Netanyahu is drawing the US into war with Iran

The Israeli prime minister’s persistent obsession with the Islamic Republic may finally drag the US into another disastrous regional war.

By Marwan Bishara

Benjamin Netanyahu holding up a map of the Middle East
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 78th United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York on September 22, 2023 [File: Reuters/Mike Segar]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spent the past three decades sounding the alarm about Iran’s nuclear programme and threatening to attack the country on countless occasions. Most recently in September, he said in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly that Tehran must face a “credible nuclear threat” before his office corrected the record to “credible military threat”.

After Hamas’s attack on October 7, Netanyahu may finally be able to act on his threats. The gruesome scenes in southern Israel have provided the Israeli prime minister with the necessary pretext and international backing for a wider response.

Netanyahu has both a political and a personal stake in all this. A drawn-out regional conflict would block or at least postpone any official accountability for his utter failure to prevent Hamas’s attack from happening in the first place and could also put his multiple indictments on corruption charges on an indefinite hold.

Overnight, he transformed from a failed and embattled prime minister to a wartime leader, with opposition parties clamouring to join him in a national unity government.

He declared war and ordered an immediate retaliation against Hamas’s stronghold in Gaza. The Israeli army unleashed a vicious campaign of bombardment on the overpopulated Gaza Strip, killing more than 500 people, and preparing for a potential land invasion.

Netanyahu has not elaborated on the next phases of the war, but he has received the unconditional support of Western governments to do what it takes, as long as it takes, to “defend Israel”. The administration of US President Joe Biden has gone even further, providing Israel with more arms and ammunition, dispatching its most modern and sophisticated aircraft carrier, the Ford, along with a number of destroyers to the Eastern Mediterranean, and beefing up other forces stationed in the region, enough to start World War III.

Biden’s motivation for the escalatory deployment is, reportedly, strategic deterrence, meant to ensure that “no enemies of Israel can or should seek advantage from the current situation”. But historically, Israel has never allowed any foreign boots on its soil, and is in no need of the US armadas to take on Hamas.

Biden’s incentive, therefore, could also be political, ie to ensure that the GOP doesn’t exploit the Israeli drama at his expense ahead of the presidential elections in 2024. Already, Republican opponents have tried to link Biden’s recent prisoner swap deal with Iran, which involved the unfreezing of $6bn in Iranian assets, to the Hamas attacks.

But Netanyahu and his fanatic ministers may have something very different in mind for the US deployment, that goes beyond military deterrence and political posturing. He may try to widen the scope of the war to include Iran.

His government has already accused Iran of supporting and directing Hamas’s operation, as it has previously done about other Palestinian attacks on Israelis. Scores of Israel supporters and neoconservatives, as well as media pundits in the US and Europe, have joined in by making the case for Iranian involvement.

The Wall Street Journal even reported – based on interviews with unnamed local sources – that Iranian officials and members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps were directly involved in orchestrating and planning the attacks over several weeks.

US officials have said they haven’t seen evidence of Tehran’s involvement, yet.

For its part, Iran has called the attack a spontaneous Palestinian action in self-defence, but officials have not tried to hide their glee at Israel’s misfortune. They have expressed confidence that the attack will deter further Arab, meaning Saudi, normalisation with Israel, and eventually lead to its downfall.

Meanwhile, Iran’s ally the Lebanese Hezbollah has praised the Hamas operation and engaged the Israeli forces in the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms, threatening greater involvement if Israel enters Gaza.

Iran and its allies’ temerity may well come back to haunt them, just as Israel’s hubris did – leading to its utter humiliation at the hands of Hamas fighters. Neither Iran nor Israel is learning from history, as they continue to escalate their proxy conflict towards war.

For years, the Israeli army and secret services have sabotaged the Iranian nuclear programme and targeted Iranian assets abroad. Iran for its part has supported various client armed groups in the Middle East, attacking US and Israeli allies.

Despite his bluster and bravado, Netanyahu couldn’t and wouldn’t attack Iran, without a green light and support from the US. But the bloody attacks are a game-changer, giving the Israeli prime minister the perfect opportunity to realise his fantasy of crushing Iran, by tricking the Biden administration into war.

This will not be easy considering Biden’s presumed commitment to end “the forever wars”, reflected in the humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. His administration has also moved to prioritise the great power competition with China and Russia, especially after the latter’s invasion of Ukraine.

But in reality, the US has not withdrawn from the Middle East, it has merely moved around its forces and military assets in the region. Biden himself has vowed to “not walk away and leave a vacuum to be filled by China, Russia, or Iran”.

