A regime-sponsored gathering in Tehran to condemn the Israeli attack on Iran’s consulate in the Syrian capital Damascus (April 2024)

Iranian Figures Caution Against ‘Israeli Trap’ After Embassy Attack

Wednesday, 04/03/2024

Numerous commentators in Tehran urge a measured reaction to Israel's Monday attack on Iran's embassy in Damascus, cautioning that the strike could be a ploy to draw Iran into direct conflict.

The air strike, reportedly launched by an Israeli F-35, flattened a building in the diplomatic compound on a national Iranian holiday, killing two senior Revolutionary Guard generals and five other officers. The incident is seen as the hardest blow at the clerical regime and its regional ambitions since Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani was eliminated in a similar US strike in Baghdad in January 2020.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei vowed revenge on Tuesday, saying in a statement that “The nefarious regime will be punished by our brave men. We will make them regret this crime and other ones like it, by God's will.” Now, the Iranian regime must retaliate to save face, but any direct attack can spark an open war with Israel, a scenario many believe Tehran wants to avoid.

Media outlets in Tehran that do not directly belong to the government or the Revolutionary Guard, published numerous opinions on Wednesday urging caution.

Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, a prominent commentator and former head of the Iranian parliament's foreign policy committee, strongly indicated that the Israeli attack on the embassy was a deliberate ploy to entangle Iran in a war. “We should not see the issues emotionally. I have said many times since October 7th that this is a trap for Iran. Since October 7th, the trajectory of events has been a setup to drag Iran into war, and what happened was that the balance between diplomacy and the battlefield was disrupted. This imbalance gradually led Iran into a conflict that serves none of its national interests.”

A regime-sponsored event in Tehran against Israel (April 2024)

Qasem Mohebali, former head of Iran’s foreign ministry Middle East section, told Faraz Daily website that Netanyahu would like to expand the war to save his premiership, which is under attack by disenchanted Israelis. Netanyahu aims to “to escalate the war and involve Iran, the United States, and the West in it, while also neutralizing the Arabs. Therefore, Israel's objective in this matter is clear, and it remains to be seen what the next steps of both sides will be,” he said.

Fararu website published an interview with political commentator Abdolreza Farajirad, who argued that Israel, and especially Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, currently face numerous challenges. Therefore, Israel is planning a wider war with Hezbollah on its northern border to push Iran’s most powerful proxy military force away from its territory. To make such a conflict winnable, Israel wants to disrupt the supply chain from Tehran to Beirut, and hence more attacks on Iranian targets in Syria.

While these commentators sounded cautionary notes, hardliners in parliament and elsewhere called for a harsh response to Israel, without receiving much resonance from others. It is not clear if the government is encouraging commentators who are allowed to speak to the media to express their concerns about escalation. Government censored media in Iran is not allowed to speak to any political activist or pundit on sensitive issues.

One notable exception among the media was the Asr Iran website, which argued in an analysis that if Iran fails to respond forcefully to Israel, it will embolden the enemy to launch further attacks. The website contended that weakness would only invite aggression. It refuted the notion that Israel may not seek a wider conflict and therefore Iran should exercise self-restraint. According to Asr Iran, if Israel is not prepared for direct conflict, Iran can respond without fear of escalation. In conclusion, the website emphasized that Iran has nothing to lose and everything to gain from a forceful response.

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