Iranian state television aired a simulated airstrike on Israel and on American targets on Friday, as a warning of the kind of response that could be expected if either country attacked Iran’s nuclear program. The broadcast needs to be taken seriously: what an enemy is willing to imagine, it is willing to execute. And it is also worth noting that while the Obama administration is keen to look accommodating, Iran is stepping up its threats. Yet there are a few other things worth noting about the video, beyond the basic fact that it was aired at all.
1. It is an exaggeration of Iran’s strength and Israel’s weakness. Tel Aviv is barely within the range of Iran’s most sophisticated drones, meaning that the attack, as depicted, would probably be beyond Iran’s actual capability. Note, too, that Iran’s drones approach Israel flying well above cloud level. They would be picked up by Israeli radar before reaching their targets. A later missile attack pretends Israel has no missile defenses.
2. Iran’s first targets are civilian, not military. Note that Iran has absolutely no moral scruples at all when it comes to killing innocent people or obeying international humanitarian law. Its first targets are the city of Tel Aviv and the Ben-Gurion Airport, among others. There is not even an attempt to show an attack on Israeli air defenses as a first step. Iran seems content to cast itself as a kind of supervillain. Why pretend otherwise?
3. Iran intends to target the Israeli government. Using old footage (from the government that led Israel during the Second Lebanon War, a conflict that represented a strategic advance for Iran), Iran has declared that political targets are among the first on its list. Turnabout is fair play: Iran’s regime should be among the targets of any attack on the regime’s nuclear installations. The Iranian people would likely be grateful for their removal.
4. The imagery evokes the 9/11 attack on the U.S. The video focuses on skyscrapers falling over in Tel Aviv in an eerie evocation of the collapse of the World Trade Center. What Iran envisions in this video is not just an attack on Israel but the destruction of Israel, something Iran’s leaders have been threatening to do for years, and not just since Israel began threatening to take pre-emptive action against Iran’s nuclear program.
5. The attack on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln is both farcical and deadly serious. The footage Iran uses to simulate the attack includes at least one vessel that is not the Abraham Lincoln but in fact the Carl Vinson. How Iran thinks missiles and drones would be able to carry out such an attack is a mystery. But it also shows that the regime may have no fear of a counterattack. That is the low esteem in which we are now held.