military capabilities. In the end, the Israelis are saying 99% of weapons were intercepted. So, arguably this looks like a massive triumph for Israeli air defenses and really raises questions about the long range strike capability that the Iranians have been building up over many years to be able to give it some sort of deterrent against the Israelis. So, big questions around that, but if we begin to dig into it in a little bit more detail, then I think there's a slightly more nuanced picture. So for example, all the one- way attack UAVs and the cruise missiles were shot down. They didn't even reach Israeli airspace. But a key part of that is actually what the U.S., and to a lesser extent UK, France and Jordan did in terms of intercepting those. And I think probably what's key to that is that there are airborne early warning aircraft up there that can see these relatively low flying weapons coming in from Iran, and cue fighter aircraft onto them so that they can all be shot down. And this system has worked really well in this case. So, seemingly nothing got through. But the Americans are saying they got 80, albeit seven of those are on the ground in Yemen, but that still represents a very significant proportion of those air breathing threats that were launched. How many the UK, France and Jordan got, we don't know, but certainly very much a team effort on this front. So, whether the Israelis would've been able to do that on their own I think is perhaps questionable and certainly flying over Syria and possibly Iraqi airspace, and Jordanian airspace, then I think that would've been definitely challenging given the numbers of weapons involved to do that without the coalition. At the same time, when we start looking at the ballistic missiles, we've got a situation where it looks like the Arrow weapon system, so with both Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 interceptors, has performed amazingly well and it's completely justified the massive billions and billions invested in it over the years to counter exactly this kind of scenario and defend Israel. But actually the Americans chipped in here as well. So, destroyers sailing off the Israeli coast presumably, shot down eight I think it was. So, it doesn't seem a massive contribution when we put that against 120. But then the Iranian ballistic missiles seem to have suffered massive reliability problems. Certainly we know from photographs emerging that rocket motors were falling out of the sky in probably in Iran, Iraq, Jordan. So, rocket motors do come out of the sky after they separate from the reentry vehicle, which is what carries the warhead, but generally they come down quite close to the target. So, these are falling way short, these are fails. And there was a report in the Wall Street Journals that said up to 50% of the Iranian ballistic missiles failed. So, at this stage, if we're looking at just 60 making it to Israel, and then the U. S. Navy shoots down a load of those, the actual, what we're seeing the Israeli Arrow system do is it begins to look less impressive. So, the number of ballistic missiles the Iranians actually get to Israel is really a critical number in terms of their ability to saturate Israeli air defenses. So, what got there seemed to perform well from what the Israelis tell us. And then there's lots of social media clips, emerged of the attack in terms of the dramatic scenes, especially the stuff filmed from the Temple Mount, Haram al-Sharifq. So, quite iconic scenes of the battle in the skies between the incoming ballistic missiles and the interceptors. And quite frankly, they're quite hard to interpret what's going on there, but certainly it does look like there were multiple impacts in the same location. The Israeli figures suggest there were only three, and the IDF then showed us craters. Two at Nevatim Airbase, and another in the Mount Hermon area, in the Golan Heights. So, that would seem to account for all the ballistic missiles they said got through. But the suggestion that more might have got through, albeit they perhaps were interceptors failing. We're not a 100% sure, but perhaps the 99% of the total weapons intercepted doesn't necessarily really reflect what's going on there. There's something in those statistics that is perhaps a little bit misleading. And then we know from what they showed us that at least one that got through did quite well in terms of it accurately hit the taxiway, one of the taxiways at Nevatim Airbase. And so, given that the Israelis were, they're known to have at least been spoofing satellite navigation signals because everyone in Jerusalem and Amman thought their phones were showing they were in Beirut, et cetera. So, this Iranian guidance system on this missile seemingly could overcome that and knew where it was to actually accurately hit Nevatim Airbase. The other crater at the air base is a little bit unclear exactly where that landed. So, it's seemingly proof that the Iranian missile, at least one of the Iranian missiles that did get through, does have the accuracy to reach its target accurately. So, that's some sort of takeaway for the Iranians. Are the IRGC happy with this? I suspect not. They were hoping they were going to get more weapons through, that they were probably going to hit Nevatim and possibly other military targets harder. But certainly what this does for them is enable them to learn the lessons. And if they have to do this again, they feel like they have to do this again. They need to work on various things. They either need to improve the reliability of their ballistic missiles. They need to get more launches out. They perhaps investing in UAVs, long- range UAVs and cruise missiles isn't the way forward, now. Given their apparent vulnerability and they can focus on other things. There's been some speculation that they might have used a new Fattah ballistic missile, which has a powered re- entry vehicle. So, it's got a rocket motor just from some of the video clips that it looked like some of the re- entry vehicles were picking up speed, but that remains unconfirmed. That higher velocity is potentially a way of defeating Israeli air defenses. And certainly perhaps those were the ones that did get through their air defenses. We don't know yet. There hasn't really been much information on that. For Haram Shah ballistic missile, no evidence that was used either. So, this is their most powerful ballistic missile, liquid fuel. Has reliability problems from what we can gather in testing, but still, so if that's got a 2000 kilogram warhead, that terminal velocity is going to be quite high. It's going to be harder to intercept. It's not a complete bust for the IRGC, in terms of they learn the lessons, there are other things they can do to penetrate Israeli air defenses. And also I think we need to add that it's fair to say that the coordination with Hezbollah was suboptimal here, in terms of yes, Hezbollah were carrying out attacks around the same time, but nothing that would've really drawn away Israeli ballistic missile defenses. And obviously we believe, or the Israelis say they have tactical ballistic missiles. Which potentially they could use to help expend Arrow interceptors within the relevant timeframe, leaving less interceptors for them to shoot down Iranian ballistic missiles coming in. So yes, ostensibly a massive victory for Israel and the Arrow weapon system. But I think there are a few more nuances in there to suggest that the IRGC could do this again and could do it more effectively in the future.

