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Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei (R) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Design: Palestine Chronicle)

By Ramzy Baroud & Romana Rubeo

The matter has been resolved. Israel, in the words of the Iranian mission to the United Nations, will be “punished”. 

This punishment is not just the direct outcome of Israel’s deadly attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus on April 1, but an overdue retaliation to many such aggressions. 

Why is Israel targeting Iran?

Israel has been bombing Iranian facilities in Syria for years. 

Additionally, and though Israel does not claim official responsibility, Tel Aviv has also hit Iranian targets on Iranian soil as well, including the assassination of top Iranian scientists. 

Quite often, attacks on Iran are coordinated between Tel Aviv and Washington, if not other Western capitals. 

These attacks have exponentially increased since October 7, when Israel launched a major war, turned genocide, against the Gaza Strip in retaliation of the Palestinian Resistance Operation, Al-Aqsa Flood. 

Yet Israel could easily continue to bomb targets belonging to Iran’s allies in the region. In fact, it is already doing so in its daily clashes with the powerful Lebanese Resistance group, Hezbollah.

Therefore, the Israeli attack on the consulate, considered a sovereign territory according to international norms, can only mean one thing: escalation. 

Why does Israel want to escalate? 

The Israeli government has lost its war in Gaza, according to Israeli political analyst Nadav Eyal, writing in Yedioth Ahronoth on April 8.

“The entire failure is rooted in the failed politics (of the Israeli government – PC). War is not won just by killing,” he wrote.

Eyal is merely one of many Israeli voices who have reached this conclusion after six months of a relentless Israeli genocide, which killed tens of thousands of Palestinians, but failed to defeat their resistance. 

This view is now shared widely in the US, with the likes of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman arguing that Tel Aviv’s strategy in the Gaza Strip has locked Israel “into a politically unwinnable war”:

Even US President Joe Biden, who has served as the main enabler to Israel’s genocidal war, has now admitted that he does not agree with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approach to Gaza, calling it “a mistake”. 

All of these statements are now the direct outcome of elaborate intelligence estimates, not unsubstantiated political views. 

It follows that Netanyahu knows this well. But for the embattled Israeli leader, a defeat in Gaza means Israel’s greatest defeat in its military history. 

It also means his demise as a politician, and possibly future imprisonment. Thus the need to escalate, with the hope that an Iranian retaliation would force the US to intervene, again, on behalf of Israel.  

This acceleration against Iran will place Washington in a political quandary: if the US does not support Israel in its response to the Iranian retaliation, this would set a precedent, thus changing the rules of the game. If Washington does ‘respond’, it significantly increases the odds of a regional war, which would embroil the US as well and hand Netanyahu exactly what he has been seeking for the last six months. 

How will Iran respond?

Two US officials told the American CBS news network that the Iranian attack was expected on Friday and that it would involve hundreds of drones and dozens of cruise missiles. 

As for the targets, there are several possibilities, according to intelligence estimates but also news analyses. 

Iran could bomb Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor, the Haifa port, Israel’s water and electric infrastructure, among other targets.

Some suggest that Iran could also bomb an Israeli embassy somewhere around the world. 

What does the Palestine Chronicle think?

Palestine Chronicle editors estimate that: 

One, Iran will respond, because its reputation is on the line as an influential regional, in fact, international power. Not responding would signal weakness and would compromise its geopolitical position.

Second, it is less likely, though it is not outright impossible, that Iran will bomb an Israeli diplomatic mission. This would allow Western countries to paint Iran as a pariah state and would present Israel as a victim in the eyes of the world.

Third, the Iranian response would have to be convincing, not just to its military forces, intelligence community, and people, but also in the eyes of other Middle Eastern countries, which are either openly or tacitly allied with Israel.

According to this calculation, if Iran strikes Israeli territories, it will be the start of a whole new playbook, which could also impact future normalization between Israel and other Arab countries. 

The main objective of Arab Israeli normalization is that some Arab countries are seeking Israeli protection in the light of the increasing absence of a strong American military role in the region. But if Iran demonstrates Israel’s weakness, or at least, neutralizes its power, the driving point of normalization would become moot.

Fourth, if the Iranian response does not instigate a regional war, thus does not feed Netanyahu’s political agenda, the Israeli prime minister would lose his only remaining card, and there would be no need to prolong the Gaza war any further. 

Fifth, in the unlikely chance that Iran does not respond, Israel is likely to expand its escalation, possibly by hitting deep inside Iranian territory – the only logical step following the destruction of a diplomatic mission. 

Iran knows this very well, thus the clear understanding that an Iranian response is coming, regardless of the outcomes.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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