Israeli missile strike on Damascus consulate

In the end of times

Militarily Israel and Iran are in different leagues. However, says Yassamine Mather, when it comes to popular opinion in the Middle East, Israel is completely isolated - apart, that is, from the ruling circles doing the bidding of the United States

Following Israel’s retaliation on April 19 - an air base near Isfahan was hit - sections of the western media claimed that there is no threat of any major escalation in the simmering war between Iran and Israel. However, we have to remember that this conflict has a long history and will continue in various forms whatever happens. After all, Israel has been carrying out attacks (which it neither denies nor admits) for many years. However, now that Iran has moved from indirect to direct conflict with Israel, we have reached a new level, and this situation will not be resolved simply because at the moment there is pressure coming from the Biden administration to avoid a full-scale war.

Inevitably, during any such conflict we hear a lot of lies and fake news. The media has gone overboard with claims that 99% of Iran’s drones and missiles failed to reach their target. While some of them never got beyond Iranian airspace, satellite images analysed by Associated Press show that some missiles did hit their targets - for example, the taxiway near hangars at Nevatim air base clearly suffered damage. According to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, the hangars house C-130 cargo planes flown by transport squadrons.

Of course, slow moving drones are an easy target and a combination of US intercepts and Israeli Patriot missiles took a toll that Iran would have expected. Anything getting through would have been a bonus. Meanwhile, Iran’s denial about the lack of damage inflicted by Israel are also false. Several investigations, including one commissioned by BBC Verify, confirm that the Isfahan base was damaged.

However, the political significance of the Iranian attack cannot be underestimated: it ended the assumption that Iran will not directly retaliate. Israel had boasted that its forces could kill as many physicists as they wanted. They could bomb the residences of Iranian officials - even the consulate in Damascus - and Iran will do nothing. The fact that several media outlets have indicated that, had it not been for US-UK intervention, Israeli air defences (the ‘iron dome’) would have been badly breached, is important. That is a claim repeated by commentators inside Israel too.

The numbers were dramatic: 170 drones, 120 ballistic missiles. Here it is difficult to judge whether one should believe Iran’s propaganda that this was a calibrated attack - as opposed to Israeli and western propaganda that it was an all-out attack that was foiled. There are all sorts of other military scenarios being proposed by various institutes that the drones were really used to divert attention from the missiles.

There is also a claim - made by Iran, but repeated in Israel by several military experts - that the drones were used to take photographs of air bases, military and security compounds. I am not sure how true this is, but we should remember that, unlike Israel, Iran has no access to images taken by US satellites.

The governments of Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, etc condemned Iran’s actions last week. However, what Iran did was popular in Jordanian social media - and on the streets in Gaza, where people were pointing out what was happening in the sky, and rightly referring to the fact that, for the first time, there were missiles in the skies not intended to destroy their homes, schools and hospitals, etc.

And there is no doubt that in terms of the Arab street, Iran has gained considerable support for what it did. However, when it comes to the long term, I agree with Moshé Machover that the post-April 19 pause by Israel might be very short-lived - it will look for new targets in Syria, in Lebanon and use cyber attacks, assassinations and maybe even more missile attacks on Iran itself. We know that on April 20 there was a major attack by ‘unknown’ military forces on the Hashd al-Sha’bi organisation (Iran’s closest ally in Iraq) and the Americans are denying any responsibility. We can therefore assume it was Israel which was responsible.


Given the potential for war - or at least the continuation of the cold war between Iran and Israel - it is of some interest to look at the differences and similarities between the two countries.

Some of the data below was gathered by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which points out (and I agree) that we should not trust everything in the statistics. What is beyond doubt, though, is that the surface area of Iran is approximately 80 times the size of Israel, while Iran’s population is 88.6 million, compared to Israel’s 9.6 million. In terms of economic data Iran’s gross domestic product is said to be $413 billion per annum, while Israel’s is $525 billion.

Interestingly, Iran claims that it spends 2% of its GDP on so-called defence, while Israel claims that 4% is what is spent by the authorities in Tel Aviv. Who knows? When it comes to air superiority, there is no question that Israel has the upper hand, with its 340 military aircraft. Some of these are F-15, some are F-35 (my understanding is the number of F-35s is increasing). While Iran’s 320 fighter planes are old, they include F-4s, F-5s and F-14s. In addition, when it comes to air defence, we have Israel’s infamous iron dome anti-missile missile system developed by Rafael and part financed by the Americans - not to forget the US, UK, French, Saudi and Jordanian air support, as witnessed on April 13.

As in any conflict, we also have to consider the distance between the two countries, which in this case is 2,100 kilometres, so we can rule out a land invasion, while drones, and even ballistic missiles take some time to reach their targets.

When it comes to naval military capability, Iran has made some advances, but is still a very long way behind. According to government claims, it has 220 ships. However, most of them are old, while Israel has much more modern missile and patrol ships and five Dolphin class submarines equipped with torpedoes and long-range cruise missiles.

We have already witnessed an ongoing cyber war between Iran and Israel and, as far as I can see, Israel is ahead in this field (although Iran is not that far behind). According to Israel’s cyber security experts, since October 7 there have been 3,380 cyber attacks against Israel organised via Iran or its proxies. We know that Israel has organised cyber attacks against Iran’s nuclear plants and in December 2023, it targeted petrol stations in Iran in a cyber attack aimed at blocking national fuel distribution.

And, of course, it is assumed that Israel has between 90 and 400 nuclear warheads, with the capability of delivering them by aircraft, submarine or its large number of intermediate to intercontinental range ballistic missiles. Of course, the Zionist state neither admits nor denies its nuclear capacity.

There is speculation that Iran has a sufficient uranium stockpile to create up to 10 nuclear bombs. However, so far there is no sign that it has put together a single nuclear weapon and, even if it does so, it will have to use missiles for delivery. Unlike Israel, Iran is, however, a signatory to the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty and its nuclear plants are regularly inspected by the International Atomic Energy Authority.

Of course, a nuclear confrontation is currently not on the cards, but we should not underestimate the crazy ideas of religious extremists ... some who occupy influential state positions. In Israel there is increasing talk of building the Third Temple on the Temple Mount in preparation for the coming of the Jewish messiah. Itamer Ben-Gvir, Israel’s security minister, gives them his backing. Zionist Christians in the US, such as former vice-president Mike Pence - by definition ardent supporters of Israel - believe in the second coming of Jesus. He will rule the world from Jerusalem and see the Jews convert to Christianity. In Iran the regime itself is committed to its version of the end of times. They eagerly await the return of Mohamed al-Mahdi, the 12th Shia Imam.

Such ideas can potentially have a real, terrible, even cataclysmic effect.