Louis: Yeah. Really great summary there, Jeremy. I was actually going to ask you some questions on the Haram Shah and the Fattah, but you've answered those in that great analysis there. So, thank you and really interesting stuff. So yeah, so alongside the performance of these missile systems and UAVs, which you've noted Jeremy, I think the next important aspect to consider around this situation or the next steps that each side may take. If one jumps online for any period of time at the moment, one quickly sees the media talking about a war between Israel and Iran as basically guaranteed. And that we're on a cusp of a possible full- scale conflict between the two countries. I mean, while the risk is certainly higher than it was last week, I think it's probably important to consider other options and pathways for these two countries than just a one- on- one direct conflict. I also think the media hasn't been too cognizant of domestic dynamics in each country and how the actions that we're seeing might be driven in part by some domestic considerations. In particular, the Iranian side, this was a retaliation ostensibly for the Israeli strike against the building in Damascus, which killed a top IRGC general. So, I think there could be pressures from the IRGC within Iran here to put up some sort of deterrent framework, and that the Ayatollahs may have been pressured into that. And that may actually lead to a rather more conservative side from Iran here. Iran may actually be trying to, it doesn't want a war in particular, but it has got domestic considerations as well in these attacks. So, I think going on from that, I think it would be good to discuss a scenario where a tit- for- tat dynamic emerges here, rather than just full- scale war straight away. Where we see Israel potentially retaliate against Iranian assets in the immediate to short term, in response to this attack, possibly as soon as this weekend. Which then sees Iran pressured into another response. And Jeremy, you talked about the lessons learned that Iran may take for any next attack and the dynamic that could see. So, in particular, I think this dynamic could emerge by Israeli striking assets in Lebanon and Syria. So, to discuss that, Siraj, you're on with us today. In terms of Lebanon, could you give us your assessment and view on this area of the conflict, which to be fair has already been a source of tension and high tension since October of 2023. And which could be an area for this tit- for- tat dynamic to emerge?

