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'Terrorist Team' Demolished, Says Iran's IRGC

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) says it has demolished a terrorist cell in the western province of Kermanshah.

In a statement issued to Iranian media on November 18, the IRGC said the operation was carried out in "recent days."

"A terrorist team in Kermanshah Province near the border was identified in recent days and its members were arrested in an operation," the statement said.

It added that "some military equipment" was confiscated in the operation.

A day earlier, the commander of IRGC in Kermanshah was quoted by Iranian news agencies as saying the IRGC and the Intelligence Ministry had arrested groups in Kermanshah trying to recruit fighters for the extremist group Islamic State (IS).

Intelligence Minister Mahmud Alavi said on November 15 that the recent terrorists attacks in Beirut and Paris should be regarded as a "serious alarm" when it comes to Iran's security.

Based on reporting by Mehr, IRNA, Tasnim, and Reuters

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Crew Of Ship Seized By Iran Safe, Operator MSC Says

MSC leases the Aries from Gortal Shipping, an affiliate of Zodiac Maritime, which is partly owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer.
MSC leases the Aries from Gortal Shipping, an affiliate of Zodiac Maritime, which is partly owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer.

The 25 crew members of the MSC Aries, which was seized by Iran on April 13, are safe, shipping firm MSC said, adding that discussions with Iranian authorities were in progress to secure their earliest release. "We are also working with the Iranian authorities to have the cargo discharged," the company said. Portugal's Foreign Ministry summoned Iran's ambassador to condemn a weekend attack on Israel by Tehran and to demand the immediate release of the Portuguese-flagged container ship. MSC leases the Aries from Gortal Shipping, an affiliate of Zodiac Maritime. Zodiac is partly owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer.

Yerevan Assures Iran That South Caucasus Won't Turn Into Field Of 'Geopolitical Competition,' Envoy Says

Iranian Ambassador to Armenia Mehdi Sobhani (file photo)
Iranian Ambassador to Armenia Mehdi Sobhani (file photo)

Iran says it has received assurances from Armenia regarding its concerns about the potential escalation of geopolitical competition in the South Caucasus stemming from the Armenian leader's recent high-level discussions with U.S. and EU officials in Brussels.

Iranian Ambassador to Armenia Mehdi Sobhani said on April 16 that Tehran had a discussion with Armenian authorities about the trilateral meeting on April 5 between Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Western powers said the meeting was focused on helping Armenia increase its resilience and diversify its economy, which is still heavily dependent on Russia.

Sobhani said Armenian authorities told him that the meeting was "not directed against any third country" and was meant to "strengthen the economy of Armenia and to receive humanitarian aid and support for those displaced from Karabakh."

Iran does not oppose Armenia’s efforts to develop its economy and solve the problems of the people displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh, Sobhani said at a news conference in Yerevan. This is Armenia's right, he said.

"Our concern is that Armenia and the [South] Caucasus should not turn into an arena for geopolitical competition and that the development of Armenia's foreign relations should not be at the expense of other countries," Sobhani said.

"And the Armenian authorities have informed us that the diversification of their country's foreign policy is not directed against Armenia-Iran relations."

The Iranian ambassador also defined the "extra-regional forces" whose intervention in the South Caucasus would be considered dangerous by Tehran. These would be forces unrelated to any security or geopolitical issues of the region, he said.

“That is, they come here from across the ocean and try to make decisions for the people of this region,” Sobhani said.

Asked whether members of the EU mission who have been monitoring the Armenian-Azerbaijani border since last year are considered "extra-regional forces," the Iranian ambassador said, "Yes, some European countries and the United States are."

Meanwhile, the Iranian diplomat said that Tehran's "red lines" regarding borders in the South Caucasus have not changed.

"Iran has expressed its opposition to the change of internationally recognized borders at the highest level, at the level of the head of the country, and it cannot be ignored," he said.

"We are categorically against the change of any geopolitical and internationally recognized borders. If there are problems on the border, they should be solved on the basis of dialogue, mutual understanding, with the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the countries respected," Sobhani said.

Baku and Yerevan have been conducting negotiations over their respective borders for decades, but the process took on new urgency after Azerbaijan recaptured Nagorno-Karabakh amid a swift military offensive in September 2023.

Unlike in the past, the talks are now being conducted one-on-one without Russian, U.S., or EU mediators.

EU To Begin Work On Expanding Sanctions Against Iran As Israeli War Cabinet Meets Again

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the EU needs to coordinate the European response to the first-ever attack on Israel launched from the territory of Iran. (file photo)
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the EU needs to coordinate the European response to the first-ever attack on Israel launched from the territory of Iran. (file photo)

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says he will request that the EU’s diplomatic service start work on an expansion of sanctions in response to Tehran's weekend attack on Israel.

Borrell made the comment on April 16 after an emergency video conference of EU foreign ministers called to discuss the repercussions of the attack and as Israel's war cabinet was set to meet again to decide its response to Iran's weekend attack.

Borrell said the EU needs to coordinate the European response to the first-ever attack on Israel launched from the territory of Iran, which he said "certainly represents a major escalation of an already very tense situation in the region."

The ministers "took a strong stance asking all actors in the region to move away from the abyss" during their video conference, he said.

Israeli military chief of staff Herzi Halevi said on April 15 that the launch of more than 300 missiles and drones from Iran at Israeli territory "will be met with a response" but gave no details.

The attack caused no deaths and little damage, but it has increased fears that violence will spread beyond the current war in the Gaza Strip and throughout the Middle East.

Iran launched the attack in retaliation for an air strike on its embassy compound in Damascus on April 1 attributed to Israel. At the same time Tehran signaled that it did not seek further escalation.

President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekend that the United States would not participate in an Israeli counterstrike.

Washington instead said it would strive to toughen economic and political sanctions against Iran.

 'Everyone Is Against Us': Iranian RFE/RL Listeners' War Worries
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Meanwhile, Israel has begun writing to 32 countries to ask them to place sanctions on Iran's missile program and join Washington in designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist group.

Earlier on April 16, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi by phone about what the Kremlin called "retaliatory measures taken by Iran." Putin urged all sides to refrain from action that would trigger a new confrontation, which would be fraught with catastrophic consequences for the region, the Kremlin said.

In his first publicly aired comments on Iran's attack, Putin said the root cause of the current instability in the Middle East was the unresolved conflict between Palestinians and Israel.

Raisi's office gave a slightly different interpretation of the call, saying Putin said Iran's response was "the best way to punish the aggressor and show the wisdom and rationality of Iran's leaders."

The statement also said Raisi declared that Iran would respond more severely, extensively, and painfully than ever to any action against Iran's interests.

Also on April 16, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was "the main one responsible" for Iran's first direct attack on Israel.

"Those who have been silent for months about Israel's aggressive attitude immediately condemned the Iranian response," said Erdogan, who regularly criticizes Israel and its leadership. "But it's Netanyahu himself who is the first who should be condemned."

He said Israel's attack in Damascus violated international law and "was the straw that broke the camel's back."

With reporting by Reuters and AFP

'Everyone Is Against Us': Iranian RFE/RL Listeners' War Worries

 'Everyone Is Against Us': Iranian RFE/RL Listeners' War Worries
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Senior Israeli government ministers are reportedly still debating how the country will respond to an Iranian attack in which more than 300 missiles and drones were fired directly at the country. Listeners to 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.

