Iran’s Attack Is a Show of Weakness

Over the weekend Iran launched a ballistic-missile, drone and cruise-missile attack on Israel from its own soil. The attack was without subterfuge and of a scale well beyond any that preceded it. The strike was indiscriminate in targeting and designed to cause casualties. Belated Iranian protests notwithstanding, this was a “maximum effort.” The Israeli response, aided by the U.S., the U.K. and nations in the region, was largely successful. Iran has demonstrated that it is willing to do anything to further its campaign against Israel’s existence.

There’s some history here. On Sept. 14, 2019, drones launched from bases in western Iran struck oil refineries operated by Saudi Aramco at Abqaiq and Khurais, Saudi Arabia. The damage to global oil production was significant. The Iranians denied culpability, and the profiles their drones used made it easy to avoid the reality of a state-on-state attack. On Jan. 8, 2020, Iranian ballistic missiles, also launched from bases in western Iran, struck Al Asad air base in Iraq. This was a response to the Jan. 3 U.S. strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad. No U.S. troops at the base were killed, and heavy casualties were averted only because commanders on the ground anticipated the attack and repositioned forces accordingly. Iran claimed responsibility for this assault. Both these attacks seemed to represent a major escalation, a crossing of the Rubicon into the territory of attributable state-on-state attacks.

Why has Iran now undertaken what can only be characterized as a desperate attack—one that exposed the weaknesses of its much-touted missiles and drones? The reason is clear. For the past several months, Israel and Iran have engaged in a low-level “dialogue of targets.” Israeli strikes have taken out Iranian targets in Syria, Lebanon and occasionally Iran itself. Iran’s response has been ham-fisted. In the shadow war, Israel has outfought Iran…

Read full article in Wall Street Journal.

Gen. McKenzie, a retired U.S. Marine general, served as commander of U.S. Central Command, 2019-22. He is executive director of the Global and National Security Institute at the University of South Florida and author of “The Melting Point: High Command and War in the 21st Century,” forthcoming in June.