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One episode follows another… In recent days, speculation has been rampant within various media and political circles regarding the tensions, and even significant divergences, that have surfaced between the United States and Israel regarding the management and long-term geopolitical implications of the Gaza conflict.

These speculations stemmed from the US decision to abstain during the Security Council vote on Resolution 2728, which called for a ceasefire between Hamas and the Israeli army. It marked a departure from Washington’s usual stance of vetoing resolutions that did not serve Tel Aviv’s stance which opposes halting the Gaza conflict under present conditions. The US abstention was seen as further evidence of the increasingly visible discord between Joe Biden’s administration and Benjanmin Netanyahu’s extreme-right government.

However, the momentum of those who swiftly capitalized on this disagreement was soon tempered by the recent US decision, announced at the end of March, to deliver 25 ultra-sophisticated F35-A warplanes to Israel, 1,800 MK84 bombs and 500 highly potent MK82 bombs capable of hitting underground facilities. Once again, the United States underscored its unwavering support for Israel as a constant strategy, despite occasional signs of “impatience” or disagreements between the two steadfast allies, as has been observed more than once in the past.

But the tense situation that has marked Israeli-US relations in recent days was quickly overshadowed by another, much more serious and consequential event: the Israeli airstrike on Monday afternoon targeting an annex building of the Iranian consulate in Damascus. The head of the Jerusalem Brigade in Syria and Lebanon (the foreign arm of the Pasdaran), Mohammad Reza Zahedi, his deputy, and five “advisors” of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards were killed in the strike.

Numerous observers and analysts promptly delved into various speculations regarding Tehran’s potential retaliation. Beyond the symbolic significance of the Israeli airstrike’s target (a consulate building), the gravity of the raid is underscored by the identity and high-ranking positions of the victims. Indeed, the Jerusalem Brigade in Syria and Lebanon, in charge of backing up and sponsoring the allies of the mullahs’ regime in the two nations, suffered a painful blow.

What could Tehran’s response be? The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs quickly echoed the familiar refrain, “We will retaliate at the place and time we deem appropriate.” Beyond this well-worn rhetoric, a brief review of the extensive series of spectacular operations conducted in recent years by Israel against senior Iranian officials illustrates the consistent passivity exhibited by the mullahs’ regime in such circumstances.

This passivity is very “elegantly” referred to in Tehran as “the strategy of patience,” a “clever” innovation that justifies the absence of retaliation. Let’s refresh our memory on this matter: the assassination of Imad Moghniyeh in the heart of Damascus, as he exited the Iranian cultural center on February 12, 2008; the killing in Baghdad (by the United States) on January 3, 2020, of the leader of the Jerusalem Brigade, Qassem Soleimani, who was the all-powerful leader of the Iranian military-security apparatus and the driving force behind the Revolutionary Guards’ expansionist strategy in the Middle East; the assassination on the outskirts of Tehran on November 27, 2020, in an operation worthy of a Mission Impossible movie, of the father of the Iranian nuclear program, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh; the theft by Mossad (another operation entirely surreal) in a nearby suburb south of the Iranian capital of the archives… of the Iranian nuclear program (!) which were transported by truck, without any further ado, to Israel on a moonless night; to this we must add the recent assassinations in Damascus of several senior officials of the Revolutionary Guards…

In the aftermath of all these dramatic operations, Iranian leaders echoed the familiar refrain, “We will retaliate at the time and place of our choosing.” Yet, responses to this string of major events are still conspicuously absent.

Will the mullahs’ regime today once again resort to the strategy of “strategic patience” to avoid a direct response to Monday’s raid, or will it view Israel’s actions as crossing a red line? In the latter case, the Islamic Republic might opt to retaliate itself, but in a manner carefully calibrated and targeted to prevent a full-scale conflict with Israel. Alternatively, considering its internal challenges and calculated approach, it could persist with its malevolent tactic of conducting battles through proxies. This might involve urging one of its allies to carry out a targeted attack or engage in a well-measured “escalation,” all while carefully avoiding a misstep that could escalate into a direct military confrontation with Israel.

As we await Iran’s response, speculations abound – as is customary in such situations – about the political repercussions of the raid, especially regarding any local complicity that may have enabled its meticulous execution. On the political front, American media reports suggest that the Biden administration was only informed of the attack minutes before its execution, and Washington hastened to assert directly to Tehran that it was in no way involved in this operation and had not been informed beforehand. If these reports are confirmed, the Biden administration’s stance would align perfectly with that of former President Barack Obama, who, during his tenure, opted for a policy that effectively handed over the Middle East to the power of the mullahs.

From the Israeli perspective, it’s notable that the sequence of operations over recent years indicates a strategic focus. Israel aimed its actions either at senior figures within the Revolutionary Guards or at the Iranian nuclear program. However, it avoided targeting conventional state infrastructure, seeking to distinguish between Iran as a regional power and the Revolutionary Guards and the nuclear program. Such approach has contributed to perpetuating a state of disorder and chronic instability throughout the wider Middle East.