Tisdall for Guardian: Iran has fallen into Netanyahu's trap, the world must act

Simon Tisdall, the Guardian's foreign policy commentator, warns in his latest column that Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, wanted a wider conflict, and Tehran fell into his trap

by Sededin Dedovic
Tisdall for Guardian: Iran has fallen into Netanyahu's trap, the world must act
© Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Simon Tisdall is a British journalist born in 1953 in Manchester. He studied history, politics and philosophy at the prestigious Downing College in Cambridge. He built his journalistic career in the respected Guardian, where he is currently a columnist and assistant editor.

During his rich career, he followed and reported on global events, and also dealt with issues of international politics by writing analytical texts. In his last column, he expressed very interesting views regarding the war in the Gaza Strip, and once again shocked readers with his analysis of the Iranian attack on Israel.

"Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, wanted a wider conflict, and Tehran walked into his trap. The major powers must stop this now," warns Simon Tisdall, the Guardian's foreign policy commentator in his latest column.

The missiles and drones that were launched from Iran towards Israel in the early hours of Sunday morning gave Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu what he always craved - a mandate and justification for an open attack on Iran, a country he has long viewed as Israel's greatest enemy and a possible Nemesis.

The pressing question, which can be answered within hours, is what form Israel's promised "significant response" will take - and whether Iran, in turn, will retaliate. "We will build a regional coalition and exact a price from Iran in a way and time that suits us," Israeli Minister Benny Gantz said, as Israel's war cabinet met to discuss Israel's response.

It is now up to Israel's allies - the US, Britain and others - to make it clear to Netanyahu that continued military, diplomatic and political support is conditional on a legitimate and proportionate Israeli response. It would be better if Israel did not strike back at all.

Iran has failed in its apparent goal of inflicting serious damage. Israel says 99 percent of its rockets and drones have been destroyed. Tehran says the episode is "over" - but vows to retaliate if attacked. Netanyahu's wisest course would be to refrain from attacking, thereby giving the world irrefutable proof - that Iran is a malicious, dangerous rogue state that violates international law and threatens Israel, Arab and Western countries.

Iranians attend the funeral of seven Revolutionary Guard Corps members killed in a strike on the countrys consular annex in Dama© Majid Saeedi / Getty Images

Instead of blindly attacking -- for example, Iran's nuclear facilities -- he should argue that the leadership of the Islamic republic and its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have shown their true colors -- and deserve collective, international punitive action.

However, it is unrealistic to expect that Netanyahu will turn the other cheek. Tehran's action provided it with a unique opportunity to divert global attention from its government's appalling depredations in Gaza and its failure to defeat Hamas.

He can say that the war against Hamas has been turned into an existential war against its stooges in Tehran – and that people of good will, at home and abroad, must rally around his leadership to secure the necessary victory.

Netanyahu and his internal war cabinet appear to have deliberately and recklessly provoked this showdown. The Israeli prime minister has been at the helm of a decades-long war of assassination and attrition against Iran. The covert, unacknowledged killing of Iran's nuclear scientists and leaders of Iran's regional proxy militias has become almost routine.

But the list of targets has expanded since the Oct. 7 atrocity. In December, for example, Sayed Razi Mousavi, a senior Iranian general, was assassinated in Damascus. Iran's response, as in the past, was relatively limited and indirect.

But the April 1 bombing of its embassy in the Syrian capital, which killed several senior commanders, radically changed this dynamic. Iran blamed Israel (which as usual did not admit responsibility) for a direct, blatant attack on its sovereign territory.

Israel, Khamenei said, had crossed a red line. It's hard to disagree. The war has come out of the shadows – and it is Netanyahu's doing. He must have known how fierce the reaction would be in Tehran. It is interesting that he did not inform his American ally in advance, probably because the administration would try to veto the operation.

The attack on the Damascus embassy appears to be a premeditated escalation designed to strengthen Netanyahu's domestic political position, silence American critics and deflect international pressure to halt arms shipments to Israel.

This unprecedented, direct confrontation between Israel and Iran, which has been building for years, has put US President Joe Biden in an almost impossible position. He came into office in 2021 hoping to revive the landmark 2015 US-European nuclear deal with Iran that Donald Trump idiotically rejected.

Now his policy is under heavy pressure. Biden is on the brink of escalating armed conflict with Iran, fighting alongside the Israeli government, whose actions in Gaza he has belatedly condemned, and which could cost him dearly in the November US election.

Iran Benjamin Netanyahu