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Egypt Suspends Flights From Iran

Egypt says it has suspended commercial flights from Iran, days after the first such flights in 34 years were resumed.

Egyptian Tourism Ministry spokeswoman Rasha Azaizi said on April 8 that "talks were held and there was an agreement to postpone the arrival of [Iranian] visitors to mid-June."

Egypt and Iran severed ties after Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

But in February, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad became the first Iranian head of state to visit Egypt in more than three decades.

In the latest step toward normalizing relations, a Cairo-bound commercial flight took off from Tehran on March 30 with 50 Iranian tourists aboard.

But hard-line Sunni Islamists demonstrated in Cairo on April 5, throwing stones at the house of Tehran's envoy.

The Islamists say the arrival of Iranian tourists could result in the spread of Shi’ite Islam in Egypt.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters

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EU Ministers Agree To Expand Iran Sanctions

Several EU countries called for widening the drone-related sanctions regime to cover missiles and transfers to proxy forces.
Several EU countries called for widening the drone-related sanctions regime to cover missiles and transfers to proxy forces.

EU foreign ministers agreed in principle on April 22 to expand sanctions on Iran following Tehran's missile and drone attack on Israel, the bloc's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said. The European Union already has multiple sanctions programs against Iran, for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, human rights abuses and supplying drones to Russia. But several EU countries had called for widening the drone-related sanctions regime to cover missiles and transfers to proxy forces.

Iran, Pakistan Hold First Talks Since Cross-Border Strikes

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (center) walks with Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (right) to inspect a guard of honor in Islamabad on April 22.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (center) walks with Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (right) to inspect a guard of honor in Islamabad on April 22.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi held talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on April 22 in Islamabad in their first meeting since their countries exchanged missile strikes in February.

Raisi’s three-day trip to neighboring Pakistan is part of efforts by both countries to mend relations that were strained earlier this year.

Iran and Pakistan share a porous 900-kilometer border where separatists opposed to the governments in Tehran and Pakistan operate.

In February, Iran struck what it described as bases used by Iranian Baluch separatists in Pakistan. Islamabad responded by targeting locations in Iran it said were used by Pakistani Baluch separatists.

The Iranian president was greeted at the airport by Housing Minister Riaz Hussain Pirzada before receiving a formal welcome from Sharif.

Authorities have deployed hundreds of additional police and paramilitary forces to ensure security during the visit as Pakistan has witnessed a surge in militant violence.

According to a statement released by the premier’s office, Sharif and Raisi discussed a range of issues to promote bilateral relations and cooperation in various fields and vowed to cooperate to fight terrorism.

They are also expected to hold a joint news conference later on April 22.

Iran’s official news agency IRNA said eight cooperation documents will be signed during Raisi’s visit.

The two sides will also discuss a multibillion gas pipeline project, which has been on hold since 2014. The project -- opposed by Washington for what it says is a violation of sanctions imposed on Tehran over its nuclear program -- was launched in 2013 to supply much-needed Iranian natural gas to energy-starved Pakistan.

Raisi is accompanied by his wife and a high-level delegation. He plans to visit Karachi, the country's biggest city, and Lahore, where he will meet with the Pakistan's recently elected first female chief minister Maryam Nawaz Sharif.

Raisi will travel to Sri Lanka after wrapping up his Pakistan visit.

With reporting by AP

Khamenei Thanks Troops After Iran, Israel Appear To Downplay Risk Of Wider Conflict

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (center) leads a prayer during his meeting with a group of senior military leaders in Tehran on April 21.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (center) leads a prayer during his meeting with a group of senior military leaders in Tehran on April 21.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has publicly expressed gratitude to Iran's armed forces one week after they targeted Israel with more than 300 missiles and drones in response to Israel's suspected bombing of Iran's embassy compound in Damascus.

The comments follow Tehran's seemingly measured response to images from April 19 showing the fiery results of what was thought to be an Israeli retaliatory attack near the Iranian city of Isfahan.

Observers suggested the absence of more threats from Iranian officials looked like an attempt to avert a broader conflict.

"How many missiles were launched and how many of them hit their target is not the primary question. What really matters is that Iran demonstrated its willpower during that operation," Khamenei said on April 21, according to official media.

But he encouraged Iran's military to "ceaselessly pursue military innovation and learn the enemy's tactics."

April 19 marked the 85th birthday of Khamenei, who holds final say on religious and political affairs in Iran.

Iranian state media quoted officials in Tehran as saying the explosions were caused by air-defense systems that shot down three drones.

Israel has not commented on the report.

Reuters, citing three sources familiar with the matter, reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's war cabinet initially approved plans for a strike inside Iranian territory to respond forcefully to Tehran's April 14 missile and drone strike but backed off at the last minute.

The Reuters report said Netanyahu faced cabinet divisions and strong warnings from allies -- including Washington -- not to escalate matters, leading to two postponements of the limited strikes that eventually were launched.

Speaking at a mosque on April 19, President Ebrahim Raisi didn't mention the attack near Isfahan.

Tehran launched more than 300 drones and missiles at Israel in the early morning hours of April 14, almost all of which were shot down by Israeli defense systems, along with intercepts by forces from the United States, France, Britain, and Jordan.

The attack by Tehran had been widely anticipated in Israel following a suspected Israeli air strike on the Iranian Embassy compound in Syria on April 1 that killed two brigadier generals.

Since then, diplomats and politicians around the world, fearing another major escalation of fighting in the Middle East, had urged restraint as they awaited Israel's response.

U.S. President Joe Biden has not made any statement about the alleged Israeli attack.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it had seen no damage to Iran's nuclear sites. One of Iran’s top nuclear facilities, the installation at Natanz, is located in central Isfahan. "IAEA can confirm that there is no damage to Iran’s nuclear sites," the UN nuclear watchdog said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

Israel and Iran have been bitter enemies for decades, but this was the first direct attack by one on the other's soil instead of through proxy forces or by targeting each other's assets operating in third countries.

With reporting by Reuters
Updated

Iranian Commander Announces New Morality Enforcement Body

Female members of Iran's morality police patrol the streets in Tehran looking for women violating the mandatory law on wearing head scarves.
Female members of Iran's morality police patrol the streets in Tehran looking for women violating the mandatory law on wearing head scarves.

The commander of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) troops in the Iranian capital on April 21 announced the creation of a new enforcement body to uphold the country's strict dress code for women.

IRGC Tehran chief Hassan Hassanzadeh said members of the squad's members have been trained to enforce the hijab "in a more serious manner" at public locations.

The announcement follows reports that authorities have intensified morality sweeps in recent days, with shared images showing the uniformed officers descending on women as part of an operation officials said was codenamed Nour, or Light in Persian.

In a related message imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Narges Mohammadi said women's narratives of oppression will be heard and will "disgrace" the "misogynist" government.

"Today, the authoritarian theocracy has drawn a full-fledged war against all women on all streets of the country, not out of a position of power but out of desperation," Mohammadi said from Tehran's Evin prison, according to an audio message posted on April 21 on an Instagram page attributed to her.

The message said that journalist Dina Ghalibaf, who was arrested earlier this month after she published a personal narrative about her previous detention by Iran’s morality police for not adhering to the hijab law, entered the women's ward in Evin prison "with a bruised body and a narrative of sexual harassment."

