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Israel Struck Iran, but U.S. Had Warned It Would Not Endorse Such an Attack

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JERUSALEM — The long-simmering conflict between Israel and Iran erupted into open hostilities this week as Israel launched a major airstrike against targets inside Iran, according to United States officials and news reports from the region.

The strike, which came after Israel warned the United States it would soon retaliate against its arch-rival, marked a dangerous escalation of tensions that could draw the two nations closer to outright war.

While Israel did notify American officials of the planned operation beforehand, the United States did not endorse or participate in the strike, American officials were quoted as saying. The move put the Biden administration, which has worked to revive the nuclear deal with Iran, in an awkward diplomatic position.

“We didn’t endorse the response,” one senior U.S. official told CNN, which first reported the strike along with NBC News, citing multiple sources. Various other outlets also confirmed explosions inside Iran near the central city of Isfahan on Wednesday night, though conflicting reports emerged about the exact target.

Iran’s state media reported that air defense systems were activated over multiple cities, without providing details on what may have been struck. Some outlets claimed an Iranian nuclear facility was not hit, while others could not confirm the nature of the target.

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In a statement, the Israeli government declined to comment directly, saying only that “the Iranian regime’s aggression against the State of Israel is growing on a daily basis,” according to The Jerusalem Post.

But the strike appeared to be a dramatic retaliation by Israel for last weekend’s audacious missile and drone attack by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. In that barrage, which represented an escalation of Iran’s shadow war with Israel, hundreds of missiles and armed drones were fired toward Israeli territory. The Israeli military said the Iron Dome and other defense systems intercepted most of the incoming projectiles.

Tensions have mounted for months as Iran accused Israel of being behind a drone strike that targeted a defense plant in the city of Isfahan, as well as other attacks across the country. Israel maintains that Iran’s nuclear program poses an existential security threat and that Tehran’s influence is growing too strong across the Middle East.

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Military analysts warned that the Israeli strike could now provoke an even harsher response from Iran’s Shiite Muslim rulers, potentially drawing the bitter enemies closer to an open war that could destabilize the entire region.

“This is a very concerning and dangerous escalation,” said Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. “Israel has raised the stakes in ways that increase the likelihood of all-out war.”

He added: “It remains to be seen how Iran will respond, but at this point the making of another Middle East war spiral appears underway.”

Israel has launched numerous attacks on targets inside Syria in recent years, where Iran-backed militias have bases, in a bid to prevent Iran from establishing a major military foothold along Israel’s northern border. But actually striking Iran itself on its own territory marks a new phase in the long-running covert and proxy war between the two adversaries.

Iran has vowed numerous times to wipe Israel off the map, and Israel believes Iran’s nuclear program is secretly aimed at building atomic weapons to make good on those existential threats, despite Tehran’s insistence that its nuclear work is for civilian energy purposes only.

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Both Israel and Sunni Arab states in the Gulf, like Saudi Arabia, are deeply concerned about what they see as stepped-up aggression from Iran and its proxies such as Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthi rebels in Yemen waging an insurgency against the Saudi-backed government there.

Israeli officials have repeatedly accused Iran of providing drones, missiles and other weapons, as well as training and funding, to the anti-Israel militant groups.

The crisis erupted amid stalled efforts by the Biden administration to revive the Iran nuclear deal that was brokered during the Obama presidency but abandoned by Donald Trump in 2018. Negotiations have repeatedly stalled, and in the meantime, Iran has rapidly expanded its nuclear activities.

But officials gave no indication the latest conflagration would scuttle whatever hopes remain for resurrecting the deal aimed at preventing Iran from building nuclear weapons. For now, the delicate diplomacy appears overshadowed by the fallout from Israel’s daring airstrike and the threat of a newly escalated conflict.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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