U.S. To Hit Iran With New Sanctions, Yellen Says; U.S. Looking To Use Russian Assets For Ukraine

The new sanctions, which come in response to Iran's April 13 attack on Israel, could seek to reduce Iran's capacity to export oil.
The new sanctions, which come in response to Iran's April 13 attack on Israel, could seek to reduce Iran's capacity to export oil.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on April 16 warned that the United States intends to hit Iran with new sanctions over its unprecedented attack on Israel, and these actions could seek to reduce Iran's capacity to export oil.

"I fully expect that we will take additional sanctions action against Iran in the coming days," Yellen told a news conference in Washington.

The United States has taken previous action to contain Iran's "destabilizing" behavior by diminishing its ability to export oil, she said.

"Clearly, Iran is continuing to export some oil. There may be more that we could do."

The United States and its Group of Seven (G7) allies are continuing to explore a range of possibilities to unlock the value of nearly $300 billion in frozen Russian assets to aid Ukraine, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on April 16.

She said Ukraine needed ongoing streams of support, and that is driving the quest to monetize the frozen Russian assets.

She also said the United States and the G7 were absolutely committed to Ukraine's support and urged Congress to approve military aid, calling it "a humanitarian and moral imperative."

With reporting by Reuters

'Nightmare Scenario': The Risks Of Escalation As Israel Mulls Iran Response

A man walks past a banner depicting missiles launching from a representation of the map of Iran colored with the Iranian flag in central Tehran.
A man walks past a banner depicting missiles launching from a representation of the map of Iran colored with the Iranian flag in central Tehran.

Iran's unprecedented attack on Israel has put the Middle East in uncharted territory.

Tehran fired scores of drones and missiles at Israel on April 13, its first-ever direct attack on its archfoe.

In the wake of the assault, Israel has been weighing up its options, which analysts say could range from a diplomatic offensive to isolate Iran to directing military strikes on the Islamic republic.

With the risk of escalation higher than ever, the worst-case scenario of an all-out war between Iran and Israel is a distinct possibility, analysts say.

"Israel will have to take intentions into account, not just results, and this means there is a case that is going to be made in Israel for a response inside Iran -- with all the risks that come with it," said Michael Horowitz, head of intelligence at the Bahrain-based Le Beck International consultancy.

While neither Iran nor Israel may want an escalation, "the dance they've engaged in -- trying to 'out-deter' the other -- is a very dangerous one," Horowitz said.

Iran's attack was retaliation for the suspected Israeli air strike on the Iranian Embassy's compound in Syria on April 1 that killed seven Iranian commanders, including two generals.

Suspected Israeli air strikes have killed at least 18 members of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the elite branch of Iran's armed forces, in Syria since December.

Iran's April 13 attack appeared to be highly choreographed and not intended to cause significant damage or casualties.

'Nightmare Scenario'

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has said Israel has "no choice" but to respond to Iran's attack. Tehran, however, has warned its response will be "stronger" and "more extensive" if Israel retaliates.

The IRGC's chief commander Major General Hossein Salami, on April 14 said Iran's operation -- dubbed Honest Promise -- had "changed the equation" and Tehran would respond to Israeli actions rather than exercise "strategic patience."

"Iran wants a paradigm shift and has said that from now on, every Israeli action will receive a similar response," Farzin Nadimi, a senior fellow with the Washington Institute, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda.

Any direct Israeli military action against Iran could trigger a full-blown war between Israel and Iran -- what Horowitz calls the "nightmare scenario."

Such a scenario could drag in the United States, Israel's key ally, and trigger attacks on Israel by Iranian proxies and pro-Iranian militant groups in the region, including Lebanon's Hizballah, Yemen's Huthi rebels, and Shi'ite militias in Iraq and Syria.

"If we reach this point, we may see weeks of Israeli strikes in Iran, the full-scale engagement of Hizballah in an attack against Israel, an Israeli ground incursion in Lebanon, and Iranian attempts to close the Persian Gulf," Horowitz said.

Iran has for years threatened to block the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a major route for world oil supplies.

Even in the absence of a direct Israeli attack on Iran, "a cycle of tit-for-tat attacks between Iran and Israel could get us there, if outside parties don't act as they did so far to de-escalate tensions," Horowitz warned.

'Level Of Uncertainty'

Many global powers and regional actors have called for de-escalation, including the United States, which has called on Israel to show restraint.

U.S. President Joe Biden has told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington will not support an offensive strike against Iran, according to reports.

"The United States has enormous leverage over Israel, if it chooses to use it," Stephen Walt, a professor of international relations at Harvard University, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda. "It has not been using its leverage.... Now, with the possibility of a wider war looming, it appears the Biden administration has told Israel that if they do anything more, they're on their own."

While it is not impossible for Israel to ignore Washington and take matters into its own hands, Walt said the odds of a regional conflict were slim because "most of the actors in the region do not want this to happen."

He said the only groups that "might have an interest" in a wider war are Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, and Netanyahu's hard-line government.

Even so, there would be no real winners in a broader conflict, according to Horowitz.

"There is just no predicting how any of the warring sides will come out of an escalation, and this level of uncertainty generally isn't good for anyone," he said.

With reporting by Elaheh Ravanshad and Saeid Jafari

Israeli War Cabinet To Meet For Third Time On Response To Iran's Attack

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center) attends a war cabinet meeting at the Kirya in Tel Aviv on April 14.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center) attends a war cabinet meeting at the Kirya in Tel Aviv on April 14.

Israel's war cabinet was set to meet for the third time in three days on April 16, an official said, to decide on a response to Iran's first-ever direct attack, amid international pressure to avoid further escalating conflict in the Middle East. Military chief of staff Herzi Halevi had promised that Saturday night's launch of more than 300 missiles, cruise missiles and drones from Iran into Israeli territory "will be met with a response," but gave no details. While the attack caused no deaths and little damage, it has increased concerns that violence rooted in the Gaza war is spreading.

Wave Of Complaints Follows Police Hijab Crackdown In Tehran

Iranian women walk on a Tehran street without wearing the mandatory head scarves.
Iranian women walk on a Tehran street without wearing the mandatory head scarves.

The stricter enforcement of the mandatory hijab law by Tehran police has prompted a wave of complaints from Iranians who say police are using aggressive and sometimes violent tactics in their treatment of alleged violators.

Tehran Police Chief Abbasali Mohammadian announced a ratcheting up of enforcement of the new "hijab and chastity" bill from April 13 even though the legislation had yet to be approved by the country's Guardian Council.

According to reports, some citizens said their car windows were smashed by baton-wielding officers as they sought violators, while others recounted aggressive confrontations with state motorcycle patrols.

It was also reported that Nafiseh Latifian and Negar Abedzadeh, the wife and daughter of legendary soccer goalkeeper Ahmadreza Abedzadeh, were among those detained on Tehran's Fereshteh Street for allegedly violating hijab regulations.

"The two were detained for causing tensions and clashing with officers," the Fars News Agency, which is aligned with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), reported.

Even though the Guardian Council has yet to approve the law, a necessary step in it becoming official, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave a directive during the Eid al-Fitr prayer sermon for enforcement of 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 and other legal decrees.

The "hijab and chastity" bill, which passed in parliament last year without public discussion, came in reaction to a wave of protests and defiance by women against being forced to wear the head covering. However, the approval process is still ongoing after some objections by the Guardian Council, including questions over how the law will be enforced.

