Iran’s attack failed. The country’s threat to peace remains

Though largely thwarted by Israel and its allies, the assault launched by Iran against the Jewish state over the weekend was a powerful reminder that the Tehran regime remains the biggest threat to peace in the Middle East. Israel’s security would be best served now through resolve and restraint, rather than military escalation.

Iranian leaders tried to portray Saturday’s attack as a proportional response to a presumed Israeli strike that killed a top Iranian commander and several advisers in Damascus, Syria, on April 1. The operation involved more than 300 drones and cruise and ballistic missiles, with Iran attacking Israel from its own territory for the first time. The assault dramatically increased the risk of a regionwide war, even if Iran hoped the matter was now “concluded.”

In military terms, Iran’s attack was a failure. Israeli and U.S. forces, with help from the U.K., France, Jordan and possibly some of Israel’s other Arab neighbors, shot down an estimated 99% of the incoming missiles and drones, most of them before they reached Israeli airspace. Rather than reinforcing Israel’s isolation, the attack illustrated how strong its alliances remain despite anger over its conduct of the war against Hamas in Gaza. President Joe Biden rightly vowed “ironclad” support for Israel’s defense, even as he pressures Israeli leaders to ease conditions for Gazans.

Like any state, Israel reserves the right to respond to a direct assault on its territory. But a tit-for-tat strike on Iran would cast Israel once again as the aggressor, jeopardizing the support of Europe and even the U.S. Meanwhile, the war in Gaza is far from finished, with top Hamas leaders still free and more than 100 Israeli hostages in captivity. The border with Lebanon remains unsettled, preventing thousands of Israelis from returning to their homes in the north. After months of fighting, Israel’s military is stretched.

The obvious strength of Israel’s defenses should serve as some deterrent against future Iranian attacks. Covert action by Israel has had success degrading Iran’s nuclear program and its network of militant proxies and could be used again.

Most important, restraint would allow Israel and its supporters to capitalize on the moment, not least by reminding Arab neighbors where their true interests lie. The failed strikes underscore the danger Iran poses to them as well as to Israel. Iran’s nuclear advances threaten a regional arms race. Its proxies have attacked the Saudi and Gulf monarchies in the past. In foiling the weekend attack, the U.S. and Israel have demonstrated to Arab leaders just how useful they can be as partners.

The Biden administration should seize this opportunity to further isolate Iran within the region and beyond. The U.S. should work with its G-7 partners to refocus global attention on Iran’s destructive behavior, including its continued support for militant groups like Hamas, its supply of drones and missiles to Russia for use against Ukraine, and its continued stonewalling of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Simultaneously, U.S. officials should press ahead with efforts to revive a deal to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which could open the door to a broader and more unified coalition to contain Iran.

Israel’s long-term security requires peaceful relations with its neighbors, including the Palestinians, coupled with containment of Iran and its proxies. Rigorous and assertive diplomacy is needed to accomplish those objectives and prevent a wider war.

This editorial first appeared in Bloomberg Opinion. This commentary should be considered another point of view and not necessarily the opinion or editorial policy of The Dominion Post.