Updated Apr 16, 2024 - World

Blinken: Escalation with Iran is not in U.S. or Israel's interests

Bbiden and Blinken

Photo: Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a group of American Jewish leaders on Tuesday that further escalation with Iran is not in the interests of either the U.S. or Israel, three people who attended the meeting told Axios.

Why it matters: The Biden administration and several other Western countries allied with Israel are urging Benjamin Netanyahu's government not to rush into a retaliation against Iran that could lead to a regional war.

  • The U.S. assessment is that Iran would respond to any significant, overt Israeli strike on Iranian soil with a new round of missile and drone attacks, a senior U.S. official told Axios.
  • "We think it will be very hard to replicate the huge success we had on Saturday with defeating the attack if Iran launches hundreds of missiles and drones again — and the Israelis know it," another U.S. official said.

Behind the scenes: A person who attended the meeting said Blinken did not say that Israel should refrain from responding to Iran, stressing it was Israel's decision to make.

  • "But his message was: be smart, strategic and limited as possible," the attendee said.
  • "Strength and wisdom are two sides of the same coin," Blinken told the Jewish leaders.
  • Blinken said that "we would never tell Israel what to do," and that the Biden administration was simply giving Israel the best advice it can, according to two people who attended the meeting.

The intrigue: Blinken told the group that the fact that Jordan and Saudi Arabia were part of the defensive effort to repel Iran's attack was very important and opens opportunities for the future, according to one attendee.

  • Blinken also claimed that Hamas may have rejected the most recent hostage deal because it thought the Iranian attack might lead to a regional conflict, two attendees said.
  • He added that if Hamas sees there is no regional war, the militant group will once again be under pressure to cut a hostage deal.
  • The State Department declined to comment.

Zoom in: Blinken spoke on Monday with Benny Gantz, a minister in Israel's war cabinet, and conveyed a similar message regarding Israel's possible retaliation, two sources with knowledge of the call said.

  • Gantz said on Tuesday that he's spoken to senior U.S. officials over the last 24 hours about the need for the international community to take action against Iran, including imposing more sanctions in order to stop its aggression.
  • "Israel will work with its allies around the world to make it happen. A regional normalization process will serve this goal. Israel will act with strategic wisdom and respond in the time and place of its choosing," Gantz said at a policy conference.
  • The call between Blinken and Gantz, which hasn't been disclosed publicly, is one of a series of calls between senior U.S. and Israeli officials in recent days focused on Israel's plans for retaliation.
  • Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke on Monday with his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant. It was their fourth call since the Iranian attack on Saturday.

The other side: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call Tuesday that Iran doesn't seek further escalation, according to Iranian state news agency IRNA.

  • "We will respond to any action against Iran's interests more fiercely, extensively and painfully than before," Raisi stressed, according to IRNA.
  • The Kremlin said Putin "expressed hope that all sides would show reasonable restraint and prevent a new round of confrontation fraught with catastrophic consequences for the entire region."


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