Mohammadi added that Iran for years has been witnessing "the narrative of women who have been subjected to abuse, harassment, and mayhem by government officials. We women will stop this war ...or the people of Iran and the world will rise up to our aid."

The death in custody of student Mahsa Amini in September 2022 after an alleged beating by morality police sparked massive street protests and provided momentum to the decades-long opposition to the mandatory head scarf since its imposition by religious authorities following the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Those protests prompted a fierce official crackdown in which more than 500 people have died and thousands have been arrested, with some of those convicted of wrongdoing executed.

Senior Iranian officials said recently that President Ebrahim Raisi's government was behind the new dress-code crackdown, with the Interior Ministry leading the effort.

Some relative moderate lawmakers have questioned a tightening in the current circumstances, with tensions high over military confrontations in the region and Tehran seeking to project influence through allies or proxies and fears high of an escalation of violence between Iran and foe Israel.

Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi has defended the Nour crackdown, saying "projects implemented in the area of hijab are being carried out within the framework of the law."

Vahidi called the hijab "one of the pillars of the [Iranian] system's identity and a Shari'a principle" that "should not be allowed" to slip into lax enforcement.

Even some strongly pro-Islamic forces in Iran have objected to such rigorous hijab enforcement at the expense of internal solidarity in the face of external threats to the country.

Iran's President Raisi To Make Official Visit To Pakistan This Week

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (right) meets with Pakistani Ambassador to Iran Muhammad Mudassir Tipu in Tehran on January 27.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (right) meets with Pakistani Ambassador to Iran Muhammad Mudassir Tipu in Tehran on January 27.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will make an official visit to Pakistan on April 22-24 accompanied by his wife, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and other senior Iranian officials, and a business delegation, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry announced on April 21. The visit is the first since the two Muslim neighbors exchanged missile strikes against the backdrop of the Israeli-Gazan conflict and fears of wider conflict along with threats to Red Sea commercial shipping in January. Islamabad said Raisi will meet with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, as well as the heads of the Senate and the National Assembly.

Iran Disputes Reports Of First Delivery Of Russian Su-35 Fighter Jets

A Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jet (file photo)
A Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jet (file photo)

Iranian officials have denied media reports about the imminent delivery of new Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets to Iran. Reports in the Iranian media that the country is to receive the latest generation of aircraft in the next few days are incorrect, according to the Fararu news website. The media had referred to a report by the SNN news agency, which is close to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The agency itself denied the report on its Telegram page after consulting with the Defense Ministry, which last year announced that Iran had acquired Mi-28H combat helicopters and Yak-130s from Russia in addition to the SU-35 fighter jets.

Bulgaria Seizes Heroin Worth Nearly $9 Million En Route From Iran

Packages containing heroin seized during an operation are seen in Sofia in 2021. Bulgaria, which lies on a drug route from the Middle East to Western Europe, has taken steps in recent years to prevent drug trafficking.
Packages containing heroin seized during an operation are seen in Sofia in 2021. Bulgaria, which lies on a drug route from the Middle East to Western Europe, has taken steps in recent years to prevent drug trafficking.

Bulgarian customs officials say they seized 403 kilograms of heroin found in a truck with Turkish registration en route from Iran to Western Europe. The heroin was hidden inside the officially declared 156 mattresses transported in the truck. Officials valued the drug haul at 8.5 million euros (nearly $9 million). The drugs were thought to have originated in Iran and destined for EU nations, officials said. The Turkish driver was detained and could face up to 20 years in jail if convicted on drug trafficking charges. Bulgaria, which lies on a drug route from the Middle East to Western Europe, has taken steps in recent years to prevent drug trafficking.

Deadly Blast At Iraq Army Base Amid Israel-Iran Tensions

A general view shows the Kalso military base after it was hit by a huge explosion late on April 19, in Babylon Province, Iraq.
A general view shows the Kalso military base after it was hit by a huge explosion late on April 19, in Babylon Province, Iraq.

One person was killed and eight wounded in an overnight explosion at an Iraqi military base housing a coalition of pro-Iranian armed groups, officials said on April 20. The full details remain unclear hours after the blast hit the Kalsu military base in Babylon Province south of Baghdad, where regular army, police, and members of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces, or Hashed al-Shaabi, are stationed. It comes days after Iran launched an unprecedented assault on Israel, which reportedly responded with a drone strike on the Islamic republic on April 19, amid tensions fueled by the Gaza war.

Iranian Nobel Laureate Fears Israel Confrontation Is Prelude To Tighter Domestic Crackdown

Iranian Nobel Peace laureate and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi speaks during an International Women's Day event in Paris on March 8.
Iranian Nobel Peace laureate and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi speaks during an International Women's Day event in Paris on March 8.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi said she fears Iran could use the confrontation with Israel as a pretext to intensify its domestic crackdown on dissent.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Radio Farda, Ebadi, 76, said Iran's clerical establishment has previously used military confrontations and conflicts to justify "its war against the Iranian people."

Ebadi referred to the devastating 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War during which the authorities allegedly executed thousands of political prisoners and regime opponents.

Her comments came amid fears of a full-scale war between Iran and Israel. The archenemies have traded attacks and threats in recent weeks.

Israel reportedly launched an attack on Iran on April 19, almost a week after an unprecedented drone and missile assault by Tehran. Iran's attack was in retaliation for a suspected Israeli air strike on the Iranian Embassy's compound in Damascus on April 1 that killed seven Iranian commanders.

"Whether a war [with Israel] breaks out or not, we have always been at war: an economic war, a war against the Iranian people, a war against women, a war against Israel, a war against the United States," Ebadi said.

Ebadi, who was a human rights lawyer in Iran for many years before she was forced into exile, cited the renewed crackdown on women who refuse to observe Iran's controversial mandatory hijab law.

Mahdieh Golrou (left), pictured with political prisoner Vahid La'lipour, said one of the biggest casualties of any war between Iran and Israel would be people's rights.
Mahdieh Golrou (left), pictured with political prisoner Vahid La'lipour, said one of the biggest casualties of any war between Iran and Israel would be people's rights.

Iranians have accused the police of using aggressive and sometimes violent tactics in their treatment of alleged violators in recent days.

Ebadi said the "real war" was on the streets of Iranian cities, the scene of antiestablishment protests and brutal state crackdowns in recent years.

Iranians have demanded greater social and political freedoms and taken to the streets to demand an end to clerical rule.

Sweden-based Iranian political activist Mahdieh Golrou said she also feared Iran's showdown with Israel will be used by the authorities to justify a harsher clampdown on civil society.

Scores of human rights activists, journalists, and lawyers have been arrested and sentenced to jail in recent years.

Golrou, speaking to Radio Farda, said one of the biggest casualties of any war between Iran and Israel would be people's rights and "desire for freedom and democracy."

Updated

Iran, Israel Appear To Step Back From Moves To Spark Wider Regional Conflict

Iranians walk past a mural showing the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini (right) Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (left) and Basij paramilitary forces as they hold posters of Khomeini and Iranian and Palestinian flags in an anti-Israeli gathering after Friday Prayers in Tehran on April 19.
Iranians walk past a mural showing the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini (right) Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (left) and Basij paramilitary forces as they hold posters of Khomeini and Iranian and Palestinian flags in an anti-Israeli gathering after Friday Prayers in Tehran on April 19.