Once the case against Tehran’s role in the attacks has been fully articulated by Israel and the US, they might first try to pressure it into facilitating the release of Israeli captives taken by Hamas – a top priority for Netanyahu.

If Iran refuses and chooses to use Hezbollah as leverage against Israel, this could well trigger a wider confrontation that draws in the US with incalculable consequences. Unfortunately, in the adulterated world of Washington politics, unconditional US support of Israel is the only thing that Republican and Democrats agree on.

It is crucial to remember that the situation in 2023 is vastly more challenging and complicated than the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, which ended in utter disaster for the US and Iraqis. A repeat against Iran is sure to be far worse for all concerned.

Marwan Bishara is an author who writes extensively on global politics and is widely regarded as a leading authority on US foreign policy, the Middle East and international strategic affairs. He was previously a professor of International Relations at the American University of Paris.

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5 responses to “Netanyahu is drawing the US into war with Iran”

  1. Kadath Actual Avatar
    Kadath Actual

    “The Wall Street Journal even reported – based on interviews with unnamed local sources – that Iranian officials and members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps were directly involved”

    The immediate proof that it was not a direct Iranian operation is that the Iranian missile barrage would have been guided. It would not be a barrage of home depot flying fence posts, set off in the general direction of ‘due north’. It would have hit dead-on everything that it was targeting.

    The Iranians would not need to furnish ‘mad max’ gyrocopters or hang gliders, with the occupants hand-dropping mortar shells individually by dead reckoning. They could supply ample drones that would do a lot more damage, whereas the effect of the gyro-attack is only very modestly anti-personnel in nature, the options that the Iranians could have supplied would be formidable in-depth, and could have actually repelled or brushed back any attempts to relieve the Israeli forces along the border. This does not in any way appear to have happened.

    They would not mess around with simply abducting replaceable commanders, troops or civilians as the central focus – that really only has value due to past such deals (”if you want more of something”..) to the locals who would have hoped to exchange them in prisoner swaps that would clear out Israeli gaols of everyone affiliated with these militias, if prior such exchanges were precedent.

    The Iranians would have had the capability to be over the main population centers in mere minutes, after the initial penetration, and they have aerial capacity to have done irreversible damage in that time using an unconventional device, if they wanted to do so. Iron Dome was already swamped and waves of evasive Iranian drones would have been able to drop what they wanted to. They didnt, because Hamas and aligned forces did not possess them, in any instances I noted.

    The one highly publicized video of the Merkava disabled / crew captured (with the dust hood still in place over its cannon, btw) shows one of the attackers armed with an aged FAL L1a1 that I will f-ing guarantee you has some serious headspace issues at this vintage/climate/maintenance timeline, in its service life. You could not reliably source any more ammunition for this weapon once a breakthrough had been made.

    Iranian supplied forces would have some degree of uniformity and recent tech, which I see literally no evidence of.

    What we actually saw is astounding – a motley crew of no more than a mob of a few hundred (per breach point) random, minibike-riding, freebooters who almost effortlessly overcame Sayeret Matkal and other elite Special Forces units.

    This at its core was effectively an over-reliance on technology, and lack of HUMINT, from an initial breach perspective, failed unit discipline over an extended holiday,
    and the fact that commercializing and marketing surveillance tech through ‘contractors’ across the planet, directed largely at attacks against the worlds civilian population, means that everyone now knows where Israel has backbone access, the capabilities of Circles, and how to mitigate this (although at great personal cost).
    Some of the greatest victims of Israel’s global surveillance state have actually been the citizens of their own state, forced to accept MRNA injections, or be de-personed, at the behest of a company owned by a veterinarian using them as guinea pigs.

    Even the jammer that shut down the comms during the initial breach is so simple that anyone with an internet connection can concoct such a primitive device from easily obtainable parts, as long as you understand that it can be rapidly geolocated. This was probably not much of a concern when you are already part of an invasion force whose armaments include an ancient rifle that last saw duty at a guard post in Ulster a generation ago.

  2. Parvin Avatar

    Israel lost and so did the west. All their so called “Human Rights” garbage was exposed. No one will pay attention to the western garden bulls.

  3. philosophyofgoodnews Avatar

    It is never as it looks like. Usually it is opposite.

  4. exot1c Avatar

    I can say unequivocally that this conflict was provoked by the United States. Washington is provoking a war with Iran so that there is a reason to create a military coalition against Iran. But Iran is not Iraq, they are very united and have a powerful army. This war will provoke the third world war.

    In my opinion, the best way to prevent this is to place Russian nuclear weapons on Iranian territory. This will cool down the hotheads in Washington.

  5. Woopy Avatar

    It’s sad to realize that US citizens are paying taxes to the white supremist genocidal whackos of Israel.