Biden seeks to avert escalation after successful defense of Israel

President Biden and his team, hoping to avoid further escalation leading to a broader war in the Middle East, are warning Israel that its successful defense against Iranian airstrikes constitutes a major strategic victory that may not require a Another round of retaliation, US officials said.

The interception of nearly all of the more than 300 drones and missiles launched at Israel on Saturday night demonstrated that Israel had come out ahead in the confrontation with Iran and demonstrated to its enemies its ability to protect itself together with its American allies, which means who did nothing. necessarily necessary to return fire, officials said.

It was not immediately clear whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government will agree to leave things as they are. Although the damage resulting from the attack was relatively light, the scope of the attacks went far beyond the small shadow war between Iran and Israel in recent years, crossing the red line by firing weapons from Iranian territory into Israeli territory. If the defenses had not been maintained, dozens or hundreds could have been killed.

Emotions ran high among Israeli officials during late-night calls with American partners, and as a result the pressure to respond was strong. The U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the sensitive discussions, stressed that the final decision rests with Israel. Israeli jets struck Hezbollah-controlled facilities in Lebanon on Sunday morning after the Iran-backed militia sent two explosive drones into Israel, but it was unclear how related this was to the Iranian airstrike.

Biden spoke to Netanyahu on Saturday after the Iranian attack and reiterated his “iron commitment” to Israel's security. While the president did not make public any advice he offered, in a statement released after the call, he hinted at a desire for moderation.

“I told him that Israel has demonstrated a remarkable ability to defend itself and defeat even unprecedented attacks, sending a clear message to its enemies that they cannot effectively threaten Israel's security,” Biden said.

He promised to convene the leaders of the Group of Seven major industrial democracies on Sunday to coordinate a “united diplomatic response”, a sign of his preferred path forward after the attack. The United Nations Security Council will also meet in an emergency session on Sunday.

“Overall, @JoeBiden's message is designed to gently persuade #Israel not to pursue further escalation,” Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, he wrote on social media.

This will spark criticism of Biden from conservatives, who quickly went public urging a powerful military retaliation against Iran – not just from Israel, but also from the United States. “We must move quickly and launch aggressive retaliatory strikes against Iran,” said Senator Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee. we read in a statement published online.

Speaker Mike Johnson blamed the attack on Iran partly on the Biden administration due to its “weakening of Israel and appeasement of Iran,” not to mention that he himself has thus far failed to allow a floor vote on Senate-passed bipartisan legislation providing security aid to Israel and Ukraine. Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the House Republican leader, said this “in light of Iran's unjustified attack on Israel,” the House will consider aid to Israel this week, but provided no details.

The clash between Israel and Iran occurred at a time of great tension between Biden and Netanyahu. In a phone call just 10 days ago, the president threatened to reconsider his support for Israel's war in Gaza if Netanyahu did not do more to ease the suffering of civilians in the enclave, leveraging American support for the first time since Hamas attack on 7 October. he conducted a terrorist attack against Israel.

At the same time the two leaders clashed, Israel had just carried out an airstrike on the Iranian embassy compound in Damascus, Syria, killing seven Iranian officers involved in covert operations in a move that threatened the escalation Biden had feared for a long time. Nonetheless, the president made clear that his support for Israel's security remains unwavering and warned Iran not to respond.

American and Israeli officials have spent the past few days coordinating military operations in case Iran acted, and Biden ordered the dispatch of ballistic missile defense planes and destroyers to the region. Administration officials were elated by Saturday's results, when U.S. and Israeli forces shot down nearly everything fired at Israel by Iran, including more than 100 ballistic missiles, a feat that one official said may have no equal in military history. Jordan intercepted projectiles crossing its airspace, saying it was protecting its own security.

Although Iran caused little tangible damage, it signaled after Saturday night's attack that it was ready to withdraw – and clearly hoped to avoid a direct confrontation with the United States. “The matter can be considered concluded,” the Iranian mission to the United Nations said said in a statement. “However, if the Israeli regime were to make another mistake, Iran's response would be considerably more severe. It is a conflict between Iran and the rogue Israeli regime, which the United States MUST STAY AWAY from!”

While the number of drones and missiles launched at Israel was extraordinary, it did not go unnoticed that Iran telegraphed its intentions to attack for more than a week and announced the launch of the drones hours before they actually reached the territory Israeli, giving ample notice for defenses. Some analysts interpreted this to mean that Iran wanted to make a show of force to save face after the killing of its officers, but did not want an actual war with Israel or the United States.

The situation was reminiscent of when President Donald J. Trump ordered an airstrike in Iraq in 2020 to kill Major General Qassim Suleimani, who led the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' powerful Quds Force. Iran retaliated by firing missiles at well-defended US bases in Iraq, with relatively little damage, although around 100 US service members were injured. He then sent a private message saying it was done. Trump chose not to react and fears of a cycle of escalation have faded.

In the days before Saturday's attack on Israel, Netanyahu warned Tehran not to act, saying: “Whoever hurts us, we hurt him.” But since Israel has not been particularly affected, Netanyahu may have some leeway to declare victory and move on. Israeli officials were unclear about their intentions.

“The campaign is not over yet: we must remain vigilant and attentive to the instructions published by the IDF and Homefront Command,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said, referring to the Israel Defense Forces. “We have to be prepared for every scenario. That said, we foiled the most significant wave” of the attack, “and we did so successfully.”

The American argument was that since Israel also successfully eliminated senior Iranian officials in Damascus two weeks ago without paying a significant price, another round of military action might be deemed unnecessary.

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