What happens when children seize the wheel

by Caroline Glick
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The U.S. posture in this war has rattled Israel and the U.S.’s Sunni allies to their core.

(JNS) Three reports published since Iran’s April 13 combined missile and UAV assault on Israel stand out for what the tell us about the nature of U.S. policy in relation to the war.

First, on Sunday Reuters reported that Turkey mediated between Iran and the United States to agree on the size and scope of Iran’s assault on Israel before Iran carried it out. A Turkish diplomatic source told the news agency that, “Iran informed Turkey in advance of its planned operation against Israel…[and] Washington had conveyed to Tehran via Ankara that any action it took had to be ‘within certain limits.’”

The Turkish diplomat told Reuters that the mediation was conducted by Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken.
“Iran informed us in advance of what would happen. Possible developments also came up during the meeting with Blinken, and they [the U.S.] conveyed to Iran through us that this reaction must be within certain limits,” the official said.

The second story, reported widely by the U.S. and Israeli media, revealed that the United States is pressuring Israel to suffice with a “symbolic” counterattack against Iran. In other words, U.S. President Joe Biden and his team are telling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the government that Israel can conduct a bit of a sound and light show over Iran, but it may not do any meaningful damage to Iran’s military, missile, nuclear, energy, or regime targets. Blinken reportedly went so far as to tell Minister Benny Gantz and Jewish leaders in the United States that it isn’t in Israel’s interests to attack Iran.

Finally, on Thursday morning, Qatari media reported that the United States has agreed that Israel may attack Hamas’s final redoubt in Rafah, along the Egyptian border, but only if Israel’s strike against Iran is little and mild.

The most startling feature common to all three stories is the sense that for the administration, everything that is happening here is a game. It isn’t a war. At best, it’s a playground fight, or a video game. The reports indicate that as the Americans see things, Iran and its terror armies in Gaza, Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq are children. And they’re ganging up on Israel—another child. It’s Uncle Sam’s job to be the grownup and set rules for their fight that give everyone a chance to get his licks in—but only so hard, and only so many.

The rules Biden and his team have set are fairly straightforward. Iran and its proxies are permitted to attack Israel as hard as they can. Israel is allowed to defend against their attacks. Israel is permitted to carry out limited—preferably covert—raids to counterattack.
Israel is not allowed to defeat its foes.

Consider the administration’s narrative about Iran’s April 13 strike on Israel. The U.S. version of events asserts that Iran attacked Israel in response to the April 1 airstrike in Damascus, attributed to Israel, which took out Mohammad Reza Zahedi, Iran’s terror master in Syria and Lebanon. Zahedi was killed along with six other top Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officers and Hezbollah terrorists, including his deputy in an IRGC military compound adjacent to the Iranian embassy in Damascus. Zahedi was reputedly the mastermind of Hamas’s Oct. 7 invasion and slaughter in Israel that left 1,200 Israelis dead and 246 taken hostage in Gaza.

The problem with the U.S. narrative is that Israel and Iran are in an active state of war across multiple battlefields, including Damascus. Zahedi was not merely a legitimate military target—his role as commander of all Iranian operations in Lebanon and Syria made killing him an operational imperative. To see the Iranian strike against Israel as a simple response to a lone attack is to ignore the fact that a war is raging.

The U.S. narrative also ignores the substance of Iran’s assault on Israel.
Iran combined missile and drone assault against Israel—which included 300 ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and drones—was the largest such assault in the history of war. As retired General Kenneth McKenzie, who commanded U.S. forces in the Middle East until 2022, explained to The Washington Post, Iran expended “maximum effort” in amassing the force of drones, ballistic and cruise missiles with which it attacked Israel. There was “nothing moderate” about Tehran’s aggression, which he assessed included most of the missile arsenal that the regime had based in western Iran.

Not only was it unprecedented in scope. It was unprecedented in nature.

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran has been waging a proxy war against Israel. The goal of the war is to annihilate Israel. To this end, Iran encircled Israel with proxy armies and is nearing completion of its nuclear weapons program, that together with its missile arsenal will give Iran the capacity to wipe Israel off the map, as its leaders have consistently promised to do. Given the goals and actions of Iran and its proxies, it is obvious that Israel’s counterstrikes are in fact a war for national survival.

The assault last Saturday was a watershed event because in the midst of the highest intensity proxy war Iran has ever fought, and as Iran is widely reputed to be a threshold nuclear power, the mullahs stepped out from behind the curtain for the first time and attacked Israel directly, and did so with an assault unprecedented in scope.
The fact that a hundred ballistic missiles were either duds or fell far short of Israel, and that Israel intercepted 99 percent of the missiles that got through does not diminish the scope and breath of the attack.

