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Following Iran’s unprecedented drone and missile attack against Israel overnight Saturday to Sunday in retaliation to Israel’s deadly strike on its Damascus consulate on April 1, This is Beirut put forward three questions to Dubai-based Middle East security and defense analyst, and director of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA), Riad Kahwaji.

In view of the weak impact that they had on Israel, are the drones launched last night by Iran the most powerful that it possesses?

These are the same drones used by the Russians against Ukraine, namely the “Shahed 136” and the new one “Shahed 149” which has a longer range or distance, but they all have the same warheads and same capabilities. Iran used its most advanced drones. But their effectiveness diminishes against a capable adversary like Israel which has the most sophisticated multi-layered air defense systems, along with a powerful air force. Israel managed to intercept all of these drones, with the help of the US.

These drones are more impactful in Ukraine, because Ukraine does not have a big air force and there is no US fighting with it. Many of the drones were shot down even before they reached the Israeli airspace.  They were picked up like flies. The only weapons that seem to have landed in Israel are a few ballistic missiles falling in an open area around an airbase in the Negev. They were allowed to go through because Israel decided not to waste an expensive missile against them and let them fall in an open area.

Did the fact that they had to travel a long distance from Iran to Israel affect the impact and efficiency of the drones?

The distance makes a difference because it allows the targeted party to be more ready, to deploy more defensive measures and to shoot them down. Obviously, the Israelis have more capabilities than the Ukrainians in dealing with air threats. It is mainly Israel’s most-sophisticated air defense system, in addition to the US military support, that reduced the impact of the drones as we have seen overnight.

Do you think that, in the case of a potential Israeli response, Iran will use more powerful weapons in a counter-attack? Would the combined Israeli-US defense power deter Iran in the future?

In case of an Israeli response, Iran would have the same retaliation, using the same weapons, same drones and same ballistic and cruise missiles. I believe this is as good as it gets. Instead, Iran may rely on attrition. It apparently has a big arsenal of these weapons, so the question would be how much the US and Israel will be able to sustain such attacks daily? We should expect a fierce retaliation from the US and Israel in case of escalation and sliding into a war.

As for deterrence, many Iranian generals knew the capabilities of Israel and the US combined and that’s why they’ve always avoided a direct confrontation, and those who underestimated these capabilities, I believe that they found out yesterday that their advanced weaponry cannot really do much against US-Israeli defenses. Will this deter them? I am not sure, they have no option but to retaliate in case the Israelis respond, but definitely, many of them will be reconsidering their approach towards Israel now that they have seen the Israeli capabilities in dealing with their attack.