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US works to prevent escalation across Mideast. Biden pushes Israel to show restraint

The United States highlighted its role in helping Israel thwart Iran’s aerial attack as President Joe Biden convened leaders of the Group of Seven countries in an effort to prevent a wider regional escalation and coordinate a global rebuke of Tehran.

Quick Read

  • On Sunday, the United States emphasized its support for Israel in intercepting Iran’s aerial assault, as President Joe Biden gathered G7 leaders to avert broader regional conflict and coordinate a global response to Tehran.
  • The U.S. assisted Israel in downing numerous drones and missiles from Iran, marking the first direct military strike by Iran on Israel. Israeli officials reported a 99% success rate in intercepting these threats.
  • Despite the high interception rate, U.S. officials noted that Iran aimed to cause destruction and casualties. President Biden communicated to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the importance of careful consideration to prevent an uncontrollable escalation.
  • The U.S. stance of urging restraint to Israel reflects its broader efforts to moderate Israel’s ongoing conflict with Hamas in Gaza, which has persisted for seven months.
  • U.S. and allied forces had prepared for such an assault, with the actual attack meeting the higher expectations of potential threats, as per U.S. officials who remained anonymous due to restrictions on their ability to speak publicly.
  • During the attack, the Pentagon reported that U.S. forces destroyed over 80 drones and six ballistic missiles from Iran and Yemen aimed at Israel.
  • Biden stated that the U.S. had deployed aircraft and missile defense systems to the region to bolster Israel’s defense, praising the skill of U.S. servicemembers in mitigating the attack’s impact.
  • U.S. administration officials reaffirmed the unwavering U.S. commitment to Israel’s defense, promising similar support in future if necessary.
  • The officials dismissed the idea that Iran intentionally allowed time for U.S. and Israeli preparations, instead suggesting that the U.S. capitalized on the lead time to strategize their defensive response.
  • During his discussions post-attack, Biden encouraged Israel to highlight its defensive achievements to avoid further conflict, while also discussing broader regional stability with leaders like Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
  • Talks with G7 leaders led to a joint condemnation of Iran’s actions, stressing solidarity with Israel and readiness to take additional measures against Tehran if destabilizing actions continue.
  • The G7 also mentioned the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, emphasizing efforts towards a ceasefire, the release of hostages, and increased humanitarian aid for Palestinians.
  • The U.N. Security Council convened an emergency meeting where U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres urged for de-escalation and restraint.
  • The meeting concluded without a resolution, prompting U.S. calls for a definitive Security Council reaction to the incident.

The Associated Press has the story:

US works to prevent escalation across Mideast. Biden pushes Israel to show restraint

Newslooks- WASHINGTON (AP) —

The United States highlighted its role in helping Israel thwart Iran’s aerial attack as President Joe Biden convened leaders of the Group of Seven countries in an effort to prevent a wider regional escalation and coordinate a global rebuke of Tehran.

The U.S. assisted Israel in shooting down dozens of drones and missiles fired by Iran on Saturday in what was the first time it had launched a direct military assault on Israel. Israeli authorities said 99% of the inbound weapons were shot down without causing any significant damage.

President Joe Biden arrives on Air Force One at Delaware Air National Guard Base in New Castle, Del., Friday, April 12, 2024.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

U.S. officials said that despite the high interception rate, Iran’s intent was to “destroy and cause casualties” and that if successful, the strikes would have caused an “uncontrollable” escalation across the Mideast. U.S. officials said Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an effort to contain tensions, that Washington would not participate in any offensive action against Iran, and the president made “very clear” to Netanyahu “that we do have to think carefully and strategically” about risks of escalation.

The push to encourage Israel to show restraint mirrored ongoing American efforts to curtail Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, which is now in its seventh month, and to do more to protect civilian lives in the territory.

Israeli Iron Dome air defense system launches to intercept missiles fired from Iran, in central Israel, Sunday, April 14, 2024. Iran launched its first direct military attack against Israel on Saturday. The Israeli military says Iran fired more than 100 bomb-carrying drones toward Israel. Hours later, Iran announced it had also launched much more destructive ballistic missiles. (AP Photo/Tomer Neuberg)

While the U.S. and its allies were preparing for days for such an attack, the launches were at the “high end” of what was anticipated, according to the officials, who were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.

At one point, at least 100 ballistic missiles from Iran were in the air simultaneously with just minutes of flight time to Israel, the officials said. Biden and senior officials monitored the firings and interception attempts in real time in the White House Situation Room. The officials said there was “relief” in the room once they saw that the missile defense efforts had succeeded.

FILE – A battery of Israel’s Iron Dome defense missile system, deployed to intercept rockets, sits in Ashkelon, southern Israel, Aug. 7, 2022. An incoming attack by Iranian drones and ballistic missiles Sunday, April 14, 2024, poses the latest challenge to Israel’s air defense system, which already has been working overtime to cope with incoming rocket, drone and missile attacks throughout the six-month war against Hamas. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File)

The Pentagon said U.S. Central Command and European Command forces destroyed more than 80 attack drones and at least six ballistic missiles intended to strike Israel from Iran and Yemen.

“At my direction, to support the defense of Israel, the U.S. military moved aircraft and ballistic missile defense destroyers to the region over the course of the past week,” Biden said in a statement late Saturday. “Thanks to these deployments and the extraordinary skill of our servicemembers, we helped Israel take down nearly all of the incoming drones and missiles.”