Siraj: Yeah. Sure, Louis. So to start off, I think I agree with Jeremy's assessments when he said Hezbollah did not join Iran to escalate tensions in its retaliations against Israel. Broadly since 11th April, Hezbollah militants claimed about 29 attacks against Israel. This is comparable to the number of attacks claimed by the militants in the previous five days. That is from 6th to 10th April, where they claimed about 31 attacks. So, we don't see an escalation from Hezbollah necessarily because this would ultimately draw Israel into retaliating against Hezbollah and Iran, which once again shows that Iran seeks to avoid an all- out war with Israel. So yeah, in the Lebanon front, in terms of the attacks claimed in the last five days, that's what we've seen. But in terms of attacks specifically on 12th April, that is one day before the Iranian retaliation against Israel, Hezbollah militants launched at least 40 Katyusha rockets on IDF positions. Including artillery positions on Al- Zawra area in the Golan Heights. The IDF claimed that it intercepted an unspecified number of these rockets while the remaining fell in open areas. On 13th April, Hezbollah launched several one- way UAVs on, what it claimed was the Iron Dome air defense system in Tal Naama located adjacent to Kfar Blum, Kibbutz in Israel's upper Galilee region. Hezbollah claimed that the UAV targeted the Iron Dome system, which was repositioned allegedly by the IDF following repeated attacks by Hezbollah on the Iron Dome system in Kfar Blum. While IDF acknowledged the UAV attack on Tal Naama. It did not confirm the target as the Iron Dome air defense system. On 15th April, Hezbollah claimed an IED attack in Tal Ismail located between Ain Dara and Alma el- Chaab, that injured at least four Israeli Security force members. The IDF confirmed the attack stating that the IED struck members of the Golani unit and the Yahalom engineering unit while they were working on the fence in the Western region on the border with Lebanon. So, looking at these attacks, we haven't really seen a notable Israeli retaliation to these attacks. In fact, the last notable Israeli attack in Lebanon was on 8th April, where Israeli airstrikes targeted a Radwan unit commander called Ali Ahmad Hussein. The IDF stated that he held the rank equivalent to a brigade commander, and he was responsible for planning and executing attacks against Israeli security forces in Ramim in Northern Israel. James was not able to confirm Hussein's involvement in the attacks in Ramim, but we have recorded near daily attacks against Hezbollah, I'm sorry, against Israeli Security forces by Hezbollah militants in Ramim since 7th October. So, coming back to the point, since 8th April, we have not seen an Israeli retaliation, but that is not to say that Israel will not continue its targeting of Hezbollah militants. This is irrespective of its stance against Iran or its possible retaliation against Iran because its front against Hezbollah is separate from its attacks with Iran. So, despite of whether Iran had carried out the attacks or not, Israel was going to carry out its operations against Hezbollah. They've been very clear about that since the beginning, since seventh October. So yeah, we're going to see attacks on Hezbollah positions in the media to short term. Moving on to Syria, since at least 11th April, local Syrian media have been reporting that Hezbollah militants and Iran- backed militias, have been repositioning or evacuating their personal and equipment from their usual known headquarters, especially within Sayyidah Zaynab and al- Khalomun areas in Damascus Governorates. There were some reports that they're doing the same thing in Aleppo Governorate as well. And seemingly the Iran- backed militias and Hezbollah militants were also removing flags and any banners that would indicate their presence in these areas. This is since 11th April. This indicates that they were expecting an imminent Iranian retaliation against Israel for the 1st April attacks or 1st April operations against the IRGC in Damascus. Since then, since the Iranian attacks on Israel since 13th April, there has been no indication in local Syrian media that the Iran- backed militias or Hezbollah militants have sort of moved back to their headquarters. Meaning, they are expecting Israeli retaliation in Syria as well. So, this is in lieu of Israeli direct retaliation against Iran or Iranian soil. So, if Israel seeks to not want to escalate this war, it could, like you mentioned, definitely target positions in Syria and Lebanon in the immediate to short term.

Louis: Thank you for that Siraj. Yeah, really interesting that those two areas could be avenues of Israeli retaliation, and then we set up another dynamic right for that tit- for- tat where Iran may feel pressured to respond, especially if any other IRGC personnel are caught up in those strikes. Yeah, thank you for that. And that leads on, I guess to the Israeli calculation side of this, in terms of just what might Israel's calculations be in response to this attack and how they may go forward. So, to talk about that Elliot's here to talk about that and potential Israeli side of this. So, over to you, Elliot.

