Latest News 16-04-2024 12:01 3 Views

Israel’s success, Iran’s failure and the chances of igniting the Mideast powder keg

No matter how you look at it, the first direct attack by Iran against Israel was a victory for the Jewish state.

And the United States. And Britain and France. And an utter humiliation for Tehran.

Yet many are still understandably nervous that it could lead to a wider war.

In launching more than 300 drones and missiles over the weekend, the Iranians showed the world that Israel’s military technology is far superior to theirs. Iran no longer seems quite so threatening, and Israel seems more than capable of defending itself.

Even as the media spotlight shifted yesterday to Donald Trump’s first criminal trial – with round-the-clock reports on arguments over admissible evidence and a gag order, and jury selection – the Middle East loomed large as a potential powder keg.

For decades, Iran has fought a shadow war against Israel through its proxies. Without its support of the Hamas terrorists, there would have been no barbaric slaughter of Israelis on Oct. 7, or the unthinkable seizure of civilian hostages. Without its backing of Hezbollah, rockets would not have rained down from southern Lebanon, including during Iran’s latest assault. The same goes for Yemen.

The reason for the direct attack, as Iran sees it, was retaliation. Israel had killed three top Iranian commanders in a strike against its consulate in Syria. Iran’s leaders vowed to strike back.

Now they had no idea how effective Israel’s Iron Dome and Arrow missile defense systems would be at stopping their assault. Many Israelis could have been killed, which would have inflamed the region further.

 

My own view is that Iran’s goal was to save face and inflict only limited damage. The minor incursion against an Israeli military base strongly suggests that.

And while there were dozens of injuries, including the hospitalization of a young Bedouin Arab girl, the lack of fatalities also helped things from boiling over.

After all, 99% of Iran’s incoming weapons were destroyed outside Israeli airspace, and some failed on their own.

What’s more, Iran clearly telegraphed the timing – so precisely that Biden knew when to return from Rehoboth to the White House – and declared its response over while some projectiles were still in the air.

This was a big win for President Biden, who vowed an 'iron-clad' defense of Israel, but after a congratulatory call to Bibi Netanyahu, word quickly leaked to the press that the president was urging the prime minister not to retaliate. 

'Take the win' was one of the phrases attributed to Biden. Another was 'slow things down.'

Which leaves Netanyahu with a monumental choice.

He could blow off Biden’s warnings and retaliate against Iran, which, especially if there are casualties, could lead to further rounds of airstrikes that could easily turn into a wider war. (Israel says it will 'exact a price.')

Or Netanyahu could do nothing and allow things to settle down – which would run the risk of allowing the Iranians to pay no price for a sustained attack that had many frightened Israelis spending all night in bomb shelters.

And there is an additional layer of questions involving Bibi’s self-interest. The longer the war goes on, the longer it protects him from possible ouster and potential charges. Israeli streets were filled with anti-Bibi protesters angry with his attempt to neuter the Supreme Court. That quieted down during the war, though there have been some demonstrations since, so Netanyahu may just view a gradual escalation as his insurance policy.

There is no question that the massive death toll and widespread hunger in Gaza have hurt Israel in the court of world opinion. It has hurt the Biden administration at home as well, particularly as Netanyahu has ignored the president’s calls for restraint and more civilian aid, especially regarding the coming invasion of heavily populated Rafah.

But the brazen Iranian attack has been a gift to Israel by showing the world that the Mideast’s only democracy has come under sustained assault by one of its Arab enemies. And it has brought America and Israel closer together, despite previous tensions, as the administration has delivered on its promise to race to the Jewish state’s defense with warplanes and ships.

One final consideration is whether the aerial assault has transformed the atmosphere on Capitol Hill. The months-long failure to provide further aid to Israel because of petty partisan politics looks all the more pathetic in light of the Iranian fusillade.

Both sides bear some responsibility, but it’s the House Republicans who carry the heaviest burden because of Speaker Mike Johnson’s refusal to allow a vote on aid to Israel. A compromise effort collapsed when Donald Trump objected to a military aid bill that also would have beefed up border security, though to what extent is debatable.

Does anyone really doubt that if Johnson put an Israel bill on the floor today, it would pass overwhelmingly?

The speaker, after meeting with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, told Fox News that he wants to bring an Israel measure to the floor this week. He also hinted that he would like to include aid to Ukraine – a decidedly less popular move within the Republican caucus – with Trump saying it could take the form of a loan rather than an outright grant.

In exchange, Johnson wants to see a relaxation of Biden's energy policy – which would help a potential project in his Louisiana district – a pork-barrel trade that seems a small price to pay.

There are many cross-pressures, many tensions, many moving parts, but it’s time for Congress to get something done after an unconscionable delay.


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