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Iran’s desire to retaliate after Israel’s Damascus strike is balanced with its need to avoid a wider conflict


Tehran’s dilemma is finding a response that maintains its position in the ‘axis of resistance’ but does not precipitate an escalation which it would likely lose.

The Middle East is waiting with bated breath to see how Iran will avenge Israel’s suspected killing of seven Iranian military officers in a strike on an Iranian diplomatic building in Damascus on 1 April. Tehran has made it clear that it will respond. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has publicly stated that Israel ‘must be punished’, and the United States has communicated to Israel that Iranian retaliation is imminent. 

Although Israel and Iran have been involved in a shadow war for several years, Israel’s strike in Damascus was particularly bold and painful. In one swoop, Israel wiped out Iran’s military leadership in Syria as well as a vital link with Hezbollah –General Mohammad Reza Zahedi – Iran’s most important and powerful proxy in the region.

Yet despite the significance of Israel’s attack, Iran faces a dilemma: how to retaliate to save face and preserve a semblance of its deterrent without provoking Israel (and possibly the United States) and sparking a wider conflict from which Tehran stands to lose more than its adversaries.

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