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Iran pledges retaliation for Israeli attack on embassy without significant escalation: Sources

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Iran has communicated to Washington its intention to respond to Israel’s assault on its Syrian embassy in a manner aimed at avoiding significant escalation, opting for a measured approach, according to Iranian sources.

During a visit to the Gulf Arab state of Oman on Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian conveyed Tehran’s message, leveraging Oman’s role as a mediator between Iran and the United States.

While the White House refrained from commenting on Iran’s communication, it reiterated that the US was not involved in the attack on the embassy.

Iran’s foreign ministry was unavailable for immediate comment, and Oman’s government did not respond promptly to inquiries sent during Eid ul-Fitr.

Though a source familiar with US intelligence was unaware of Iran’s message via Oman, it noted Iran’s clear intention to respond in a controlled and non-escalatory manner to the attack on its embassy in Damascus. The response may involve utilizing regional proxies to carry out several strikes against Israel.

This diplomatic signaling reflects Iran’s cautious approach as it assesses how to react to the April 1 attack, aiming to deter further Israeli actions while avoiding drawing the US into a military confrontation.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated on Wednesday that Israel must face consequences for the attack, considering it tantamount to an assault on Iranian soil. While Israel has not officially claimed responsibility, the Pentagon has acknowledged its involvement.

The attack, resulting in the death of a senior Iranian general, marked a surge in violence amidst the ongoing Gaza conflict. Iran has steered clear of direct involvement in regional spillovers, supporting groups operating from Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon instead.

Although Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim militias have refrained from targeting US troops in Syria and Iraq since early February, there’s a possibility that members of the Iran-backed Axis of Resistance could strike Israel at any moment, as indicated by one Iranian source.

During his meetings in Oman, Amirabdollahian signaled Tehran’s willingness to de-escalate if certain conditions are met, including a permanent ceasefire in Gaza—a proposition Israel has rejected in its efforts to combat Hamas.

Iran also sought to revive talks on its disputed nuclear program, which have stalled for nearly two years due to mutual accusations of unreasonable demands.

Additionally, Tehran sought assurances from the US that it would not intervene in the event of a controlled attack on Israel by Iran, a demand that the US rejected in its response delivered through Oman.

Iran’s retaliatory strikes, as per US intelligence sources, would be non-escalatory toward the US to prevent its involvement. This suggests that Iran would refrain from directing its proxy militias in Syria and Iraq to target US forces.

President Joe Biden remarked on Wednesday about Iran’s threat of a significant attack on Israel, reaffirming the US’s commitment to Israel’s security against threats from Iran and its proxies.

In response, Israel asserted its readiness to retaliate against any Iranian attack originating from its territory, emphasizing its commitment to self-defense.

Experts in Iranian diplomacy highlighted Tehran’s firm negotiating stance, typical of its approach, despite its interest in averting a major conflict. However, these diplomatic exchanges underscore Iran’s desire to prevent further escalation.

Gregory Brew, an analyst at Eurasia Group, pointed out Khamenei’s strategic dilemma, where Iran must respond to maintain credibility without inviting a more severe Israeli response, possibly with US assistance.

Sources revealed that the US urged Iran to exercise restraint and facilitate diplomatic efforts, cautioning that it would stand by Israel in the event of a direct attack.

Iran reportedly believes that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu seeks to instigate a war, prompting Iran to consider a restrained retaliation that avoids direct strikes on Israeli territory and involves leveraging its allies.

The US Middle East envoy reached out to the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, and Iraq to convey a message urging Iran to lower tensions with Israel.

Considering the risk of regional escalation, the US may agree to revive nuclear talks with Iran as a means of preventing a larger conflict.

According to Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group, Iran faces the challenge of retaliating effectively while saving face without escalating the situation. He emphasized Israel’s unpredictability compared to the US and Khamenei’s concerns about potential counter-escalation resulting from an attack on Israel.

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