Iran Attacks: Netanyahu’s Dangerous Gamble

On Saturday, April 13, Iran announced that it had launched an attack on Israel with over 300 drones and missiles. That afternoon, Joe Biden left the comfort of his beach house in Delaware and hurried back to the White House amid a looming sense of crisis. The same night, the President met with members of the National Security team regarding the unfolding missile attacks in the White House Situation Room.

He might just as well have saved himself the trouble, since his mind was already made up in advance. Biden’s reaction was immediate and as predictable as a repeating groove on a worn-out old LP record: “Our commitment to Israel’s security against threats from Iran and its proxies is ironclad.”

That was for public consumption. In private, however, he was not a happy man, since even someone of his limited intelligence would dimly be aware that reprisals from Israel heighten the risk of a wider regional conflict that could directly draw in the United States, along with other countries.

Biden immediately met with advisors in the White House Situation Room. The outcome was predetermined as he pledged “ironclad” support for Israel. / Image: public domain

The scenario of the US getting dragged into a general war in the Middle East, with catastrophic effects on the world (and US) economy, would not greatly enhance his chances of winning the November election, which have already been getting slimmer by the day.

Although he would certainly like to “deal with Iran,” and there are those in his administration who are itching to launch an attack, he is somewhat restrained by electoral considerations and has, therefore, sought to avoid an open clash with Tehran since the start of the current conflict in Gaza.

The massacre of civilians in Gaza has already damaged Biden’s electoral chances, eroding his support with key constituencies. His blanket support for Israel and stubborn refusal to call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza has alienated Muslim voters and the youth.

He now finds himself in the tenuous position of pledging firm support for Israel while also trying to prevent a new conflagration from exploding with the danger that the United States would become directly involved.

Sensing his weakness, the Iranians, who have no wish to be pushed into a war with the USA, calibrated their reaction to what was a blatant provocation by Israel specifically designed to bring about precisely that result.

Netanyahu’s agenda

The Iranian attack was the long-anticipated response to the Israeli strike on April 1, on the consular section of the Iranian Embassy in Damascus that killed seven Iranians, including two veteran commanders.

What was Netanyahu trying to achieve when he ordered the strike? The answer is quite clear. He has been banking all along on provoking a regional conflict, which would force the US to become directly involved on Israel’s side.

All this is directly related to the vicious war being waged by Israel against the people of Gaza. Israel’s military campaign is not going as expected. Six months on, its aims have not been achieved. Hamas has not been smashed and the hostages have not been rescued.

Israel protest Image own work
The war in Gaza has not gone as expected for Netanyahu. Now he faces renewed protests calling for elections. / Image: own work

As a result, Netanyahu’s support has collapsed. Protests in Israel are growing, with tens of thousands demanding early elections in which he would certainly be unseated and possibly face trial.

His situation is desperate. He has effectively run out of military options in Gaza, since almost the entire strip has been reduced to rubble. He has even been compelled to pull out most of his forces. The last remaining target is the southern Rafah city where 1.5 million starving and terrified people have gathered.

But the plight of the people of Gaza has caused a storm of international protest that has isolated Israel and compelled the Americans to put pressure on Netanyahu to desist from an attack there. Looking around for another target, his attention was drawn ever more intensely on Iran.

The Biden administration is, of course, already funding and supplying his genocidal campaign in the Gaza Strip. But that is now wholly insufficient for Netanyahu’s purposes. What he urgently needs is the direct involvement of the US military in a wider confrontation in the region—one that would force the USA and all its allies to openly side with Israel.

It was necessary to provoke Iran into attacking Israel, which would then call upon its American friends to rush to its aid. The Israeli strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus was clearly a deliberate provocation designed to bring about that result.

Damascus attack Image Rajanews
The Iranian regime could not afford to lose face by failing to respond to the attack on its consulate in Damascus. / Image: Rajanews

He knew that Iran would be forced to respond. Any diplomatic building is considered territory of the country it belongs to, so this had to be considered a direct attack by Israel on Iranian soil. In this way, he deliberately set in motion a deadly chain of events, which is now unfolding.

Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Saturday night, as did Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his counterpart Yoav Gallant, and the two governments agreed to stay in close touch in the coming hours and days.

What was said in these conversations is not known. No doubt the Americans were urging restraint. But how effective these appeals may have been remains to be seen. Netanyahu is quite capable of plunging the whole region into war just to save his skin. If that causes a few difficulties for Joe Biden, that is his problem.