The question is, why did Iran choose to attack now? Given the scope, the notion that it was a tit for tat in response to the Zahedi hit is absurd. You don’t shoot all your available missiles and drones at your sworn enemy in one night out of pique. You use the Zahedi strike as a justification to do something you had planned for a long time.

Iran decided to step out from behind the curtain for the first time in 45 years and directly enter the high intensity war it has been waging against Israel for six months through its proxies because it is confident that it is winning. Israeli weakness isn’t the source of its confidence. Israel’s brilliance on the battlefields of this war has made the likes of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah stutter. Before the IDF launched its ground operation in Gaza in November, Nasrallah was certain that his Radwan forces, comprising veterans of the Iranian wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, were far better than Israel’s largely untested soldiers. He stopped bragging months ago.

Iran attacked Israel on Saturday night for the first time in history because it feels confident that the United States has its back, not Israel’s back. Iran believes that the United States is not going to permit Israel to win, and therefore, will enable Tehran and its proxies to expand their war to annihilate Israel—as Iran did last Saturday.

Last week, Nasrallah stated this outright. On April 1, IDF forces in Gaza mistakenly attacked an aid convoy in Gaza, killing seven foreign aid workers. On April 4, Biden gave Netanyahu an ultimatum in a phone conversation. The president demanded that Israel massively expand the resupply of Gaza or lose U.S. support. Faced with the ultimatum, Netanyahu complied. Massive quantities of good have been flowing into Gaza ever since, much to Hamas’s delight. Shortly after this conversation, Hamas rejected the hostage deal offer.

Reacting to the turn of events, Nasrallah said on April 8, “The recent call from Biden [to Netanyahu] proves…that if the Americans want to stop something, they can make it stop. The claim that the Americans cannot force Israel to do something is nonsense.”

Nasrallah concluded gleefully, “According to some theories, Israel controls America. No sir. It is America that controls Israel.”

Since Saturday night, U.S. officials and supportive commentators have played up the “international coalition” that came together to prevent Iran’s missiles from causing harm to Israel. This ad hoc group, which included Jordan and Saudi Arabia, it is said, are proof that Israel can depend on America and that if Israel follows Washington’s directives, it will enjoy peace and security even as Iran grows in power, and its proxies prevail, thanks to America’s protection.

But the truth is far different. The Saudis and the Jordanians are directly threatened by Iran. Unlike the children running U.S. policies, the Jordanians and Saudis were aghast at Iran’s assault, which they rightly understood was not a tit for tat, but an unprecedented escalation of Iran’s war. They realized that the attack was a sign that Iran believes that thanks to the Biden administration, it is now immune from counterattack, to the point where it dares to attack Israel directly. Their intervention wasn’t on Israel’s behalf, per se. It was self-defense, as officials from both countries have stated.

The U.S. posture in this war has rattled Israel and the U.S.’s Sunni allies to their core. Like Nasrallah, all of them now understand that while the United States is the most powerful actor in the region, it is also delusional. It fails to understand the reality of what is happening. Washington’s policies for contending with the war that Biden and his top officials refuse to acknowledge are just making things worse.

If Israel fails to defeat Hamas in Gaza, then there will no longer be any restraints on Iranian and Iranian-proxy aggression against Israel. And there will also be no restraints on Iran’s efforts to overthrow the regimes of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. If the United States successfully forces Israel to stand down in the face of Iran’s shocking attack, then that attack will be the baseline for future assaults—conventional and unconventional—against Israel and the Sunni Arab states.

Iran itself is so certain that this is the case that its top officials are now speaking openly about using nuclear weapons. As the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reported, on April 7, Iranian nuclear scientist Mahmoud Reza Aghamiri said in an interview with Iranian television that Iranian dictator Ali Khamenei can change his religious ruling forbidding the production of an atomic bomb whenever he wishes. Aghamiri said that Iran’s nuclear capabilities “are high,” and that once a country has nuclear capabilities, making a nuclear bomb “is not complicated.”

The administration’s refusal to recognize the existential nature of the war Iran and its proxies are now waging against Israel places Israel in an existential dilemma.

Israel today is compelled to decide between two options. It can fight the war to win it, in Iran and Gaza, first and foremost, and risk a rupture of relations with the United States.

Or, it can lose the war and accept the position of a U.S. protectorate, with the full knowledge that the United States will not permit its protectorates to challenge Iranian hegemony.

In other words, if Israel fails to risk a rupture in relations with the United States, it will accept a position that will lead to its destruction.

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