The Sunday Telegraph

Israel mulls its options for retaliatio­n

- By James Rothwell in Berlin

IRAN’S massive attack last night, which included hundreds of drones as well as missiles according to state TV, was an unpreceden­ted escalation in this conflict – and it could be grounds for Benjamin Netanyahu to declare war on the Islamic Republic.

The fact that Iran seems to have launched the drones from its own territory is a very serious escalation, but this move also will have allowed plenty of time for Israel and its allies to intercept them.

Such a scenario may be within the limits of what Mr Netanyahu is prepared to tolerate at this stage: he presumably thought carefully about the probable consequenc­es of launching last week’s consulate attack in Damascus – the cause for Iran’s retaliatio­n last night – before he approved it.

Tehran may have been aiming for a bold, choreograp­hed attack which they can claim has restored deterrence against Israel but which stops short of triggering all-out war with Israel.

Mr Netanyahu may launch an in-kind response in which Israel carries out air strikes on targets in Iran, similar to those which may be in the firing line in Israel tonight, such as military bases or government buildings.

Other obvious options for Israeli retaliatio­n would be air strikes on the Iranian Revolution­ary Guards headquarte­rs or its bases around Iran.

At that point the two sides might cease hostilitie­s, with both sides feeling they have made their stand.

But there remains a grim possibilit­y of full-scale war between Iran and Israel, a nightmare scenario that would carry enormous cost to human life on both sides and probably drag the United States – and potentiall­y Britain – into the fray.

Another key factor is Iran’s nuclear programme, which Israel has been working for years to dismantle via covert strikes. This new crisis might prove an opportunit­y to destroy the entire nuclear programme once and for all.

There are a few reasons to doubt that Iran truly wants war with Israel.

Experts say it would be ill-prepared militarily for such a war, and it is already under crippling Western sanctions. There is also massive internal opposition to the Iranian regime, as reflected in 2022’s enormous protest movement.

But something feels very different about this attack: it was reportedly launched directly from Iranian territory and, the regime claims, includes missiles, not just drones.

This arguably does not fit the pattern of Iran’s previous conduct, in which it has launched covert attacks on Israel or relied on regional proxies to do its bidding.

That means Israel – and the West – is now in uncharted and extraordin­arily dangerous territory.

‘There remains a grim possibilit­y of full-scale war – a nightmare scenario’

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