The Geopolitical Dynamics Behind Israel-Iran Recent Escalation

Israel-Iran military escalation
Israeli Air Force F-15I gets ready to shoot down Iranian drones, amidst the 2024 Iranian strikes in Israel, April 14th 2024 (Credits:  / IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

Geopolitical Report ISSN 2785-2598 Volume 41 Issue 17
Author: Silvia Boltuc

Executive Summary

In the contemporary geopolitical landscape, the Middle East confronts a notable surge in destabilisation. Over the course of seven months, the Gaza Strip has been ensnared in a protracted operation undertaken by Israel, yielding profound humanitarian repercussions.

Amidst the palpable shortcomings of international diplomacy, the longstanding, albeit restrained, conflict between Israel and Iran has escalated, prompting apprehension within the global community regarding a broader conflagration throughout the Middle East.

Background Information

On April 19th, 2024, a series of explosions reverberated near the air base in Isfahan, Iran, prompting assertions regarding an attempted attack, albeit one that purportedly resulted in minimal damage. Concurrently, reports from Tasnim news highlighted similar detonations over Tabriz.

Iranian state media asserted the destruction of three drones over Isfahan, thanks to the activation of the air defence system. Despite the considerable geographic distance separating Iran from Israel, the utilisation of drones by the latter remains speculative, with ballistic missiles emerging as a more plausible means of engagement.

Israel’s measured retaliation to recent Iranian provocations, conducted within the parameters of pre-established agreements with U.S. counterparts, underscores strategic objectives. Isfahan, distinguished by its industrial complex and housing a pivotal uranium conversion facility employing approximately 3,000 scientists, alongside a drone manufacturing facility implicated in previous hostilities, emerges as a focal point. Israel’s history of targeting Isfahan, notably evidenced by a coordinated drone assault on January 28th, 2023, which inflicted damage upon an Iranian government weapons factory, underscores the strategic significance attributed to this locale.

Should corroborating evidence emerge regarding an attack in Tabriz, the prospective targets likely include the extensive silos housing Shahab-2 and Shahab-3 ballistic missiles, underscoring the strategic calculus guiding potential Israeli engagements.

Iran-Israel Escalation: Geopolitical Scenario

On April 1st, 2024, Israel launched an offensive targeting the consular premises of the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, resulting in the loss of 16 lives and eliciting allegations of violations of established norms of international law. Despite contentions that the presence of personnel affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) rendered the site a legitimate military objective, the demise of IRGC Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi has engendered widespread criticism, perceived as a breach of universally recognised diplomatic protocols.

Despite the recent Iranian retaliatory strike against Israel, characterised by the unprecedented use of a significant array of drones and missiles, the primary intent appeared to be oriented more towards signalling prowess to both domestic and international audiences rather than instigating substantial damage within Israeli territory that could precipitate a full-scale conflict.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi explicitly characterised the action as ‘limited and punitive’, suggesting a calibrated response designed to convey resolve rather than to instigate a broader conflagration. Raisi’s assertion that a more decisive strike by Iran would have left Israel obliterated underscores the strategic calculus behind the purportedly restrained engagement. While the precise implications of a direct confrontation between Tehran and Tel Aviv remain speculative, Raisi’s remarks lend credence to the notion of a ‘demonstrative attack’, intended more for symbolic effect than for inflicting tangible harm.

As additional corroboration, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have reportedly shared intelligence regarding the Iranian attack on Israel with the United States. Given the entrenched alliance between certain Gulf states and the U.S., it is implausible to surmise that Iran, sharing its plan with these neighbouring Arab countries, was unaware of the eventual dissemination of this intelligence to Washington. Therefore, Israel and its allies received crucial advanced warning.

From a reputational standpoint, the involved actors have each leveraged the unfolding events to their advantage. Iran seized an opportunity to showcase its military capabilities without precipitating a broader escalation of conflict with Israel. The U.S. reaffirmed its commitment to defending Israel, thereby underscoring the resilience of their alliance. Arab nations capitalised on their role in intelligence sharing, bolstering their image while safeguarding their respective interests. Israel secured a victory that bolstered the perception of its defence infrastructure.

Regarding the Israeli attack on Isfahan, despite Israeli Minister of National Security Ben Gvir’s characterisation of it as ‘lame’, Tel Aviv secured significant strategic benefits.

First, by orchestrating a constrained offensive, Israel might garner approval from Washington for invade Rafah, thereby exacerbating the already dire humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Secondly, the primary aim of targeting the Iranian consular building in Damascus was to divert international attention from the ongoing civilian casualties in Gaza and to foster unity among Western allies. Particularly following the deaths of seven aid workers from the World Central Kitchen (WCK) in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza, there was a notable distancing of some Western nations from the Netanyahu government. By provoking a perceived Iranian threat, Tel Aviv strategically anticipated a consolidated Western front in support of Israel.

Thirdly, the Iranian retaliatory attack on Israel was followed by imposing new sanctions on Iran, while Israel faces minimal repercussions for its assault on the Iranian diplomatic facility in Damascus and the resultant loss of 16 lives. Notably, Turkey emerges as the sole NATO member to vociferously condemn Israel’s actions in Syria, decrying perceived double standards among Western nations in their response to such incidents.

Read also | Iran’s Attack Against Israel: A Preliminary Intelligence Report

Risk Assessment

Despite efforts by Iranian officials to downplay the severity of the Israeli incursion, the spectre of escalating tensions persists, portending a precarious geopolitical landscape.

Iranian authorities, while ostensibly eschewing immediate retaliation, have issued veiled warnings regarding the potential consequences of a significant Israeli offensive on Iranian territory, intimating a re-evaluation of their stance on the nuclear program and the utilisation of a never-seen weapon.

In the event of a protracted conflict, Israel might encounter practical and economic challenges. The exigencies of defence necessitated by Iranian reprisals have exacted a substantial toll, precipitating measures such as the closure of vital infrastructural nodes like airports.

The prospect of engaging in direct hostilities with Tehran, compounded by extant commitments to managing fronts in Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria, poses significant strains on Israel’s capacity for self-defence.

Moreover, the proliferation of nuclear capabilities among various regional actors, albeit unofficially, exacerbates the complexities inherent in broadening the conflict across the Middle East. Such a scenario threatens to destabilise established alliances and engender unforeseen global repercussions, potentially precipitating crises such as disruptions in oil markets or a massive refugees’ wave towards Europe.


A wider conflict in the Middle East would serve no one’s interests. The existing instability in Libya, Syria, Lebanon, and Afghanistan already presents significant challenges to regional stability, exacerbated by the resurgence of Islamic terrorism.

Furthermore, NATO countries have outlined their future policies in the new Strategic Concept, prioritising efforts to confront Russian aggression and contain the threat posed by China, as established during the Vilnius Summit on July 11th, 2023.

The potential ramifications of a broader conflict in the Middle East would be profoundly detrimental to international markets and finance, particularly given our ongoing struggle with the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic and the substantial impact on the European economy due the sanctions imposed on Russia.

Furthermore, the prospect of an uncontrollable wave of migrants fleeing conflict-ridden nations in search of refuge, especially in Mediterranean countries like Italy, Greece, and Cyprus, might occur in the event of a wider war scenario.

In addition, considering the strategic importance of Israel as a Western outpost in the Middle East, there is also the looming possibility of NATO involvement, further heightening the stakes.

Read also | Increasing Geopolitical Risk in the Middle East

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