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Calls Grow for De-escalation as Israel Vows to Retaliate Against Iran

Progressives say along with a Gaza ceasefire, diplomacy and restraint are needed to stop a region-wide war.

Three women in hijabs hold a banner reading "Free Palestine from the guilt of Germany" during an outdoor protest outside of the German Embassy in Lima, Peru, on April 13, 2024.

Since Iran on Saturday sent hundreds of drones and missiles — which were mostly shot down — toward Israel to retaliate for an Israeli bombing of the Iranian consulate in Syria, anti-war voices around the world have called for de-escalation efforts.

“We are deeply concerned that Iranian retaliatory strikes following Israel’s April 1 attack on its diplomatic compound in Damascus will move the region even further from the path to peace and security,” said Jamal Abdi, president of the National Iranian American Council. “The launch of a significant attack on Israeli territory from Iran is without recent precedent and, unless there is a serious effort towards deconfliction, may confirm that Iran, Israel, and the United States are in the midst of the regional war that so many have feared.”

“We call on the Biden administration to exercise the United States’ considerable diplomatic leverage to restrain Israel and Iran to ensure this conflict does not spiral further out of control,” he continued. “Far too many innocents have already suffered in the war that began October 7, and the cycle of violence and inhumanity must be broken.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the Hamas-led October 7 attack on Israel with an assault of the Gaza Strip called plausibly genocidal by the International Court of Justice. Israeli forces have killed at least 33,729 people, wounded 76,371 more, and obliterated civilian infrastructure, displacing most of the 2.3 million Palestinians who live in the besieged enclave.

Blasting Iran’s Saturday attack on Israel as “another unacceptable turn in a dangerous escalation spiral,” Win Without War executive director Sara Haghdoosti said that U.S. President Joe Biden and senior administration officials “must use all their diplomatic heft and leverage to prevent further violence.”

“What’s at stake is nothing less than stopping a regionwide war in the Middle East, which the United States would surely be drawn into. There are no military solutions to this crisis — only diplomatic ones,” she stressed. “The Israeli government’s destructive and failing campaign in Gaza has driven violent instability throughout the Middle East, which was further exacerbated by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s reckless attack on the Iranian embassy in Damascus. And the Iranian government’s own inexcusable retaliation, which we utterly condemn, has put the lives of people across the region — including communities in Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran — at terrible risk.”

While repeatedly urging the the Israel Defense Forces to more precisely target militants in Gaza over the past six months, the Biden administration has also opposed multiple United Nations cease-fire resolution and sent more weapons to Israeli troops while pushing for a support package worth more than $14 billion — on top of the $3.8 billion in annual military aid that the United States gives to Netanyahu’s government.

“Preventing a regional war must be the top imperative and this may mean that Joe Biden must finally say ‘no’ to Israel and Netanyahu,” argued Abdi. “Biden’s bearhug approach towards Israel has completely failed and has put the U.S. at the risk of entering a war of choice — Netanyahu’s choice. Israel launched a military attack on a diplomatic compound, violating international law and all but guaranteeing an Iranian response.”

“Netanyahu appears eager to extend and expand the disastrous war in Gaza and draw the U.S. into a regional war and, by continually abetting the war and enabling Israel’s worst instincts, Biden may have granted Netanyahu’s wish,” he said. “Now is the time for restraint and diplomacy, not more unconditional support for military escalation. President Biden must put his foot down to do what’s necessary to prevent further military engagement between Israel and Iran and to demand a cease-fire to end the humanitarian tragedy in Gaza.”

Israel this weekend fended off most of the Iranian drones and missiles with help from Jordan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Benny Gantz—a member of the Israeli War Cabinet with Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant — said Sunday that his nation now intends to “build a regional coalition and exact a price from Iran, in a way and at a time that suits us.”

Biden publicly reaffirmed “America’s ironclad commitment to the security of Israel” but a White House official also confirmed to Reuters that during a call with Netanyahu, the president made clear the U.S. will not join any military offensives against Iran.

Denouncing the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ retaliation against Israel, Center for International Policy president and CEO Nancy Okail said Sunday that “escalatory actions by both countries threaten to fan the flames of conflict throughout the region, endangering the lives of millions.”

“We appreciate the apparent advance diplomatic efforts by the United States and others behind the scenes — as well U.S., U.K., and Jordanian participation in air defense measures — to minimize the impact of Iran’s attack,” she continued. “Prioritizing civilian protection and de-escalation was clearly the right approach and should continue to serve as the international community’s objectives in the critical days and weeks ahead.”

Okail emphasized that “achieving those goals requires not only arresting the escalation of violence between Israel and Iran, but securing a cease-fire in Gaza that halts the killing of civilians, releases the hostages, allows vital humanitarian aid to actually reach those who need it, and lowers tensions in the region. The continued unconditional supply to the Netanyahu government of the arms it is using in Gaza undermines those objectives, as well as U.S. and international law.”

“Netanyahu’s repeated disregard of U.S. red lines in Gaza, moves to deepen permanent occupation in the Palestinian territory, and escalation with Iran are destabilizing the entire region,” she added. “With American forces already drawn into hostilities with the Iranian-backed Houthis and actively engaging Iranian missiles and drones, President Biden cannot afford to let the extremist prime minister continue to have a harmful, undue influence on the course of events. Hopefully, the president’s efforts have averted a wider regional war with Iran; we urge him to bring that same level of effort to save the people of Gaza.”

Trita Parsi, an expert on Iran and the Middle East and EVP at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, said that “if you give Biden (deservingly) credit for having helped prevent the region from falling off the cliff last night, you must also give him credit for helping bring the region to the edge of the cliff in the first place by refusing to restrain Israel and blocking a cease-fire.”