Urgent De-escalation Needed: The Perils of Rising Tensions Among Israel, Iran, and the US

By Carlton Joseph

After two weeks of threatening retaliation against Israel for killing some of its top military officials in Damascus, Iran finally launched (what it described as a defensive maneuver) its retaliatory attack on Israel that included hundreds of missiles and drones.  Almost everything fired was intercepted before entering Israel, and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claimed that the IDF and US aircrafts shot down most of the drones and missiles.

Carlton Joseph

Obviously, Iran does not want an escalation of war in the middle east, because she gave Israel 72 hours’ notice of the attack, enough time for a very well-trained Israel military to prepare to defend itself.  The attack caused little damage as Israel, with help from the United States, Britain, France and Jordan, was able to intercept nearly all the drones and missiles.  Hopefully, Israel, US, France and England – Jordan, I believe, was protecting her air space and not participating in the defense of Israel – do not interpret their success at intercepting the more than 300 drones and missiles as evidence that their defense capability is so overwhelmingly superior that they see this as an opportunity to attack Iran and risk a wider war in the Middle East.

Israel and Iran Map

Since former president Donald Trump’s administration, US hawks like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo and Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu have been proposing and implementing policies that promoted nationalists’ sentiments in Israel, thereby undermining the prospect of a two-state solution.  Trump moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, pronounced that the establishment of settlements in the West Bank was consistent with international law, and cut US aid to Palestinians organizations and UN groups that support Palestinians.  Importantly, he pulled the US out of the nuclear deal with Iran, thereby forging an unbreakable bond with Netanyahu while alienating much of the international community.  Trump, in four years, had cancelled the peace process and created more incitement and instability in the region.

Unfortunately, US hawks and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have been trying to instigate conflict between the U.S. and Iran for more than two decades – in 2020, Qasem Soleimani, an Iranian major general, was killed by the US.  Iran launched Operation Martyr Soleimani, which included a number of missile attacks mainly against the Al Asad, a US military base in western Iraq; Iraq had also been given advanced notice of that attack by Iran, so, there were no U.S. casualties.  Israel has provoked Iran constantly, in Lebanon, Syria and also on Iranian soil, and Iran has not retaliated. The ongoing war in Gaza and West Bank has killed more than 34000 Palestinians and, given Biden’s unwillingness or inability to get Netanyahu to agree to a cease fire, his assurance to Israel of “ironclad” support against Iran’s threats – although he said that he will not join an Israel attack on Iran – could embolden Netanyahu and his right-wing government to see this as an opportunity to force the US into an all-out war with Iran. 

If recent reports indicating that Israel has decided to retaliate with a limited attack so that it does not trigger a full-blown war between the two countries, are true, I hope Israel returns the favor and gives Iran 72 hours advance notice so as to limit casualties, and prove that this is just a demonstration of force; it would signal that both sides understand that they have the capability and capacity to retaliate if necessary. 

It’s important to remember that, just as there are hawks in the US and Israel populations, Iran has its hawks who are staunch supporters of the clerical establishment and the supreme leader; they believe that it’s the duty of every Muslim to support and help the oppressed, particularly the Gazans and Palestinians as the oppressed.  And, like in the US and Israel, some Iranians do not support their government – they believe that Iran, instead of funding the armed resistance movements of Hezbollah and Hamas, it should help the people; they want peace and justice.  John Bolton’s view that Iran’s retaliation is an opportunity to stoke war between the United States and Iran and Israel must be rejected. 

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres call for maximum restraint, urgent de-escalation of hostilities and a renewed focus on bringing peace to the Middle East, should be adopted.  The Biden Administration must realize that the US cannot support military wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, and a trade war with China and retain its position as leader of the world.  While wars will generate revenue for the military industrial complex, it will decimate the US and European economies. Currently, the European economies are experiencing stagflation while the energy intensive and housing related sectors are in recession.  In the US and Canada, inflation is still the norm, and although the US  stock market is doing well, a recent CNN poll indicates that only 35% of Americans say that things in the country today are going well.

Italy’s Defense Minister, Guido Crosetto expressed that: “the crossing of a precise red line with the direct attack on Israel, on its territory, is worrying but it is precisely now that we need to be mature and act according to the rules of international law to avoid fueling the spiral of violence that would see us all defeated.” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Tuesday that an independent Palestinian state should be recognized as soon as possible.

          It is time the US and its allies acknowledge that forever wars have resulted in them killing

          20-30 million people, and UN Refugee agency report that more than 114 million have been

          displaced since WWII.  It is time the US recognize that war is only causing death,

          displacement and misery, peace is the only way forward.

(Trinidad-born Carlton Joseph who lives in Washington D.C., is a close observer of political developments in the United States.)

The perspectives and viewpoints articulated by the columnist unequivocally do not represent or endorse the official stance or opinions of the publication.