Israel’s Strike Was Smaller Than Expected, and So Was Iran’s Reaction

The relatively limited scope of Israel’s overnight strikes on Iran, and a subdued response from Iranian officials, may have lowered the chances of an immediate escalation in fighting between the two countries, analysts said Friday.

For days, there have been fears that a forceful Israeli response to Iran’s attack on southern Israel last weekend could prompt an even more aggressive riposte from Iran, potentially turning a tit-for-tat confrontation into a wider war. Foreign leaders advised Israel to treat its successful defense against Iran’s missile barrage as a victory that required no retaliation, warning against a counterattack that might further destabilize the region.

But when it finally came early on Friday, Israel’s strike appeared less damaging than expected, allowing Iranian officials and state-run news outlets to downplay its significance, at least at first.

Iranian officials said that no enemy aircraft had been detected in Iranian airspace and that the main attack — on a military base in central Iran — had been initiated by small unmanned drones that were likely launched from inside Iranian territory. The nature of the attack even had precedent: Israel used similar methods in an attack on a military facility in Isfahan early last year.

By sunrise, Iranian state-run news outlets were projecting a swift return to normality, broadcasting footage of calm street scenes, while officials publicly dismissed the impact of the attack. Airports were also reopened, after a brief overnight closure.

Analysts cautioned that any outcome was still possible. But the initial Iranian reaction suggested that Iran’s leaders would not rush to respond, despite warning in recent days that they would react forcefully and swiftly to any Israeli strike.

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