Iran and Israel appeared to be easing off actions and rhetoric that could lead to a wider Middle East conflict after a series of apparent retaliatory attacks, the latest of which featured a suspected Israeli strike on sites near the central Iranian city of Isfahan.

Tehran on April 20 downplayed the scope and impact of the reported Israeli attack that appeared to be in retaliation for an unprecedented air attack the Islamic republic launched last weekend on its sworn enemy.

Explosions rang out early on April 19 -- the 85th birthday of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- near the central city of Isfahan with reports unclear over the cause, while several major U.S. media organizations quoted U.S. government sources as saying Israel had launched an attack on targets inside Iran.

Iranian state media quoted officials in Tehran as saying the explosions were caused by air-defense systems that shot down three drones.

Israel has not commented on the report.

Video Purportedly Shows Israeli Aerial Attack On Iran
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Reuters, citing three sources familiar with the matter, reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's war cabinet initially approved plans for a strike inside Iranian territory to respond forcefully to Tehran's April 14 missile and drone strike but backed off at the last minute.

The sources said three voting members of the war cabinet ruled out the most dramatic strike: an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities and other sites that would likely have provoked a wider conflict.

The Reuters report said Netanyahu faced cabinet divisions and strong warnings from allies, including Washington, not to escalate matters, leading to two postponements of the limited strikes that eventually were launched.

Sanam Vakil, director of the Middle East and North Africa program at the Chatham House in Britain, was quoted by AFP as saying the reported Israeli strike had been "calibrated to avoid damage and further Iranian aggression."

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told U.S. outlet NBC News that Tehran is investigating the incident but has not seen any indication that the attack was related to Israel.

He warned that if Israel strikes again, Iran will respond immediately and "at maximum level."

"If Israel retaliates, then we will respond. But if not, then we're done," Amir-Abdollahian told NBC News in Persian late on April 19.

He added that there are no signs to prove that this action was the work of Israel.

"They [the drones] took off from inside Iran, they flew like a few hundred meters and then they were downed, they were struck by our air defense. It's not even proven that there is a connection between these and Israel," Amir-Abdollahian said through an Iranian official interpreter.

"Two or three, they're more like toys that our children play with, not drones. It was not worth telling us," he said when asked whether any other country had warned Tehran in advance about an expected attack.

Earlier, Hossein Deliriyan, the spokesman for Iran's National Center for Cyberspace, also dismissed the U.S. media reports saying in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that "there has been no air attack from outside the borders on Isfahan or other parts of the country."

Speaking at a mosque on April 19, President Ebrahim Raisi didn’t mention the attack near Isfahan and with the Israeli retaliation limited in size and scope, experts said it appeared it was aimed at deescalating soaring tensions while still sending a clear message to Tehran.

Tehran launched more than 300 drones and missiles at Israel in the early morning hours of April 14, almost all of which were shot down by Israeli defense systems, along with intercepts by forces from the United States, France, Britain, and Jordan.

The attack by Tehran had been widely anticipated in Israel following a suspected Israeli air strike on the Iranian Embassy compound in Damascus, Syria, on April 1 that killed two brigadier generals.

Since then, diplomats and politicians around the world, fearing another major escalation of fighting in the Middle East, had urged restraint as they awaited Israel's response.

U.S. President Joe Biden has not made any statement about the alleged Israeli attack.

However, according to Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, Washington informed the Group of Seven nations (G7) that it had received word from Israel on the strikes at the "last minute," but “there was no sharing of the attack by the U.S. It was a mere information.”

“I’m not going to speak to that [the suspected Israeli attack] except to say that the United States has not been involved in any offensive operations,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said after a G7 ministerial meeting on the Italian island of Capri.

Iran's state news agency IRNA said air-defense systems fired from a large air base in Isfahan that is home to Iran's aging fleet of U.S.-made F-14 Tomcats acquired before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Isfahan also houses facilities that are part of Iran's nuclear program, including its underground Natanz enrichment site.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it had seen no damage to Iran's nuclear sites. Earlier this week, the sites were rumored to be a possible target if Israel launched a strike inside Iran.

One of Iran’s top nuclear facilities, the installation at Natanz, is located in central Isfahan. Such sites have seen several sabotage attacks that Tehran has blamed on Israel.

"IAEA can confirm that there is no damage to Iran’s nuclear sites," the UN nuclear watchdog said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

"Director General Rafael Grossi continues to call for extreme restraint from everybody and reiterates that nuclear facilities should never be a target in military conflicts. IAEA is monitoring the situation very closely."

Israel and Iran have been bitter enemies for decades, but this was the first direct attack by one on the other's soil instead of through proxy forces or by targeting each other's assets operating in third countries.

Iran Has Strong Options For Retaliation Against Israel, Including Going Nuclear

Iran put its latest missile technology on parade last week for National Army Day.
Iran put its latest missile technology on parade last week for National Army Day.

If Iran decides to respond to a suspected Israeli strike on its territory on April 19, it might not have to pull its punches like it did the last time.

Tehran's telegraphed barrage against Israel last week was written off by many as a failure. But Iran has many arrows in its quiver should its standoff with Israel continue to escalate.

Experts say that Iran has more sophisticated weaponry at its disposal, can bring its proxies into the fight, and, unlike its attack on April 13, can utilize the element of surprise. And the ultimate threat -- officially activating its long-suspected effort to develop a nuclear weapon -- could come into play.

Caution First

Iran's initial response after its territory was hit on April 19 was muted. While unidentified U.S. officials reportedly said that Israel had carried out the attack, Tehran did not directly accuse Israel of involvement. Israel has not commented on the incident.

A senior Iranian official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that there was "no plan for immediate retaliation, and no clarification on who is behind the incident."

WATCH: Iranian state media said explosions were heard early on April 19 near the central city of Isfahan, which is home to an air base and a nuclear facility. The IAEA nuclear watchdog reported that there was no damage to Iran's nuclear sites. U.S. sources were cited as saying Israel had attacked the area.

Iranian State Media Report Explosions After Suspected Israeli Strike
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"The foreign source of the incident has not been confirmed," the official said. "We have not received any external attack, and the discussion leans more toward infiltration than attack."

Iranian Army General Siyavush Mihandoust said only that explosions heard in the central city of Isfahan were "due to the work of air defenses against suspicious objects."

Iranian state television reported that three small drones were shot down east of Isfahan, which is home to Iranian nuclear facilities, and broadcast footage that projected an image of calm in the city.

A spokesman for Iran's National Center of Cyberspace, Hossein Dalirian, dismissed reports by U.S. media that quoted unidentified U.S. officials as saying that missiles were used in the attack.

"There have been no air strikes from outside [Iran's] borders against Isfahan or other parts of the country," Dalirian wrote on X, formerly Twitter. "They have only made a failed and humiliating attempt to launch drones, and the drones were shot down."

Timing Is Everything

Analysts said it is common for Tehran to hold off on commenting on such incidents until it can determine a course of action.

But if Iran does choose to respond militarily -- as it did on April 13 in retaliation for the April 1 killing of seven members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in a strike on the Iranian Embassy in Damascus that it blamed on Israel -- it can take things much further.

Hamidreza Azizi, a fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, noted that ahead of Iran's April 13 barrage against Israel, which was effectively thwarted, Tehran ensured that "everybody would know about it beforehand."

