The risk of escalation

Published April 17, 2024
The writer is an author and journalist.
The writer is an author and journalist.

AN eerie calm prevails after Iran’s unprecedented direct attack on Israel. Tehran fired hundreds of drones and missiles at Israeli territory in retaliation for the killing of its senior military commanders in an air raid on its consulate in Damascus earlier this month. It was a calibrated operation designed to send a strong message against any aggression by the Zionist state.

Although no serious damage was done, the sheer spectacle of missiles raining down on Israeli territory has tested arguably the strongest military power in the region. It is not over yet. An expected revenge strike by Tel Aviv has put the region on edge. The call for restraint by Israel’s Western allies and the international community at large is not likely to deter the hard-liner Zionist regime which is seeking to widen the conflict.

Any direct Israeli military action against Iranian installations is bound to widen the conflagration, with serious ramifications for the Middle East and beyond. The risk of tensions escalating into a full-blown military confrontation between the two major regional powers is extremely high, with far-right Israeli groups calling for a swift and forceful retaliation to the Iranian response.

Can the US and its other Western allies restrain the right-wing Israeli government that is already engaged in a genocidal war in Gaza with the weapons supplied by the same powers? It does not seem to be happening with their continuing defence of Israel’s bellicosity. While swiftly condemning the Iranian response, those countries have completely ignored Israel’s killing of Iranian military commanders.

Any direct Israeli military action against Iranian installations is bound to widen the conflagration.

It was Israel’s act of war that triggered the Iranian response. The situation appears to be getting out control with the vicious cycle of retaliatory actions. Apparently, it was part of the plan of the Zionist regime to pull Tehran into the conflict triggered by its brutal military action in Gaza that has killed over 34,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children. The ongoing massacre in the occupied territory is in its seventh month and has evoked a strong public reaction across the world, increasing Israel’s isolation.

The recent incident of Israel’s fatal bombing of a convoy carrying foreign relief workers, as well as the onset of famine in the war-ravaged occupied Strip, has pushed even Tel Aviv’s staunchest allies to call for a temporary ceasefire. But all that has gone unheeded by the Benjamin Netanyahu government.

Israel has also rejected the UN Security Council resolution for a cessation of hostilities. Instead, Tel Aviv has tried to extend its war to Iran and the surrounding countries. It has repeatedly bombed Syria and Lebanon. The unprovoked bombing of the Iranian consulate in Damascus, in clear violation of international law, was apparently meant to divert the attention of the world from the ongoing genocide in Gaza.

The silence of the US and some other Western countries over the raid on the Iranian consulate has only provided impunity to the Zionist state. The mantra of Israel’s ‘right to self defence’ has given Tel Aviv a licence to not only continue with its genocidal war in Gaza but to also take military action across its borders. The hypocrisy of the US and some other Western countries has been fully exposed. During the debate in the emergency session of the UN Security Council, they blamed only Iran’s retaliatory strike for raising tensions in the region.

It was apparent that Iran did not want to escalate the situation that would have run the risk of the US getting militarily involved in the conflict. Tehran had informed the Biden administration and the regional countries about the impending retaliatory missile strike on Israel and the limited objective. That gave the US and its allies, as well as Israel, time to take measures to mitigate the impact.

Subsequently, over 90 per cent of the drones and missiles were intercepted before they could hit the targets. Iran’s prime minister declared that his country was acting in “self-defence” and that it “targeted Israeli bases used to carry out the consulate strike”. The prior notice appeared to be a deliberate move by the Iranian leadership to minimise the risks. The strategy seemed to have worked, with the unanimous call by the international community for restraint.

Iran has, however, made it clear that any further Israeli misadventure would be met with a more forceful military response. “We now categorically declare that the smallest action against Iranian interests will certainly be met with a severe, widespread and painful response,” warned Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

While it is evident that none among its allies would like the conflict to spread, Israel still insists on revenge. Its military chief Herzi Halevi has said that Iran’s attack “will be met with a response”, despite mounting calls for restraint from international leaders.

Israel’s belligerent stance has worsened the predicament of the Biden administration, which now appears increasingly worried by Israel’s reckless approach. While reiterating his administration’s commitment to providing “ironclad” support to Israel, US President Joe Biden also said that Washington will not get involved in any direct military action against Iran. There is growing pressure on Israeli leaders not only from the US but also from other allies for de-escalation. But the German foreign minister went a step further, appearing to question Israel’s right to strike back. “The right to self-defence means fending off an attack; retaliation is not a category in international law,” she said. The statement is significant as Germany is the second largest supplier of arms to Israel after the US.

Moreover, the country is also facing charges of “facilitating the commission of genocide” in Gaza, in coordination with Israel at the International Court of Justice. Growing public opinion at home against the Gaza war seems to have forced Western nations to take a step back from lending unqualified support to the Zionist state. But the statements by Israeli leaders that they would not only go ahead with a high-risk revenge strike against Iran but also intensify their war in Gaza has rendered the situation extremely combustible. It is hard to rein in a rogue nation.

The writer is an author and journalist.

zhussain100@yahoo.com

X: @hidhussain

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2024

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