The US called on China and other countries, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, to urge Tehran not to launch a retaliatory attack on Israel for its airstrike on the Iranian consulate in Syria.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with his counterparts, including Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, this week amid growing concern in Washington of an imminent attack by Iran.

“We have also engaged with European allies and partners in recent days and urged them to send a clear message to Iran: that escalation is not in Iran’s interest, it is not in the region’s interest, and it is not in the world’s interest. “, said State Department spokesman Matt Miller.

Other Western and Arab governments have also sought to convince Iran to show restraint, as they grow increasingly concerned that Tehran is preparing to respond directly against Israel, rather than through regional proxies, to avenge the assassination. of several Iranian generals.

Washington has informed allies that retaliation from Iran could be imminent, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

A second diplomat familiar with the warning added that the US had said a direct attack by Iran on Israel was possible – a move that would significantly escalate six months of hostilities in the region.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel would retaliate against any attack on its interests, saying its forces were “prepared” for any external threats to the Jewish state. “Whoever harms us, we will harm them,” he said.

The Biden administration has repeatedly called on China in recent months to use its influence with Tehran, including to rein in Iranian-backed Houthi militias that have attacked ships in the Red Sea. But U.S. officials have said privately that they have seen no evidence that China has done anything to exert pressure.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called her Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian on Thursday to discuss the rapidly worsening security situation.

“No one can have any interest in regional escalation,” the German ministry said. “All actors in the region are called upon to act responsibly and exercise restraint.”

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock spoke with her Iranian counterpart to discuss the rapidly worsening security situation © Kay Nietfeld/dpa

UK Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron said he had made it clear to Amirabdollahian that “Iran must not drag the Middle East into a wider conflict”.

“I am deeply concerned about the potential for miscalculations that could lead to further violence,” Cameron wrote on X.

Amirabdollahian also held telephone talks with his counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar on Wednesday night, with Iran’s Foreign Ministry saying that the fallout from Israel’s attack on the Damascus consulate was among the discussion points. He also spoke to his Turkish counterpart on Thursday.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that last week’s attack, which killed several of the country’s top commanders, was tantamount to an attack on Iranian territory, and that Israel must be “punished.”

Amirabdollahian repeated the message to his German counterpart, underlining Iran’s right to “legitimate defense” against an “aggressor” who has flouted international law, according to Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The ministry said Amirabdollahian told Cameron that Iran was never in favor of escalation, but that Israel’s attack on its consulate in Damascus and the “silence” of the US and UK was what encouraged Netanyahu’s “warmongering” behavior. and inflamed regional tensions.

The attack on the consulate, which killed one of the most senior figures in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon and Syria, was a significant escalation of hostilities that have engulfed the Middle East since war between Hamas and Israel broke out in October.

Khamenei’s language, particularly in comparing the attack to a violation of Iran’s sovereignty, has raised concerns that any retaliation will potentially be directly against Israel, rather than being channeled through Iran’s proxies in the region.

In response to Khamenei’s statement, US President Joe Biden highlighted his “staunch” support for Israel, saying pointedly that the US would do “everything we can” to protect the security of its ally.

“Our commitment to Israel’s security against these threats from Iran and its proxies is unyielding,” he said after a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. “Let me say it again: uncompromising.”

A senior US official said Iran delivered a message to Washington after the attack in Damascus. In response, Washington warned Tehran “not to use the attack as a pretext to further escalate in the region or attack US facilities or personnel.”

Over the past six months, Israel has exchanged cross-border fire with Iranian-backed militant groups in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, while Yemeni militants have launched attacks on Red Sea shipping.

On Wednesday, Israeli forces killed three children and three grandchildren of Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh in an airstrike in Gaza. Meanwhile, a Lebanese man accused by the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control of funneling Iranian money to Hamas was found dead in a town near Beirut.

Israel did not take responsibility for the attack on the consulate in Damascus, which was widely seen as the most serious blow to the Iranian military since the US assassination of top military leader Qassem Soleimani in 2020.

However, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah – the Tehran-backed militia that dominates southern Lebanon – have blamed Israel, and Iranian officials have repeatedly said there will be a response.

Iranian state news agency IRNA wrote on Wednesday that “the time has come to punish Israel.” He claimed that a final decision had been made on how to respond to Israel, adding that a lack of response would undermine Iran’s “deterrence”.

The Tasnim news agency, close to the Revolutionary Guards, also wrote that Iran’s “punishment” for Israel was inevitable and would be “heavy”.

But he said how and when Iran would act was confidential and that reports suggesting Tehran would respond in the coming days or that it was planning a missile and drone attack were just speculation.

Israeli analysts said an Iranian attack could range from an attack through one of Iran’s proxies, such as Hezbollah, to a direct attack on Israel from Iran itself, which could risk an escalation of the regional conflict.

An Iranian official said last week that Israeli embassies were “no longer secure,” sparking speculation that they could be a potential target.

Financial Times report


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