From Cold War Standoff to Regional Friction: The Complex History of Iran-Israel Relations

Israel strikes Iranian air base, but both sides downplay incident, signaling desire to prevent escalation, as Biden administration pressures Israel to show restraint amid ongoing tensions in the region.

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Hadeel Hashem
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Israel Strikes Iran Nuclear Site in Retaliation, Tensions Ease

Israel Strikes Iran Nuclear Site in Retaliation, Tensions Ease

Israel claims that it launched an airstrike on an Iranian air base and nuclear site in Isfahan on Friday, causing no damage to the nuclear facilities but hitting an air defense system, according to Western and Iranian officials. The attack was in retaliation for Iran's missile and drone strike on Israel last week, marking an escalation in the conflict between the two countries.

However, both Israel and Iran appeared to downplay the incident, signaling a desire to prevent further escalation into a full-blown regional war. Iran claimed its air defenses fired at a "suspicious object" but caused no damage, while Israel did not directly comment on the strike.

Former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, in an assessment to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, said Israel faced significant pressure from the Biden administration to refrain from further retaliation against Iran. Bolton noted that the Israeli war cabinet wanted to take more decisive action, such as targeting Iran's nuclear program, oil infrastructure, naval vessels, or Quds force bases, but the U.S. urged restraint to avoid a broader conflict.

Why this matters: The relatively limited scope of Israel's strike and the muted response from Iranian officials seem to have eased tensions for now, but the underlying conflict between the two countries remains unresolved. The situation is delicate for President Biden as he gears up for his reelection campaign, with foreign policy issues potentially having more relevance with voters than in previous elections.

The attack comes amid crisis, war between Israel and Iran, including an alleged Israeli strike that killed two Iranian generals, an Iranian missile barrage on Israel, and ongoing fighting between Israel and Iranian-backed groups. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed there was no damage to Iran's nuclear sites and called for "extreme restraint" from all parties.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian warned that if Israel strikes again, Iran will respond immediately and at maximum level, but said there were no signs to prove the attack was Israel's work. "If Israel retaliates and acts against Iran's interests, Iran's next response will be immediate and at the maximum level," Amir-Abdollahian stated.

Key Takeaways

  • Israel launched an airstrike on an Iranian air base and nuclear site in Isfahan.
  • The strike caused no damage to nuclear facilities but hit an air defense system.
  • Both Israel and Iran downplayed the incident, signaling a desire to avoid escalation.
  • The Biden administration pressured Israel to refrain from further retaliation against Iran.
  • Iran warned it will respond immediately and at maximum level if Israel strikes again.