There was deliberately "no element of surprise," Azizi said.

But hours before the April 19 strike, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told CNN that if Israel again took actions against Iran, "the next response from us will be immediate and at a maximum level."

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani on April 15 said that "there will not be a 12- or 13-day gap" between an Israeli strike and an Iranian answer. Israel, he said, "must now reckon in seconds, not hours.”

The Iranian officials' stress on the immediacy of a possible retaliatory strike signals that Iran would not telegraph its strategy this time, raising the chances of inflicting greater damage.

More In Iran's Arsenal

Tehran launched more than 300 drones and missiles during its April 13 attack, in which the vast majority were either shot down or failed to reach their target, but experts and Iranian officials have suggested it could have used more powerful weaponry.

IRGC Aerospace Force Commander Sardar Hajizadeh said that Iran had used "old weapons with minimal power" on April 13, adding that Tehran had decided against using more powerful missiles, including hypersonic missiles, in its arsenal.

Fabian Hinz, a researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Berlin, questioned the veracity of Iran's claim it could have used better weapons, saying that one of the missiles launched against Israel, the Kheibar Shekan ballistic missile introduced in 2022, "is one of the best missiles Iran has."

Hinz told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that in terms of quality, he is not sure Iran could make a "qualitative jump" in any future attack.

In terms of sheer numbers, however, Iran has "many, many more missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) in stock," Hinz said. "There is no doubt about that."

Dangerous Friends

While Iran sent a message with its April 13 attack that it was willing to take on Israel directly and had the capacity to inflict heavy damage, Tehran still has many partners and proxies willing to strike their mutual enemy.

While members of Iran's so-called "axis of resistance" have been battling Israel -- including the U.S.- and EU-designated terrorist organization Hamas, Huthi rebels in Yemen, and Lebanese Hizballah -- those groups for the most part sat out the April 13 attack.

"One thing Iran could do is involve Hizballah, because Hizballah is just much closer to Israel," Hinz said. "And when you deal with amazing defenses, the best thing to do is to overwhelm them, and that is much, much easier at a shorter distance."

Going Nuclear

Just hours before the April 19 strike, an IRGC commander specified that an attack that targeted Iranian nuclear facilities would prompt a reciprocal attack on Israeli nuclear sites and could even lead to a rethinking of Iran's official nuclear doctrine.

Ahmad Haqtalab, who oversees nuclear security for the IRGC, said in comments published by Iranian media on April 18 that "our hands are on the trigger for reciprocal attacks using advanced missiles against their own nuclear sites."

Iranian military personnel stand guard at a nuclear facility in Isfahan on April 19.
Iranian military personnel stand guard at a nuclear facility in Isfahan on April 19.

Iran has long been suspected by Israel, the United States, and other countries of pursuing a nuclear weapon, while Tehran has said its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed after Israel's apparent strike that "there is no damage to Iran’s nuclear sites." But prior to the incident, Haqtalab said that even the threat of an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear sites made it "possible and conceivable that the doctrine and nuclear policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran will be reviewed to reverse the declared considerations of the past."

That decision would ultimately be made by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final call on all major decisions in Iran and has claimed that Iran cannot pursue nuclear weapons for religious reasons.

But Azizi emphasized that the threat is real, saying that an attack on Iranian territory "might be exactly what Iran wants to find an excuse to weaponize its nuclear program."

Hannah Kaviani of RFE/RL's Radio Farda contributed to this report.

Iran Versus Israel: Who Has The Military Edge?

A fourth-generation ballistic missile called Kheibar with a range of 2,000 kilometers is test-launched at an undisclosed location in Iran in May 2023. (file photo)
A fourth-generation ballistic missile called Kheibar with a range of 2,000 kilometers is test-launched at an undisclosed location in Iran in May 2023. (file photo)

Iran and Israel have traded attacks and threats in recent weeks, increasing fears of a full-scale war between the archfoes.

Israel launched an attack on Iran on April 19, almost a week after an unprecedented drone and missile assault by Tehran. Iran’s attack was in retaliation for a suspected Israeli air strike that killed seven Iranian commanders in Syria on April 1.

In the event of a direct conflict, Israel would have the military superiority, both offensively and defensively, experts say. But they say the threat posed by Iran’s arsenal of drones and missiles should not be dismissed.

Under decades of sanctions, Iran has invested heavily in developing domestic weapons programs, resulting in cheap and effective drones as well as more advanced ballistic missiles.

John Krzyzaniak, a research associate at the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, said Iran’s missiles “pose a serious threat” to Israel. Tehran’s combat and suicide drones, meanwhile, can “wreak havoc on a civilian population” if fired in large numbers, he said.


Even so, Israel maintains military supremacy.

Besides Israel’s operational and intelligence advantage over Iran, it also has a nuclear deterrent, experts said. Israel is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons, with the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative estimating that Israel has around 90 nuclear warheads.

During the April 13 attack, Iran fired over 300 drones and cruise and ballistic missiles against Israel. Tehran claimed that it did not use some of the country’s most advanced weapons. The attack appeared to be highly choreographed and not intended to cause significant damage or casualties.

Israel said almost all of the drones and missiles were intercepted with the help of the United States, Britain, and Jordan. A handful of missiles slipped through the Israeli defenses and hit an air base, causing minor damage, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Fabian Hinz, research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), said Iran simultaneously launching more than 100 ballistic missiles was “quite something” due to the sheer logistics and manpower involved.

“I’m actually not sure if it has ever been done in war before and that makes me wonder how much bigger they could go,” Hinz told RFE/RL’s Radio Farda.

Israel’s defense systems “performed well” against the Iranian missiles, said Jeremy Binnie, a Middle East defense specialist at the defense intelligence company Janes.

But Binnie said the reliability of the Iranian weapons appeared to have been a “major factor.” U.S. intelligence estimated that around half of the Iranian missiles failed on launch or in flight.

Israel’s attack on April 19 appeared to expose the vulnerability of Iran’s defenses. Tehran said small quadcopter drones were used, suggesting the attack was carried out from inside Iranian territory.

Israel’s advanced fighter jets give the country the superiority in the air. But Israel faces several obstacles, experts said, including a lack of aerial refueling tankers. Israel would also need permission to cross the air space of several countries to reach Iran.

If a war breaks out, Israel is likely to deploy long-range missiles against Iran, experts said. Tehran’s air defenses, meanwhile, have not been battle-tested.

Experts said given Israel’s military advantage, Iran is likely to continue to use unconventional warfare and its asymmetric capabilities. That includes the so-called “axis of resistance”: Iran’s loose-knit network of proxies and militant groups who aid it in opposing Israel.

Hannah Kaviani of Radio Farda contributed to this report.

Iranian State Media Report Explosions After Suspected Israeli Strike

Iranian State Media Report Explosions After Suspected Israeli Strike
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Iranian state media said explosions were heard early on April 19 near the central city of Isfahan, which is home to an air base and a nuclear facility. The IAEA nuclear watchdog reported that there was no damage to Iran's nuclear sites. U.S. sources were cited as saying Israel had attacked the area.

Video Purportedly Shows Israeli Aerial Attack On Iran

Video Purportedly Shows Israeli Aerial Attack On Iran
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Tehran said it shot down three quadcopter drones outside the central city of Isfahan, which is home to key military and nuclear facilities. Israel's suspected military response early on April 19 appeared to be limited in scale and scope and aimed at de-escalating tensions with Iran.

