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Roving Periscope: The Mideast on edge as Iran, and Israel brace for ‘Armageddon’

Roving Periscope: The Mideast on edge as Iran, and Israel brace for ‘Armageddon’

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Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: Israel’s seven-month-long attempts to suck Iran directly into the conflict against Hamas, Houthi, and Hezbollah—the Tehran-supported terror outfits—and the Ayatollahs-run regime’s efforts to avoid exactly that may now have to come to a tipping point. The Middle East is on the verge of a wider conflagration between a nuclear power—Iran—and a stealthy nuclear power—Israel.

India on Friday advised its citizens against traveling to Iran and Israel until further notice in view of the “prevailing situation in the region”, the Ministry of External Affairs said.

It said Indians in the two countries should observe “utmost precautions about their safety and restrict their movements to the minimum”.

Some Western capitals, starting with Berlin, have stopped their flights to Tehran, indicating their fear of an impending Israeli-Iran war, an escalation of the one in the Gaza Strip which started with the Hamas invasion of Southern Israel on October 7, 2023.

According to the media reports, Russia, Germany, and Britain on Thursday urged countries in the Middle East to show restraint, while Israel announced it was preparing to “meet all its security needs” in a region on edge over an Iranian threat to strike Israel.

The German airline Lufthansa, one of only two Western carriers flying to Tehran, extended a suspension of its flights to the Iranian capital and Russia warned against travel to the Middle East.

Iran has vowed revenge for the April 1 airstrike on its embassy compound in Damascus, Syria, that killed a top Iranian general and six other Iranian military officers, ratcheting up tension in a region already strained by the Gaza war, the media reported.

Although Israel has not claimed responsibility for the attack, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed on Wednesday the Jewish state “must be punished and it shall be”, saying the Damascus incident was tantamount to an attack on Iranian soil.

The “imperative for Iran to punish this rogue regime” might have been avoided had the UN Security Council (UNSC) condemned the strike and brought the perpetrators to justice, Tehran’s mission to the United Nations said on Thursday.

“Whoever harms us, we will harm them. We are prepared to meet all of the security needs of the State of Israel, both defensively and offensively,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared after a visit to an air force base. Israel will continue its war in Gaza and is also making security preparations “elsewhere,” he announced.

A few days ago, Tehran had warned Washington to keep off as it will respond to Israel’s attack in a way aiming to avoid major escalation and it will not act hastily. But the US went ahead with increased funding and arms supply to Israel, amid poll-bound President Joe Biden’s fervent efforts to strike a balance between the rivals.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant told US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin that Israel would respond directly to any attack by Iran.

The conflict has spread across the Middle East since the eruption of the Gaza war, with Iran-backed groups declaring support for the Palestinians waging attacks from Lebanon, Yemen, and Iraq. Until now, Tehran avoided confrontation with Israel or the United States while declaring support for its allies.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called on her Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian to urge “maximum restraint” to avoid further escalation.

Amid its ongoing war against Ukraine, a worried Russia’s foreign ministry told the Russians to desist from traveling to the Middle East, especially to Israel, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories.

“Right now, it’s very important for everyone to keep restraint so as not to lead to a complete destabilization of the situation in the region, which doesn’t exactly shine with stability and predictability,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

British Foreign Minister David Cameron said on Thursday he told his Iranian counterpart Amirabdollahian that Iran should not draw the Middle East into a wider conflict.

“I am deeply concerned about the potential for miscalculation leading to further violence,” Cameron wrote on the social media platform X (formerly Twitter).

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said Secretary of State Antony Blinken called their counterparts, including the Turkish, Chinese, and Saudi foreign ministers. “to make clear that escalation is not in anyone’s interest and that countries should urge Iran not to escalate.”

US President Biden said on Wednesday Iran was threatening to launch a “significant attack in Israel”, and that he had told Netanyahu that “our commitment to Israeli security against these threats from Iran and its proxies is iron-clad”.

The US military said on Thursday it had destroyed an anti-ship ballistic missile launched from an area of Yemen controlled by Iran-backed Houthi militia. No injuries or damage were reported to the US, coalition, or merchant vessels.

Iran is the third-largest oil producer in the OPEC group and oil prices stayed near six-month highs on Thursday.


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