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Israeli response to Iran’s attack may trigger wider war–analysts



Israeli response to Iran’s attack may trigger wider war--analysts
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Some top U.S. officials are worried that Israel may respond hastily to Iran’s unprecedented drone and missile attacks and provoke a wider regional conflict that the U.S. could get dragged into.

President Joe Biden, who has publicly reinforced his administration’s “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s defense, has privately expressed concern that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to drag Washington into a broader conflict, according to three people familiar with his comments.

Iran’s retaliatory attack on Saturday — which swarmed Israeli airspace with hundreds of drones and missiles, while causing relatively limited damage — was unprecedented, but calibrated to show deterrence without provoking an all-out war, according to experts who spoke to NBC News.

Within hours of the strike, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, the chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, issued a statement saying the attack had “concluded and we are not willing to continue it.”

An Israeli official in the Prime Minister’s office told NBC News Sunday that “Israel is going to consult with all its partners but ultimately it’s Israel’s decision as to what the response will be.”

“Israel can’t allow such a large attack over Israel without some kind of response, be it small or large,” the official said. “It’s up to the war cabinet to decide now.”

READ ALSO: Israel pounds Hezbollah with airstrikes after Iran attack

U.S. officials had anticipated a response from Iran since Israel’s April 1 bombing of an Iranian diplomatic compound in Damascus. They raised questions not just about the severity of the threat, but how Israel would respond given an overall military strategy that a senior administration official and a senior defense official, referencing internal conversations, have characterized in interviews with NBC News as poorly considered, “frenetic” and with the potential to be “catastrophically escalatory.”

 “I don’t think they had a strategy,” the senior administration official told NBC News about Israel’s bombing of Iran’s diplomatic compound in Damascus. “The Israelis don’t always make the best strategic decisions.”

Israel views Iran as an existential threat and has clashed with previous U.S. administrations on how to handle the regime, which doesn’t officially recognize the Jewish state. Most notably, Netanyahu openly lobbied against President Barack Obama’s landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which his successor Donald Trump pulled out of.

Iran, for its part, has been on the receiving end of a concerted U.S. and Israeli campaign to degrade its military capabilities, with attacks killing senior commanders who were working with proxy forces throughout the region and nuclear scientists at home.

READ ALSO: Biden calls for G7 meeting after Iran launches over 300 drones, missiles at Israel


While the White House believes the Israelis are not looking for a wider conflict or a direct war with Iran, particularly given the resources they have fighting in Gaza, U.S. officials can’t be certain, the senior administration official said.

“There’s this urgency to act,” the official said, “and that’s what happened in Damascus,” referring to the April 1 strike on the consular building that killed two generals and five officers in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The official said it’s the same frustration U.S. officials have with the way Israel is operating in Gaza.

Benjamin Friedman, policy director of the think tank Defense Priorities, said in a statement that “the Israeli government has courted a fight with Iran, perhaps encouraged by the prospect of U.S. help in going after Iran.”

“Instead of talking about ‘ironclad’ support for Israel, the president should have made clear the U.S. support is limited and does not extend to all circumstances,” Friedman said. “War with Iran would imperil U.S. security for no obvious pay off.”

In a statement released today, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned that the confrontation between Iran and Israel “is not over yet. … We must be prepared for every scenario,” and called Iran “a terrorist state.”

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