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Fear that Iran will be drawn into a direct war against Israel increases, experts analyze

Fear that Iran will be drawn into a direct war against Israel increases, experts analyze

A day after the radical Islamic group Hamas launched its attack against Israel, a curious video emerged from the Azadi stadium in Tehran, the capital of Iran. Hundreds of football fans gathered to watch a match between Persepolis FC and Gol Gohar Sirjan FC, were against the raising of a Palestinian flag during the match by shouting with an obscene tone.

The fans’ attitude came after authorities tried to raise the Palestinian flag. But for fans, the act was more a mix of politics and football, and a sharp reminder of the Iranian government’s involvement in battles beyond its borders.

The Hamas attack, which killed 1,400 people, according to Israeli authorities, triggered a fierce air campaign by the Jewish-majority country in Gaza that has so far killed more than 7,000 Palestinians, according to the Ministry of Health in Hamas-controlled Gaza. . At the current stage of the conflict, there are concerns that more fronts will open in the war, including one with Iran.

Experts say that although Iran is wary of being drawn into the war between Israel and Hamas, it may not have full control if the militias that support it in the region intervene independently, while Hamas suffers severe blows and the number of Deaths in Gaza continue to rise.

“What ties all of these groups to Iran is their anti-Israel policies,” said Sima Shine, head of the Iran program at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, noting that while Iran has varying levels of influence over groups, does not dictate all their actions.

In the early days after the October 7 attack, questions were raised about Iran’s potential involvement in the assassinations. At the time, Tehran praised the operation but was quick to deny any involvement in it.

Initial U.S. intelligence also suggested that Iranian authorities were surprised by the Hamas attack and that Tehran was not directly involved in its planning, resource funding or approval, reported CNN .

Despite its denial, however, Iran has intensified its rhetoric against its arch-enemy.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian warned that Israel’s bombing of Gaza could have far-reaching consequences, saying that if Israel does not stop its airstrikes, “it is highly likely that many other fronts will be opened.”

“This option is not ruled out and is becoming increasingly likely,” he told Al Jazeera last week.

On Monday (23), Abdollahian said that the US sent Iran two messages about the escalation of the conflict in the region.

“The first message said that the United States is not interested in expanding the war, and the second message called on Iran to restrain itself and insisted that the country also ask other countries not to get directly involved in the conflict,” Abdollahian said. during a press conference in Tehran on Monday, without saying how and when the messages were delivered.

He added that although the US says it wants to de-escalate the conflict, it has contradicted itself by continuing to support Israel.

Strategic calculations

Trita Parsi, vice president of the Quincy Institute in Washington, said there is no appetite or desire on the part of Iran, the US or Israel for a broader war, but that Washington’s failure to contain Israel could inadvertently lead the region to an escalation in the conflict.

US President Joe Biden last week pledged continued support for Israel, which has hardened Arab sentiment across the region and translated into mass protests against Israeli and US policies in the region.

“The only actor who has an obvious interest [em um conflito mais amplo] is Hamas, given that an expansion of the war could change the dynamics in a favorable way for them”, said Parsi. In the absence of US efforts to control Israel, “many regional actors will feel compelled to intervene due to their own strategic calculations.”

“While Israel is mobilizing 300,000 troops, Hezbollah is not likely to sit back and assume this is done just to go after Hamas,” he mused.

An armed group backed by Iran and a powerful regional force, Hezbollah, has been exchanging fire with Israel’s military since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas. The fighting has been the worst since the war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006, but has so far been restricted to the border between Lebanon and Israel.

Israel’s defense minister said last week that Israel was not interested in another war with Hezbollah. Even so, Israel turned the 4-kilometer radius area near its border into a closed military zone and evacuated residents of 28 communities within a 2-kilometer radius of the Lebanese border.

However, Hezbollah’s influence goes beyond Lebanon. It also operates alongside Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps in Syria, where the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights separates the majority-Jewish country from Tehran-aligned fighters.

The Lebanese group also has its own channels with Hamas. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah met on Wednesday (25) with senior officials from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, he said in a statement, without revealing where the meeting took place.

“An assessment was made of what the parties of the Axis of Resistance [anti-Israel e anti-ocidental] must do at this sensitive stage to achieve a true victory for the resistance in Gaza and Palestine and to stop the treacherous and brutal aggression against our people”, he stated.

See also: Israel “crossed the red lines” in Gaza, says Iran’s president

The conflict between Hamas and the Jewish-majority country also led to brief conflict in Syria and Iraq, from which Iranian-backed militias launched several drone strikes against US forces. Now, U.S. military forces have specific information that these same groups may participate even more as the war between Israel and Hamas continues, the report said. CNN this week.

The US continues to warn Tehran against taking advantage of the current situation or encouraging escalation by its proxies. On Tuesday (24), US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the United Nations Security Council to warn Iran against any further involvement in the conflict.

“Tell Iran, tell its representatives in public, in private, through all means: do not open another front against Israel in this conflict. Don’t attack Israel’s partners,” Blinken said, noting that a “broader conflict would be devastating, not just for Palestinians and Israelis, but for people across the region and, indeed, around the world.”

The US carried out airstrikes on Thursday (26) against two facilities linked to Iranian-backed militias in eastern Syria, according to a statement from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. The strikes followed a series of drone and rocket attacks against US forces in the region. The statement said the targeted facilities were used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and affiliated groups.

INSS’s Shine said Iran does not want a direct war with Israel because that would mean a direct war with the US. “It is very obvious that Iran does not want to be directly involved and would just prefer that its representatives [grupos anti-Israel] are involved.”

But that may not happen exactly as Iran intends, added Shine, who previously served in the Israeli intelligence community for most of his career.

“Iran has to take into account that the world is not functioning according to what it decides or wants,” she pointed out to CNN . “So if they decide to overuse their third parties, they could find themselves in a war they don’t want.”

Parsi, of the Quincy Institute, said the Iranian government is nevertheless preparing its population for war.

Iranian media is full of news about the war in Gaza, with officials across the Iranian political spectrum expressing solidarity with the Palestinians.

“They are already preparing public opinion for this eventuality, essentially trying to argue that this is something that is brought to their door because of what the Israelis are doing and because of American support in this,” Parsi pointed out.

This shows that there are already concerns within the Iranian government about how citizens will react to a war in which Iran is directly involved, he added.

Even if there is a broader war that is still “below the threshold of direct U.S.-Iran involvement” — where it is restricted to Iranian proxies fighting Israel — it would still be an extremely unstable situation, he said. “No one can even control the current situation and ensure it doesn’t get worse.”

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Source: CNN Brasil