Avoiding Armageddon: Middle East’s Quest for Peace…

It appeared as though Iran’s assault on Israel was intended to fail; it was also risky and provocative. There was no significant hit among the hundreds of missiles fired into Israel.

Consequently, why did it matter?

Anxieties over Iran’s true motives, the effectiveness of the direct attack as a show of force or an attempt to escalate, and the likelihood that the US will be able to avert a full-scale regional war—something the US has been attempting to avoid for over six months—have all been raised by the most recent developments in the region.

Since October 7, Israel and Iran have been engaging in a tit-for-tat escalation. Tensions rose to a new level on April 1 when, in response to attacks on Israeli citizens that were allegedly planned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Syria, Israel targeted an Iranian consulate in Damascus and destroyed it, killing seven IRGC officers and senior commander Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi.

The head of Iran’s government, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reportedly told the state-run IRNA news agency that Israel would face “punishment” following the incident. On Saturday, Iran responded by attacking Israel directly. This was a drastic and risky change for Tehran, which has hitherto favored using proxies in Syria, Lebanon, and other regions.

According to Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior scholar at the right-leaning Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a specialist on Iran’s missile capabilities, “Iran is more willing to run risks than ever before.”. “Up until this point, Iran had never made a clear and identifiable move against Israel from Iranian soil,” stated Taleblu. “From Iranian territory, this strike marked the first ballistic missile attack against a defended target.”

“Targeting Israeli territory was a taboo for Iran,” he explained. “Tehran was certainly tempted to exert its dominance after it was able to acquiesce to the October 7 terrorist attack and launch a hybrid proxy war against Israel without facing consequences.”

Tehran has so far shown that it is not interested in a full-scale conflict by preventing its northern Israeli partner Hezbollah from conducting any more than token attacks here and there. According to Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group, “Iran’s government appears to have concluded that the Damascus strike was a strategic inflection point, where failure to retaliate would carry more downsides than benefits.”

Vaez also noted that Tehran was careful with its weapon selection. According to him, the air defense systems could have been overwhelmed if they had utilized a larger number of projectiles, coordinated their drones and missiles, and launched their new hypersonic missiles. “They obviously intended for it to be spectacular, but not deadly.”

A 7-year-old Bedouin Arab child was hospitalized as the sole reported injury, while over 99 percent of the drones and missiles were shot down, according to officials.

An official statement from Iran’s UN mission declared, “The matter can be deemed concluded” on social media platform X, some hours after the operation began late Saturday. “That being said, Iran’s reaction will be far harsher if the Israeli regime commits another error.”

The difficult task of convincing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist war cabinet to moderate their reaction in order to avert a full-scale war now falls on U.S. President Joe Biden.

So far, Biden’s strategy has been to send a message to Tehran that going to war with Israel also means going to war with the US. “We helped Israel take down nearly all of the incoming drones and missiles,” Biden said, adding that the United States military had “moved aircraft and ballistic missile defense destroyers to the region over the course of the past week” in preparation for the Iranian attack.

Even among Republicans who have long been critical of Biden, there are others who have lauded the president’s cautious approach, even as they have called for a stronger American reaction.

The Biden administration deserves some credit, in my opinion. Reuel Marc Gerecht, a Farsi-speaking expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former CIA officer, stated that their response has been better than when Jerusalem attacked Zahedi in Damascus. Washington sprinted to Israel’s aid and interfered on its behalf after that, swiftly signaling that “the Israelis” were to blame and not the United States. As a result, Iranians will feel even more uneasy.

Is escalating tensions with Israel something that Khamenei wants? Yes. Is escalating tensions with the United States his goal? No,” Gerecht responded. Israel will respond directly against the clerical rule, which is unfortunate for them. Without doing so, they will fail. The magnitude remains the sole unanswered question. The fact that the White House decided not to sit on its hands and is now firmly committed to Jerusalem is a major factor in the current escalatory spiral, which is likely to benefit Israel over Tehran.

Still, during a call with Netanyahu on Sunday, Biden allegedly assured him that he would not back an Israeli assault on Iran. (The vice president has already stated his intention to lead the G7 in a diplomatic pressure campaign against Iran.) “You got a win,” Biden allegedly told Netanyahu. Forget about losing, says Axios.

But that won’t stop Israel’s conservative government from continuing its pattern of going against Washington and taking direct action against Iran.

As Hussein Banai, co-author of Republics of Myth: National Narratives in the US-Iran Conflict, put it, “a leader who simply would not want to be remembered for not having responded to a direct attack from Iran” claimed, referring to Netanyahu. In terms of escalation control, a U.S.-led limited retaliation might be the best option, he said, but reaching that consensus would require Biden and Bibi to work together, which could be challenging right now.

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