Ahmadreza Radan, a senior police official, discussed the stepped-up measures, telling the Mehr news agency that in cases involving vehicles, a warning is issued on the first offense.

"On the second, the vehicle is detained on site and then impounded," he added.

Radan also spoke about the Noor Plan, which targets businesses and individuals accused of failing to adhere to hijab norms. He described it as a response to demands from "devout citizens," with businesses facing closure for repeated violations.

The renewed focus on the mandatory hijab enforcement arrives as numerous reports suggest a decline in adherence to the headscarf among Iranian women in Tehran and other cities following widespread protests triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini while in custody of the morality police in 2022 for an alleged hijab violation.

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.

The death of Amini released a wave of anger that has presented the Islamic regime with its biggest challenge since the revolution.

The Women, Life, Freedom protests and civil disobedience against the compulsory hijab have swept the country, involving tens of thousands of Iranians, many of whom were already upset over the country's deteriorating living standards.

Campaigns were also launched against the discriminatory law, although many have been pressured by the state and forced to leave the country.

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

John Bolton Says Strong Israeli Response To Iran Attack Would Be Justified

John Bolton, known as a proponent of American hard power, said Israel can't be sure the next ballistic missiles launched from Iran won't contain nuclear warheads.
John Bolton, known as a proponent of American hard power, said Israel can't be sure the next ballistic missiles launched from Iran won't contain nuclear warheads.

PRAGUE -- Former U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton says Israel is entitled to retaliate against Iran for its weekend attack, including destroying its nuclear weapons program, and stands by his comment that President Joe Biden is "an embarrassment" for urging Israel not to respond.

In an interview with Current Time, Bolton said if Iran targeted the United States using hundreds of ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and drones as it did on April 13 against Israel, Washington would retaliate at a minimum by destroying the bases and facilities from which the attacks were launched.

"I am firmly of the belief that if the U.S. faced that kind of attack, there's no doubt [what] we would do. Why should we deny the Israelis the right to…react the same way we would?"

John Bolton: Israel Has Right To Respond To Iranian Attack
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Bolton spoke with Current Time from Washington as Israel weighs its response to Iran's attack, which Iran said was in response to a suspected Israeli air strike on the Iranian Embassy compound in Damascus, Syria, last month that killed two brigadier generals.

Almost all of the missiles and drones were shot down by Israeli defense systems or intercepted by forces from the United States, France, Britain, and Jordan.

Biden has said he wants to prevent the conflict in the Middle East from spreading and urged caution, telling Israel to "think carefully and strategically" before launching a response against Iran that could trigger a wider war.

But Bolton, known as a proponent of American hard power, said that because Israel can't be sure that the next ballistic missiles launched from Iran won't contain nuclear warheads, it is in Israel's long-term interests to consider responding by destroying Iran's nuclear weapons program. And if Israel decided to do so, the United States should support the move, he said.

The April 13 attack has raised fears of another major escalation of fighting in the Middle East, and the risks are high because "we're in uncharted territory," said Michael Horowitz, head of intelligence at the Bahrain-based Le Beck International consultancy.

A full-scale war is the nightmare scenario that could be triggered by an Israeli attack on nuclear sites in Iran, Horowitz said in an interview with RFE/RL on April 15.

"If we reach this point, we may see weeks of Israeli strikes in Iran, the full-scale engagement of Hizballah in an attack against Israel, an Israeli ground incursion in Lebanon, and Iranian attempts to close the Persian Gulf," Horowitz said.

The region is now "closer to such a scenario than we were before," and even if there is no specific trigger, a cycle of tit-for-tat attacks between Iran and Israel "could get us there if outside parties don't act as they did so far to de-escalate tensions."

Bolton wrote the book Surrender Is Not An Option: Defending America At The United Nations after serving as U.S. ambassador to the UN from August 2005 until December 2006. As undersecretary of state for arms control and international security from 2001 to 2005, he advocated tough measures against the nuclear weapons programs of both Iran and North Korea.

In his interview with Current Time, a Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA, Bolton said Israel is already engaged in a war in the Gaza Strip against Hamas, which has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and the EU, and has been attacked by Hizballah militants from the north.

In addition, he noted that Huthi rebels in Yemen backed by Iran have targeted international shipping in the Red Sea and there have been attacks by Iran-aligned militant groups in Iraq and Syria.

Bolton accused the Biden administration of refusing to look at the conflict in the Middle East in a strategic sense. He also said that all the terrorist groups operating in the region are armed, equipped, trained, and financed by Iran, thus as strong response is justified.

"Iran is the puppet master here. That's the wider war we're already in," he told Current Time. "This is not separate battles between Israel and Hamas and Gaza, or the Huthis trying to close the Red Sea in the Suez Canal to international commercial traffic. This is all controlled by Iran," he added.

He defended his criticism of Biden as "an embarrassment," saying the wider war that the U.S. administration and others say they fear already began on October 7, the day that Hamas militants attacked Israeli towns, taking around 250 hostages and killing more than 1,100 people. More than 100 hostages are still in captivity.

Bolton, who spent 17 months as an adviser to former President Donald Trump, said he could not predict what Israel's response will be nor the outcome of an Israeli war cabinet meeting on April 15, but said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows the Iran nuclear threat "better than anyone else in Israel or, frankly, in the United States."

If forced to predict, he said, he would say the response would be "lower level" and would come within a few days.

Bolton, Trump's third national-security adviser, was asked for his resignation in September 2019 after months of division over the direction of foreign and national-security policy.

Bolton wrote a book the following year about his time serving in the White House. The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir angered Trump for portraying him as ignorant of basic geopolitical facts. The White House tried to stop the book's release, but a judge denied its request. Trump reacted to the publication by calling Bolton "incompetent" and "a boring fool."

With reporting by Kian Sharifi

John Bolton: Israel Has Right To Respond To Iranian Attack

John Bolton: Israel Has Right To Respond To Iranian Attack
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Former U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton said in an April 15 interview with Current Time's Ksenia Sokolyanskaya that "if the United States were attacked with more than 320 ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and drones, we would retaliate." He added: "Why should we deny the Israelis the right to do that, to respond the same way we would?" When asked if Iran is now a greater threat to world peace than Russia, he replied that Russia will remain a threat until "Putin regime is removed from power in Russia and democracy gets another chance."

Updated

'The Best' For Putin: How The Kremlin Stands To Gain From Iran's Attack On Israel

Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and Russian soldiers take part in joint drills in the Indian Ocean in February 2021.
Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and Russian soldiers take part in joint drills in the Indian Ocean in February 2021.

After several hours of silence following Iran’s unprecedented missile-and-drone attack on Israel, Russia issued its first formal reaction: The Foreign Ministry voiced what it said was Moscow’s “extreme concern” over “the latest dangerous escalation in the region.”

There may be some truth to that statement, as analysts say that a full-scale war in the Middle East would not be in the interests of President Vladimir Putin’s government. For now, though, it seems more likely that the Kremlin is enthusiastic about a development that could play into Putin’s hands in several ways, most of them directly connected to Russia’s war on Ukraine.

“The Middle East entering uncharted territory (short of full-blown war) is the best that can happen to Putin now,” Hanna Notte, a senior associate with the Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Here’s why.

For one thing, it draws attention away from the war in Ukraine at a crucial time when Kyiv is facing major challenges on the front line, which could get worse in the coming weeks and months, and Russia is pounding the country’s energy infrastructure with renewed intensity and bombarding cities including Kharkiv and Odesa.