Israel's Limited Attack On Iran Appears Aimed At De-Escalating Conflict

The Iranian Army's tactical air base in Isfahan (file photo)
The Iranian Army's tactical air base in Isfahan (file photo)

Israel had vowed to make Iran pay for Tehran’s unprecedented drone and missile attack on April 13.

But Israel’s suspected military response early on April 19 appeared to be limited in scale and scope and aimed at de-escalating tensions with Iran.

Tehran said it shot down three quadcopter drones outside the central city of Isfahan, which is home to key military and nuclear facilities. Unnamed U.S. officials said Israel used missiles in the attack.

Experts said the use of small quadcopter drones, which are unable to travel long distances, suggests the attack was carried out from inside Iranian territory.

Israel has not claimed the attack in Isfahan. But experts said the suspected Israeli response sent a clear message to Tehran.

Raz Zimmt, a senior researcher at the Israeli-based Institute for National Security Studies, said Israel’s use of quadcopter drones, if confirmed, suggests its aim was to “expose the vulnerability of the Iranian security forces” on their own turf.

Zimmt said the attack was not without its risks, but out of all the options available to Israel, it was possibly the least risky.


“At this stage, deniability is vital to lower the risk. I think that if Israel takes responsibility for what happened -- and there is sometimes this tendency among Israeli politicians – this would make it more difficult, not impossible but more difficult, for Iran not to retaliate.”

Reuters quoted an unnamed Iranian official as saying that Tehran “has no plan to strike back immediately.”

Israel has been accused of previously attacking military sites in Isfahan with small drones. In January 2023, a military factory was hit. Three months later, Iran said it had foiled a drone attack on a Defense Ministry complex in the city.

Farzin Nadimi, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that if Israel was behind the Isfahan attack, it was carried out in a manner “that carried the least risk of an Iranian retaliation.”

Iran’s April 13 attack was a response to the suspected Israeli air strike on the Iranian Embassy compound in Damascus on April 1 that killed seven Iranian commanders, including two generals.


Tehran said its attack showed that a “new equation” had been established and that Iran would not let Israeli strikes on Iranian interests abroad go unanswered.

But on the same day as the Isfahan attack, Israel was accused of targeting air defense systems in Syria, a key ally of Tehran where Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has a presence.

Zimmt said Israel wanted to send the message that “first, we retaliated, and second, we attacked in Syria and not just in Iran, meaning we are not ready to accept this so-called ‘new equation’ that the Iranians are trying to force on us.”

Mohammad Zarghami of Radio Farda contributed to this report.
Updated

Apparent Israeli Air Attack Strikes Near Iranian City Of Isfahan

Video Purportedly Shows Israeli Aerial Attack On Iran
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Israel's military reportedly struck targets inside Iran in retaliation for an unprecedented air attack Tehran launched last weekend on its sworn enemy, but the limited scope of the operation and a muted Iranian response appeared to indicate an escalation of the conflict had been avoided.

Explosions were heard early on April 19 -- the 85th birthday of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- near the central city of Isfahan, with reports unclear over the cause.

Several major U.S. media organizations, all citing U.S. government sources, said Israel launched a missile or drones to strike targets inside Iran.

Video posted on social media and broadcast around the world showed several large explosions that were reportedly near Isfahan.

Iranian state media quoted officials in Tehran as saying the explosions were caused by air defenses that shot down three drones in the area of Isfahan.

Hossein Deliriyan, the spokesman for Iran's National Center for Cyberspace, refuted the U.S. media reports, saying in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that "there has been no air attack from outside the borders on Isfahan or other parts of the country."

Speaking at a mosque on April 19, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi didn’t mention the attack near Isfahan and with the Israeli retaliation limited in size and scope, experts said it appeared it was aimed at deescalating soaring tensions while still sending a clear message to Tehran.

Reuters quoted an unnamed Iranian official as saying that Tehran “has no plan to strike back immediately.”

Tehran launched more than 300 drones and missiles at Israel in the early morning hours of April 14, almost all of which were shot down by Israeli defense systems, along with intercepts by forces from the United States, France, Britain, and Jordan.

The attack by Tehran had been widely anticipated in Israel following a suspected Israeli air strike on the Iranian Embassy compound in Damascus, Syria, on April 1 that killed two brigadier generals.

Since then, diplomats and politicians around the world, fearing another major escalation of fighting in the Middle East, had urged restraint as they awaited Israel's response.

According to Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, Washington informed the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialized nations that it had received word from Israel on the strikes at the "last minute," but “there was no sharing of the attack by the U.S. It was a mere information.”

“I’m not going to speak to that [the suspected Israeli attack] except to say that the United States has not been involved in any offensive operations,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said after a G7 ministerial meeting on the Italian island of Capri.

Iran's state news agency IRNA said air defenses fired from a large air base in Isfahan that is home to Iran's aging fleet of U.S.-made F-14 Tomcats acquired before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Isfahan also houses facilities that are part of Iran's nuclear program, including its underground Natanz enrichment site.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it had seen no damage to Iran's nuclear sites. Earlier this week, the sites were rumored to be a possible target if Israel launched a strike inside Iran.

One of Iran's top nuclear facilities, the installation at Natanz, is located in central Isfahan. Such sites have seen several sabotage attacks that Tehran has blamed on Israel.

"IAEA can confirm that there is no damage to Iran's nuclear sites," the UN nuclear watchdog said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

"Director-General Rafael Grossi continues to call for extreme restraint from everybody and reiterates that nuclear facilities should never be a target in military conflicts. IAEA is monitoring the situation very closely."

Israeli strikes targeting a Syrian Army position in the country's south were also reported on April 19.

According to AFP, Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the strikes, which he attributed to Israel, "targeted a radar installation of the Syrian Army" between the provinces of Sweida and Daraa provinces.

Raisi had warned earlier this week that Tehran would deliver a "severe response" to any attack on its territory and the limited scope of the reported Israeli attack appeared to heed U.S. President Joe Biden's comment to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel should show restraint with any response and instead "take the win" since the Iranian attack didn't have a great impact.

"It is absolutely necessary that the region stays stable and that all sides refrain from further action," European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said during a visit to Finland on April 19.

Inside Israel, some hawkish lawmakers appeared to acknowledge the strike while criticizing it.

"Feeble," wrote hard-right Security Minister Itamar Ben-Givir in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

Israel and Iran have been bitter enemies for decades but Iran's was the first direct attack by one on the other's soil instead of through proxy forces or by targeting each other's assets operating in third countries.

With reporting by CNN, ABC, CBS, and IRNA

Sister Of Iranian Protest Victim Detained By Tehran's Morality Police

School students wearing the compulsory hijab
School students wearing the compulsory hijab

The sister of Nika Shakarmi, a victim of the Women, Life, Freedom movement protests, has been detained by Tehran's morality police for failing to adhere to the Iran's mandatory hijab law.

Aida Shakarmi, a university student, was arrested in the Iranian capital on April 17 and remains in custody, her father said on Instagram.

Nika Shakarmi, a 16-year-old from Khorramabad residing in Tehran, was killed by security forces during nationwide protests that broke out following the September 2022 death of Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the morality police for an alleged hijab offense.