In this image provided by the White House, President Joe Biden, along with members of his national security team, receive an update on an ongoing airborne attack on Israel from Iran, as they meet in the Situation Room of the White House in Washington, Saturday, April 13, 2024. From left to right, facing Biden are, Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns; Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence; Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. Some papers on the desk have been blurred by the source for national security reasons. (Adam Schultz/The White House via AP)

Administration officials said the call demonstrated that despite differences over the war in Gaza, the U.S. commitment to Israel’s defense was “ironclad” and that the U.S. would mount a similar effort again if needed.

The officials rejected the notion that Iran intentionally gave Israel and the U.S. time to prepare for an attack, but said they took advantage of the time Iran needed before it was ready to launch the assault to prepare their response. The officials said Iran passed word to the U.S. while the attack was unfolding late Saturday that what was seen was the totality of their response. The message was sent through the Swiss government since the two countries don’t have direct diplomatic ties.

U.S. Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood, left, and Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan speak in the United Nations Security Council chamber after an emergency meeting at U.N. headquarters, Sunday, April 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Biden, in a Saturday evening call with Netanyahu, urged that Israel claim victory for its defense prowess as the president aimed to persuade America’s closest Middle East ally not to undertake a larger retaliatory strike against Iran, the officials said.

“I told him that Israel demonstrated a remarkable capacity to defend against and defeat even unprecedented attacks — sending a clear message to its foes that they cannot effectively threaten the security of Israel,” Biden said in his statement after the call.

FILE – Jordan’s King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein attends a military ceremony in Vienna, Oct. 25, 2021. President Joe Biden is hosting Jordan’s leader in Washington on Monday, Feb. 12, 2024, and the two are expected to discuss the ongoing effort to free hostages in Gaza and growing concern over a possible Israeli military operation in the port city of Rafah. It is the first meeting between the allies since three American troops were killed last month in a drone strike against a U.S. base in Jordan. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)

Biden had a call Sunday with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in which the king said any “escalatory measures” by Israel would lead to a broader conflict in the region, according to the Royal Court. The White House said the situation in Gaza was discussed, and the leaders reaffirmed their cooperation “to find a path to end the crisis as soon as possible.”

The president also spoke with some of the U.S. forces involved in shooting down the Iranian drones.

Later Sunday, Biden spoke with the leaders of the House and Senate, emphasizing the urgent need for the House to pass additional wartime funding for Israel and Ukraine.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken holds a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, during his visit to Cairo, Egypt, Thursday March 21, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein, Pool Photo via AP)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke Sunday with foreign ministers from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to underscore the “importance of avoiding escalation and coordinating on a diplomatic response,” a department spokesman said.

After the G7 videoconference Sunday, the leaders issued a joint statement “unequivocally condemning in the strongest terms” the direct attack by Iran while expressing “our full solidarity and support to Israel” and reaffirming “our commitment towards its security.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, center rear, joins G7 world leaders at a working session on the final day of the G7 Summit in Hiroshima, Japan, Sunday, May 21, 2023. From left to right are: Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, U.S. President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Zelenskyy, European Council President Charles Michel, Gianluigi Benedetti, Italian ambassador to Japan, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and France’s President Emmanuel Macron. (Stefan Rousseau/Pool via AP)

The group of advanced democracies — the U.S., Italy, Japan, Germany, France, Britain and Canada — also said that Iran, “with its actions, has further stepped toward the destabilization of the region and risks provoking an uncontrollable regional escalation.” They said their nations “stand ready to take further measures now and in response to further destabilizing initiatives.”

A senior U.S. administration official said some of the countries discussed listing Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization and unlocking further sanctions against Tehran, though no final decisions were made.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian speaks during a meeting with foreign ambassadors and envoys to Tehran, Iran, Sunday, April 14, 2024. Iran launched its first direct military attack against Israel on Saturday night in response to a strike widely blamed on Israel that hit an Iranian consular building in Syria earlier this month and killed two Iranian generals. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

The Israel-Hamas war was referenced in the G7 statement, with the leaders saying they will bolster “our cooperation to end the crisis in Gaza, including by continuing to work towards an immediate and sustainable ceasefire and the release of hostages by Hamas, and deliver increased humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in need.”

The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting Sunday to discuss the attack. “Now is the time to defuse and de-escalate,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said. “Now is the time for maximum restraint.”

Iran’s U.N. Ambassador, Amir Saeid Iravani, addresses the United Nations Security Council chamber during an emergency meeting at U.N. headquarters, Sunday, April 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan called the attack “an unprecedented escalation,” while Iranian Ambassador Saeid Iravani said, “Iran’s operation was entirely in the exercise of Iran’s inherent right to self-defense.”

After the meeting ended without any council action, U.S. deputy ambassador Robert Wood said, “There has to be a Security Council response to what happened last night.”

Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan shows a video of Iranian missiles flying over Al-Aqsa Mosque as he addresses the United Nations Security Council during an emergency meeting at U.N. headquarters, Sunday, April 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

The U.S. and Israel had been bracing for an attack for days after Iran said it would retaliate for a suspected Israeli strike this month on an Iranian consular building in Syria that killed 12 people, including two senior Iranian generals in the Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force.

FILE – Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Marco Rubio, R-Fla., talks to reporters after a closed-door briefing on the Chinese surveillance balloon that flew over the United States recently, at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, criticized the White House for “leaking it to the press” that Biden told Netanyahu to take the win and not retaliate.

Rubio told CNN’s “State of the Union” that it was “part of the White House’s efforts to appease” people calling for a cease-fire in Gaza.

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