The outbreak in October of Israel’s war against Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union, had already complicated global perceptions of the war in Ukraine and confounded Western efforts to support its defense against the Russian invasion. The new flare-up in the Middle East -- the first time Iran has openly and directly attacked arch-enemy Israel, or vice versa -- may exacerbate that problem for Kyiv.

'A Chance To Challenge'

For the Kremlin, the potential benefits to be reaped from Iran’s attack on Israel are both broad and quite specific. In over two years since he launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, he has increasingly portrayed the war there as part of a wider confrontation in which, he asserts, Russia is defending itself and the rest of the world from the West and, in particular, the United States.

Against that zero-sum backdrop, Iran’s attack on Israel may play into the Kremlin’s propaganda, handing Russia new material it can use to press its public narratives about the war in Ukraine and its showdown with the West.

“There is a certain perception among the axis states -- Russia, Iran, North Korea, and China -- that the West has weakened. And [that] American attitudes and policies can no longer guarantee the security of its allies,” Ihor Semyvolos, director of the Center for Middle East Studies in Kyiv, told Current Time, the Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA.

All smiles in Moscow as Russian President Vladimir Putin, (left) and his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, meet in the Russian capital late last year.
All smiles in Moscow as Russian President Vladimir Putin, (left) and his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, meet in the Russian capital late last year.

As a result, the Iranian attack provides Russia and like-minded states with “a chance to challenge this unipolar world that Putin, [Chinese President] Xi Jinping, and [Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah] Ali Khamenei have talked a lot about,” he said.

Instability in the Middle East “diverts Western attention and resources away from Ukraine and NATO's Eastern flank, it generates insecurity among U.S. regional allies, and it further fuels a broader, global perception that the West cannot pacify the region, thus amplifying perceptions of the Gaza war,” Notte told RFE/RL in a written exchange on April 15.

“In sum, such instability fuels a global perception that the war in Ukraine is another war among many, one problem amid a proliferation of problems -- a perception which the Kremlin can only value,” she said.

In practice, the array of problems and the attack itself could dilute the case for aid to Ukraine, undermining arguments by champions of such support that the fate of the West and the world hangs in the balance.

Clouds In Congress?

Specifically, the Iranian attack on Israel adds a new element to the uncertainty over the prospects for long-delayed U.S. aid for Ukraine -- even as the prospect of passage of legislation on the matter is finally looming larger.

Nearly six months after U.S. President Joe Biden first proposed a package including more than $60 billion in mostly military aid for Ukraine as well as aid for Israel and other purposes, the current speaker of the House of Representatives, Republican Mike Johnson, had indicated at the end of March that he would seek to secure support for Ukraine in the coming days or weeks.


However, it was unclear exactly what he would propose, how much it would differ from a bill that was passed with bipartisan support in the Senate in February, and whether the effort to renew U.S. supplies of desperately needed weapons to Ukraine could overcome opposition from staunch opponents of aid for Kyiv in his own party.

On April 15, Johnson provided more clarity, saying he plans to press for separate bills on three of the elements in the Senate legislation -- aid for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan and other allies -- and to placate recalcitrant Republicans by introducing a fourth measure including policies that many lawmakers in his party favor. The fate of the package is uncertain.

Seeking Disbalance

Regardless of the outcome of wrangling over aid in the United States, Putin may see the Iranian attack on Israel as a chance to increase Moscow’s influence in the Middle East, where rebuilding the clout that dried up drastically after the Soviet collapse seems to have been deeply important to Putin since he came to power a quarter century ago.

Russia’s war on Ukraine has tightened its ties with Iran, which has supported the onslaught by providing attack drones and the technology to produce them, but Putin has for years been courting regional foes of Iran, including Israel and Persian Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, as part of his efforts to increase Moscow’s sway in the Middle East and bite into U.S. clout.


The Kremlin may hope that despite the way its sharper turn toward Tehran and its response to the Israel-Hamas war have harmed its relations with Israel, Moscow’s multitentacled Middle East ties could give it a substantial regional role to play in the coming months or years.

“Since Russia is an increasingly close partner to Iran, the Kremlin might…calculate that with Iran stepping up the escalation ladder, Russia's own value to [and] leverage over the Gulf states will increase -- since the Gulf states might look to Moscow (and Beijing) as the only players with some leverage in Tehran, and hence as interlocutors who could help rein in the Iranians,” Notte told RFE/RL.

It’s a classic approach for Putin’s Russia: help create problems, to one degree or another, and then offer help to resolve them -- in a way that benefits the Kremlin. As they have amid the Hamas attack on Israel and the resulting war in Gaza, however, analysts of Russia and the region say that Moscow does not want an all-out war between Israel and Iran.

“That scenario would bring significant risks for Russia,” Notte said. It would complicate Russia’s military presence in Syria, and a heavy hit to Iran could sap some of Moscow’s strength against Ukraine.

Furthermore, “a full-blown war would almost certainly end Russia's balancing act in the region (however tenuous it has become already). It would force Russia to choose sides.”

While Moscow has come ever closer to Iran and its proxies since it launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, she said, “it doesn’t want to go ‘all in’ with Iran, for sure.”

Current Time contributed to this report.

Iran Takes Legal Action Against Analyst, Newspaper Over Criticism Of Israel Attack

An anti-missile system operates after Iran launched drones and missiles toward Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, on April 14.
An anti-missile system operates after Iran launched drones and missiles toward Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, on April 14.

Iran's judiciary has initiated legal proceedings against the Tehran-based Etemad newspaper and political analyst Abbas Abdi over comments related to the Islamic republic's interactions with Israel, according to the Mizan News Agency.

Mizan, which is linked to the judiciary, reported on April 14 that the action is aimed at countering those “disrupting societal psychological security.”

Abdi, an analyst considered close to Iranian reformists, commented on Iran's strike on Israel over the weekend in an article published in Etemad saying Israel's recent actions were a reaction, not an act of aggression, and that Tehran did not need to respond.

He also criticized the Islamic republic's strategy of deterrence, saying the use of conventional weapons against a nation whose existence Iran does not recognize or seeks to annihilate is futile and has a disproportionate cost compared to any potential benefits.

Iranians Voice Concern Following Attack On Israel
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Mizan also reported legal actions against the economic newspaper Jahan Sanat and an unnamed economic journalist following their evaluations of the IRGC's missile and drone attacks on Israel and their repercussions on financial markets.

Legal scholar Mohsen Barhani criticized the charges as unfounded, saying the criminal articles used against the publication and author don't exist under current Iranian law.

In a related development, the IRGC's Intelligence Organization issued a warning on social media platforms cautioning users against expressing support for Israel, underscoring ongoing surveillance and potential consequences for users aligning with or endorsing Iran's sworn enemy. The organization also encouraged individuals to report any pro-Israeli activities among their peers.

Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari said Iran launched over 300 drones and missiles late on April 13. The "vast majority" were largely intercepted by Israel's air-defense systems and those of its allies.

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

Iranians Voice Concern Following Attack On Israel

Iranians Voice Concern Following Attack On Israel
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Despite images of celebrating crowds on the streets of Tehran, RFE/RL listeners in Iran have contacted us to voice apprehension about the possible consequences of their country's massive attack on Israel.

