Isfahan at the crossroads: Israeli strikes and Iranian military ambitions

Iran first obtained U.S.-made F-14s in the 1970s during the Shah’s era and has managed to keep them operational ever since. It remains the only country in the world that still uses these iconic “Top Gun” fighters for active duty.

Isfahan, known for its stunning palaces, mosques with beautiful tiles, and tall towers, is also a key hub for military manufacturing.

This  city, often called “Nesf-e-Jahaan” or half the world, is the third largest city of Iran and is located in the center of the country, near the Zagros mountains. Recently, there were reports of explosions heard in the area overnight.

The area around the city hosts factories that produce drones and ballistic missiles.

Not far from here is the Natanz nuclear facility, which is crucial for Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. The significance of an attack in Isfahan, a city linked to Iran’s nuclear capabilities, would not be overlooked.

If Israel was behind the attack, it looks like Benjamin Netanyahu’s government was warning Iran that it has the ability to target key sites in the region, although it has not yet chosen to do so.

Israel has still not officially confirmed its involvement in the attack.

Iranian authorities quickly stated that the nuclear sites in Isfahan province were entirely secure.Iran, which does not possess nuclear weapons, denies using its civilian nuclear program to develop a nuclear arsenal.

However, there are mixed reports about the events that occurred overnight on April 18th.Hossein Dalirian, a spokesperson for Iran’s space agency, told the media that “several” drones were “successfully intercepted” and dismissed claims of a missile attack.

Later on, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian spoke on state TV, stating that “mini drones” caused no damage or injuries in Isfahan, contrary to what “pro-Israeli media” had reported.

Some Iranian news outlets reported three blasts near Isfahan’s airport and a military airbase.

Iran’s army commander-in-chief, Abdolrahim Mousavi, explained that the explosions were due to anti-aircraft defenses targeting a suspicious object.

Other Iranian media and officials claimed that the drones were deployed by “infiltrators.”

The Iranian air force operates a base at Isfahan airport, which is home to some of its older F-14 fighter jets.

Iran first obtained U.S.-made F-14s in the 1970s during the Shah’s era and has managed to keep them operational ever since. It remains the only country in the world that still uses these iconic “Top Gun” fighters for active duty.

“Top Gun fighters” refers to the F-14 fighter jets, which gained iconic status due to their prominent role in the 1986 movie “Top Gun.” The term has come to be associated with high-performance military aircraft, especially those featured in the film.”Top Gun: Maverick,” the sequel or second part of the original “Top Gun” movie, was released after several delays and broke box office records daily.

Isfahan was previously targeted in a suspected Israeli attack. In January 2023, Iran accused Israel of launching a drone strike on an ammunition factory located in the central area of the city. The attack was reportedly executed with quadcopters, which are small drones equipped with four propellers.

Similar drone strikes have occurred in various parts of Iran over recent years. Israel has not acknowledged responsibility for any of these attacks.

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a chemical weapons expert and former leader of UK and NATO nuclear forces, told the BBC that targeting Isfahan was particularly important due to the many military bases surrounding the city.

He mentioned that the reported missile strike was also close to where it’s believed Iran is attempting to develop nuclear weapons, suggesting it could be a signal in that direction.

He observed that the Israeli strike was essentially a show of strength and possibly intention. He pointed out that while Iran had launched over 300 drones and missiles at Israel, which were mostly intercepted, Israel had responded with “one, perhaps two” missiles that successfully hit a target and caused damage.

He noted that Iranian officials were downplaying the attack because they did not want to highlight Israel’s success in penetrating Iran’s outdated air defense systems.

He stated that Israel’s military significantly outmatches Iran, and this was a demonstration of that fact.

Iran prefers to engage indirectly through its terror groups and proxies instead of facing Israel directly in conventional warfare, where it knows it would be severely outmatched.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday (19th of April) that Russia, which has been strengthening its military ties with Iran, conveyed to Israel that Iran is not seeking escalation.

Sergei Lavrov mentioned on Russian radio that there have been phone discussions between leaders from Russia and Iran, and their representatives have also spoken with Israelis. He emphasized that during these talks, they made it clear to Israel that Iran is not looking for an escalation.

Mr. de Bretton-Gordon mentioned that Iran had somewhat regained its pride after attacking Israel last weekend, a response to the suspected Israeli missile attack on its consulate in Syria on April 1st, and did not wish to escalate the situation further.

Iran knows that Israel is absolutely determined and seems to have the backing of the US and others. Iran can’t really rely on much help, perhaps a little bit from Russia, which is very keen to keep focus on the Middle East and not Ukraine. Apart from that, it is a little bit isolated, Mr. de Bretton-Gordon said.

(Views expressed in the article are of author’s own and do not reflect the editorial stance of Business Upturn)