Accessibility links

Breaking News

Iran

Security Forces Use Tear Gas In Central Iranian City Against Protesters Demanding Drought Aid

Tear Gas Used On Iranian Farmers Protesting Water Crisis
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:01:35 0:00

Police have used tear gas to disperse hundreds of people demonstrating in the Iranian city of Isfahan to demand government action over a drought.

Video footage on social media appeared to show police and protesters clashing in the dry bed of the Zayandehrud River on November 26. Other videos showed similar unrest in nearby streets of Isfahan.

The gathering of some 500 people in Isfahan was ended by what the Iran's semiofficial Fars news agency said was a large security force.

Farmers reportedly ended a nearly weeks-long protest in the area on November 25, after authorities promised to compensate them for losses suffered in drought-stricken areas of central Iran.

Drought has been a problem in Iran for some 30 years, but it has worsened over the past decade, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization. The Iran Meteorological Organization says that an estimated 97 percent of the country now faces some level of drought.

The farming area around Isfahan was once well supplied by the Zayandehrud River, but nearby factories have increasingly drawn on it over the years. The river once flowed under historic bridges in Isfahan's city center, but it's now a barren strip of dirt.

In 2012, farmers clashed with police in a town in Isfahan Province, breaking a water pipe that diverted some 50 million cubic meters of water a year to a neighboring province. Similar protests have continued sporadically since then.

Based on reporting by AP

More News

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
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:02:55 0:00

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.

Iran Says UN Nuclear Watchdog Chief Will Visit Tehran

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi (center) looks on during a news conference with the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Eslami, as they meet in Tehran in March 2022.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi (center) looks on during a news conference with the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Eslami, as they meet in Tehran in March 2022.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, will shortly be travelling to Tehran to resume nuclear talks with the Iranian side, a top Iranian official said on April 17. "We have good cooperation with the IAEA and the IAEA chief will also come to Tehran soon to continue the bilateral talks and update them, so to speak," Iran's nuclear boss, Mohammad Eslami, said, according to the Iranian news agency IRNA. Grossi said in an interview with CNN on April 16 that he was "considering" visiting Tehran.

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
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:02:55 0:00

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
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:02:55 0:00

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
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:03:25 0:00

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
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:03:25 0:00

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
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:01:51 0:00

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
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:01:51 0:00

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
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:02:18 0:00

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
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:02:18 0:00

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
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:00:59 0:00

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.

Load more

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

If you are in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine and hold a Russian passport or are a stateless person residing permanently in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine, please note that you could face fines or imprisonment for sharing, liking, commenting on, or saving our content, or for contacting us.

To find out more, click here.

XS
SM
MD
LG