Bowen: As Israel debates Iran attack response, can US and allies stop slide into all-out war?

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Nwoow’s war cabinet has described its next moves against Iran using a familiar phrase: they’ll respond “in the manner and at the time of our choosing.”

Benny Gantz, the opposition leader who joined the war cabinet after the Hamas attacks of 7 October, stressed the unity of Israel and its western allies.

He said, “Israel against Iran, the world against Iran. This is the result. That is a strategic achievement which we must leverage for Israel’s security.”

Although Gantz’s words didn’t rule out another attack on an Iranian target, or a first overt Israeli strike inside Iran, there might be time for the diplomatic response President Joe Biden wants from the meeting he has called of the G7, the richest western countries.

The recent escalation began two weeks ago when Israel attacked Iran’s embassy compound in Damascus. The air strike killed a senior general, his number two, and other aides.

The decision to attack was not coordinated with the Americans. Israel must have seen the opportunity to kill senior commanders of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) as a risk worth taking.

Publicly, Israel argues that the presence of senior military officers on diplomatic premises made the building a legitimate target. But Iran interpreted the airstrike as an attack on its own ground.

Iran quickly made it clear that it would respond. Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued unequivocal statements.

Iran launched weapons – around 300 drones, cruise, and ballistic missiles – from its own territory at Israel. Almost all of them were stopped by formidable air defenses, bolstered by the US, UK, and Jordan.

President Biden reiterated his promise of “ironclad” security for Israel. But he also urged restraint from Israel, asking them not to escalate further by responding with military strikes on Iranian soil.

Iran signaled that Israel’s attack in Damascus had been answered and that further escalation would only occur if Israel attacked again. The Iranians seem to want to cool the two weeks of crisis and threats that started with the Israeli strike on their diplomatic compound.

If Israel heeds President Biden’s advice not to hit back, the Middle East might find some relief. But it’s not certain that this dangerous episode is over.

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