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Iran’s delicate balance between striking Israel, avoiding full-blown war

The Islamic Republic has been assessing the potential consequences of its much-expected retaliation against Israel, as speculation is growing that an attack is imminent yet will be limited.
Iranian attend the funeral procession for seven Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members killed in a strike in Syria, which Iran blamed on Israel, in Tehran on April 5, 2024.

TEHRAN — Iranian authorities were facing a dilemma, weighing the extent and severity of their much-anticipated strike against Israel in retaliation for a deadly attack earlier this month that killed seven commanders in the Iranian Consulate in Damascus. 

Tehran, however, didn't respond to widespread speculation from Western officials and media outlets regarding the nature and timing of the potential response. 

Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has been busy the past few days, taking calls and getting engaged in diplomatic messaging with counterparts who are urging Tehran to exercise restraint. According to a Foreign Ministry official readout, Amir-Abdollahian criticized London for "inaction" and refusal to condemn the Damascus attack as he discussed the latest with the British Foreign Secretary David Cameron. Such an approach, the Iranian minister said, would only embolden Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's "warmongering" in the region. 

Following similar calls with German and Australian foreign ministers on Thursday, Amir-Abdollahian took to X (formerly Twitter) to declare that "legitimate defence with the purpose of punishing an aggressor is a must." He did not expound on the type of the potential retaliation Iran has been mulling but argued that restoring stability to the Middle East hinges on "reining in the unhinged and war-mongering leaders of the Zionist regime and putting a permanent end to the war crimes it is committing in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank." 

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