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Will the crisis between Iran and Israel escalate?

Source: CGTN | 2024-04-16
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Will the crisis between Iran and Israel escalate?

Israeli air defense system launches to intercept missiles in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 14, 2024. [Photo/Xinhua]

By Wang Jin

Iran and allied armed groups launched coordinated drone and missile strikes on Israel late Saturday night, in retaliation for the Israeli attack on the Iranian consulate in the Syrian capital, Damascus, in early April.

Iran's military actions have demonstrated its power and attitude. On the one hand, Iran has launched hundreds of missiles and drones, and coordinated with Iranian organizations such as Iraqi Shiite militias, Lebanese Hezbollah and Yemeni Houthi forces to launch rocket and drone attacks against Israel, showing Iran's influence in the Middle East. On the other hand, Iran did not launch successive attacks on Israel or its overseas institutions, and announced the "end of retaliation" at the first opportunity after the attacks were over, showing its attitude of unwillingness to prolong the conflict.

The attack was conducted using selected targets, which implies the fact that Iran's intention does not include the escalation of regional tensions. U.S. President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a call on April 13 that the U.S. won't support any Israeli counterattack against Iran. However, taking Israel's future possible retaliation, as well as the attack activities of Iran's regional allies, into consideration, there still exists the risk of escalation of the regional conflict. In the future, Israel is unlikely to attack Iran directly on a large scale, but Iraq, Syria and Lebanon are highly likely to become the focus of the conflict.

Before Iran launched its attack, the United States issued constant warnings, calling on regional countries, especially Israel, to get ready; after the launch of the Iranian attack, Israel, the United States and their allies intercepted the drones and missiles from Iran and from other armed groups through their military bases and fleet in the Middle East.

The U.S. does not want to involve itself deeply in the total confrontation between Israel and Iran. The "unbreakable bond" between the United States and Israel makes it necessary for the U.S. to protect Israel's security; however, it is also concerned that Israel's reckless attacks will cause the United States to become re-engaged in the complexities of the Middle East, which may spark domestic public opinion and political opposition and controversy.

This photo taken on April 14, 2024, shows the night view of Tehran in Iran. [Photo/Xinhua]

For Israel, it is not pressingly necessary to launch retaliation against targets in Iran. Even though Israel has threatened to retaliate, it lacks the sufficient motivation to launch a large-scale counter-offensive against Iran: Public opinion in Israel is not unduly concerned; the normal social life of Israelis was not unduly affected on the night of the conflict; and the current round of the conflict did not cause huge casualties in Israel. Moreover, without the support and assistance of the United States, it would be difficult for Israel to launch a full-scale direct attack against Iran on its own.

However, the crisis will not end overnight. Israel is bound to take retaliatory measures in the future, and since it is unlikely to attack Iran directly and on a large scale, there is the possibility that it will attack Iranian targets in Syria, Lebanon and others. So the risk of a possible escalation of the conflict still exists, and the conflict will not end in the short term.

At the same time, the fighting in the Gaza Strip is still not over, and the differences between the positions of Israel and Hamas are so great that they cannot be bridged in the short term. It is feared that the conflict in Gaza will continue, and in the future, the situation in the region will remain very tense, and the help and good offices of the international community will be needed.

Since the outbreak of the current round of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in October 2023, tensions in the Middle East have been constant, with various traditional conflicts emerging and new risks of conflict. The international community and the regional states need to cooperate fully to help the parties end the conflict and find a path to peace and stability.

Dr. Wang Jin, a special commentator for CGTN, is the director of the Center for Israel Studies, Northwest University of China.

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