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After Iran’s retaliation – breaking news

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After Iran’s retaliation – breaking news

The immediate response of the United States and Europe to Iran’s retaliatory attack on Israel last weekend was as predictable as it was hypocritical. Based on the public statements from western countriesone would never know that Israel had bombed the Iranian consulate in Damascus. A country’s embassies and consulates are considered the sovereign territory of that country, so this was a clear provocation. There is no doubt Israel wanted to escalate their confrontation with Iran.

Iran’s attack was a measured response. It was not intended to cause significant damage to Israel, not even to the military sites that were the exclusive targets of the Iranian drones and missiles. The Islamic Republic let everyone, including the United States and Israel, know what it was about to do, intentionally giving them all plenty of time to prepare their defenses.

Israel vowed a response, but when it came Friday morning, it was apparent that Israel had backed off from its attempt to escalate tensions with Iran, very likely realizing that the United States was going to do all it could to stay out of and prevent a regional war. Iran has also made it clear that it is turning the page on this chapter.

So where does that leave the region now?

The Israeli right’s race against time

As I noted recently, the Israeli far-right knows that it has a limited time in control of Israel, and believes that a more typical Israeli right-wing government is unlikely to go as far as it will to provoke a war with Iran and weather world opinion in its genocide of Palestinians.

Yet for all of Israel’s bluster, it will be difficult for it to fight an all-out war with Iran and complete its genocidal campaign in Gaza at the same time. That’s especially true if the U.S. won’t help Israel in an Iran attack and resists letting itself be dragged into another Mideast war.

Indeed, one of the effects of Iran’s attack was to take a bit of the pressure off of Israel over Gaza. Its support around the world had been severely declining due to its brazen genocide, especially in the wake of killing the mostly white World Central Kitchen aid workers, whose lives are considered much more valuable than Palestinians’ by leaders in the U.S., UK, and Germany.

The sheer volume of projectiles launched at Israel helped to revive Israel’s image as the victim of unrelenting hostility from its “rough neighborhood.” The debates in Washington which were only starting to gather some momentum have quieted after Iran’s attack, as Democrats who were starting to grow uneasy with Israel’s actions in Gaza are now focusing on the politically safer ground of Israel’s defense against Iran.

There is also every reason to believe that this Iranian attack is exactly the lubricant needed to grease the track on which Joe Biden’s $14 billion supplemental aid package for Israel is stuck.

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Yoav Gallant has directly informed his American counterpart, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, that Israel will retaliate. Friday morning, they did that but did so in a way that did not further escalate the tensions. While that was a better decision in the hope of avoiding a regional war, and it surely won Israel some points in Washington, London, and Brussels, the price for it, as is so often the case, is likely to be paid in Palestinian blood.

The road to Rafah

It seems very likely that reports of Israel essentially offering the U.S. a choice — either we attack Iran or we go through with the planned invasion of Rafah — were accurate and that the U.S. gave a go-ahead for the Rafah incursion, while Israel agreed to stop escalating with Iran for now. The Biden administration is denying thisbut they are also muted in the warnings against a Rafah invasion they were regularly issuing before Iran’s attack. And they have made it clear they were informed of Israel’s planned attack on Friday.

It’s yet another reflection of how worthless Palestinian lives are to U.S. President Joe Biden that this choice was made. While there is a certain heartless logic to thinking it preferable to finish the genocidal operation in Gaza rather than seeing an action that almost certainly would ignite a regional war, it is also a faulty logic, on top of being a monstrous one. There is little reason to believe that completing the genocide in Gaza would do anything but delay an Israeli escalation with Iran.

More importantly, the idea that striking Iran or invading Rafah were the only two options is false. Biden is more than capable of telling Israel, “No, you’ll do neither.” But, after three years of Biden’s bear-hugging an ultra-right Israeli government, it is clear that regardless of what Israel does, Biden will not take such a step.

Indeed, while Biden deserves credit for immediately telling Israel that the U.S. would not support an Israeli strike at Iran, that direct message to Netanyahu stood in stark contrast to the qualified warnings he has made about Rafah. In the case of Gaza, Biden has implicitly approved an invasion, with the proviso that Israel make provisions for evacuating civilians.

So, Israel has reportedly bought some 40,000 tents which it intends to erect a short distance from Rafah. It would seem that this paltry and obviously ineffective gesture is enough to assuage American concerns.

Bear in mind that Rafah, an area that was crowded with some 275,000 people before October 7 is currently housing around 1.5 million Palestinians. Even if we were to believe the fiction that Israel intended to completely reverse its behavior of six months in which it has deliberately targeted Palestinian civilians, 40,000 tents a few kilometers away is hardly going to mitigate the damage that will be done in Rafah.

