NewsCall It What It is

Call It What It is

Things can change in a moment. But the clearest sign out of Israel this morning is Benny Gantz (et al.) statement that Israel will respond to Iran at a time of its own choosing. That’s a pretty clear signal there is not going to be immediate retaliation and that’s what the White House wanted and demanded. As I noted yesterday, Israel itself has very big reasons not to involve itself in an open-ended conflict right now, as much as all its muscle memory and defense doctrines demand a swift and overwhelming retaliation. But I want to note what we’ve seen here from the perspective of U.S. policy.

The U.S. telegraphed more or less exactly what Iran was going to do via extremely good intelligence (reminiscent of the lead up to the invasion of Ukraine). It undoubtedly played a huge role bringing Jordan, Saudi Arabia and likely other Arab states into active and public armed action in defense of Israel. It positioned and deployed U.S. anti-ballistic destroyers and aerial assets to itself shoot down roughly a hundred of the estimated 300+ aerial devices Iran launched at Israel. Together, Israel, the U.S. and various allied Arab states took down 99% or more of all those devices. Iran launched a massive aerial bombardment and virtually none of it got through. And now the U.S. has managed to get Israel not to launch an immediate and inevitably escalatory retaliation.

It goes without saying that no administration works on its own. It comes to the game with the world’s most powerful military and major power status. It’s operating with Arab allies who have been gravitating toward a de facto anti-Iran alliance with Israel for years. And yet, anyone who knows anything about foreign or defense policy knows that most of it is all the endless number of things that can wrong and the one or two ways they can go right. Navigating the last week to this point today is a tour de force of international crisis management for the Biden White House.

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