The US government has assured Israel of military backing, the White House spokesman said Monday, amid reports that Iran could be considering a direct retaliatory attack on Israel.

“We know that Iran has made very public threats against Israel itself,” John Kirby said in an ‘on-the-record press gaggle’. “And one of the things that the President said in his call with Prime Minister Netanyahu was that the Israeli government could count on the United States’ support for any self-defense needs against threats directly by Iran to Israel.”

The world has been anticipating an Iranian retaliatory operation, after a precision Israeli strike on its Damascus embassy killed two top IRGC generals and five other officers on April 1.

Iranian officials have been threatening retaliation and many observers have indicated that most likely, Tehran will use it proxy forces to target Israel instead of launching attacks from its territory. Another type of operation mentioned by some Iranian insiders is a possible attack on an Israeli diplomatic mission in a third country.

However, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, claimed Monday that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has decided that the response to Israel’s attack has to be “direct” as opposed to an operation “in another country.” This still does not necessarily mean an attack from Iranian territory, rather an attack directly on Israel.

“The Americans have accepted that there’ll be an Iranian response,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech, “even the Israelis have accepted that there’s an Iranian response. And the whole world has accepted that this is a natural right for Iran.”

This is the message that Iranian officials have been sending out more or less consistently: that there will be retaliation, even though some voices inside Iran have been calling for ‘patience’ and ‘strategic thinking’ and ‘not playing into the hands of Israelis’.

An unconfirmed report Monday suggested that the regime in Tehran has conveyed to the Biden administration that it would refrain from attacking Israel if the US could pressure Israel to agree to a ceasefire in Gaza.

“I don’t really have a comment to make on the report that Iran claims they would refrain from responding if there was a ceasefire,” Kirby told reporters Monday. “But if Iran is serious about a ceasefire, they’ll use the influence they have with Hamas to press for a positive response to that proposal…We want a ceasefire too. They can lean on Hamas. That would be the best outcome.”

It is not impossible that Iran could come up with such a proposal, given that a ‘direct’ attack on Israel –as Nasrallah has suggested– can have dire consequences for the Islamic Republic.

Not responding may not be an option for Khamenei, whose state propaganda machine has been built around the notion of standing up to Israel and the US. Giving up the right to respond in exchange for a ceasefire in Gaza could therefore be the face-saving formula he looks for. The risk, of course, is that if there’s no ceasefire, he’d be even more obliged to retaliate not to lose more credibility.

A CNN report Monday quoted sources ‘familiar with US intelligence’ that Iran’s retaliation against Israel will likely be carried out by Iranian proxy groups rather than by Iran directly.

“U.S. intelligence assesses that Iran has urged several of its proxy militia groups to simultaneously launch a large-scale attack against Israel, using drones and missiles, and that they could attack as soon as this week,” the CNN report read, contradicting previous reports in American media.

Last week, a New York Times report stated that both American and Israeli military analysts have reached the conclusion that “it is more likely that Iran would strike Israel itself than that it would have its proxies attack U.S. troops in the region, including in Iraq and Syria.”

It seems no one knows for a fact what a potential response from Iran may look like. Or if there would be any response after all.

“From Damascus, I declare loud and clear that Israel will be punished,” Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Monday. But even such a seemingly categorical statement is qualified. “The manner in which Iran will respond to Israel will become clear on the battlefield,” he said.

Source » iranintl