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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Iran-Pakistan Airstrikes: Unraveling Targets and Motivations

In a significant development, Iran and Pakistan engaged in air attacks on each other’s territories, targeting armed groups along their volatile 900km-long border. This marked an unprecedented escalation, raising questions about the reasons behind these direct military strikes and the implications for regional stability.

What Happened So Far?

Iranian Strikes

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a powerful force separate from Iran’s army, targeted the Jaish al-Adl armed group in Panjgur town, Pakistan. This action was in response to recent attacks in the Iranian city of Rask. Videos from the scene depicted precision strikes, with Iran emphasizing the group’s alleged terrorist activities.

Pakistani Retaliation

In retaliation, Pakistan launched air attacks using drones and rockets on a border village in Saravan town, Iran. The targets were identified as Baloch “notorious terrorist” separatists. Both countries released statements, expressing respect for each other’s territorial integrity while justifying their actions as measures to safeguard national security.

Diplomatic Context

Notably, the Iranian attack followed a joint naval exercise and diplomatic talks between Iran and Pakistan at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Despite summoning envoys, there has been no indication of cutting diplomatic ties.

Military Exercises

Iran conducted a large-scale military exercise in its southeastern areas near Pakistan, showcasing a range of aircraft and missile systems.

Who Were the ‘Terrorists’ Targeted?

Jaish al-Adl (Iran’s Target)

Iran’s focus inside Pakistan was on Jaish al-Adl, an ethnic Baloch and Sunni group advocating for better conditions in the Sistan-Baluchestan province. Tehran designates it as a “terrorist” group due to its history of deadly assaults on Iranian outposts and security forces, stemming from the Jundallah group.

Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) and Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) (Pakistan’s Targets)

Pakistan targeted the BLF and BLA, armed separatist groups responsible for multiple attacks within Pakistan. The BLF denied casualties and dismissed earlier reports of airstrikes hitting its positions inside Iran.

Background of Tensions

The cross-border strikes occurred amid ongoing border tensions, with past attacks by Jaish al-Adl launched from inside Pakistan.

Related: Tensions Rise as Pakistan Strikes Militant Targets Inside Iran

Implications of Iranian Attacks

Regional Context

The airstrikes happened within the broader context of Israel’s conflict with Gaza, aligning the Iran-backed “axis of resistance” against Western alliances. This marks the first time Iran and Pakistan launched direct assaults on each other’s territory since 1988.

Missile Showcases

Iran’s attacks on Pakistan coincided with missile launches on Iraq and Syria, showcasing the precision and capabilities of its extensive missile arsenal. The strikes were framed as revenge for bombings in Kerman, serving to assuage domestic calls for retaliation.

Targeted Strikes in Iraq and Syria

In Iraq, Iran claimed to hit a Mossad-linked target, emphasizing precision. In Syria’s Idlib, the IRGC used a new ballistic missile, Kheibar Shekan, with an impressive range of 1,450km.

Message to Adversaries

The extensive missile displays send a clear message, highlighting Iran’s military strength and its ability to reach distant targets. The capability to cover significant distances raises concerns about the extent of Iran’s deterrence and its potential impact on regional stability.

Strategic Significance

While the strikes on Pakistan covered a shorter distance, they were part of a broader display of force aimed at increasing Iran’s deterrence without pushing the country into an all-out war.

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