Updated

'On The Brink': Leaders Call For Restraint As World Awaits Israeli Response To Iran Attack

Billboards across Tehran on April 15 blasted Israel and praised Iran's capabilities as world leaders urged a de-escalation of tensions between the archenemies.
Billboards across Tehran on April 15 blasted Israel and praised Iran's capabilities as world leaders urged a de-escalation of tensions between the archenemies.

Leading diplomats and politicians across the globe, fearing another major escalation of fighting in the Middle East, urged restraint as the world waited for Israel's response after it endured an unprecedented air attack by Iran over the weekend.

Tehran fired more than 300 missiles and drones at Israel late on April 13, almost all of which were shot down by Israeli defense systems, along with intercepts by forces from the United States, France, Britain, and Jordan.

Only a few missiles reached Israeli territory, causing modest damage to an air base and critically wounding a 7-year-old girl.

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.

The Israeli war cabinet met on April 15 as some hard-liners within the right-wing government were said to be advocating a harsh response, while others were pushing for a more moderate decision.

The Israeli military's chief of staff, Herzi Halevi, said the country would respond but provided no details.

"This launch of so many missiles, cruise missiles, and drones into Israeli territory will be met with a response," he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised victory, while an influential member of the war cabinet said the country will retaliate in the "fashion and time" of its choosing.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell expressed alarm over the situation.

"We're on the edge of the cliff and we have to move away from it," said Borrell. "We have to step on the brakes and reverse gear."

The United States reiterated its "ironclad commitment" to the security of Israel but reportedly told the Jewish state it will not take part in any retaliatory action.

When asked about Joe Biden's call with Netanyahu over the weekend, White House national-security spokesman John Kirby declined to say whether the U.S. president had urged the Israeli leader to exercise restraint in responding to the attack.

"We don't want to see a war with Iran. We don't want to see a regional conflict," Kirby said, adding that it was up to Israel to decide "whether and how they'll respond."

Countries including France, Belgium, and Germany summoned the Iranian ambassadors. The French Foreign Ministry said France was working with its partners to de-escalate the situation.

While Russia, seen as close to Tehran, has stopped short of publicly criticizing Iran for the attack on Israel, the Kremlin said on April 15 that "further escalation is in no one's interests" and called on finding a solution through "political and diplomatic methods."

Iran, which said it was responding to a suspected Israeli air strike on the Iranian Embassy compound in Damascus early last month that killed two brigadier generals, called on Western nations to "appreciate" the restraint it had showed since the embassy attack and warned it will act more "resolutely" if "Israel crosses red lines."

Speaking late on April 14 at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for "maximum restraint" amid fears that Iran's unprecedented attack on Israel could turn into a larger regional war.

“The Middle East is on the brink.... Now is the time to defuse and de-escalate,” Guterres said.

After the meeting ended without any resolution, U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the UN Robert Wood said "there has to be a Security Council response to what happened.”

U.S. officials said Washington had been in indirect contact with Iran through Swiss intermediaries before and after the attack, without providing details, but Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani cautioned on April 15 that no prearranged deal was made with any country regarding how Tehran would approach its military response to Israel.

WATCH: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that his country would emerge victorious following an unprecedented attack from Iran. According to the Israeli military, over 300 drones and missiles were intercepted during the aerial assault by Iran, its first-ever direct attack on Israel.

Israel Promises Victory After Iranian Attack Risks Broader Middle East Conflict
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Israel's retaliatory war in Gaza was sparked by an October 7 raid on Israeli territory carried out by Hamas, which rules Gaza and is designated as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union. The raid left more than 1,100 people dead and hundreds of people were taken hostage.

The ensuing Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip aimed at destroying Hamas has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, according to the Palestinian territory's Hamas-run Health Ministry.

Since the war in Gaza began, Tehran has openly supported militant groups and proxies targeting Israel that are part of Iran's "axis of resistance" against Israel and the West, leading to concerns of a broader Middle East conflict involving archenemies Iran and Israel.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Farda, AP, and Reuters

Jordan Summons Iranian Ambassador To Protest Interference In Its Afairs

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi (file photo)
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi (file photo)

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi on April 14 said his country had summoned the Iranian ambassador to protest against Iranian comments that were interference in the kingdom's internal affairs. In remarks given to the state-owned Mamlaka public broadcaster, Safadi was referring to comments in Iran's official media in recent days that warned Jordan would be the next target in the event it cooperated with Israel in a showdown with Iran.

Israel Promises Victory After Iranian Attack Risks Broader Middle East Conflict

Israel Promises Victory After Iranian Attack Risks Broader Middle East Conflict
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that his country would emerge victorious following an unprecedented attack from Iran. According to the Israeli military, over 300 drones and missiles were intercepted during the aerial assault by Iran, its first-ever direct attack on Israel.

Explainer: The 'Kamikaze' Drones Iran Used To Attack Israel

Iranian Shahed-136 drones prepared in a launcher
Iranian Shahed-136 drones prepared in a launcher

Iran fired scores of drones and cruise and ballistic missiles on Israel in an unprecedented attack against its archfoe.

Among the drones used in the April 13 assault, according to Iranian state-run media, were the Iranian-made Shahed-136 and Shahed-131s.

The primitive suicide drones have been used by pro-Iranian militant groups in the Middle East. Tehran has also been accused of sending them to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine.

Are The Drones Effective?

The Shahed-136 and Shahed-131 "kamikaze" drones are cheap but effective, according to experts. Built with off-the-shelf components, the drones have attracted derisive monikers such as "lawnmowers" and "mopeds" due to the sound of their engines in flight.

Russia has used the Shahed drone to attack Ukraine, such as this strike in Kyiv in November 2023.
Russia has used the Shahed drone to attack Ukraine, such as this strike in Kyiv in November 2023.

But the low-flying drones, which are maneuvered to crash into their target, have proven themselves capable of hitting their mark both in terms of military effectiveness and cost.

"It is capable of extracting or delivering attrition and damage when launched," said Samuel Bendett of the Virginia-based Center for Naval Analyses.

John Krzyzaniak, a research associate at the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, said Iranian drones like the Shahed-136s can "wreak havoc" if fired in large numbers.

What Is Their Range?

The estimated operational range of the Shahed-136 varies, but Iran says it is capable of traveling up to 2,500 kilometers.

That put Israel, which is located about 1,000 kilometers from Iran, within striking distance. The Israeli military said Iran had fired around 170 drones, all of which were intercepted.

The slightly smaller and older Shahed-131 has been estimated to have a range of 900 kilometers.

Launched in 2021, the Shahed-136 can fly a maximum speed of only around 185 kilometers per hour, making it susceptible to interception. Its payload capacity -- around 50 kilograms -- is also limited.

Does Iran Have Other Drones?

Iran has become a prolific drone producer in recent years. It also produces more advanced combat drones, including the Mohajer-6 as well the Shahed-129 and Shahed-191.

Jeremy Binnie, a Middle East defense specialist at the global intelligence company Janes, described the Shahed-129 as a "long-endurance surveillance and attack" drone.

The Mohajer-6 drone is capable of carrying out both reconnaissance missions and aerial strikes within a range of 200 kilometers. The stealth drone, Binnie said, is used "for penetrating well-defended airspace."

In 2022, Iran inaugurated a drone factory for its Ababil-2 strike and reconnaissance drone in Tajikistan, Tehran's first production facility abroad.

Who Else Is Using Iranian Drones?

Iran is increasingly deploying its drones beyond its borders. Experts say Tehran has employed them during reconnaissance, sabotage, and attack missions in the region.

