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See analysts predictions on potential retaliation and Middle East fallout

The bitter conflict between Israel and Iran has long been limited to the realm of secret assassinations, audacious cyberattacks, nuclear sabotage and proxy warfare. But this A largely secret struggle burst into the open this weekend with Tehran’s drone and missile strikes in retaliation.

The Islamic Republic’s unprecedented direct attack on the Jewish State, that followed Israel’s deadly strike on Iran’s consular building in Syria, has left the United States and its allies scrambling to avoid a broader conflict as the world waits to see what happens next.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war cabinet met Monday to weigh its options. Western leaders have called for restraint, with President Joe Biden warning his Israeli counterpart against further strikes on Iran and making clear that Washington would not join any such counterattack. (Speaking after the War Cabinet meeting, an Israeli official told NBC News that a response could be “imminent.”)

While almost all of the drones and missiles used in the attack were shot down by Israel, the United States and other allied countries, the stakes after the attack could not be higher. In the eyes of some foreign policy hawks, the attacks could be seen as a serious provocation that calls for a furious response. But other analysts have warned that if Netanyahu decides to hit back hard, it could plunge the entire Middle East into war, amid Israel’s devastating months-long military campaign in the Gaza Strip. .

To complicate matters, Iran’s intentions are not entirely clear. In the days following the attacks, some analysts argued that its air barrage appeared primarily designed to strengthen its position with domestic hardliners and deter regional enemies, but that it was calibrated not to lead to a larger war.

“Iran understands that it is relatively weak in the region, and so it needed to ensure that any action it took was significant enough to send a very strong message, but not so effective that it would invite unwarranted retaliation. “only from Israel, but also from Israel’s allies,” Rodger Shanahan, a Middle East analyst based in Australia, said Monday in a telephone interview from Lebanon.

William F. Wechsler, senior director of Middle East programs at the Atlantic Council, an international affairs think tank, also said the nature of Tehran’s retaliatory mission was telling.

“Iran has sent an unequivocal signal that it wants to avoid further escalation that could trigger a full-blown regional war,” Wechsler said in an analysis. “He chose long-range attacks that could be easily thwarted by known Israeli defenses and clearly did not target any US installations. »

Tehran – which does not officially recognize the existence of Israel, has long championed the Palestinian cause and celebrated the October 7 Hamas attack as a “victory” – has sought to present its weekend strikes as a “legitimate” and “responsible” reaction to Israeli bombings on its territory. consulate in Syria. The West should be “grateful” for Iran’s restraint, Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said Monday.

Yet in Tehran, some described Saturday’s attack in more drastic terms. “We decided to create a new equation” with Israel, the head of the country’s Revolutionary Guard Corps said.

Israel has fought its archenemy, Iran, through clandestine operations and mandated forces, while warning Tehran of its intentions as it develops its nuclear programs. (Iran has long insisted that its nuclear program is peaceful – a claim Israel rejects.)

Through its proxies, including Hezbollah, a powerful and well-armed political party and militant group in Lebanon, Iran has struck Israel. But before Saturday, neither side had openly and directly attacked the other in their home.

Israeli Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi is leading a situation assessment at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv on Sunday.Israeli Army / AFP – Getty Images

“The region is entering uncharted territory where the previous strategic paradigm and rules of engagement no longer apply,” said Amal Saad, a senior lecturer at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom. a post on, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “Whatever Israel decides later, it is not possible to return to the status quo ante,” Saad said in a statement. a later post.

Western leaders nevertheless appear eager for Israel to show restraint in its response.

U.S. officials told NBC News that Washington was concerned that Israel might react quickly without thinking about potential consequences, and Biden told Netanyahu that the United States would not participate in offensive operations against Iran, a senior official said. responsible for administration.

Iran has long viewed its missile arsenal as the ultimate asset to deter and threaten adversaries, but Israel’s success in defending itself against hundreds of Iranian projectiles has raised doubts about Tehran’s military might. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, a former US Central Command commander said Iran’s air attack was a show of weakness.

“The vulnerability of Iranian forces has been exposed and the regime has been seriously weakened,” wrote retired Marine Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr.. “Israel has been strengthened by a stunning display of military skill, a striking contrast with that observed on October 7. »

An air attack on Saudi Arabia by Iranian-backed Houthi forces in 2019, which the United States and Israel blamed on Iran, proved far more effective. In that attack, for which Iran denied responsibility, drones struck key Saudi oil installations, penetrating Riyadh’s U.S.-made air defense systems. The episode sparked concern in Washington and the region as Iran’s missile and drone fleets posed a growing threat.

In many ways, Iran and Israel have been on a collision course for nearly half a century.

Israel and Iran have been enemies since the Islamic Revolution of the late 1970s. Iran’s theocratic regime has vowed to wipe the Jewish state off the map; Israel and the United States have long accused Tehran of funding terrorist organizations and armed proxies in the Middle East, including Hamas and Hezbollah.

Speech notes from Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, at a Security Council meeting on Sunday.Charly Tribbaleau / AFP via Getty Images

But hostilities between Israel and Iran have never reached the level of face-to-face military confrontation. Instead, the two countries launched stealth attacks on each other on land, at sea, in the air and in cyberspace.

Iran regularly targets Israel through its “Axis of Resistance,” a network that extends Tehran’s influence across the Arab world.

While Iran has denied playing a role in the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack and a senior Hamas official said Iran neither ordered nor authorized the operation, Israel and the United States The United States claims that Tehran was complicit in the attack, having armed weapons. and trained activists for years.

In the aftermath of October 7, Israel concluded that its past attacks on Iranian arms shipments to Hezbollah in Lebanon and other covert actions had failed to sufficiently deter Iran, prompting it to attacked Revolutionary Guard officers in the diplomatic complex in Damascus this month. , said former US officials and regional experts.

It is rare for Iran to deploy its capabilities so directly against an enemy, even when its top commanders are eliminated. In 2020, when the United States launched a drone strike in Baghdad that killed powerful Tehran general Qassem Soleimani, Iran retaliated with missiles on Iraqi bases housing American troops, injuring about 100 people.

The war in Gaza brought tensions between Iran and Israel to new heights, before the Israeli strike on Tehran’s diplomatic compound in Damascus on April 1 killed at least seven of its military officers, including two senior commanders.

Iran vowed revenge – and then kept its promise on Saturday. The question now is how Israel will choose to respond.



News Source : www.nbcnews.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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