Nika Shakarmi was missing for eight days after being chased by security officers during a protest before her body was discovered. Authorities attributed her death to a fall from a height, a claim her family disputes.

The Shakarmi family has faced continuous threats and harassment from security forces since as they actively pursued justice for their daughter.

The report of Aida Shakarmi's detention comes amid a new crackdown on women for not adhering to the hijab law. Enforcement intensified after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave a directive during the recent Eid al-Fitr prayer sermon to step up measures against what he called "religious norm-breaking" within Iranian society.

Khamenei also emphasized the mandatory hijab law as a "definite religious decree," underscoring the obligation of all to adhere to this law the same as other legal decrees.

The resurgence of the morality police has sparked increased tensions and confrontations across various cities.

The hijab became compulsory for women and girls over the age of 9 in 1981, two years after the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The move triggered protests that were swiftly crushed by the new authorities. Many women have flouted the rule over the years and pushed the boundaries of what officials say is acceptable clothing.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

U.S. Announces New Sanctions On Iran In Response To Attack On Israel

An Iranian Shahed drone (file photo)
An Iranian Shahed drone (file photo)

WASHINGTON -- The United States has announced new sanctions on Iran targeting its drone production capabilities after its attack on Israel, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement on April 18.

The sanctions designate 16 individuals and two entities enabling Iran’s drone production, including engine types that power Iran’s Shahed drones, which were used in the April 13 attack.

“These actors work on behalf of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF), its UAV production arm, Kimia Part Sivan Company (KIPAS), and other Iranian manufacturers of UAVs and UAV engines,” the Treasury Department’s statement said.

The department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is also designating five companies in multiple jurisdictions providing component materials for steel production to Iran’s Khuzestan Steel Company (KSC), one of Iran’s largest steel producers, or purchasing KSC’s finished steel products.

Also targeted were three subsidiaries of Iranian automaker Bahman Group, which OFAC said had materially supported Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

In addition, the U.S. Commerce Department is imposing new controls to restrict Iran’s access to technologies, such as basic commercial grade microelectronics.

U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States and its allies had helped Israel beat back the April 13 missile and drone strike and were now holding Iran accountable with the new sanctions and export controls.

“The sanctions target leaders and entities connected to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Iran’s Defense Ministry, and the Iranian government’s missile and drone program that enabled this brazen assault," Biden said in a statement. "And our allies and partners have or will issue additional sanctions and measures to restrict Iran’s destabilizing military programs."

He added that the Group of Seven (G7) leaders are committed to acting together to increase economic pressure on Tehran.

Finance ministers and central bank governors of the G7 industrial democracies on April 17 said they would "ensure close coordination of any future measure to diminish Iran's ability to acquire, produce, or transfer weapons to support destabilizing regional activities."

The Treasury Department’s statement noted that Britain is imposing sanctions targeting several Iranian military organizations, individuals, and entities involved in Iran’s drone and ballistic missile industries.

Britain said these sanctions included the General Staff of the Armed Forces and the IRGC Navy.

Tehran says it carried out the April 13 attack in retaliation for a presumed Israeli strike on April 1 on the Iranian Embassy compound in Damascus that killed two generals and several others.

With reporting by Reuters
Updated

German Foreign Minister Says G7 Needs 'Response' To Iran's Unprecedented Attack

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock addresses journalists in Tel Aviv on April 17.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock addresses journalists in Tel Aviv on April 17.

The G7 must respond to Iran's attack on Israel, Germany's foreign minister said on April 18, adding that measures were being discussed with her counterparts at a meeting in Italy.

"We are also discussing further measures here at the G7, because of course there must be a response to this unprecedented incident," Annalena Baerbock said from the island of Capri.

She added however that "there must be no further escalation in the region; that would be fatal for its people."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on April 18 painted a dark picture of the situation in the Middle East, warning that spiraling tensions over the war in Gaza and Iran's attack on Israel could devolve into a "full-scale regional conflict."

Guterres said Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip had created a "humanitarian hellscape" for civilians trapped there.

"The Middle East is on a precipice. Recent days have seen a perilous escalation," Guterres told a high-level Security Council meeting.

He said one miscalculation or miscommunication “could lead to the unthinkable --- a full-scale regional conflict.”

Iranian Journalist Arrested After Recounting Assault By Morality Police

Iran's so-called morality police arrest a woman over an alleged head-scarf violation. (Illustrative photo)
Iran's so-called morality police arrest a woman over an alleged head-scarf violation. (Illustrative photo)

Iranian journalist Dina Ghalibaf was arrested after she published a personal narrative about her previous detention by Iran’s morality police for not adhering to the mandatory hijab law.

Ghalibaf, a journalist and student of political science at Tehran’s Beheshti University, disclosed details of her arrest by law enforcement on April 15 for defying the compulsory hijab law, including that she was sexually assaulted during her detention. She was subsequently re-arrested by intelligence forces and taken to an undisclosed location.


Reports indicate that Ghalibaf was arrested at her residence. No information available on her whereabouts has been made available.

Ghalibaf's arrest coincides with the reimplementation of Iran’s Plan Noor initiative, under which the morality police have resumed operations and are strictly enforcing dress codes. This has led to several incidents of violence against women challenging the compulsory hijab, documented through numerous accounts, including Ghalibaf's.

According to Ghalibaf, during her initial detention, she was forcibly moved and subjected to electric shocks while handcuffed. She says a law enforcement officer also sexually assaulted her.

Following the death of Mahsa Amini in September 2022, who died while detained by the morality police, and the subsequent nationwide protests it sparked, the presence of morality police vehicles in cities had noticeably decreased. Instead, the Islamic Republic employed individuals referred to as "hijab guards."

The new crackdown on women for not adhering to the hijab intensified after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave a directive during the recent Eid al-Fitr prayer sermon to step up enforcement measures against what he called "religious norm-breaking" within Iranian society.

Khamenei also emphasized the mandatory hijab law as a "definite religious decree," underscoring the obligation of all to adhere to this the same as other legal decrees.

The resurgence of the morality police has sparked increased tensions and confrontations across various cities.

The hijab became compulsory for women and girls over the age of 9 in 1981, two years after the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The move triggered protests that were swiftly crushed by the new authorities. Many women have flouted the rule over the years and pushed the boundaries of what officials say is acceptable clothing.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

Iranian Political Prisoners Launch Hunger Strike Over Wave Of Executions

Inmates at Iran's in Ghezel Hesar prisone have been holding regular protests against exeuctions since February 29. (file photo)
Inmates at Iran's in Ghezel Hesar prisone have been holding regular protests against exeuctions since February 29. (file photo)

A group of Iranian political prisoners around the country have launched a hunger strike to protest a wave of death sentences that could push Iran's execution rate even higher, human rights activists reported.

The hunger strike, which includes prisoners at the notorious Evin and Ghezel Hesar prisons, coincides with the 12th consecutive week of the "No to Execution Tuesdays" campaign, which has been ongoing in Iranian prisons to protest against the regime's use of the death penalty.

Sources within the prisons said that in recent days the government has quietly executed a large number of nonpolitical prisoners across the country as Iranians focus on rising tensions with Israel after Tehran launched more than 300 drones and missiles at Iran's sworn enemy in an unprecedented attack on Israeli soil.

