Iran-Israel Engage in Defensive War Through Offense
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
Issue Net Edition | Date : 19 Apr , 2024

History of warfare is a testimony to the fact that the difference between the concept of “defense” and “offense” is ambiguous. War is about victory and victory can only be achieved by offense. Militarily, defence is a temporary phase before or after an offense. Israel’s bombing of Iran’s consulate in Syria was a defensive act in many ways – targeting the leadership of an adversary planning an offense.

The history of warfare underscores the blurred lines between defense and offense, where victory typically necessitates offensive actions.

It is very similar to the Chinese concept of preemptive defence or proactive defence. Chinese offensive against India in 1962 is recorded by the Chinese as a ‘Self-defence Counter Attack’! Iran’s retaliation following this episode was explained in terms of its right to self-defense as guaranteed by the UN Charter. While Israel’s action produced a definite result, Iran’s counter-attack did not as the enormous resources deployed and used in retribution produced neither counter-force nor counter-value military objectives.

In many ways it was just “military-strategic communication” with a declaration of intent to the international community that this was the end of the action put into motion by Israel on its part.

This was perhaps the first instance of Iran and Israel directly attacking each other, with Iran being more direct than Israel, for the time-being. Israel through its attack on Iran’s consulate in Syria has successfully provoked Iran to attack Israel directly as against its incessant reliance on proxies – a bait.

On the other hand, Iran’s exercise of its right to self-defense through an offense tailored around escalation control through early warning and communication of its decision to the US and others has allowed Israel to now exercise its own right to self- defense by either directly attacking Iran or maintaining a ‘threat in being’.

In hypothesis, Israel’s strategic objective is Iran’s nuclear capability which is simply unacceptable to Israel and also Saudi leadership. A nuclear capable Iran is an existential threat to the very survival of Israel and this has been clearly stated by its leadership time and again. If and when Iran goes nuclear it will trigger a tit-for-tat response from the Saudi’s too as it too cannot live in peace with a nuclear capable Iran.

Concepts like preemptive defense (as seen in Chinese military doctrine) and escalation control are utilized to justify offensive actions under the guise of self-defense, as demonstrated by both Israel and Iran in the given scenarios.

Immediately after the terrorist attack by Hamas on 07 October 2023, many scholars and military experts in India expressed of the intelligence failure in Israel despite acknowledging that this was rare. This assessment was overlooking historical facts – Sept 11, 2001 and Pearl Harbour in December 1941 attacks. In both these cases, despite having all the information the intelligence community ignored warnings and their intelligence assessment was all wrong. In hindsight this has been proven to be a deliberate misfeasance.

Following a so-called surprise attack by Japan against the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, the US got a “reason” to join the Second World War which until then she was watching patiently and awaiting an opportune moment. Similarly, following the September 11 terrorist attack on its homeland, the US got a “reason” to apply military power to democratize the Islamic world – a process that was put to an end by Russia in Syria.

What if the October 7, 2023, attack by Hamas is analyzed with in this framework of deliberate negligence of intelligence on part of its national leadership and intelligence community with the objective to secure a justification for assault on Iran’s nuclear industrial complex? The need for such maneuvering is Israel’s race against time. Israeli leadership has explained Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons with respect to time and stated in unequivocal terms its importance to Israel’s military response.

After a certain threshold is crossed, even a military option is ineffective from an Israeli perspective. From an historical perspective, Israel as a Jewish nation fears annihilation at the hands of Shia’s of Iran and this fact is well established and accounted for by Israeli leadership – religious war.

Hence, in theory this entire episode that began with the terrorist attack by Hamas on 07 October, 2023, was orchestrated or allowed to unfold in the manner it did by Israel so that it attains the right to self-defense with the end objective being neutralizing Iran’s nuclear capability or at the least strict sanctions by the international community to retard its progress permanently. Iran has demonstrated its fear in this regard previously when Israel air bombed nuclear complex in Iraq.

The strategic objective of Israel revolves around neutralizing Iran’s nuclear capability, driven by the perceived existential threat a nuclear-capable Iran poses to Israel’s survival.

The theory of offence and defense explains why wars occur, but does not analyze the relationship between the two. This is a complex task, given that, what is offense to one party engaged in warfare remains defense to the other. While how and why part of intelligence failure within Israel’s intelligence community will take time to be part of history, there is no harm in going by assumptions to predict the future of the on-going tussle between Iran and Israel.

Like the 11 September and Pearl Harbor episodes, Israel is in search for recognition of its legal right to self-defense with destruction of Iran’s nuclear capability being its military objective. Israel is not a common nation like us and others, it is a nation where the “chosen people” live and thrive and this makes Israel the chosen land of the chosen people.

Rate this Article
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Dr Rajasimman Sundaram

teaches history, politics, and culture and a member of the Institute of BRICS Studies and College of Multi-Languages at Sichuan International Studies University [四川外国语大学] (The People’s Republic of China)". 

More by the same author

Post your Comment

2000characters left