Elliot: Yeah. I think the context of this attack is important. I think if you understand Israeli mindset right now, we're talking about a time when the international communities sort of support, at least visibly seems to be very, very poor for Israel. The war in Gaza has led to Netanyahu and Biden, publicly having a bit of a spat at times and the closest allies of the country really seeming at odds. But, so this attack has kind of been a unifying force for all of those countries, UK, U. S. and France. And in that sense, Israel's really been trying to emphasize that the attack is actually not a thing that has hurt Israel really, but has strengthened its relationships with its closest allies and partners. And so, in that sense it's been quite good, or at least it's been something that Israel's tried to leverage to appear good. Again, yeah, the effectiveness of its air defense systems has been another thing that they've really, really tried to emphasize. As well as the international supports. There's a lot of emphasis on the insignificance of the damage to the air base in Nevatim. We saw the, I think Defense Minister earlier today give a speech from the air base. Lots of footage released of Israelis quickly patching up the runway, et cetera, to try and get it back in working order. And so, there's a portrayal of strength from the Israeli side. And really this has been brushed off. At the same time, they've really been trying to push the message that the scale of the attack and the fact that it came directly from Iran is incredibly significant. And this isn't attacking Israeli interests abroad, like we saw from the Israeli attack in Damascus. This is a direct attack on Israeli soil. So, that requires a response. And the type of response that might come from Israel is really hard to assess to be honest, at this stage. There's a lot of, as Siraj was alluding to, a lot of Iranian interest in the region that could be attacked. But again, we're talking about a sort of a tit- for- tat in a scenario where Iran has directly attacked Israel. I think the scope in Germany might be better to speak on the technical aspects of this, but the scope for a direct attack on Iran by Israel is quite complex and difficult to pull off. And there's a lot of opportunity for failure if Israel tried to directly attack Iran. And the reality is, even if it could, the extent to which it could inflict meaningful damage is also not really well known. So Jeremy, I don't know if you want to jump in there and input?

Jeremy: Yeah. So, I think given that they did brush the attack off, but they still want to hit back at Iran, then I think they pick a military facility in Western Iran and they probably launch long range standoff weapons. Ideally something you can launch from Syrian airspace hit that, blow that up a bit, and just to prove Israeli dominance. I don't think it has to be massive because they managed to defend well against the Iranian attack. They don't have to retaliate in a massive, it doesn't have to be a massive military retaliation. And ideally, it's going to have just a military target will do to hit back for Nevatim. So, I think it could be quite limited in that respect. Now, whether that then sets off another round where the Iranians have to retaliate again, then it could well do. And at that point, are we then into that dynamic and what are both sides' ability to escalate, given that this is such a long range war, and there are various other countries and militaries in between. So for example, if the U. S. gets a big say over what happens in Syria and Iraqi airspace, how much can the U. S. constrain Israeli operations to attack Iran, just like they constrained Iranian operations to attack Israel by shooting down all the UAVs. And obviously you wouldn't be shooting down Israeli aircraft, but you could make it very difficult for them to get their tankers, aerial refueling tankers, and use those. You could disrupt them if the Israelis say they're going to do it against your wishes. And as you keep in mind, the Israelis don't have their new tank aerial refueling tankers yet, and that is a massive constraint in terms of the numbers of aircraft they can get into a firing position against Iran. So, there is a big conversation we can have around military capabilities in terms of both sides being able to wage a tit- for- tat, long range war over a potentially a protracted period of time.

Elliot: Yeah. And so much of that depends on these kind of political aspects that you mentioned. Like, does Biden... where is his line for supporting such an action? I mean, clearly we've already had a lot of statements that are just saying that from lots leaders, UK included, saying that restraint needs to be shown. So, does an attack on a Western military base, is that an exercise of restraint or is that too far? And I don't know that we can necessarily know exactly what's going through the mind of the leaders who might influence that operation.

Jeremy: That's true. It's a matter of speculation at the moment in terms of how will the Israelis succumb to pressure from its friends to not retaliate and close this particular cycle of retaliation. But I mean, there's always the possibility that the Israelis will take out another Iranian general somewhere in the future and then we go again.

Elliot: Yeah.

Louis: Yeah. Really interesting stuff. Yeah, we could talk about this for another hour and I'm sure we will outside of the recording, but I just want to say thank you all for your insight, analysis and thoughts on the subject.

Speaker 1: Thanks for joining us this week on the World of Intelligence. Make sure to visit our website, janes. com/ podcast, where you can subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google Podcasts, so you'll never miss an episode.


In this podcast Janes analysts discuss the Iranian attacks on Israel on the 14 April. They highlight the military systems used by Iran and the performance and impact of these on Israel.

They also discuss the implications of this attack going forward, potential avenues of Israeli retaliation and considerations for further escalations in global tensions.

Today's Host

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Harry Kemsley

|President of Government & National Security, Janes

Today's Guests

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Elliot Chapman

|Research Analyst, Middle East and North Africa team
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Jeremy Binnie

|Middle East Defence Specialist
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Lewis Smart

|Country Intelligence Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Team Manager, Janes