Iran’s mostly ineffective barrage of missile and drone attacks against Israel over the weekend exposed Tehran as a paper tiger with a “weak hand,” according to the former head of US Central Command.

“Iran’s overriding strategic priority is protecting the theocratic regime. Fundamental to this was a conventional missile and drone force that could overpower its neighbors,” retired Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr. wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Monday.

“This failure shakes the regime’s stability.”

Israeli military officials said Sunday that 99% of the more than 300 missiles and drones fired from Iran toward Israel had been intercepted. Those that did get through caused minor damage to one military base.

Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Daniel Hagari added that a young girl had been severely injured by shrapnel in the bombardment, but no additional casualties were known.

In his op-ed, McKenzie suggested that the Iranian attack represented Tehran’s “maximum effort” against Israel, noting the broadside was “without subterfuge and of a scale well beyond any that preceded it … indiscriminate in targeting and designed to cause casualties.”

The former CENTCOM chief said Iran had attempted to “escalate to de-escalate” in response to Israel’s April 1 strike on an Iranian facility in Damascus that killed seven high-ranking Tehran officials.

“The intention is to cow the opponent into changing its behavior by convincing it that it is at heightened risk. The key to this kind of tactic is actual leverage—a genuine capability that puts the opponent at grave risk,” wrote McKenzie, who served as the head of Central Command from 2019 to 2022.

“That hasn’t happened, because it’s apparent that the Iranians are playing a weak hand.”

McKenzie also noted that the Hezbollah terror militia, Iran’s proxy in southern Lebanon, had not joined in the weekend attack, making the Iranian incursion “a manageable problem for Israeli defenders.”

As Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his war cabinet Monday to decide on next steps against Iran, McKenzie called for a “carefully calibrated response” from the Jewish state “that reinforces Israeli technical mastery.”

“The gap between Israeli competence and Iranian aspirations is clear, even to the Iranians, despite their attempts to put a brave face on their failure,” he wrote. “Israel’s neighbors will certainly see the effectiveness of its defense. Israel could unleash a violent and decisive counterstrike against Iran.

“Some are calling for Israel to destroy the Iranian nuclear enterprise,” McKenzie added. “Now isn’t the time for that.”

McKenzie expanded on his op-ed Monday during a panel discussion with the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, a Washington-based think tank and lobbying group.

The retired general estimated that Iran had about 150 ballistic missiles capable of reaching Israel out of a stockpile of about 3,000, and added Tehran appeared to have used most of the former number up over the weekend.

Tehran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian claimed Sunday that it gave the US 72 hours’ warning about the strike.

US officials denied that they were informed by Iran, per Reuters, though Iran’s regional neighbors — including Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq — claimed that they were aware of the attack.

However, McKenzie noted that the US and its regional partners are able to track when Iran’s military brings ballistic missiles out of storage, when it launches those missiles and when any can be picked up on radar.

Given that monitoring capability and the distance involved, “it is hard for Iran to generate a bolt from the blue against Israel,” McKenzie said.

After the attack, Iran’s mission to the UN claimed Saturday evening that the “matter can be deemed concluded.” But Israel has pledged to “exact a price” from Iran in response.

President Biden and his administration have reportedly sought to nudge Israel to temper its response, seeking to ensure that the conflict doesn’t spiral into a broader war.

“We’re going to make it clear again to the Israelis, we’ll do what we have to do to defend them, help them in self-defense, but we don’t want to see a wider war, we don’t want to see this escalate, we certainly are not looking for a war with Iran,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told NBC’s “Today” Monday morning.

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