GCC Calls For End To Cycle Of Violence In Wake Of Iran’s Failed Attack – OpEd


By Dr. Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg

Gulf Cooperation Council foreign ministers met earlier this week in an emergency session focused on the recent military escalation in the Middle East, with Israel’s attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus and Iran’s retaliation. Israel has promised to “retaliate” for the retaliation, in an endless vicious cycle of violence.

While GCC countries have condemned Israel’s attack on the consulate as a violation of international law, they expressed “grave concern” that these duels will undermine the search for political solutions to the Gaza war, the wider Palestine question, and regional security and stability.

They called on all parties to deescalate and restrain their reactions to “spare the region and its peoples the scourge of war,” and also urged the UN Security Council to “shoulder its responsibility” to avert a dangerous escalation in the region.

Cognizant that the continued war in Gaza has contributed to the most recent escalation, GCC ministers demanded an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, without which the war could easily spread beyond its borders, especially as settlers’ violence in the West Bank and increased settlement activities, including in Jerusalem, have made matters worse, and dangerously inflamed public opinion.

To avert contagion to the wider region, the ministers called for an international conference to discuss “all issues” related to the Palestine question, to seek a solution based on ending the Israeli occupation and the establishment of the independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with relevant UN resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.

The emergency meeting drew lessons from the latest round. While the strike on the Iranian consulate was quite brazen, it was not out of the ordinary for Israel to break international norms, as seen in its conduct of the war on Gaza. The consulate attack seemed deliberate, calculated to induce an Iranian escalation, because it is no secret that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sought to provoke a war with Iran, believing that the US and other allies will come to his support.

Iran’s counterattack on April 13 was the first time Tehran struck Israel directly, after 45 years of threats. In the meantime, it let its proxies and allies do its bidding. It restrained itself despite Israel’s repeated attacks on Iranian military sites, and assassinations of its top nuclear scientists and officials.

Fear of larger and more punishing Israeli attacks was the obvious reason for Tehran’s reticence in the past to attack Israel directly. As the recent attempt at retaliation proved, Iran’s military capabilities are still limited when facing an enemy with well-protected airspace and a network of powerful allies. Iran’s conventional military capabilities were already known to be inferior to Israel’s, but it was thought that it could inflict considerable pain using long-range missiles and drones. While the Iranian proxy Hezbollah has been able to disrupt life in northern Israel, and score direct hits on sensitive targets, when Iran tried to do the same from a longer distance, it failed, despite launching hundreds of missiles and drones.

According to Israeli officials, “99 percent of the 300 or so projectiles” fired by Iran were intercepted, while all of the 170 drones launched were downed outside the country’s borders by Israel and its allies. Another 30 cruise missiles were launched, 25 of which were downed by Israeli forces, with none making it to Israel. In addition, Iran fired 120 ballistic missiles, some of which managed to bypass Israeli defenses, hitting the Nevatim Airbase in southern Israel, causing only slight damage. A handful of drones and missiles were launched from Iraq and Yemen, although none entered Israeli airspace, according to Israel’s official statements. Iran’s assessment was different, as expected, but it has not produced convincing evidence of the damage it says its attack inflicted.

While the direct military impact of Iran’s aerial attack has been most likely negligible, it has led to important results, but not in the way intended. The attack revealed significant limitations in the efficacy of Iran’s massive missile arsenal as a deterrent. Only a handful of the missiles made it to Israel, and those that did had little or no military impact.

On the other hand, Iran’s retaliation also revealed weaknesses in Israel’s defenses. It had to rely on help from its allies and partners, including the US, UK and France, to repel the attack.

Strategically, Iran’s attack played into Israel’s hands, especially Netanyahu’s, who has been itching for this fight for a long time. True to his words, he has become more emboldened since the April 13 strike, promising to deliver a punishing attack on Iran, regardless of the advice of Israel’s allies and a clear consensus within Israel against a wider war with Iran.

In addition, Iran’s attacks have had a major political impact, by saving Netanyahu’s career, which was on its last breath. It is rare in the history of Middle East conflicts that a bitter enemy would come to the rescue of an embattled foe. But that is the main, though unintended, consequence of Iran’s failed attack. Before Iran announced its drone and missile attack, the Israeli leader was fighting for his political survival. His brutal six-month campaign against Gaza has failed to achieve any of its goals, but has alienated him from his closest ally, the US, which has begun pressuring him to wrap up the war. Within Israel, his political opponents were demanding his resignation, as were the families of Israelis taken by Hamas on Oct. 7.

Equally important, Iran’s attack has relieved some of the international pressure on Israel to end the war in Gaza. For many, Iran’s attack shifted the narrative from an Israeli war on Gaza to a wider conflict with Iran and its allies, thus giving Netanyahu a pretext to continue the Gaza campaign. His allies in Washington and elsewhere went into overdrive to drive this point home, and demand more lethal support for his Gaza campaign.

In light of these repercussions, GCC ministers said that this cycle of violence must stop, and the international community should go back to the basics, with the UN Security Council imposing a ceasefire in Gaza. This is obviously directed at the US, which has blocked the council from taking action according to its mandate. For the wider conflict, the ministers proposed an international conference, with all relevant parties present, to translate the international consensus on Palestine into action. With a resolution of the conflict underway, the temptation to spread the war farther afield would subside.

  • Dr. Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg is the Gulf Cooperation Council assistant secretary-general for political affairs and negotiation. The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily represent the GCC. X: @abuhamad1

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