Tehran’s manoeuvres

For the last two weeks, several countries have exerted pressure on Iran “to exercise restraint” in the face of naked aggression. But there was no condemnation of Israel’s strike in Damascus: no UN resolutions, no sanctions, nothing at all.

Here, once again, we see the double standards of the “international community.” Countries like Iran, Russia, and China are constantly being accused of attempting to destroy what is habitually described as “the rule-based international order.”

But who makes up the rules of this so-called order? The rules are made up by the USA, and every other country in the world is expected to obey them. It is as simple as that!

It must be pointed out that, for a long time, Iran showed considerable restraint in the face of such provocations by Israel, including repeated murders of its military personnel as well as sixty-two scientists involved in its nuclear program.

Incidentally, there is absolutely no evidence that Iran was involved in Hamas’ attack last October—a fact which was admitted not only by the United States but also by Israel at the time.

In the face of the genocidal attacks on the people of Gaza, Iran did not make any military response. But this time, Tehran could not afford to lose face. Again, it must be pointed out that the Iranians first raised the matter inside the relevant bodies of the United Nations.

Gaza civilians Image United Nations Photo Flickr
Iran did not react militarily to the genocidal attacks on the people of Gaza, but it could not fail to respond to this direct attack on its territory, which it initially attempted to do through the United Nations. / Image: United Nations Photo Flickr

The normal rules of international law guarantee the immunity of embassies and all such buildings. They are regarded as inviolable spaces, in fact, as an integral part of the national territories of each nation they belong to.

The attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus was evidently a blatant violation of the basic principles established by the Vienna Convention of 1961. The United Nations therefore had a duty to condemn it. But when a resolution to that effect was put before the Security Council, it was vetoed by three of its members: the USA, Britain, and France.

Once the UN had refused to take this elementary step, the Iranian regime had no alternative but to respond in a manner that would be seen as proportional to the Israeli provocation.

Despite all the noise and hysteria surrounding its missile attack—incidentally, the first time that Iran has ever carried out an attack on Israeli soil, despite repeated Israeli attacks on itself—that attack was indeed proportionate.

Over 300 projectiles were used in this attack. That would seem to be a formidable assault. But that is only in appearance. Most seem to have been Shaheed drones—a very basic model, normally used only to test the air defenses of another state in preparation for a more serious bombardment.

It is claimed—probably correctly—that the great majority of the drones and missiles were intercepted, many of them by the USA. There were hardly any casualties, and only one military base is said to have suffered a certain amount of damage.

This, despite the fact that Iran is known to possess highly sophisticated rockets and missiles and indeed that the present attack covered a large extent of Israeli territory. How is this to be explained?

The fact is that advanced warnings were given to both the Americans and the Israelis before the attacks were launched. This enabled the Americans to employ their air defense systems to great effect, thus minimizing the damage.

The attack must be seen, therefore, as Iran delivering a warning to Israel. In a message published by the Iranian mission to the UN, we read the following:

Conducted on the strength of Article 51 of the UN Charter pertaining to legitimate defense, Iran’s military action was in response to the Zionist regime’s aggression against our diplomatic premises in Damascus. The matter can be deemed concluded. 

However, should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe. It is a conflict between Iran and the rogue Israeli regime, from which the U.S. MUST STAY AWAY! (our emphasis).

The meaning of the message seems to be: this is all we intend to do for now; we do not want this to escalate further; the ball is in Israel’s court.

The Iranians have also issued a strong warning to countries in the region: if you intervene to defend Israel by stopping the drones, we will consider you as legitimate targets.

The Jordanian regime, one of those which is under most pressure from the masses because of its inaction in the face of the Gaza massacre, first stated that it would intercept Iranian drones but then publicly denied the report.

The air raids on the Houthis carried out by the USA and Britain have had absolutely no effect. The attacks on shipping in the area have continued and are increasing. Earlier in the day, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized an Israeli linked ship traveling through the Strait of Hormuz. That was another warning.

Hypocritical chorus

Biden has publicly stated that he does not want an escalation of the conflict. What he really means is “we will continue to support and fund Israel’s massacre of the Palestinians; we do not want any other countries to intervene to impede that.”

Biden Netanyahu Image U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv Wikimedia Commons
Biden is attempting to walk a tightrope between support for Israel and avoiding the devastating consequences of a regional conflagration on the world economy and his electoral prospects. / Image: U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv Wikimedia Commons

But it is precisely the continuation of the genocidal campaign against Gaza that is constantly provoking all the people of the region. Biden’s attempts to show sympathy with the victims of Israeli aggression (while continuing to supply arms and money to allow Netanyahu to continue the butchery) are exposed as hollow and deceitful.

