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Flex Of Deterrence, Test Of Alliance: Analysts Assess Military Coalition's Role In Iran's Retaliatory Attack On Israel

16.04.2024 13:57

Objective for US, UK, France, Jordan was to avoid damage ‘to keep Israel out of a direct confrontation with Iran,’ says Andreas Krieg, lecturer at King’s College London Attack part of Iran’s attempt to create ‘new normal’ and marks ‘beginning of long awaited flex of deterrence against...

Iran's unprecedented drone and missile attack on Israel over the weekend has shed new light on the level of coordination between a military coalition of Israeli allies which played a crucial role in interception and damage limitation.

Iran fired more than 300 drones and missiles on the night of April 13, a retaliation for the April 1 Israeli airstrike on its diplomatic compound in Damascus that killed several Iranian officials, including senior commanders.

Almost all of the projectiles were reportedly intercepted by Israeli air defenses and a coalition of forces, led by the US and including the UK, France and Arab states such as Jordan.

This marked the first time such a coalition worked together and has "created new opportunities for cooperation in the Middle East," according to Israeli army chief Herzi Halevi.

Experts such as Andreas Krieg believe the coalition's aim was "keeping the region safe" and preventing further escalation.

"The objective for the UK, US, France, Jordan was to make sure that most of these drones and rockets missiles don't land in Israel and don't cause any damage, to keep Israel out of a direct confrontation with Iran," Krieg, a senior lecturer at the School of Security Studies at King's College London, told Anadolu.

The primary objective for everyone, he stressed, was to make sure that the impact of the Iranian attack was as minimal as possible.

"The more damage Iranian drones would cause in Israel, the more likely Israel would have to respond, and any response by Israel on Iranian soil would obviously be seen as a major escalation," he said, adding that it could "create a more open war."

Krieg compared it to a situation seen in 1991, when UK and US forces "were trying to destroy Scud missiles inside Iraq to make sure that they do not hit Israel."

On Jordan's role in the entire episode, he said it was obviously very important because "it was right on the trajectory of these missiles and drones."

However, he cautioned against overemphasizing or overanalyzing it in terms of the kingdom's support to Israel.

"This is not about necessarily supporting Israel or defending Israel, but it's about keeping the region safe, making sure that the Iranian attack would cause as little damage as possible," said Krieg.

"That is in the interest of everyone and it's in the interest of regional stability and regional security," he added.

He also pointed out that the coalition operated in a manner that allowed Iran "to tick the box of retaliation and, thereby, hoping to conclude the episode that started with Israel's attack on the consulate in Damascus."

Operational strategy

Iran's retaliatory strike, the first time it has ever directly targeted Israel, included 170 drones, 30 cruise missiles and 120 ballistic missiles, according to various reports.

Geopolitical analyst Ryan Bohl said the military coalition used a combination of assets used to block the attack, including radar coordination, US naval assets and air forces.

He said US tracking systems in Syria would have been particularly useful in keeping an eye on drones and missiles moving across the area.

Military analyst Fabian Hinz agreed that the US played a major role in tracking and sharing data, both with the Israelis and other partners.

Another important role was of US naval assets, including aircraft carriers and military ships that come equipped with missile defense systems, the experts said.

They were used "to block attacks coming out of Yemen through the Red Sea," according to Bohl, a senior Middle East and North Africa analyst at risk intelligence firm RANE.

According to a report by American news outlet The Intercept, four ships part of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) battle group "have played a central role in thwarting Iran-backed attacks."

"They have enough firepower on them to carry out these kinds of missions at scale for extended period of time, so they're major weapons platforms," said Bohl.

​​​​​​​As for air power, he said systems "like the F-22, the F-16, the F-35, Rafale jets from France or the Typhoons from the UK" have the ability to deal with the kind of threats faced in the Iranian retaliatory attack.

Regarding the bases from where the fighter jets operated, Bohl pointed to places like Jordan and possibly Gulf Arab States such as Bahrain, the UAE, or Saudi Arabia.

He believes most of the ballistic missiles were "largely intercepted" by Israel's own Arrow and David's Sling systems, adding that these "were used at a scale that we haven't seen before."

According to Hinz, the US, UK, France and "apparently Jordan" used manned fighter jets to shoot down Iranian drones.

"When you shoot at these drones, it's very difficult to know where they are, while the cruise missiles fly very low and they can change their path," he explained.

"When you have a ballistic missile, it flies in a fixed ballistic trajectory, but drones and cruise missiles can fly evasive maneuvers and change their trajectory, so tracking them is quite tricky."

Most drones, if not all drones and cruise missiles, "were shot down out of Israeli territory … and this seems to have happened using manned fighter jets," he added.

Details of France's involvement still remain unclear, the experts said.

Bohl said there were reports of French forces downing some drones, pointing out that "France has been involved in Syria … for many years, so they have assets nearby" that could have been redeployed.

As for the UK, he said most of its operations "would have been out of Cyprus, where they continue to have significant military bases."

Iran's 'new normal'

Hinz's overall assessment was the Iranian attack was "not symbolic" and rather a "major" one.

"The Iranians tried to overwhelm Israeli defenses by using a huge number and diverse array of systems – ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, drones," he said.

The fact that all these countries came to Israel's aid is "politically very significant," he said, adding that it may have helped Israel improve relations with the US and increase "cooperation with local neighbors."

"People now have talked about the possibility of, the idea of integrating air defenses, or at least increasing coordination," said Hinz.

For Bohl, this was an attempt by Iran to create "a new normal," showing willingness and ability to strike Israeli soil directly.

"This is the beginning of this long-awaited flex of Iran's deterrence against Israel," he said.

"It has built up all these missiles and drones for so many years to try to signal to the Israelis that moving against Iran itself is too dangerous and too painful for Israel to consider." -

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