Iran is at war with the West, but only Israel is fighting back

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 2 April 2024. © Richard Kemp

Tehran claims that the air strikes which killed Iranian military commanders in Damascus on Monday were ‘Israel’s latest war crime against a foreign mission with diplomatic immunity’. They were nothing of the sort.

The target was, in fact, widely reported to have been an Iranian command centre coordinating military action against Israel, adjacent to the Iranian consulate. This would not, then, make the strikes a breach of the Vienna Convention, as those ever eager to condemn Jerusalem have suggested. Israel is perfectly entitled to hit military facilities in another country that is engaged in active hostilities.

Nor was this a major escalation by Israel, however, as many others have argued. It was merely the latest move in a war that Tehran itself has launched against Israel and the West.

Indeed, it may well turn out to be the most significant strategic setback for Iran since the US took out Qasem Soleimani, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force commander, in 2020. The main target of Monday’s attack, IRGC brigadier general Mohammad Reza Zahedi, was believed to be the principal interlocutor between Syria, Tehran and its terrorist proxy Hezbollah. With decades of experience in this clandestine world, he will not be easily replaced.

The flow of arms to Hezbollah could well now be further impeded. Since October 7, that terror group has launched regular missile strikes against Israelis near the Lebanese border, as a consequence of which nearly 100,000 civilians have been evacuated. Do Jerusalem’s critics really expect it to sit back and let those attacks continue?

But the real question is why it only seems to be the Israelis who are taking the Iranian threat seriously. It’s not as if Iran has only been targeting Israel. Iranian proxies have attacked international shipping in the Red Sea and Iranian-backed militias have launched more than 150 strikes against US forces in Syria, Iraq and Jordan since October 7 alone.

Beyond the region, Tehran is a major weapons supplier to Russia in its war against Ukraine. Since the Iranian revolution in 1979, Tehran has ordered hundreds of terrorist attacks and assassinations in more than 40 countries. Most recently, the finger of suspicion points to the IRGC for the attempted murder of an exiled Iranian journalist in London last Friday.

Meanwhile, Tehran is on the verge of acquiring a nuclear capability that would allow it to threaten not just the whole Middle East, but perhaps the West itself.

The response by the US and its allies to all of this has been nothing other than pitiful. Indeed, they have actively encouraged Iranian aggression by failing to respond in kind – the only language the Islamic Republic understands.

Britain has refused even to proscribe the IRGC, fearful of offending Tehran. The US has run scared of ‘provoking’ Iran by too often turning a blind eye to its outrages and even unfreezing billions of dollars that will have been used to fund regional violence.

Joe Biden’s weakness was on display again on Monday when he couldn’t wait to send a spineless message to Tehran denying involvement or advance knowledge of the Damascus strikes. Instead of appeasing Iran, our countries should stand by our Israeli ally in its vital defensive action, and maybe even consider taking a leaf out of its book.

Image: Wikimedia Commons