Israeli air force pilots and commanders on April 15, 2024

Will Israel's Response To Iran Be Designed Not To Trigger Escalation?

Tuesday, 04/16/2024

Israel and Iran exchanged warnings and threats Monday, as the US government set out to contain the looming Israeli attack, fearing that a tit-for-tat between could lead to an all-out war.

Several Israeli officials have stated that Iran’s larger-than-expected attack would not be left unanswered, even though 99% of all Iranian missiles and drones were intercepted by Israeli defense systems and allied air forces.

“Iran will face the consequences for its actions,” Israel Army Chief of Staff Gen. Halevi said in a video statement. “We will choose our response accordingly."

At the same time, pressure from Europe and some Arab counties might force Israel to adopt a retaliatory strategy the would be less likely to lead to a major escalation.

This was the clearest indication of Israeli intentions after the war cabinet, headed by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, met twice in less than 24 hours to weigh their options. No details were offered officially, but Israel’s Channel N12 News claimed that the response would likely be one that hits the Iranian regime in a way that doesn’t trigger an even bigger response.

Anticipating the attack, Iran went on the propaganda offensive.

Iran's deputy foreign minister Ali Bagheri Kani said any Israeli attack would be responded to in “less than a few seconds". A member of Iran’s Islamic Parliament (Majles) went further. "We are prepared to use a weapon that we have never used," said Abolfazl Amouei, the spokesman for the Majles’ National Security Committee, urging Israel to "act wisely".

Experts and unnamed Israeli officials have suggested several ‘possible’ courses of action: large-scale cyber-attack, hitting Iranian proxies, or covert operation inside Iran. This would not surprise many, since several Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed inside Iran in the past, and there have been mysterious explosions in nuclear facilities and other strategic locations.

Israel never took responsibility for these incidents and never denied it either. Now also, Israel could attack important targets and keep silent, not putting the Iranians in a situation to be forced to respond.

Whatever the Israeli response, it will likely be consulted with the Americans, according to media reports in Israel. The Biden administration has said it will not take part or assist in the Israeli operation, downplaying the significance of the Iranian attack and highlighting Israel’s success in thwarting the offensive almost entirely.

"What we showed on Saturday night was that Iran is not militarily superior, is not 10 feet tall, and that Israel is not alone," White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told NBC News Monday, when asked if he agrees that Iran would be emboldened without a response.

The administration’s stance has angered Biden’s more hawkish critics, who have accused him of ‘appeasing’ Iran and ‘abandoning’ Israel.

“Sadly, Iran isn't worried about the United States,” former national security advisor John Bolton told Newsmax. “They don't see Biden as having the spine to cross Iran's red line of not attacking Israel directly.”

Officials in Iran maintain that Israel’s attack on Iran’s consulate in Damascus crossed a red line and had to be responded to restore deterrence. The Israeli response would test this idea –and potentially trigger a cycle of retaliatory attacks that could spiral into a full-scale war.

“We’re on the edge of the cliff and we have to move away from it,” EU foreign affairs High Representative Josep Borrell said in a radio interview. “We have to step on the brakes and reverse gear.”

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