U.S. warns of imminent attack on Israel

Iran is threatening to launch a 'significant attack' after Israel struck the Iranian consulate in Syria.

U.S. President Joe Biden has promised Israel “ironclad” U.S. support amid fears that Tehran could launch reprisals for an attack that killed senior Iranians.

Biden warned that Iran is threatening to launch a “significant attack” after Israel struck the Iranian consulate in Syria 10 days ago.

“We’re going to do all we can to protect Israel’s security,” he added.

The air strike completely leveled the building of the Iranian consulate in Damascus, killing seven members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including two generals who led the elite Quds Force in Syria and Lebanon.

Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi was a key link between the IRGC and Hezbollah, having operated with Hezbollah leaders like Hassan Nasrallah and Imad Mughniyeh, who was assassinated by Israel, for decades.

This was the highest-ranked assassination since Quds Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani was assassinated by the US in Iraq in January 2020.

Iran’s leader said the Israeli attack in Damascus was equivalent to an attack on Iran itself.

“When they attacked our consulate area, it was like they attacked our territory,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a televised speech.

Khamenei said Israel “must be punished and it shall be” for the Damascus strike that killed seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps members.

U.S. Middle East envoy Brett McGurk called the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Iraq to ask them to deliver a message to Iran urging it to lower tensions with Israel following a suspected Israeli air strike on Iran’s embassy in Syria, a source with knowledge of the situation said.

McGurk asked the officials to contact the Iranian foreign minister to convey a message that Iran should de-escalate with Israel, which they did, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Blinken reiterated the United States’ support for Israel’s security and made clear that the U.S. will stand with Israel against any threats by Iran and its proxies.

In the last decades, Iran has threatened Israelis, Israeli embassies, and Israel-linked things in other countries. For instance, a 2012 bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria, was linked to Hezbollah. Iran has been behind plots in India, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Thailand, and many other countries. Iran works through proxies such as Hezbollah and also has a long track record of these types of threats. Iran may believe that targeting an Israeli embassy abroad or Israelis abroad is an easier way to strike at Israel.

But this is just the small picture,

The larger picture is that of the Sunni-Shi’ite schism in the Arab world. The Middle East conflict is simply the battleground on which this Sunni-Shi’ite rift is taking place.

With Iran, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Qatar on one side and Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia on the other side, the Middle East is a complicated region.

The Sunni-Shiite divide in the Middle East, deeply rooted in historical conflicts dating back to the early Islamic period, has evolved beyond a purely religious conflict into a complex web of geopolitical and nationalistic tensions. Recent analyses highlight that the modern-day manifestations of this divide are significantly influenced by nationalism and geostrategic interests, rather than solely by theological disputes.

This evolution of the Sunni-Shiite divide into a geopolitical conflict is evident in various Arab states where sectarian tensions have been exacerbated by the Arab Uprisings. These tensions have complicated the geopolitical landscape, making religious differences an important consideration for diplomatic and security strategies. Countries like Bahrain, Lebanon, and Iran have become focal points of sectarian conflict, affecting their internal politics and relations with other states.
The Saudi-Iran divide, representing the Sunni-Shiite rift at a state level, has significantly impacted the Middle East, with both countries supporting opposing factions in proxy wars across the region. This rivalry has played out in countries like Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen, influencing conflicts, shaping foreign interventions, and affecting the stability and political landscapes of these nations.

In Syria, Iran’s support for Bashar al-Assad contrasts with Saudi Arabia’s backing of opposition forces, while in Lebanon, the Saudi-Iran rivalry has contributed to political crises and influenced the country’s direction. Iraq sees Iran as a dominant foreign influence, filling a power vacuum post-Saddam Hussein, though there’s growing opposition to this influence, hinting at potential openings for Saudi influence. The Yemen conflict exemplifies the proxy war dynamic, with Iran supporting the Houthi movement and Saudi Arabia leading a coalition against them.

These dynamics underscore the multifaceted nature of the Sunni-Shiite divide in today’s Middle East, pointing to a blend of historical religious disputes and modern geopolitical strategies.

Israel’s two primary goals in the war in Gaza are the destruction of Hamas and the release of the over 240 hostages taken on October 7. But there are increasing doubts about whether these two goals are compatible — and whether the first one is even feasible.

Prior to Oct. 7, Israel’s main foreign policy priority had been normalizing relations with Arab governments, particularly Saudi Arabia, with whom it shared economic interests and a common enemy in Iran.
Now, it seems Indonesia will beat Saudi Arabia to it and normalize relations with Israel as part of a deal that opens the path to joining the OECD.

This development takes place even as Israel wages its war against Hamas, and massive pro-Palestinian demonstrations take place in the streets of major capitals around the world.

Clearly, the sentiment in the street is somewhat disconnected from the reality on the ground.
Today, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, as well as the United Arab Emirates, are fighting Iranian influence and its hegemonic ambitions in the region. The threat against Israel is just a small part of the inner struggle between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims and Arabs.