Biden says US support for Israel ‘ironclad’ as Iran threats increase

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US President Joe Biden said his administration’s support for Israel’s security was “ironclad”, following threats from Iran to exact revenge on the Jewish state for a strike on its consulate in Damascus last week.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that the attack, which killed several senior Iranian commanders, was equivalent to an attack on Iranian territory, and that Israel must be “punished”.

Speaking in Washington later on Wednesday, Biden said the US would do “all we can to protect Israel’s security”.

“Our commitment to Israel’s security against these threats from Iran and its proxies is ironclad,” he said after a meeting with Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. “Let me say it again: ironclad.”

The strike on the Iranian consulate, which killed one of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ most senior figures in Lebanon and Syria, was a significant escalation of the hostilities that have engulfed the Middle East since the war between Hamas and Israel erupted last October.

Israel has not claimed responsibility for the attack, which was widely seen as the most serious blow to the Iranian military since the US assassination of Qassem Soleimani in 2020.

However, Iran, Syria and Hizbollah — the Iran-backed militia that dominates southern Lebanon — have all blamed Israel, and Iranian officials have repeatedly said there will be a response.

The Iranian state news agency IRNA wrote on Wednesday that “the time is ripe to punish Israel”. It claimed a final decision on how to respond to Israel had been made, adding a failure to respond would undermine Iran’s “deterrence.”

The Tasnim news agency, which is close to the Revolutionary Guards, also wrote that Iran’s “punishment” for Israel was inevitable and would be “heavy”.

But it said how and when Iran would act was confidential and that reports suggesting that Tehran would respond over the next few days or was planning a missile and drone strike were only speculation.

Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian held phone conversations with foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, United Arab Emirates and Qatar on Wednesday night, with the ministry saying the consequences of Israel’s attack on the Iranian consulate were among the topics discussed. He also spoke to his Turkish counterpart on Thursday.

Israeli security analysts have said an Iranian attack could range from a strike via one of Iran’s proxies, such as Hizbollah, to a direct attack on Israel from Iran itself, which could risk an escalation of the regional conflict.

Israel’s foreign minister Israel Katz said on Wednesday that Israel would attack Iran directly if the Islamic republic struck the Jewish state from its own soil. “If Iran attacks from its territory, Israel will respond and attack in Iran,” he wrote in a post on X in Farsi and Hebrew.

An Iranian official said last week that Israeli embassies were “no longer safe”, sparking speculation that they could be a potential target.

Amid concerns of a broader conflict, the German airline Lufthansa, one of the few international carriers flying to Tehran, suspended flights to the Iranian capital.

On Wednesday evening, oil prices rose after a Bloomberg report that the US and its allies believed a major missile or drone strike by Iran or its proxies against Israel was imminent. West Texas Intermediate, the US marker, rose as much as 1.4 per cent to $86 a barrel.

On Thursday Brent crude, the international benchmark, rose 0.2 per cent to $90.62 a barrel.

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