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Update(1325ET): Israel’s war cabinet has just decided on a response to Iran’s weekend attack, according to a breaking report by the country’s Kan public broadcaster. At this point it seems a matter of if not when – even as the US (and European countries) leans on Israel not to escalate. Below is the Hebrew media statement at the conclusion of Tuesday’s high-level meeting (machine translation):

Israel has decided how to respond to Iran’s missile attack. This was reported Tuesday evening on Kan 11 evening news. Israel is now waiting to “seize an opportunity.” The agreement came against the backdrop of significant disagreements in the Israeli leadership over the timing and nature of the response. Some ministers demanded to wait for agreement on the international coalition, while others thought it was necessary to respond immediately.

Axios at the same time is reporting that US Secretary of State Blinken just told a group of American Jewish leaders that the White House wants to see no further escalation, essentially signaling the Washington position that a return to status quo before the Saturday massive Iranian attack is desirable.

The report cites Blinken as saying that “further escalation with Iran is not in the interests of either the U.S. or Israel, three people who attended the meeting told Axios.” According to more details:

  • The U.S. assessment is that Iran would respond to any significant, overt Israeli strike on Iranian soil with a new round of missile and drone attacks, a senior U.S. official told Axios.
  • “We think it will be very hard to replicate the huge success we had on Saturday with defeating the attack if Iran launches hundreds of missiles and drones again — and the Israelis know it,” another U.S. official said.

And via Al Jazeera Arabic: The Israeli Broadcasting Authority, according to a source: Ministers asked Netanyahu to slow down and wait for the formation of an alliance in the region against it.

This puts Biden in an interesting dilemma (largely of his own making): while the US military intercepted dozens of the drones and ballistic missiles which rained down over Israel on Saturday night, US pleadings to go ahead and “take the win” (as Biden put it to Bibi in a weekend phone call) are falling on deaf ears.

At the moment Iran is in the driver’s seat, but Israel feels it must not let Tehran off ‘scot-free’ (in the words of the IDF spokesman).

* * *

Israel’s war cabinet reportedly met for several hours on Tuesday, and widespread speculation persists over a possible Israeli military response to Iran, but with few clear answers or indicators as yet revealed concerning what’s coming next. What is clear is that the Netanyahu government is planning on ‘something’ big to hit back for the unprecedented Saturday night ballistic missile and drone attack launched from Iranian soil.

IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari has told reporters Tuesday that Iran will not get off “scot-free”. He said additionally, “We cannot stand still from this kind of aggression” and that “We will respond in our time, in our place, in the way that we will choose.” The US and other Western allies are still publicly lobbying for restraint and a return to the status quo. This dangerous spiral was kicked off when Israeli flattened Iran’s consulate in Damascus on April 1st, an unprecedented act of aggression on a diplomatically protected location.

 

Via Reuters: Israel’s military displays what they say is an Iranian ballistic missile which they retrieved from the Dead Sea after Iran’s attack.

 

Starting Monday US officials were cited in various media outlets offering their view that Israel won’t strike Iran directly, but will launch significant operations against their proxies instead.

On Tuesday a senior Biden administration official reiterated what he said is the White House expectation that the coming Israeli response will be “limited” in scope. Another official said it is still possible that Israel will strike inside Iran directly, but not in a way that triggers all-out war, as cited in CNN:

There is US intelligence to suggest Israel is weighing a narrow and limited strike inside Iran because they feel like they have to respond with a kinetic action of some kind given the unprecedented scale of the Iranian attack, the second source said.

The sources have indicated the Biden administration has not been given forewarning or been briefed on Israel’s exact plans. “We would hope that they would give us some warning so that we’re prepared to protect our personnel, not just military but diplomatic throughout the region,” the senior admin official said.

But there’s no guarantee they will give us they will give us a heads up and they know when they give us a head’s up, we’re likely to again register our objection to whatever they’re about to conduct,” the official added to CNN.

If there is no Israeli response, then the US is “confident that there will be de-escalation” – but it remains that “any additional move now opens up a series of other possibilities, some of which are quite frightening,” the official added.

Meanwhile there are claims that the US has signaled Iran that it should allow a ‘symbolic’ Israeli strike so that the situation can return to the status quo…

Tehran has continued to warn it is ready to hit back stronger and harder, with Ali Bagheri Kani, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for political affairs, saying that should Israel retaliate then the response speed from Iran “will be less than a few seconds.

* * *

Below are some of the latest Israel-Iran related statements and headlines…

  • “Israel sent a message to the countries of the region that responding to the Iranian attack will not endanger the stability of these countries”, according to Sky News Arabia.
  • The Israeli war cabinet is weighing a response to the recent Iran attacks; and is to meet again on Tuesday for a third straight day, via the FT
  • Iran’s Foreign Minister said in a call with China’s Foreign Minister that Iran is willing to exercise restraint and has no intention of further escalating the situation, according to Chinese state media.
  • US officials expect a possible Israeli response to Iran’s attack over the weekend to be limited in scope and most likely involve strikes against Iranian military forces and Iranian-backed proxies outside Iran, according to four US officials cited by NBC News.
  • Iraqi PM confirmed Iraq’s interest in obtaining expertise and arms from the US, as well as keenness on security partnership during a meeting with US Defense Secretary Austin, according to Reuters.
  • Saudi Arabia acknowledged that it helped defend Israel against Iran whereby Saudi Arabia’s royal family posted on its website about the country’s role in defending Israel against the Iranian barrage, according to Jerusalem Post.

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