Biden reminds one of the walrus in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, who invites a group of young oysters to join him for a stroll, only to end up using them for his lunch:

“I weep for you,” the Walrus said:

“I deeply sympathize.”

With sobs and tears he sorted out

Those of the largest size,

Holding his pocket-handkerchief

Before his streaming eyes.

The same disgusting hypocrisy is displayed by America’s allies who obediently responded to the Iranian attack with a well-rehearsed chorus of condemnation. As usual, the British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak fell over himself to fall into line: “I condemn in the strongest terms the Iranian regime’s reckless attack against Israel,” which he said:

[Risks] inflaming tensions and destabilizing the region. Iran has once again demonstrated that it is intent on sowing chaos in its own backyard.

The UK will continue to stand up for Israel’s security and that of all our regional partners, including Jordan and Iraq.

Alongside our allies, we are urgently working to stabilize the situation and prevent further escalation. No one wants to see more bloodshed.

And to further the cause of world peace, Rishi Sunak immediately announced that he was sending the RAF to the region in order to bomb and strafe anyone who disagreed with him.

His remarks were immediately echoed by his partner-in-crime, the “Labour” leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Josep Borrell added his shrill voice to the chorus, “The EU strongly condemns the unacceptable Iranian attack against Israel. This is an unprecedented escalation and a grave threat to regional security.”

Even stranger is the fact that not one of these gentlemen had said anything about Israel’s attack on Damascus. How strange that none of the activities carried out by Israel represents any threat to regional security at all!

All of them had shown full support for Israel’s “right to defend herself” after the October 7 attack. But for some reason, the same principle does not apply to Iran according to them.

As Alice would say, “Curiouser and curiouser.”

The end of the affair?

The secretary-general of the United Nations, António Guterres, issued a statement saying:

I strongly condemn the serious escalation represented by the large-scale attack launched on Israel by the Islamic Republic of Iran this evening. I call for an immediate cessation of these hostilities.

I am deeply alarmed about the very real danger of a devastating region-wide escalation. I urge all parties to exercise maximum restraint to avoid any action that could lead to major military confrontations on multiple fronts in the Middle East.

I have repeatedly stressed that neither the region nor the world can afford another war.

As stated, Iran’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations said the country’s military action against Israel was based on Article 51 of the UN Charter regarding the legitimate right to self-defense in response to the deadly Israeli attack against the Iranian consulate in Syria, stating further that the attack on Israel can be considered finished.

But it continued, “If Israel makes another mistake, the response of the Islamic Republic of Iran will be considerably more severe.” The mission added that had the UN Security Council condemned the Israeli “aggression” against the Iranian diplomatic missions in Damascus and subsequently tried those behind it, “Perhaps it was not necessary that Iran punishes” Israel.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said in two separate statements that it had launched “tens of missiles and drones” and “successfully hit and destroyed” important military targets belonging to the Israeli army in the occupied Palestinian territories in response to “numerous Israeli crimes.”

The statement by the Iranian UN mission then added that it regards the matter concluded. But this is by no means clear. Sources in the Israeli cabinet quoted by Channel 12 TV said that there would be a “significant response” to the Iranian attack. This is exactly what Netanyahu wanted to achieve with the Damascus attack on April 1.

According to CNN, Biden administration officials saw Iran’s attacks on Israel as “disproportionate” to Israel’s strikes in Damascus that prompted the retaliation. That seems to be a rather tepid response and far short of what Netanyahu expects from Washington.

As explained, there are some in Washington who would love nothing more than an excuse to attack Iran directly. But that would have a massively destabilizing effect in the whole region. US diplomacy will now be frantically striving to perform a balancing act to get themselves out of a mess that is entirely of their own making.

On the one hand, they need to support Israel, which is now virtually their only reliable ally in the entire region, and on the other, they need to prevent a regional war that could spiral dangerously out of control.

A very important element in the calculations of US imperialism is the need to prevent the growing anger of the masses in the region from reaching a point where it could lead to the overthrow of reactionary Arab regimes which are meant to be US allies.

There are clear signs that at least some of those regimes are feeling nervous about the whole situation. The Gulf states, for instance, publicly declared that the US should not use its bases on their territory or their airspace for any eventual attack on Iran.

Both the US and the UK have increased their military presence in the region. For its part, the IRGC has warned that any threat by the United States and Israel or from any other country would receive a reciprocal and proportionate response from Iran.

The flames of war are burning brightly in the Middle East. And there are not a few people who are anxious to whip them up to the point of a general conflagration.

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