Iran has also supplied drones to its proxies in the Middle East, including militant groups in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

The Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen claim to have launched drones at Israel in recent months. Pro-Iranian militias in Iraq and Syria, meanwhile, launched drone attacks on U.S. forces. Analysts say the drones have made these groups more unpredictable.

Iran has been accused of sending thousands of Shahed-129 and Shahed-191s to Russia, boosting Moscow's deadly air campaign in Ukraine. Tehran and Moscow deny the allegations.

U.S. officials have repeatedly accused Tehran of supplying Shahed-136 drones that Russia has used to destroy civilian infrastructure in Ukraine. There has been evidence of Iranian drones rebranded as Russian Geran-2s being used on the battlefield.

The Islamic republic has also been accused of selling combat drones to the army in Sudan, which is embroiled in a devastating civil war.

Iran's Unprecedented But Choreographed Attack On Israel Underlines Tehran's Limits

Iranian demonstrators chant slogans during an anti-Israeli gathering in front of the British Embassy in Tehran early on April 14.
Iranian demonstrators chant slogans during an anti-Israeli gathering in front of the British Embassy in Tehran early on April 14.

Iran fired over 300 missiles and drones at Israel, marking the first time Tehran directly launched an attack against its archfoe from its own territory.

But the unprecedented assault late on April 13 also appeared highly choreographed and caused limited damage and casualties.

The attack was in retaliation for the suspected Israeli air strike on the Iranian Embassy's compound in Damascus on April 1 that killed seven Iranian commanders, including two generals.

Tehran's response appeared to be aimed at projecting strength. But observers suggest the incident also underlined Iran's limitations.

Tehran felt compelled to respond, experts say, but it was also keen to avoid actions that could trigger a full-blown war with Israel, a scenario that could drag in the United States and jeopardize the clerical regime's own survival.

"The Islamic republic probably believes it has escalated -- by directly and overtly targeting its adversary's territory -- to de-escalate," said Farzan Sabet, a senior research associate at the Geneva Graduate Institute.

In the past, Iran has claimed responsibility only after attacks. This time, however, it announced the start of its operation -- Honest Promise -- shortly after the drones were launched and hours before they reached Israel.

"The matter can be deemed concluded," Iran's mission to the United Nations wrote on X, formerly Twitter, even before the first wave of drones had reached Israel.

Even so, the attack was considerably larger than what many observers had anticipated.

"It was certainly not a symbolic attack and I think at the end of the day it served what they wanted to do: to rehabilitate deterrence vis-à-vis Israel," said Raz Zimmt, a senior researcher at the Israeli-based Institute for National Security Studies.

Iran was keen to minimize damage and reduce the odds of an Israeli reprisal, experts say. But Tehran may have miscalculated, according to Zimmt, who says Israel will feel compelled to respond. "The question is what exactly Israel can do in order to respond without risking further escalation," he said.

But more than anything, the scale of the attack appeared to be aimed at Iran's domestic audience.

Iran's state-run IRINN television broadcast live footage of people gathering in various Iranian cities to celebrate the attack.

The channel also aired unverified social-media footage purportedly showing the aftermath of the Iranian strikes in Israel. But at least one of the videos was actually old footage of wildfires in South America.

Explosions, Sirens Over Jerusalem As Iran Attacks With Drones, Missiles

Explosions, Sirens Over Jerusalem As Iran Attacks With Drones, Missiles
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The sound of explosions and sirens echoed throughout Jerusalem in the early hours of April 14 after Iran launched a wave of drones and missiles at Israel. It was Iran's first-ever direct attack on Israeli territory. Israel and its allies said the "vast majority" were intercepted.

Iranians Celebrate After Iran Launches Drone Attack On Israel

Iranians celebrated in Tehran after the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) launched a missile attack on Israel overnight on April 13-14.

Iranian Student Still Missing Days After Being Detained

Fahimeh Soltani
Fahimeh Soltani

A university law student who has been a supporter of Iran's Women, Life, Freedom movement is still missing several days after her arrest by security forces, the second time she has been detained since unrest broke out over the death of a young woman in custody for an alleged violation of the head-scarf law.

Fahimeh Soltani, who studies at the University of Isfahan, was taken into custody after a raid on her home on April 6 and has not been heard from since, her family reported.

Security personnel, posing as postal workers, seized Soltani's mobile phone and laptop during the arrest, the family said.

Soltani's detention coincides with her previous arrest in November 2022 during the Women, Life, Freedom protests following Mahsa Amini's death in police custody.

After being held in detention for three months, Soltani was released as part of a broader pardon issued by the Islamic republic's leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Soltani's university activities have led to her being barred from studying for two terms due to cases she says were fabricated by the university's security department. Despite appealing the disciplinary rulings against her, the school's Central Committee delayed a final decision on her case.

On April 2, Soltani received a late-night call regarding the appeal and was told she had received an additional two-term study ban.

Amid efforts to expel her, the university in Isfahan, a city of some 2 million people about 400 kilometers south of Tehran, sent a direct expulsion request to the Central Committee. Along with her current arrest, her family said it remains in the dark about the outcome of the expulsion request.

Separately, a review committee at Tehran University has confirmed the suspension of Zahra Jafari, a graduate student in social welfare planning and editor of the student magazine Zhina.

Jafari was barred from studying for two semesters on charges including insulting Islamic and national symbols and acts against the Islamic republic. Her sentence, affecting her final thesis defense, began at the start of this academic year and will continue through the end of the second semester.

Universities and students have long been at the forefront of the struggle for greater social and political freedoms in Iran. In 1999, students protested the closure of a reformist daily newspaper, prompting a brutal raid on the dorms of Tehran University that left one student dead.

Over the years, the authorities have sent student activists and leaders to prison and banned them from studying.

The activist HRANA news agency says at least 700 university students have been arrested during the nationwide protests sparked by the September 2022 death of the 22-year-old Amini.

Many have faced sentences such as imprisonment and flogging, and dozens of students have been expelled from universities or suspended from their studies as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.

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

Israel Vows Victory, Retaliation In 'Fashion And Timing' Of Its Choosing

Explosions, Sirens Over Jerusalem As Iran Attacks With Drones, Missiles
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised victory after a massive overnight air attack by Iran that marked a sharp escalation of the conflict in the Middle East, while an influential member of his war cabinet said the country will retaliate in the "fashion and time" of its choosing.

"We intercepted, we repelled, together we shall win," Netanyahu wrote in an April 14 post on X, formerly Twitter.

Meanwhile, centrist politician and retired General Benny Gantz, a member of Israel's war cabinet and former defense minister, said that "we will build a regional coalition and exact the price from Iran in the fashion and timing that is right for us."

Israel and its allies intercepted the "vast majority" of hundreds of drones and missiles launched by Iran overnight.

Loud explosions and flashes of light could be seen in the sky above many parts of Israel in the early morning hours of April 14 as the country's air defenses tried to shoot down incoming drones and missiles that Iran launched just hours after it seized an Israeli-linked ship in the Strait of Hormuz.

Israeli authorities reported only light damage to one Israeli military installation and said a 7-year-old girl was critically injured as more than 200 drones and missiles -- including more than 10 cruise missiles -- were intercepted before impact.

"The Iranian attack was foiled," Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said early on April 14, adding that "99 percent" of the attacking vehicles had been intercepted. Hagari said the result was "a very significant strategic success."

