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Biden treads diplomatic tightrope on Israel-Iran

  • By Gary O’Donoghue
  • Washington correspondent, BBC News

Video caption, Watch: Sirens sound in Jerusalem as projectiles fall from the sky

Iran’s brazen attack directly targeting Israel on Saturday means that the thing President Biden feared most and was desperate to avoid in the wake of the October 7 Hamas attack has happened: an escalation of the conflict to the entire region.

For the US president, the tightrope he has been walking in the war between Israel and Gaza has become even thinner, as he seeks to both de-escalate the situation and deter Iran, while facing challenges domestic pressures from left and right on relations with Israel. Meanwhile, any ceasefire deal in Gaza hangs in the balance.

Just two weeks ago, it appeared that relations between the United States and Israel – once the closest allies – were in serious trouble.

President Biden was expressing not only frustration, but outright anger at the lack of humanitarian aid arriving in Gaza and the deaths of seven aid workers in an Israeli Defense Forces strike.

The level of disagreement was such that the administration made it clear that it might reconsider its position on Israel, and perhaps even suspend arms exports.

But Iran’s action this weekend appears to have changed the situation.

The barrage of more than 300 missiles and drones fired at Israel triggered a highly successful joint military action by the United States and Israel to defend the country.

The coordinated action has apparently reignited some of the old warmth. And the White House now hopes it can capitalize on this to influence Israel’s response.

The authorities are not so naive as to think that there will be no response, but they want the response to be calibrated in such a way that it can be seen as an act of restraint.

But the weekend’s joint military success also masks a fundamental and worrying change in the regional situation, according to former U.S. envoy Dennis Ross, a 40-year veteran of U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East.

Iran’s direct retaliation against Israeli territory after targeting elite Quds Force officers in strike on Iranian consulate in Syria has ‘rewritten the rules’ of Israel-Iran relationship, says -he, further destabilizing an already precarious situation.

Iran has spent years building proxy forces vowed to destroy Israel, while financing and arming Palestinian groups, including Hamas, as well as the Shiite militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Image source, Israeli government document

Legend, The Israeli war cabinet met on Sunday, this Israeli government document shows

But Saturday marked the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that Iran attempted to launch a direct attack on Israel. So, no matter how one presents the success of military technology that effectively neutralized Iran’s actions, a Rubicon has been crossed.

According to Mr. Ross, this means that there has been a “failure of deterrence” against Iran.

Mr. Biden now faces an uncomfortable paradox, he says. The president must simultaneously lower the temperature with Iran, but at the same time make Tehran understand that its actions come at a cost.

Following Saturday’s attack, the White House made clear that it would not join any Israeli military retaliation against Iran, while asserting that its commitment to Israel’s security remained “ironclad.” .

Iran’s direct involvement in the current war will also make it much more difficult to reach a ceasefire agreement in Gaza and free hostages kidnapped by Hamas.

American diplomats worked around the clock to get Israel to agree to a six-week pause in fighting to allow the release of Gaza hostages and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

The deal would also make it easier to deliver desperately needed aid to Gaza, where famine threatens. Before the weekend, they had gotten Israel on board and the pressure was on Hamas.

All of this is now in jeopardy as the world waits to see how Israel responds.

The president’s internal complications are still present. There is pressure from parts of the left to distance themselves from Israel; and accusations of weakness for failing to stand up to Iran forcefully enough.

“I understand that in an election year. You want to keep things under control. That’s perfectly understandable,” said Mr. Ross, who played a key role in the Middle East peace process during the George H.W. administrations. Bush and Clinton.

“But in the same way, we have an Iran that has taken a step that it has never taken before. And by taking that step, it shows that it is willing to cross certain thresholds and the more it crosses certain thresholds, the more he gets used to doing this and the area becomes much more dangerous.

Of course, all this carries risks of misunderstandings and calculation errors.

One misstep could set off a chain reaction that could quickly spiral out of control.

The region is notoriously a tinderbox and could take on even more light at any time.

The world holds its breath.

News Source : www.bbc.com
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jack colman

With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class.After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim.Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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