Iran’s attack unprecedented, Israel’s success spectacular: US official | World News - Hindustan Times

Iran’s attack unprecedented, Israel’s success spectacular: US official

Apr 15, 2024 04:20 AM IST

Joe Biden asked PM Benjamin Netanyahu to think through the next steps “carefully” and “strategically”, US official said

Washington: Iran’s attack against Israel was unprecedented and intended to cause “significant” damage and death, but Israel’s success in repelling the attack in coordination with allies was “spectacular” and “extraordinary”, a senior US administration official has said, suggesting that Israel came out very much “on the top”.

Objects are seen in the sky above Jerusalem after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel, in Jerusalem on Sunday. (REUTERS)
Objects are seen in the sky above Jerusalem after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel, in Jerusalem on Sunday. (REUTERS)

The official added that the incident showed that US commitment to Israel’s security was “ironclad”, with American forces and assets helping Israel by intercepting Iranian ballistic missiles drones. At the same time, President Joe Biden had also discussed with PM Benjamin Netanyahu to think through the next steps “carefully” and “strategically” and underlined the need to prevent a wider escalation of the conflict into a regional war, an outcome that Hamas has wanted ever since its terror strikes of October 7.

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Briefing a limited set of reporters on late Sunday morning, senior administration, military and defence officials reconstructed the sequence of events that led up to the Iranian strikes and Israeli response, the American preparations for the attack over the past ten days, its military role during the strikes and how US envisaged the next steps. HT was present on the call.

Offering context, the senior administration official quoted above said that on Saturday evening, Biden returned from his private residence in Delaware to Washington DC as soon as reports of Iranian strikes came in. In the meantime, Israel’s ambassador to US had already reached White House and briefed NSA Jake Sullivan about the developments on the ground.

Biden headed to the White House situation room, where he was joined by Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony J Blinken, secretary of defence Lloyd J Austin and the leaders of the intelligence community. The American leadership was in the room when strikes were ongoing and got realtime information on the scale of Iran’s attacks, while the results of the defences were not clear. “As the results of the defences came in, there was relief,” the senior administration official said.

At around 9 pm on Saturday (eastern time), Biden, still in the situation room in Washington DC, spoke to Netanyahu, who was with his war cabinet, in Tel Aviv. After ten days of preparing for the Iranian strikes, coordinating with Israel, placing military assets on the ground, refining its force posture, the American leadership felt good at what Israel had achieved, with Biden telling Netanyahu that Israel had come out “on the top”. Virtually no infrastructure in Israel faced damage and casualties have been minimal.

Meanwhile, Iran, through Switzerland, a diplomatic channel that the two countries use to communicate, sent a message to the US even while the strikes were on that for Tehran, this would bring an end to this chapter of confrontation. American officials rejected the contention that Tehran had deliberately telegraphed its intention to attack Israel to prevent damage in the past few weeks, and said that Tehran had not offered any specific warning, nor given a sense of targets. It needed the time to prepare for strikes and aimed to cause destruction and damage, US officials said, but added that the Israel, along with the US, Britain and France, used the time to step up defences and thus foil Iran’s plans in an “extraordinary” display of “military prowess“ and coordination.

A senior defence official added, “Iran’s action was unacceptable and reckless. Iran intended to cause significant damage. It failed in its mission. This is a testament to Israel’s military superiority in coordination with allies…Our goal is to de-escalate and halt future attacks. We don’t seek conflict but we won’t hesitate to protect our forces and interests and defend Israel.”

Asked again about the US message to Israel, the senior administration official refused to categorically say that the US had asked Israel not to respond, suggesting that this was a decision for Israel to take. But he added again that the conversation between Biden and Netanyahu had happened in the wake of an intense period during and after the strikes and emotions were heightened. Biden, in this backdrop, had underlined the need to think “carefully and strategically” about the risk of escalation.

American officials said that they will shift back their attention to the situation in Gaza, where the US has stepped up both public and private pressure on Israel not to attack Rafah, take steps to protect civilians and enable more humanitarian aid. They added that the US may have differences with Israel on humanitarian issues, but its support for Israeli security would remain “ironclad”.

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    Prashant Jha is the Washington DC-based US correspondent of Hindustan Times. He is also the editor of HT Premium. Jha has earlier served as editor-views and national political editor/bureau chief of the paper. He is the author of How the BJP Wins: Inside India's Greatest Election Machine and Battles of the New Republic: A Contemporary History of Nepal.

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