U.S., British, and French officials confirmed their armed forces took part in shooting down the incoming projectiles, intercepting some over the Iraq-Syria border area as they made their way toward Israel.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi warned Israel against "reckless behavior" following the strike, saying Tehran's response to retaliation would be "decisive and much stronger."

Iran's military earlier said its strikes had "achieved all its objectives" and been "completed successfully."

Iranian armed forces chief of staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri, speaking on state television, warned Israel not to retaliate, saying Tehran's "response will be much larger than tonight's military action." He also said U.S. assets would be targeted if Washington assisted Israeli in any retaliation.

"Our operations are over and we have no intention to continue them," Bagheri said.

The United States had contact with Iran through Swiss intermediaries both before and after Tehran's mass drone and missile attack on Israeli territory overnight, a senior Biden administration official said on April 14.

The official declined to provide details on the contact, saying only that Washington and Iran had "a series of direct communications through the Swiss channel."

Asked about comments by Iran's foreign minister that Tehran had given regional countries 72 hours' notice of the attacks, the official said that was not true. "They did not give a notification," the official said.

Iran informed Turkey in advance of its planned operation against Israel, a Turkish diplomatic source told Reuters on April 14, adding that Washington conveyed to Iran via Ankara that its operation must be "within certain limits."

Earlier, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Tehran's regional allies were informed about its aerial attacks on Israel in advance.

"We naturally informed our friends in regional countries 72 hours before the operation that Iran's response in the form of a legitimate defense is definite and certain," he said without specifying which regional allies.

Israel called on the United Nations Security Council to convene an emergency session in New York on April 14 to discuss the attack, which Israeli UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan described in a post on X as "a serious threat to global peace and security."

U.S. President Joe Biden on April 14 convened G7 allies to discuss the situation in the Middle East and coordinate a response, with the group reiterating support for Israel.

Biden also spoke by telephone with Netanyahu, after which he said he had reaffirmed "America's ironclad commitment" to Israeli security but said U.S. forces would not participate in any offensive actions by Tel Aviv.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told NBC TV on April 14 that "We don't want to see this escalate.... We're not looking for a wider war with Iran."

Other Western countries also condemned the attack, with France warning that Iran "is risking a potential military escalation." Britain described the attack as "reckless," while Germany called on Iran to "stop it immediately."

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on X that the attack was "blatant and unjustifiable."

"I call on Iran and its proxies to immediately cease these attacks," she added. "All actors must now refrain from further escalation and work to restore stability in the region."

EU foreign ministers will meet on April 16 to discuss the escalation in tensions in the Middle East following the strike, the bloc's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

"Following the Iranian attacks against Israel, I have called an extraordinary...meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers[on April 16]," Borrell wrote on X, formerly Twitter. "Our objective is to contribute to de-escalation and security of the region."

Iran's Foreign Ministry on April 14 meanwhile summoned the ambassadors of Britain, France, and Germany to question what it referred to as their "irresponsible stance" regarding Tehran's strikes on Israel, the semiofficial Iranian Labour News Agency reported.

Tehran accused the three countries of "double standards" as they opposed earlier this month a Russian-drafted UN Security Council statement that would have condemned Israel's attack on Iran's embassy compound.

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling on all sides to show restraint. "We are counting on the regional states to solve existing problems with political and diplomatic means," it said.

Turkey does not want further escalation of tension in the region after Iran's drone and missile attack against Israel, Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan told his Iranian counterpart in a phone call on April 14.

Pope Francis, speaking to pilgrims on St. Peter's Square in Rome, made a "heartfelt appeal for a halt to any action that could fuel a spiral of violence" that could lead to a wider conflict.

Israel said early on April 14 that it had reopened its airspace for commercial traffic and that airports had resumed operations.

The intelligence directorate of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) on April 14 warned citizens against posting pro-Israeli sentiments on social media, Iranian state media reported.

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 in third countries.

"So far, we've intercepted the vast majority of incoming missiles," Hagari said of the attack launched by the IRGC in what it said was retaliation for a deadly April 1 drone strike thought to be carried out by Israel on Iran's consulate in Damascus, Syria.

The launch came amid heightened tensions between Iran and the West over the continuing war in the Gaza Strip and the strike in Syria.

Iran called the attack, which Tehran named operation "Honest Response," on Israel a "response to the Zionist regime's aggression against our diplomatic premises in Damascus."

However, Iran also appeared to be taking a cautious approach to keep the strikes from broadening conflict in the region, with its mission to the United Nations saying that "the matter can be deemed concluded."

The Iranian attack was immediately condemned by many governments around the world, while United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was "deeply alarmed about the very real danger of a devastating region-wide escalation."

"The Middle East is on the brink... Now is the time to defuse and de-escalate," Guterres told a Security Council meeting called on April 14.

Earlier on April 13, Iranian state media reported that IRGC forces seized a container ship near the Strait of Hormuz, claiming the vessel was "linked to Israel."

Following that event, Israel said it was putting its military on high alert and canceling school activities on concerns of a possible attack.

It accused Iran of piracy and said Tehran will "bear the consequences" of escalating tensions in the Middle East.

The MSC Aries, a Portuguese-flagged vessel that is reportedly operated by a shipping company partially owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, was seized on April 13 and was being transferred to Iranian territorial waters, according to the IRNA state news agency.

The ship's operator, the Italian-Swiss group MSC, said the ship had 25 crew members on board and that it was working closely with "the relevant authorities to ensure their well-being and safe return of the vessel."

Israel's retaliatory war in Gaza was sparked by a raid on Israeli territory carried out by Hamas, which rules Gaza and is designated as a terrorist group by the United States and European Union, on October 7. The raid left 1,200 people dead and hundreds of people were taken hostage.

The ensuing Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip aimed at destroying Hamas has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, according to the Palestinian territory's Hamas-run Health Ministry.

Since the war began, Tehran has openly supported militant groups and proxies targeting Israel that are part of Iran's "axis of resistance" against Israel and the West, leading to concerns of a broader Middle East conflict involving archenemies Iran and Israel.

The security firm Ambrey said late on April 13 that Yemen's Huthi rebels had also launched multiple drones at Israel in coordination with Iran.

In addition to strikes launched against Israel by Iranian proxy Lebanese Hizballah, the Iranian-backed Huthis have attacked Israeli territory as well as international and Israeli shipping in the Red Sea.

On April 14, Israeli forces hit a Hizballah site in Lebanon near the Syrian border, the Israeli military said.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Farda, AP, and Reuters

Biden Says He Expects Iran To Attack Israel Soon, Warns: 'Don't'

U.S. President Joe Biden (file photo)
U.S. President Joe Biden (file photo)

U.S. President Joe Biden on April 12 said he expected Iran to attack Israel "sooner, rather than later" and warned Tehran not to proceed. Asked by reporters about his message to Iran, Biden said simply, "Don't," and he underscored Washington's commitment to defend Israel. "We are devoted to the defense of Israel. We will support Israel. We will help defend Israel and Iran will not succeed," he said. Israel braced on April 12 for an attack by Iran or its proxies as warnings grew of retaliation for an attack on Iran's embassy compound last week in Damascus.

Key Iranian Commanders Are Being Assassinated Abroad. How Will That Affect Tehran's Proxy Network?

