Election Times: War On The Ballot-Power Politics – OpEd


On April 12, US President Joe Biden said Iran’s attack could come “sooner, rather than later” in retaliation for an April 1 Israeli strike on an Iranian Consulate in Damascus Syria. Late on April 13 Israel faced an unprecedented attack by Iran drones and missile attacks against Israel in retaliation for the bombing of its consulate. 

Israel stated that it intercepted most of the drones and missiles, resulting in “minor damage.” It marks the first direct assault by Iran on Israel. The Israeli Security Cabinet has authorized the war cabinet to decide on Israel’s ‘Significant Response’ to the Iranian attack. US remains steadfast in supporting Israel’s defense with an ‘Ironclad’ cover against external attacks, it does not encourage escalation and has explicitly stated that it doesn’t seek conflict with Iran. The Israeli Defence Forces, said Iran launched 180 explosive drones, 120 ballistic missiles and 30 cruise missiles. Following a two-hour situation assessment with the war cabinet, Netanyahu concluded, “We intercepted. We blocked. Together we will win.” 

Iran declared through its Permanent Representative to the UN that its retaliation had ‘Concluded’, and warned Israel not to respond having demonstrated that it had the capability to hit deep inside the Israeli territory. Iran had informed of its impending operation codenamed ‘Operation True Promise’ to the UN well in advance giving justification. 

Western media has overwhelming condemned Iran launching an attack on Israel. “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political fate is tied to this conflict. Under pressure, he is trying to prolong and escalate the war, dragging Iran and the US into the mess.” Reports indicate that Biden told Netanyahu during a call on that the US won’t support any Israeli counterattack against Iran. US cannot afford another conflict in the Middle East, especially in an election year. The next few days will be crucial as PM Netanyahu weighs US pressure against domestic politics to fashion his ‘Significant Response.’ 

Iran Gains/Losses

  • The attacks on Israel have helped calm domestic audience sentiments in Iran and achieved certain level of revenge. 
  • Iran having demonstrated that it had the capability to hit deep inside the Israeli territory.
  • The US cannot afford another conflict in the Middle East, especially in an election year. 
  • Breakdown of the myth that Iran and its leaders can effectively deal with Israel on behalf of the Arab world.
  • Iran committed a blunder hitting Israel directly rather than using its proxies.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Gains

  • For Netanyahu, the timing couldn’t have been better as allies like the US, the UK and France were becoming increasingly critical of the destruction and humanitarian suffering in Gaza. 
  • The US administration reiterated its ‘Ironclad Support.’ 
  • UK and France deployed their naval assets to interdict the incoming projectiles. 
  • The Israel Defence Forces’ reputation for invincibility, which had taken a hit on October 7, was successful in neutralising the overwhelming majority of the Iranian drones and missiles. Iron Dome formed the base.
  • Right-wing leaders want to teach Iran a lesson for crossing the red line, Israel should establish deterrence. The finance minister has called for a ‘Significant Response’ that “echoes throughout the Middle East for generations to come”. 
  • Moderates like Benny Gantz and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant have counselled against a rash reaction and advised to rebuild its strategic alliance against Iran. 
  • Israel’s feat of thwarting the attack was possible with the technology it developed in the past four decades. It has a multilayered air-defence network.

World leaders against Escalation and Israeli Retaliation

The international community, including UN Security Council members China and Russia, India have taken a measured approach, emphasizing de-escalation and to restore peace”. S Jaishankar said he spoke to his Iranian counterpart and stressed the need for exercising restraint.” India, which has good relations with both countries, has been urging restraint.

The US continues to signal de-escalation of tensions after Iran’s “Operation True Promise” against Israel in West Asia even as its President Joe Biden is hosting Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani in a sign that Washington is favouring political dialogue with a country whose militias have been attacking US bases in the region. On the other hand, The US administration reiterated its ‘Ironclad Support’ to Israel.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also spoke to his counterparts from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkiye and Egypt, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to his Saudi and Israeli counterparts.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron: “UK did not support a retaliatory strike”. 

French President Emmanuel Macron said he would try to “convince Israel that we must not respond by escalating”.

Middle East War Escalation Clouds

This foreseeable war is going to get messy and will further hamper the world economy. Israel’s Netanyahu has been planning for this war for a long time and he got one on as planned, a way to stay in power as long as war drags on, also getting the US involved and lastly diverting world attention from Gaza.

Despite the positive statements from world leaders, the threat of an all-out war remains if Tel Aviv counters Iran’s first-ever missile attack on its territory with a strike of its own. Israeli War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz has already said that “Israel will exact a price from Iran in a way and time that suits us”. Iran’s Supreme National Security Council has also warned of a “much harsher response” against any further action by Israel.

Biden convened a G7 meet to coordinate a rebuke to Iran and prevent a wider regional escalation. The G7 meeting, Biden said, was intended “to coordinate a united diplomatic response to Iran’s brazen attack”. This war is more than just a simple war between nations. For both the US President Biden and Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu it is a game of power politics to continue staying in power.

Knowing Israel and PM Netanyahu it will be compelled to respond with a ‘Significant Response’ at the time and targets of their choosing in Iran that was lured into this trap by Israel. US and Israel have been looking forward to finding an excuse to hit Iran nuclear facilities! The sense of urgency has increased because Iran is enriching uranium close to the 90% regarded as weapons grade. Now it will be a wait and watch situation during US the Election year.

Middle East crisis is Not a “Stand Alone Event”. Make no mistake it is going to suck in a few other nations of the region and diplomatically the world has been sucked into this quagmire.Escalation will only benefit the war industry of the US and Europe. but the right-thinking people in the “Era of No War” of the world must do their utmost to bring peace to the region.

It will also be seen how do upcoming elections influence president Biden’s behavior during wartime and to what extent PM Netanyahu goes to retain power. How does he balance perceptions of the national interest with personal political interests and ambitions? Surprisingly a large role is played by political considerations during conflicts. Leaders miss opportunities to sue peace forgetting the financial costs of each war and human misery just to gain advantage. Days ahead will test the relationship between electoral politics and wartime decision-making of President Biden both on the Middle East crisis and the Ukraine war. 

Patial RC

Patial RC is a retired Infantry officer of the Indian Army and possesses unique experience of serving in active CI Ops across the country and in Sri Lanka. Patial RC is a regular writer on military and travel matters in military professional journals. The veteran is a keen mountaineer and a trekker.

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