Step back: On Iran-Israel tensions 

Israel should stand down to avoid a regional war in West Asia 

April 17, 2024 12:10 am | Updated 10:23 am IST

Iran’s massive drone and missile attack on Israel on April 14 night, in retaliation against the bombing of its embassy compound in Damascus two weeks earlier, has pushed an already volatile West Asia to the brink of an all-out war. Iran lost two of its generals, including Mohammed Reza Zahed, overseeing the Quds Force’s operations in Syria and Lebanon, and five senior officers of the Revolutionary Guards, and an Iranian response was expected. In the past, Iran has used its proxies or targeted Israeli assets in other countries in response to Israel’s attacks on its officials. But this time, Tehran’s weapons barrage from its soil targeted Israel proper, escalating tensions to levels not seen in West Asia in decades. Israel, with help from the U.S., the U.K., France and Jordan, intercepted “99%” of the Iranian projectiles. Iran says its action was in “self-defence” as a response to the embassy attack and that the matter is concluded for now. The U.S. and other allies of Israel applauded Israel’s missile defence system, and urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to exercise restraint, avoiding a regional war. But Israel has vowed that Iran’s aggression would be met with a response.

In many ways, West Asia remains a geopolitical morass today. Israel’s brutal, illegal siege of Palestinian territories was ignored for long by regional and global players. Hamas launched a murderous attack from the blockaded Gaza Strip on October 7, 2023, leaving an open wound in Israel’s collective psyche. Since then, Israel has been carrying out a vengeful, genocidal attack of Gaza. The U.S., Israel’s most influential ally, failed to rein in Tel Aviv when it went on a rampage in Gaza and launched multiple attacks in the region, including the extremely dangerous bombing of Iran’s embassy compound. Iran, which backs Hezbollah, Hamas and the Houthis, also failed to show any restraint. Now the region is on a cliff and a mild push is enough to trigger a calamity. Mr. Netanyahu’s security and war policies have failed miserably. He could not prevent the October 7 attack. His war on Gaza has turned the enclave into a graveyard but has failed to defeat Hamas and release hostages, and his reckless bombing campaigns in the region have brought Iran and Israel to the brink of war. If an open war breaks out, both Israel and Iran can wreak havoc on each other, turning the whole region, the energy basket of the world, into a battlefield. Mr. Netanyahu should consider the remarkable performance of Israel’s defence systems as a victory and stand down to avoid a regional war. If Israel does so, it would open a window of opportunity to dial down tensions in West Asia.

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