US to ‘steer clear’ if Israel responds to Iran’s onslaught

US to ‘steer clear’ if Israel responds to Iran’s onslaught

• President Joe Biden warns Benjamin Netanyahu to ‘think carefully’ about any escalation
• Tehran says US was informed of ‘limited’ attack on Israel, warns Tel Aviv against reprisals
• ‘Operation Honest Promise’ achieved all its objectives, says Iranian army chief
• Iran to be responsible if US targets, Israel attacked again, UNSC told

WASHINGTON: The United States said on Sunday it will not join any Israeli counterattack on Iran, with President Joe Biden warning Prime Minister Benjamin Netan­yahu to “think carefully” about any escalation.

The White House said Mr Biden did not want a wider war after helping key ally Israel repel a massive aerial attack by Tehran — itself in retaliation for a presumed Israeli strike that killed senior Iranian military officers in Damascus.

“We are not looking for a wider war with Iran,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” adding that the United States does not “want to see this escalate”.

Mr Kirby said Mr Netanyahu was “well aware” of Mr Biden’s feelings after the two leaders spoke on Saturday while Iran’s unprecedented attack was still unfolding.

The assault saw Iran fire more than 300 drones and missiles towards Israel late Saturday, injuring 12 people, the Israeli army said.

US officials said American warplanes had brought down around 70 drones while US ships downed between four and six ballistic missiles.

But a senior Biden administration official confirmed that Mr Biden had told Mr Netanyahu that Washington would not offer military support for any retaliation on Iran.

“We would not be a part of any response they do,” the official told reporters on a call, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We would not envision ourselves participating in such an act,” he said.

“A big question is not only whether, but what Israel might choose to do, and so this is a decision for them,” the Biden administration official said.

Mr Biden and Mr Netanyahu spoke at a time of “heightened emotion” and “had a discussion about trying to slow things down”. The US president “made very clear to the prime minister last night that we do have to think carefully and strategically about the risks of escalation”.

Attack ‘foiled’

Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said that 99 per cent of the launches had been intercepted, declaring that “the Iranian attack was foiled”.

While 170 drones and 30 cruise missiles were shot down before they reached Israel, a few of the 110 ballistic missiles did get through, Israeli army said.

Among the injured was a seven-year-old girl near the southern Israeli town of Arad who was in intensive care, according to the medical centre that received her. Iran’s proxies and allies also carried out coordinated attacks on Israeli positions.

‘Achieved all objectives’

The Iranian army declared that its attack was “completed successfully,” which it said was in “self-defence”. “Operation Hon-est Promise… achie­ved all its objectives”, said Iranian army chief Mohammad Bagheri.

He said the attack targeted an intelligence centre and the airbase from which Tehran says Israeli F-35 jets took off to strike the Damascus consulate. “Both these centres were significantly destroyed,” he said, though Israel claim the attack only resulted in minor damage.

US told of ‘limited’ attack

Iran’s foreign minister on Sunday said Tehran had informed the United States and gave a 72-hour warning to neighbouring countries of its retaliatory attack on Israel.

“We announced… to the White House in a message that our operations will be limited, minimal and will be aimed at punishing the Israeli regime,” said Hos­sein Amir-Abdollahian.

Iran to be responsible for more attacks, UNSC told

The US said at the UN Security Council on Sunday if Iran attacked US targets or launched further attacks on Israel, it would be held responsible.

Addressing a UNSC meeting called by Israel to review the consequences of the Iranian drone attacks on Israel, US Deputy Permanent Representative Robert Wood said: “Let me be clear, if Iran and its proxies take actions against the United States or further actions against Israel, Iran will be held responsible.”

The US, he said, condemns in the strongest terms the unprecedented attacks on Israel by Iran and its proxies and partners. “Iran’s intent was to cause significant damage and death in Israel. Iran’s reckless actions not only pose a threat to populations in Israel but also to other UN member states in the region, including Jordan and Iraq,” he added.

Ambassador Wood said the UNSC has an obligation to not let Iran’s actions go unanswered. He accused Iran of arming Hezbollah in violation of UNSC resolutions, of arming, facilitating Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and blocking commercial shipping.

He said that in the coming days, the US will explore additional measures to hold Iran accountable at the UN. “More immediately, the Security Council must unequivocally condemn Iran’s aggressive actions and call for Iran and its partners and proxies to cease their attacks,” he added.

The US, he said, also “supports Israel’s inherent right to defend itself in the face of these attacks.”

Tehran’s warning

However, Iran warned Israel and the US of a much larger response if there is any counterattack for its weekend retaliation, as Israel said “the campaign is not over yet”.

President Ebrahim Raisi warned Israel against a “reckless” retaliation, saying one would be a met with “a decisive and much stronger response”. The Iranian army chief also warned, “our response will be much larger than tonight’s military action if Israel retaliates against Iran” and told Washington its bases could also be attacked if it helped Israel retaliate.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2024

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