Israel and Iran Fight Without Full-Scale War

The war between Iran and Israel is the most volatile of the numerous ones in the Middle East. Iranian officials are accused of developing nuclear weapons to support their repeated threats to destroy Israel. Israel, which is said to possess such weapons, has pledged to take all necessary measures to stop Iran from obtaining them. The two have been at war in secret for many years, silently assaulting one another on land, in the air, at sea, and sometimes through proxy. They have mainly tried to avoid open confrontations that may escalate to full-scale conflict, instead choosing to behave with convincing denial. However, recent conflicts have drawn greater attention. The Wall Street Journal and New York Times claimed on Jan. 28 that Israel was to blame for the drone strike that targeted an Iranian munitions store. Three unmanned drones were used to attack a facility in the capital city of Isfahan. One of them caused little damage when it struck a structure. The strike occurred while the West criticized Iran for giving Russia military drones to use in its conflict with Ukraine.

Beginning in the 1950s, when Iran’s last king, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was in power, the two countries were allies. However, the alliance unexpectedly ended in 1979 with the Iranian Islamic Revolution. The nation’s new authorities took a stridently anti-Israel attitude, denouncing the Jewish state as a regional colonial entity. Iran has backed organizations that often oppose Israel, including the Palestinian organization Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israel is believed to be driving a campaign of sabotage against Iran’s nuclear program because it sees the country’s potential for developing nuclear weapons as a danger to its survival.

The oldest front in the conflict is in Lebanon, where indirect combat occurs. Lebanese Muslims who practice the Shiite branch of Islam, which is most prevalent in Iran, created the force that would become Hezbollah in response to Israel’s invasion of the country’s south in 1982. Their organization inadvertently served as a front for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s top security organization. Hezbollah sometimes replied by shooting rockets into Israel and attacking Israeli soldiers near the border as a result of continuous Israeli attacks on the militia’s missile pipeline in Lebanon. When Syria’s civil war broke out in 2011, a new frontline of conflict between Israel and Iran was created.

Iran has increased its military involvement in Syria throughout the conflict to back its friend, President Bashar al-Assad, and to make it easier for weapons intended for Hezbollah to go from Iran to Lebanon through Iraq and Syria. Israel has undertaken airstrikes in Syria on Iranian-linked sites in an attempt to halt the supply of armaments and fight this second hostile presence on its northern border. As a result, several Iranians have died.

In 2019, tit-for-tat assaults on commercial boats started. Israel and Iran are commonly believed to be behind the attacks on ships related to each other, although neither nation has admitted guilt. There have been few fatalities, although, in July 2021, two crew members from the UK and Romania died after an Israeli-operated ship was targeted in the Gulf of Oman by a drone that US authorities connected to Iran. Iranian oil tankers bound for Syria, an Iranian ship off the coast of Yemen that operated as a mobile base for the Revolutionary Guards, Israeli cargo ships, and Iranian tankers transporting oil for Syria were among the previous targets.

Iran’s soldiers in Syria launched a barrage of missiles against Israeli positions in the Golan Heights, a plateau Israel took from Syria in the 1967 war and subsequently annexed, in 2018, despite the fact that Iran has mostly absorbed Israeli attacks on its objectives in Syria. Israel retaliated by displaying far more power. Israel is allegedly responsible for many strikes on Iranian nuclear plants and the assassinations of five Iranian nuclear experts in Tehran since 2010. After an explosion in April 2021 at Iran’s biggest uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, which it claimed seriously damaged its centrifuges, Iran accused Israel and pledged retaliation. The facility has experienced a suspected explosion for the second time in less than a year. Israel did neither confirm nor deny that it was behind either assault. An Iranian officer said in October 2021 that Israel was probably responsible for a cyberattack that crippled gasoline stations all around Iran.

The nuclear program in Iran poses the greatest danger in this regard. The nation’s officials assert they have no plans to develop nuclear weapons. The Israelis claim that evidence to the contrary may be found in a trove of papers that their spies smuggled out of Iran in 2018. Israeli leaders have often hinted that if Iran were to develop nuclear weapons, they would use air force to strike it, much as they did with Syria’s and Iraq’s nuclear programs in 2007 and 1981, respectively.

Sahibzada M. Usman, Ph.D.
Sahibzada M. Usman, Ph.D.
Research Scholar and Academic; Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of Pisa, Italy. Dr. Usman has participated in various national and international conferences and published 30 research articles in international journals. Email: usmangull36[at]