Iran’s terror-enabling supreme leader only opens the door for Israel to hit back hard

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After years of using its terrorist proxies to strike Israelis, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei launched a direct attack Saturday against the Jewish state. More than 200 kamikaze drones, weaponized drones and ballistic and cruise missiles were fired from Iranian soil as well as from proxies in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, as Israel and the United States mobilized military assets to intercept them before they struck their targets.

For Iran’s normally cautious supreme leader, this was a risky step. By crossing a red line of a direct attack against Israel from Iranian soil, he opened the door for Jerusalem to hit back hard.

Potential targets include leadership and military assets inside Iran, oil refineries, which are the lifeblood of his regime, and his rapidly expanding nuclear weapons program.

Khamenei may have thought he had little choice. In a daring April 1 operation, the Israeli Air Force killed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi, who played a central role in the planning and execution of Iran’s proxy Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack. That savage strike killed 1,200 Israelis and foreigners, including more than 30 Americans, and led to the kidnapping of more than 240 hostages. The IAF killed Zahedi, another top IRGC general and five other IRGC commanders who were planning operations in an IRGC-Quds Force building adjacent to Iran’s consulate in Damascus, Syria.

Trained terrorists

Zahedi was a big fish. He led the IRGC’s operations out of Syria and, as the main Iranian contact with Lebanese Hezbollah, had helped arm and train Iran’s most dangerous terrorist army.

Hezbollah has been exchanging fire with the Israel Defense Forces for the past six months and possesses more than 175,000 missiles, rockets and mortars including deadly precision-guided munitions that could do devastating damage to Israeli civilian infrastructure.

A map detailing Iran and its proxies strike on Israel.
A map detailing Iran and its proxies strike on Israel.

Not for nothing did Israel see the killing of Zahedi as the most consequential since the Trump administration — with detailed intelligence provided by Israel’s Mossad spy agency — killed Qassem Soleimani, the feared IRGC Quds Force commander, who had waged war against the United States and Israel for decades.

Khamenei took no heed of the Friday warning from President Biden, who told the Iranians “Don’t!” when asked what his response would be to an Iranian attack. The president had dispatched US Central Command Gen. Michael Kurilla to Israel to meet with his IDF counterparts and sent a US warship up the Red Sea. None of this seemed sufficient to deter an Iranian attack though it may have mitigated its severity.

Follow along for live updates on Iran’s attack on Israel

Now the Biden administration must do more by providing Israel with ballistic-missile-defense support as the two forces have practiced for decades. Washington also should provide all the military supplies the IDF needs to respond to this aggression and unwavering political support to see Israel through this critical time.

Biden’s wavering support for Israel in its war against Hamas, and the threat from dozens of Democratic members of Congress to cut off military support, surely emboldened Khamenei.

Israel is a formidable military power with extensive military assets. It has a multilayered air-defense system that can shoot down drones and cruise and ballistic missiles. But the IDF cannot only play defense. It will be under pressure to respond directly to Iranian aggression with its powerful air, naval and cyber capabilities. If not, this could normalize Iranian direct attacks against Israel. This may also be an opportunity to attack assets connected to Iran’s rapidly expanding nuclear-weapons program.

The Islamic Republic has been at war with Israel for decades. But Iran’s supreme leader now has crossed an Israeli red line that he may come to regret.

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