| 2 December 2023, Saturday |

Iran FM warns US of dire consequences against its regional interests

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian warned the United States that if Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip do not stop, “there will be a possibility of anything at any moment and the region may spin out of control,” pointing to “heavy and bitter consequences” that may affect American interests in the region.

The minister was speaking at a joint press conference with his South African counterpart Naledi Pandor in Tehran on Sunday.

He warned that the region is currently like a “powder keg”, stressing that any Israeli “miscalculation in proceeding with the policy of genocide and forced displacement of Gazans and residents of the West Bank will have heavy and bitter consequences in the region and the interests of warmongers.”

Abdollahian accused the United States of waging a “proxy war” through Israel against the people of Gaza and Palestine, strongly criticizing US President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel last week.

On Oct. 15, the FM issued a similar warning to Israel, saying: “Halt your onslaught on Gaza or we’ll be forced to take action.”

Only hours later, the country’s UN mission softened the tone, assuring the world that its armed forces would not intervene in the conflict unless Israel attacked Iranian interests or citizens.

Reuters quoted nine Iranian officials, with direct knowledge of the thinking within the ruling establishment, that Iran, a long-time supporter of the Hamas movement that runs the Gaza Strip, finds itself facing a dilemma, while trying to manage the worsening crisis.

The officials, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the discussions in Tehran, noted that standing on the sidelines in the face of an all-out Israeli invasion of Gaza would significantly set back an Iranian strategy for regional ascendancy pursued for over four decades.

Reuters quoted three security officials as saying that a consensus has been reached among senior decision-makers in Iran to give their blessing to the limited strikes launched by the Lebanese Hezbollah across the border against Israeli military targets, more than 200 kilometers from Gaza. They also sanctioned small-scale attacks launched by other allied groups in the region on US targets, while avoiding any major escalation that would drag Iran itself into the conflict.

Iranian inaction on the ground could be perceived as a sign of weakness by those proxy forces, which have been Tehran’s principal weapon of influence in the region for decades, according to three officials who talked to Reuters.

“The Iranians are facing this dilemma of whether they are going to send Hezbollah to the fight in order to try to save their arm in the Gaza Strip or maybe they are going to let go of this arm and give it up,” said Avi Melamed, a former Israeli intelligence official and a negotiator during the first and second Palestinian intifadas.

“This is the point where the Iranians are,” he added. “Calculating their risks.”

The authorities in Iran cannot afford a direct involvement in the conflict, while struggling to suppress mounting dissent at home, driven by economic crises and social restrictions, two separate officials told Reuters.

The slogan “Neither Gaza, nor Lebanon, I sacrifice my life for Iran” has become a trademark chant in anti-government protests in Iran for years, highlighting the people’s frustration with the regime’s spending of resources on its regional proxies instead of the Iranians themselves.

  • Asharq Al-Awsat