An Iranian drone, one of Tehran's main offensive weapons displayed in a hanger. 2023

Signs Emerge Of Potentially Restrained Retaliatory Attack By Iran

Friday, 04/12/2024

A second night of apprehension in Tehran and Tel Aviv passed eventless Thursday, as the US and Britain vowed to back Israel in case of an Iranian retaliatory attack.

Reports from American and Israeli sources pointing to a ‘significant’ operation against Israel first emerged on Wednesday and spurred regional and world leaders to call for restraint and de-escalation.

Officials from Russia, Germany (and even Australia) intervened in different ways to dissuade Iranian leaders from striking back at Israel in response to the targeting of Iran’s consulate in Damascus on April 1st, which killed seven military officers, including two top Revolutionary Guards commanders.

But Iran continues to threaten a retaliatory attack, albeit in a relatively less incendiary fashion that was originally believed.

President Joe Biden and senior officials in his administration have repeatedly affirmed “ironclad” support for Israel against Iran. An Al Jazeera report Thursday evening quoted an unnamed American official that the US does not “rule out launching joint retaliatory strikes [against Iran] with Israel if it is attacked by Iran or its proxies.”

Republican Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Iran International’s Arash Alaei in the Capitol Building on April 11, 2024

Republican Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), a critic of the Biden administration’s policies toward Iran, expressed gratitude for President Biden’s message of support. “I think the warning was very strong. I am thankful that President Biden did that, but the proof is in the pudding; what are we going to do to step up and make sure we are defending Israel. That’s incredibly important,” told Iran International.

Reuters quoted a source familiar with US intelligence that Iran has “been very clear” that its response to the Israeli attack on its consulate in Damascus would be “controlled,” “non-escalatory,” and through “regional proxies” –as opposed to launching missiles directly from Iran. This was also reported by Politico, which suggested Iran may be calibrating its strike against Israel to send a message but not compel Washington to respond.

If true, the slight change of heart in Tehran could be the result of US warnings in public and through regional intermediaries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his top military commanders in the IRGC know that a full-scale war with Israel could involve the US and have severe consequences that may far outweigh any gains in prestige in the Muslim world that comes with standing up to Israel.

While warning Iran that it may have to face not just Israeli army but American military might, the Biden administration is trying hard to stop a full-blown regional war.

“We continue to work to prevent escalation of the conflict in the Middle East,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told in his presser Thursday. “Escalation is not in anyone's interest and countries should urge Iran not to escalate.”

Despite his best efforts to manage what can easily turn to an historic crisis, President Joe Biden faces unrelenting criticism at home for his Middle East policy.

Israel and Iran have been engaged in indirect conflict since October 7th, with Israel striking IRGC-affiliated targets in Syria, and Iran’s most powerful ally Hezbollah launching attacks across the Lebanese-Israeli border. Israel’s attack on Iran’s consulate in Damascus elevated the level of hostilities and raised concerns that direct confrontation between the two countries might be unavoidable.

“This should come as a shock to no one, but Iran is threatening Israel because they smell weakness from the Biden administration,” Congressman Brian Mast posted on X. “Iran wants escalation because they fear no consequences. Until this changes, the U.S. and our allies can only expect more aggression from Iran.”

Congresswoman Nancy Mace seconded the sentiment: “Make no mistake: @POTUS playing footsie with Iran and talking out of both sides of his mouth is the reason they feel emboldened.”

Biden critics have long blamed him and his team (his Iran team especially, led by the now suspended former Special Envoy Robert Malley) for emboldening the Iranian regime and ‘enabling’ it through released funds and loose enforcement of oil sanctions.

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