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The upright nations and people of the world should stand up to Israel

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Iran’s airborne military attack on Israel, launched on Saturday night, has the potential to turn the crisis in Gaza into a full-scale Middle East war, drawing in the US and other countries. This is the scenario that western and Arab governments have been dreading ever since the 7 October attacks on Israel by Hamas, Iran’s close ally. Now that the worst has come to pass, no one can know where or how it will end. This unprecedented head-to-head confrontation between Israel and Iran must be defused before it spins completely out of control.

First reports from Israel, quoting the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), said Iran had launched dozens of drones at presumed Israeli targets. Then came news that Iran was also firing cruise missiles – a far greater and swifter menace. Israel said its air defence and anti-missile systems were on full alert and that Israeli air space was being shut down. Jordan and Iraq announced similar measures. Saudi reports said the US had intercepted some of the drones over Syria and Iraq. Hezbollah in Lebanon and Houthi forces in Yemen also fired missiles at Israel in what looked like a concerted offensive.

“A short time ago, Iran launched unmanned aerial vehicles from its territory towards the territory of the state of Israel … the IDF aerial defence array is on high alert, along with Israel air force fighter jets and Israeli navy vessels that are on a defence mission in Israeli airspace. The IDF is monitoring all targets,” an Israeli army spokesperson said. The White House confirmed that an Iranian airborne attack had begun, and said President Joe Biden was being updated by his national security advisers.

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It must be assumed that if the Iranian drones and missiles hit targets on Israeli territory or hit Israeli cities, the government of Benjamin Netanyahu will respond in kind, as it has threatened to do. Last week Biden indicated that the US would support and possibly join any retaliatory Israeli military action. Israel, he said, had America’s “iron-clad” backing. In such a situation, the pressure on America’s and Israel’s allies to assist in any subsequent clashes will be considerable.

What is needed now above all are cool heads. Netanyahu and his extremist coalition allies are not renowned for such qualities. That makes it all the more important that the Americans, use all their persuasive powers and all available diplomatic means to try to moderate Israel’s reaction and stop further attacks by Iran. Netanyahu’s first instinct, if Israel is badly hit, may be to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, which he has threatened to do in the past, and possibly, regime leadership targets in Tehran, too. To do so that would be to risk another twist in the spiral of escalation, leading inexorably to all-out war.

It is vital that this conflagration be extinguished with the utmost speed for, if not, it may quickly spread across the region, igniting the already smouldering Occupied West Bank and beyond. Such a calamity would prolong Gaza’s misery, wreck hostage talks and extend instability into Lebanon and maybe Iraq, Syria, the Gulf and the Red Sea, too.

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An open-ended US-Iran confrontation would divide the western democracies, chill the global economy, destabilise pro-western Arab states, boost China’s geopolitical ambitions and sideline the fight against intensifying Russian aggression in Ukraine. More than that, it would be a gift to Netanyahu and his far-right allies, whose only policy is perpetual war.

Amid the present tumult, it should not be forgotten that this Iranian attack was provoked, according to Iran’s leadership at least, by Israel’s unacknowledged bombing on 1 April of an Iranian embassy annex in Damascus that killed several senior commanders. In Tehran’s not unreasonable view, that attack crossed a red line by targeting diplomatic premises. For the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, it amounted to an assault on sovereign Iranian territory. It could not go unanswered.

Netanyahu’s extreme rightwing coalition is up against a wall. Its shameful conduct of the genocidal war in Gaza has heaped international opprobrium on Israel’s head while failing to defeat Hamas. Opponents say Netanyahu is prolonging – and expanding – the war to save his skin. On this reading, the Damascus embassy attack was a deliberate escalation designed to fortify his political position, flush out Iran and draw the blind-sided Americans back to his side.

Truth be told, this is a war Israel wants and has been asking for.  Now that Iran has attacked, its only a matter of time before Israel retaliates. Iran has warned Israel of a larger attack on its territory should it retaliate, adding that the United States should not back an Israeli military action. “If the Zionist regime [Israel] or its supporters demonstrate reckless behaviour, they will receive a decisive and much stronger response,” Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi said in a statement on Sunday. That Israel will retaliate, is a question of when. Therefore, all the upright nations and people of the world should stand up to Israel and call out the Zionist state for its colonialist, genocidal actions against the Palestinians and countries in the region.

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