The sources added that many inmates also have been moved to solitary confinement in Ghezel Hesar and other prisons, a sign more executions could be carried out soon in what the protesting prisoners describe as a "new wave of repression and intimidation by the judicial and security apparatus."

Prisoners in Ghezel Hesar have been actively protesting through the "No to Execution Tuesdays Strike" campaign since February 29, aiming to draw attention to the widespread executions.

The campaign has gained momentum, with inmates from prisons such as Evin, Khorramabad, Karaj Central, Khoy, Naghadeh, Mashhad, and Saqqez joining in support.

The rate of executions in Iran has been rising sharply, particularly in the wake of the widespread protests following the September 2022 death of the 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was being held for an alleged head-scarf violation.

Two weeks ago, Amnesty International highlighted that at least 853 executions were carried out in Iran in 2023, marking a 48 percent increase from the previous year. The organization attributes this rise to the government's strategy of instilling fear among the populace against regime opposition.

In response to these ongoing issues, the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva renewed its special rapporteur's mandate on Iranian affairs on April 4, 2023.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

Raisi Reiterates Warning As Israel Mulls Response To Weekend Air Attack

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi attends a military parade alongside high-ranking officials and commanders during a ceremony marking the country's annual National Army Day in Tehran on April 17.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi attends a military parade alongside high-ranking officials and commanders during a ceremony marking the country's annual National Army Day in Tehran on April 17.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has reiterated his warning to Israel that "the tiniest invasion" would trigger a swift and severe response amid global concerns over how the Jewish state will retaliate following a drone and missile attack on it orchestrated by Tehran over the weekend.

Speaking at a National Army Day parade on April 17 that was relocated without explanation, Raisi called the massive drone and missile attack in the early morning hours of April 14 a "limited action" and that an Israeli response on Iranian soil would be met with a "massive and harsh" answer. He made no further comment on what such a response would entail.

"If we had carried out a heavier operation, nothing would be left of Israel. But it was supposed to be a limited action," he said

Almost all of the more than 300 drones and missiles launched by Iran were shot down by Israeli defense systems, along with intercepts by forces from the United States, France, Britain, and Jordan.

An attack by Tehran had been widely anticipated in Israel following a suspected Israeli air strike on the Iranian Embassy compound in Damascus, Syria, early last month that killed two brigadier generals.

Since then, diplomats and politicians around the world, fearing another major escalation of fighting in the Middle East, have urged restraint as they await Israel's response.

Israel and Iran have been bitter enemies for decades, but this was the first direct attack by one on the other's soil instead of through proxy forces or by targeting each other's assets operating in third countries.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on April 17 that Israel will decide how and whether it will respond to the unprecedented attack on its soil.

“I want to be clear: we will make our decisions ourselves. The state of Israel will do whatever is necessary to defend itself,” Netanyahu said at a cabinet meeting on April 17.

Netanyahu's statement came after the British and German foreign ministers said during separate visits to the Middle East that, while they were in solidarity with Israel in its right to respond, restraint is needed as well.

“Everyone must now act prudently and responsibly. I’m not talking about giving in. I’m talking about prudent restraint, which is nothing less than strength,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said.

“Because Israel has already shown strength with its defensive victory at the weekend,” she added.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

Iran's Afghan Community Worried About Prospect Of War With Israel

Afghans who were deported from Iran are seen in Afghanistan's western province of Herat.
Afghans who were deported from Iran are seen in Afghanistan's western province of Herat.

Many in Iran are worried about the prospect of a war with Israel and the possible impact on the country’s faltering economy.

That includes members of Iran’s large community of Afghan refugees and migrants, one of the most vulnerable groups in society.

Experts have warned that a full-scale war is a possibility in the wake of Iran’s unprecedented attack on Israel on April 13.

Afghans in Iran, speaking to RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi, described a wartime atmosphere in Iran since Tehran’s first-ever direct attack against Israel.

They also said the authorities have intensified their crackdown on undocumented Afghans, many of whom fled war, poverty, and persecution in Afghanistan.

"This situation is alarming for all Afghan migrants in Iran," said Omid Poya, an exiled Afghan journalist living in Iran. "Those who don’t have legal documents [to stay in Iran] don’t even leave their houses anymore.”

An Afghan migrant, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said “Iranian cities are in an emergency-like situation” since the April 13 attack, referring to the deployment of additional law enforcement officers on the streets. This, he said, has “forced many of us to worry about our future.”

An estimated 4.3 million Afghans currently live in Iran, according to the UN. More than 1 million have been deported in the past year as part of Tehran’s plan to expel all undocumented Afghans.

An Afghan migrant working in his cafe in Tehran (file photo)
An Afghan migrant working in his cafe in Tehran (file photo)

Afghans suffer widespread abuse and discrimination in Iran, where they have often been blamed for insecurity and unemployment.

Life More Difficult

Many Afghans are worried that a possible war between Iran and Israel will worsen the already dire economic situation in the Islamic republic, which has witnessed soaring inflation, rising unemployment, and growing poverty in recent years.

Following Iran’s April 13 attack, the national currency, the rial, plummeted to a new record low against the U.S. dollar.

That has had a direct impact on the livelihoods of Afghans and how much money they can send back to their families in Afghanistan.

"Life has become more difficult after the dollar rose against the Iranian currency," said Azizgul Afghan Beg, an Afghan living in Tehran. "Our main concern is where we will escape if a war breaks out here.”

A group of Afghan refugees are seen in Herat after returning from Iran. (file photo)
A group of Afghan refugees are seen in Herat after returning from Iran. (file photo)

An estimated 70 percent of the estimated 3.6 million Afghans who have fled their homeland after the Taliban seized power in 2021 moved to Iran.

Afghans, including journalists, activists, and former soldiers and police officers, said they fear being forced to flee Iran and return to their homeland.

“Our lives will be in danger," Qadariah Rezaei, said an Afghan rights campaigner residing in Iran. Afghans would pay a “heavy price” if Tehran becomes embroiled in a conflict with Israel, she said.

Other Afghans say they are contemplating returning to Afghanistan.

"It is better to return to our homeland because of the mounting worries over war and the sharp slump in employment,” said Shamsul Rahman, an Afghan living in the southeastern city of Kerman.

Written by Abubakar Siddique based on reporting by RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi.

As Iran And Israel Escalate Conflict, Arab States Stick To Their Guns

A model of a missile is carried by Iranian demonstrators as a minaret and dome of a mosque is seen in the background during an anti-Israeli rally in Tehran on April 15.
A model of a missile is carried by Iranian demonstrators as a minaret and dome of a mosque is seen in the background during an anti-Israeli rally in Tehran on April 15.

As the world anxiously awaited the outcome of Iran's large-scale attack against Israel, some Arab countries had already taken steps to blunt its impact.

When the dust from the April 13 attack settled, the vast majority of the hundreds of drones and missiles launched by Iran had been shot down -- by Israel, its Western allies, and Jordan, despite its strong opposition to Israel's ongoing war in Gaza.

At least two other Arab states -- Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), which have been highly critical of the Gaza war and have joined Iran and other Muslim states in pushing for a cease-fire -- also reportedly played a role in intercepting the Iranian assault by sharing intelligence information.

The actions by the Sunni Arab countries, all of which have tenuous relationships with both Israel and majority-Shi'a Iran, led to speculation that they may have chosen sides. But experts say that their involvement in thwarting Iran's attack does not mark a major shift in their positions -- either for or against Israel or Iran.

