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Iran retaliates after Israel’s consulate bombing

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People and rescuers gather in front of a building destroyed in a reported Israeli strike in Damascus on January 20, killing five people in the building where “Iran-aligned leaders” were meeting on January 20, a war monitor said, as regional tensions soar over the Israel-Hamas war. Iran’s attack on April 13, is a response to another ‘provocation’ by Israel when it attacked the Iranian embassy complex in Syria, killing 13 people including senior Iranian commander Mohammad Reza Zahedi, as well as his deputy, Mohammad Hadi Haji Rahimi, the writer says. Picture: Louai Beshara / AFP / on January 20, 2024

By Jessica Corbett

“Netanyahu will use it as the pretext for another provocation, because he’s bent on starting this war,” one writer predicted.

Iran on Saturday launched several drones and missiles toward Israel in retaliation for the nation’s deadly bombing of the Iranian consulate in Syria earlier this month.

According to CNN, this statement from Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps was read on Iranian state-owned Press TV: “In response to the Zionist regime’s crime in attacking the consular section of the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, the IRGC’s air force hit certain targets in the territories of the Zionist regime with dozens of drones and missiles.”

“The United States should avoid taking any military action in connection with the Israel/Iran conflict.”

Israeli and US officials also confirmed the IRGC launch, estimated by Israel to involve over 100 drones. “A short while ago, Iran launched unmanned aerial vehicles from its territory towards the territory of the state of Israel,” the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said in a statement. “The air defence array is on high alert at the same time as the air force planes and navy ships that are on a mission to protect the country’s skies.”

“The IDF is monitoring all targets,” added the IDF, which has been waging war on the Gaza Strip since a Hamas-led attack on Israel October 7. “We ask the public to adhere to and follow the instructions of the Home Front Command and the official IDF announcements regarding the matter.”

Iran’s drone launch by comes after Iranian officials have reportedly been sending a message to the Biden administration through back channels: “We will attack the forces that attack us, so don’t fuck with us and we won’t fuck with you.”

Further fuelling fears of a new regional war, US President Joe Biden said Friday: “We are devoted to the defence of Israel. We will support Israel. We will help defend Israel.”

An American defence official said Saturday that “US forces in the region continue to shoot down Iranian-launched drones targeting Israel… Our forces remain postured to provide additional defensive support and to protect US forces operating in the region.”

As the death toll in Gaza has mounted — the Israeli assault, which the International Court of Justice has determined is plausibly genocidal, has killed at least 33,686 people — Biden has faced intense pressure to condition or even cut off military aid to Israel.

In response to Iran’s attack on Israel, Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director at Democracy for the Arab World Now, said in a statement that “the United States should avoid taking any military action in connection with the Israel/Iran conflict or further entangle US armed forces in unauthorised and dangerous fighting in the Middle East”.

“The Biden administration should call on Israel to immediately announce a ceasefire in Gaza and to refrain from using US weapons in any further unlawful attacks against other countries’ embassies and diplomatic facilities,” she added.

On top of the nearly $4 billion in military aid that the US gives Israel annually, the Biden administration has been shipping arms to the IDF since October and pushing for new package worth over $14 billion that requires congressional approval.

US House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (Republiva-Louisiana) said Saturday that “in light of Iran’s unjustified attack on Israel, the House will move from its previously announced legislative schedule next week to instead consider legislation that supports our ally Israel and holds Iran and its terrorist proxies accountable”.

Late Saturday, US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Shucker (Democrat-New York) released a statement commending the Israeli and American troops who stopped most of the missiles and drones, condemning Iran’s attack, and saying that “it is even clearer that the best way to help Israel is for the House to quickly pass the Senate’s bipartisan national security supplemental next week”.

Appearing on Al Jazeera Saturday, Sultan Barakat, a professor at Hamad Bin Khalifa University, suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attacked the Iranian consulate to secure more US weapons and try to silence anti-war critics.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights group, argued that “the Biden administration emboldened the far-right Israeli government to manufacture this crisis by repeatedly giving it carte blanche to violate international law without any accountability — from murdering journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, to expanding illegal settlements, to committing a genocide in Gaza, to bombing an Iranian embassy complex in Syria”.

Sana Saeed, a media critic with AJ+, said on social media Saturday that there will be “lots of incoming analysis for the next several hours, but there’s really just one thing to know: None of this was inevitable nor did it start with Iran”. “This is US-Israeli belligerence; this is Joe Biden’s foreign policy and Israel’s war expansionism as it conducts a genocide.”

Trita Parsi, an expert on Iran and the Middle East and EVP at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, also weighed in on social media, pointing to a specific example from over 25 years ago “that shows that the Iranian retaliation against Israel could perhaps have been evaded”.

“The US, UK, and France prevented the UN Security Council from condemning the Israeli attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus despite it being a flagrant violation of international law,” Parsi highlighted. “The Iranians have hinted that had the UNSC strongly condemned Israel, Iran might have refrained from retaliating against it.”

“Certainly, the 1998 episode does not prove that Iran’s retaliation against Israel today could have been prevented. But it does suggest that there was an opportunity to de-escalate that the US/UK/FR ignored or dismissed,” he added. “Then again, that fits perfectly with Biden’s record of the past seven months as opportunity after opportunity to de-escalate and end the war in Gaza has been actively dismissed by him.”

Jessica Corbett is a senior editor and staff writer for Common Dreams, which has published this article first.