Israel, of course, never intended to be deterred in its quest for genocide in Gaza. It will not be deterred for long in its quest to confront Iran either. Netanyahu, as I and so many have noted, wants to keep the war going as long as possible. He was, therefore, willing to wait on Rafah, and now that the waiting there is about to end, he can set up more provocations for Iran later.

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Meanwhile, the widespread rising violence and chaos in the West Bank by settlers and the military will continue its upward trajectory, with little hope of stemming that tide. The latest efforts to reunite the Palestinian leadership have failedand the quisling Palestinian Authority is contenting itself with pursuing full United Nations membership, a pipe dream that the United States has thwarted once again.

Iran, Jordan, and other Arab states

Iran made it clear to Israel that it was capable of defending itself and was prepared to do so. The Israeli military understands very well that the fact that Iran’s barrage did insignificant damage had a great deal to do with the United States and United Kingdom intercepting many of the projectiles before Israel needed to deal with them. And both Israel and its allies were able to do that because Iran gave them advance warning. Iran is not going to warn Israel and its allies if it wants to do real damage in the future.

This is not to say that Israel does not have a very formidable air defense. Indeed, the attack on Isfahan in Iran on Friday was meant by Israel to show its military superiority in this regard, which is very real. While the massive success of Israel and its allies in intercepting 99% of the projectiles Iran fired might not be fully replicated without the advance warning Iran provided, Israel responded by demonstrating that just a few of their own missiles were able to penetrate Iran’s air defenses.

Still, Iran did make it clear that Israel could be hit, and did so in a way that did not lead to a regional war.

On the other hand, there is the issue of strain placed on Iran’s relationships with the Arab world. The Islamic Republic has been trying to lower the volume on its rivalry with Saudi Arabia, and has met with gradual success.

But the Saudis see that effort as hedging their bets in case the United States doesn’t come through on a defense pact and nuclear assistance that Riyadh desires as compensation for normalizing relations with Israel.

This attack by Iran indicated that the alliance the U.S. has been working so hard on is coalescing, despite the continued absence of normal relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Still, Saudi participation in the operation to down Iranian aircraft should not be overstated. Saudi Arabia, as well as Jordan and the UAEhad a strong interest in making sure that, whatever Iran’s intentions, the risk of damage to Israel was minimized to avoid a major escalation. They would pay some of the highest prices if there were a regional war.

Jordan has a large Palestinian population, and the popular antipathy for Israel, always strong, is unsurprisingly off the charts since the Gaza genocide began. The perception that they helped defend Israel angered a great many Jordanians. Given Jordan’s economic difficulties, angering the public with an action like this one is not helpful for the Hashemite Kingdom’s stability.

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The government’s argument that they were defending Jordan from objects that entered its airspace is nonsense. They knew they had nothing to worry about, as they knew exactly where those missiles and drones were headed. But, like the UAE and Saudi Arabia, they were very concerned about the repercussions should an Iranian missile do real damage to Israel and wanted to make sure they didn’t get caught in the middle of a new war.

Popular anger was why Jordan was so alarmed about Iran publicly denouncing them for “helping Israel,” and why they were quick to argue that they were not siding with Israel and would shoot down any foreign projectiles that violated their airspace. While it remains to be seen if they would really shoot down an Israeli drone, missile, or, especially a staffed aircraft, they were sending a message to Israel to leave them, and their airspace, out of any retaliatory plans. For what it’s worth, initial reports indicate Israel did not use Jordanian airspace for this attack.

At the same time, Jordan’s action was also aimed at cementing itsnrelationship with Washington. The Jordanians will need that relationship especially if Israeli attacks on Palestinian villages in the West Bank escalate, drawing responses from armed groups there. That will almost certainly be seized on by Israel as an excuse to begin military operations on a larger scale in the West Bank (though they would have to exercise a lot more precision than they did in Gaza due to the presence of hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers).

In that case, Jordan will need to count on as much cooperation as they can get from Washington to avoid a scenario where Israel forces Palestinians out of the West Bank and across the Jordan River, as it attempted, and failed, to force people from Gaza into Egypt.

The many fronts Israel is fighting on — including, of course, the confrontation with Hezbollah in Lebanon — will continue to spiral until the United States and Europe find the political will to put a stop to it. While there have been a few signs that such will is beginning to form, it is also clear that, right now, the West does not have the vision or leadership required to do what is necessary for the best interests of everyone concerned, except a few corrupt and zealous Israeli leaders.

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