Not Taking Sides

"Some went so far as saying that this is an indication that the threat perception among Arab states vis-à-vis Iran is rising, and the equation has changed and the Arab countries may side with Israel against Iran," said Hamidreza Azizi, a fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. "I don't see the picture like that."

Azizi explained that the Arab countries' contribution, whether shooting down Iranian drones or missiles or providing intelligence, "was more about preventing a war than siding with one side against another."

On X, formerly Twitter, geopolitical and security analyst Michael Horowitz said that while several countries participated, directly or indirectly, in the effort to limit the impact of Iran's attack, Jordan clearly "acted out of self-interest."

WATCH: Listeners of RFE/RL's Radio Farda urged restraint on both sides as a Harvard professor of international relations said he didn't expect Israel to respond in the short term.

 'Everyone Is Against Us': Iranian RFE/RL Listeners' War Worries
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Noting that Iranian projectiles had flown over Jordanian airspace during the attack, Horowitz, the director of security consultancy Le Beck International, asked: "What sovereign country would let a third party fly hundreds of missiles and drones over major urban centers without budging?"

Others acted following significant pressure by Israel's key ally, the United States, he said, or out of "fear of a regional escalation." This fear, Horowitz said, alluding to recent steps by Saudi Arabia and others to improve ties with Tehran in recent years, "was the same fear of escalation that has led them to renew communication and broker normalization deals with Iran."

Gaza And Security Above All

Through the smoke of the Israel-Iran showdown, observers who spoke to RFE/RL said, Arab countries sent a message that their desire to maintain regional stability and to see a cease-fire in the Gaza war trumps all.

"I don't see any kind of change in the Arab states' approach toward Israel's war in Gaza," said Azizi. "They are still opposed to it and it seems to be still the main priority of the Arab world and the Muslim world, more broadly speaking."

In fact, Iran's attack -- which Tehran launched in retaliation for a suspected Israeli strike on an Iranian diplomatic compound in Syria on April 1 -- may have been seen by Arab states as an unwelcome distraction from the Gaza situation, according to Azizi.

"What might have irritated the Arab countries is not Iran's strike or retaliation, per se, but the timing of it amid all the efforts for bringing a cease-fire to stop the war," Azizi said. "And also in the sense that, you know, the [Iranian] attack has already shifted international focus from basically pressuring Israel into reconsidering its approach in Gaza to the Iran-Israel confrontation."

The other major considerations in the eyes of the Arab countries, Azizi said, were maintaining regional stability and avoiding a war with Iran.

"They simply don't want further instability in the region. They want to focus on their developmental projects. There are a lot of ambitious initiatives that all states separately or together have been pursuing. So, further instability would be a big challenge to that," Azizi said. "And the last thing they would want to have is a war with Iran itself."

Out Of The Shadows

Iran and Israel have long been engaged in a shadow war that followed a general code -- Iran used its proxies and partners in the so-called "axis of resistance" against Israel to strike against its archenemy, and Israel did not hesitate to hit Iran's militant partners.

This was underscored by the events of October 7, when the Iran-backed and U.S.- and EU-designated terror group Hamas launched a deadly assault on Israel that prompted Israel to invade the Gaza Strip to root out Hamas. The war has left tens of thousands of Palestinians dead and has been accompanied by attacks on Israel by Iranian-backed proxies, as well as strikes by Israel against Iranian-backed militants and even members of the Iranian military in the region.

But all the while, Iran and Israel were careful not to strike each other directly.

That changed with the April 1 aerial strike that targeted the grounds of the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, which killed Iran's top regional commander and six other members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Blaming Israel for the deadly strike that hit a consular annex building, Iran vowed direct retaliation. And while it telegraphed its response 12 days later with advance warnings to regional states, Tehran's launching of hundreds of missiles and drones was a dangerous signal that Iran's "strategic patience" with Israel had run out and it was willing to take Israel on directly.

Speaking about the options Iran had prior to deciding to launch its barrage against Israel on April 13, experts who spoke to RFE/RL noted that it was Israel that took the first step to engage with its Iranian adversary directly.

Stopping the Israeli war in Gaza is the highest priority for Arab states.
Stopping the Israeli war in Gaza is the highest priority for Arab states.

"I think the one that [Iran] chose was one that signals that they took this seriously. They were trying to remind Israel that Israel might face military consequences if it continued [such] actions," Stephen Walt, a professor of international relations at Harvard University, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda. "But they didn't want to raise the ante to do something even more extensive or more damaging.

"I think the Iranians felt they had to respond, but wanted to do so in a way that didn't provoke a wider war," he added.

Now that Iran and Israel's long-standing conflict has emerged from the shadows, the question is whether it could spiral into a direct war or return to a proxy war.

Both Israel and Iran have suggested that their standoff is not over. Israel has vowed to respond to Iran's attack, without saying how or when. Iran has said that it considers its tit-for-tat with Israel concluded with its unprecedented attack on Israeli territory, while warning that even the "tiniest" retaliation on Iran's territory would bring a "massive and harsh" response.

"We are still in, in a sense, the realm of a shadow war, assuming that Israel does not now respond by hitting Iran back," Walt said. "Assuming it does not now escalate further, then I think we will see a return to the shadow war of the last few months."

Safety In Deniability

Azizi said that is something Iran was comfortable with, even in the event its interests or proxies were hit by Israel, because there was always "some room for deniability" that Iran itself was attacked.

On the other hand, Iran benefited from plausible deniability that it did not direct attacks on Israel carried out by its partners like Hamas, or Huthi rebels in Yemen, or Lebanese Hizballah.

By attacking Israel, Azizi said, "Iran actually abandoned plausible deniability, taking not only responsibility but credit." This, he added, "was an attempt to push Israel toward the old rules of engagement -- to say, let's go back to the gray zone."

None of the actors on the sidelines -- including the United States, which has worked to improve or establish relations between Israel and Arab states, and Russia, which commended Iran's attack on Israel as justified -- wants to see an all-out war.

Those closest to the conflict, the Arab states, have made it clear that they want stability and an end to the Gaza war. Some major players and regional rivals of Iran -- notably Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. -- have in recent years restored their relations with Tehran in an effort to minimize the threat.

While Arab countries have criticized and, in some cases, helped thwart Iran's attack on Israel, they did not condemn Tehran for its actions. Iran, while sending a vague warning that Jordan could be "the next target," has avoided criticism following months of diplomacy with Arab states over the Gaza war and humanitarian crisis.

"I think both sides (Iran and Arab states) are quite clear that they want to continue going toward this path," Azizi said, even suggesting a possible mediation role for an Arab country in resolving the Iran-Israel crisis.

Written and reported by Michael Scollon with contributions by Radio Farda correspondent Saeed Jafari.

U.K. Says Israel 'Making Decision To Act' As Iran Vows To Respond To Any Incursion

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron (file photo)
British Foreign Secretary David Cameron (file photo)

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said on April 17 that Israel “is making a decision to act” in response to Iran's missile and drone attack over the weekend, while Iran warned that even the “tiniest” invasion of its territory would bring a “massive and harsh” response. Israel has vowed to respond to Iran's unprecedented attack without saying when or how, leaving the region bracing for further escalation after months of unrest linked to the ongoing war in Gaza.

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