Iranians attend the funeral of seven Revolutionary Guards Corps members killed in a strike on the country's consular annex in Damascus, which Tehran blamed on Israel, on April 5, during their funeral procession in Tehran.
Iranians attend the funeral of seven Revolutionary Guards Corps members killed in a strike on the country's consular annex in Damascus, which Tehran blamed on Israel, on April 5, during their funeral procession in Tehran.

Israel appears to have ramped up an assassination campaign against key Iranian generals and commanders based abroad in recent months.

Suspected Israeli air strikes have killed at least 18 members of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the elite branch of Iran’s armed forces, in Syria since December.

In the latest attack, seven IRGC members, including two generals, were killed in an air strike on the Iranian Embassy’s compound in Damascus on April 1.

The targeted killings, experts say, are aimed at blunting Iran’s so-called “axis of resistance,” its network of regional proxies and militant groups against Israel and the West.

Observers say the strategy is likely to disrupt the network’s activities in the short-term, although they warned that the tactic is risky and could backfire in the long-term.

“Iran's regional network is glued together through personal, not institutional, connections,” said Ali Vaez, the director of the Iran Project at the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

“Eliminating commanders with decades of experience in the region and a wide network of personal contacts certainly weakens Iran's regional deterrence,” he added.

'Risky Strategy'

Israel’s suspected targeting of IRGC members has intensified since the outbreak of the war in the Gaza Strip in October.

In response to Israel’s deadly offensive, Iranian-backed militant groups have attacked Israeli and U.S. targets across the Middle East in a show of support for Palestinians.

The conflict was triggered by an unprecedented multi-pronged attack on Israel by Hamas, which has been designated as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.

At least three key figures of the IRGC’s overseas arm, the Quds Force, have been killed in suspected Israeli attacks in recent months.

Razi Mousavi, a top Quds Force commander, was killed in an air strike near Damascus on December 25. He was responsible for coordinating Iran’s military activities in Syria and Lebanon.

Among those killed in the April 1 strike was General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, the Quds Force’s top commander in Syria and Lebanon. Zahedi’s deputy, General Mohammad Hadi Haj Rahimi, was also slain in the attack.

“There’s always doubt as to whether these targeted assassinations work,” said Michael Horowitz, the head of intelligence at the Bahrain-based Le Beck International consultancy.

“These decapitation strikes, when done ‘at scale,’ can have an impact in the short- to medium-term on Iran’s ability to coordinate with its proxies, smuggle weapons into Syria and Iraq, and threaten Israel.”

Demonstrators hang an effigy of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the funeral for seven Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps members killed in a strike in Syria, which Iran blamed on Israel, in Tehran on April 5.
Demonstrators hang an effigy of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the funeral for seven Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps members killed in a strike in Syria, which Iran blamed on Israel, in Tehran on April 5.

The attack on the Iranian Embassy’s compound in Damascus came just hours after a drone strike hit a naval base in the southern Israeli port of Eilat in the Red Sea. The strike damaged a building and nearly hit an Israeli warship.

The attack was claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group that includes Iran-backed militias.

“My take is that Israel wanted to show it has escalation dominance over Iran, and that Iran cannot escalate without paying a price,” said Horowitz.

“Generally, when an actor wants to up the ante, they raise the stake not by one notch but by two,” he added. “Of course, this is a risky strategy. The question is whether this will work, and Iran backs down in the longer term, or [if it] actually backfires.”

'Not Safe Anywhere'

The recent spate of assassinations are not the first time that key Iranian military commanders have been targeted and killed abroad.

In 2020, Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani was killed in a U.S. air strike in Iraq. He was seen as the architect of the "axis of resistance" and held great influence over its members, which includes Hamas, Lebanon’s Hizballah, Iraqi Shi’ite militias, Yemen’s Huthi rebels, and the Syria government.

Soleimani’s death led to the axis becoming more decentralized and some groups, particularly Shi’ite militias in Iraq, gaining some autonomy. But it did not significantly disrupt the Quds Force or break up the axis.

Hours after Soleimani’s death, his deputy, Esmail Qaani, was promoted.

Vaez said the death of Zahedi and his deputy, however, will likely be more disruptive.

“Unlike in the case of Soleimani's killing, there is no right-hand man to immediately step in and fill the void,” Vaez said. “If Iran fails to restore deterrence against Israel, no Iranian military official will be safe anywhere in Syria or even Lebanon anymore.”

Iranian Retaliation

Iran has described the strike on its embassy compound as an attack on Iranian territory. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned on April 10 that Israel "must be punished and will be punished."

Iran’s threat to retaliate against Israel has put the region, already tense from the Gaza war, on edge.

In the past, Iran has refrained from directly hitting Israel, instead opting to increase its support for the "axis of resistance" to take the fight to Israel. But the brazen attack in Damascus may compel Iran to take direct action, experts said.

Even so, Iran is likely to avoid a major escalation with Israel, a scenario that could trigger a full-blown war between the foes and likely drag in the United States, experts said.

Recent reports suggested Iran could strike the Golan Heights -- Syrian territory occupied by Israeli forces since 1967 -- because it believes it carries less risk of Israeli retaliation. But experts say there is no guarantee of that.

“Israel has responded to attacks from Syria, for instance, that landed in the Golan, so I wouldn't exclude an Israeli response regardless,” Horowitz said.

Argentinian Court Finds Iran, Proxies To Blame For 1994 Jewish Center Bombing

A police officer prevents people from approaching the site where a powerful explosion destroyed a seven-story building housing the Jewish Mutual Association of Argentina, in Buenos Aires, on July 18, 1994.
A police officer prevents people from approaching the site where a powerful explosion destroyed a seven-story building housing the Jewish Mutual Association of Argentina, in Buenos Aires, on July 18, 1994.

A high court in Argentina has ruled that Iran, and its Lebanese proxy Hizballah, are responsible for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and injured some 300 others.

In a ruling made public on April 11, Argentina's Court of Cassation declared the attack a "crime against humanity," saying it was part of a series of attacks coordinated by Iran and carried out by its proxies.

The decision, close to the 30th anniversary of the attack, described the bombings as a retaliatory act by Iran following Argentina’s cancellation of nuclear cooperation agreements in the mid-1980s. The Argentinian judiciary found that Lebanon's Hizballah, acting under Iran's direction, executed the attack that devastated Latin America's largest Jewish community.

This ruling underscores accusations by Argentinian prosecutors who have long claimed Iranian officials orchestrated not only the community center attack but also the prior 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29 people.

The court decision represents "a significant victory for the victims, their families, and everyone who has contributed to documenting this crime in pursuit of justice," said the D.C.-based Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran (ABC), which actively documents extrajudicial killings orchestrated by the Islamic republic both inside Iran and globally.

The court’s judgment, coinciding with comments from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei regarding an alleged Israeli attack on the Iranian Consulate in Damascus, reaffirms the fraught relations between Argentina and Iran.

The ruling also opens a path for the families of the victims of the attack to seek compensation from Tehran, which has refused to turn over Iranians convicted in Argentina for the attacks, despite arrest warrants being issued by Interpol.

Israel’s foreign minister, Israel Katz, applauded the decision and said that on the back of it, Argentina should designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization.

"Iran is the enemy of Israel as well as of Argentina and together with Hizballah leads terrorist activity in South America and throughout the world, and this decision against the Revolutionary Guards will be an important step in stopping Iranian aggression," he said in a post on X, formerly Twitter. "Now is the time to stop Iran."

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

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