US tells Israel to ‘think carefully’ before Iran response


Joe Biden “made it very clear” to Israel that he hopes to de-escalate tensions after Iran’s attack, according to senior administration officials.

Over 300 drones and missiles were fired at Israel overnight, which Iran said was in response to an 1 April strike on its consulate in Syria.

Almost all weapons were shot down by Israeli, US and allied forces before they reached their targets.

Officials say the US will not participate in any Israeli response.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, a senior administration official said that Mr Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “think very carefully and strategically” about his response to the attack.

The official added that the Biden administration believes Israel “got the best of it” in the exchange, which began when senior Iranian military commanders were killed at an Iranian consular building in Syria.

About 99% of the missiles, drones and cruise missiles launched during Iran’s retaliatory operation were shot down or intercepted – which US officials point to as a sign of Israeli military superiority over Iran.

US aircraft and naval vessels shot down dozens of Iranian projectiles as the attack took place. Some 70 drones and several ballistic missiles were downed by US aircraft and vessels or by air defence forces over Iraq.

A conversation took place between Mr Biden and Mr Netanyahu at a time “of heightened emotion” just after the attack, which included about 100 ballistic missiles simultaneously flying towards Israel.

During the call, the two leaders had a discussion “about how to slow things down and think through things”, with Mr Biden emphasising that Israel has “gotten the best of it”.

The official declined to say, however, whether the White House warned against a significant response, saying only that “it is a calculation the Israelis have to make”.

In a string of television appearances on US networks earlier in the day, national security spokesman John Kirby repeatedly said that the US has made it clear to Israel that it seeks to avoid a wider conflict.

The senior administration said that the same message has been sent to Iran through diplomatic channels.

Both Mr Kirby and the official said that the US would continue to defend Israel, but has ruled out participating in any Israeli response.

The stance is one that has sparked criticism from some US lawmakers and former officials from both sides of the political spectrum.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio, for example, criticised the administration for telling Israel to “take the win”.

“They know Israel’s going to respond. They know this for a fact,” he told CNN. “So why would the White House leak it?…So when Israel does respond, the White House can say ‘we told them not to do it’.”

Ohio Republican Representative Mike Turner said that Mr Kirby’s comments about de-escalating the conflict were “wrong”.

“It is already escalating, and the administration needs to respond,” he said on NBC.

In the wake of Iran’s attack on Israel, Mike Johnson, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, said that the body will “try again” to pass military aid for Israel.

Previous attempts to send more aid to Israel have stalled amid Democratic calls that the aid package also include assistance for Taiwan and Ukraine.

Mick Mulroy, a former Deputy Secretary of Defence for the Middle East, told the BBC that aid for Israel should be passed “without delay”.

“If it wasn’t for US security assistance, we could be facing a major regional war,” he said. “That supplement and the ones for Ukraine and Taiwan are in our national security interest. It is not charity. It’s part of the US national defence.”