A dangerous precipice: The Israeli assault on Iranian sovereignty

Fazal Masood Malik & Farhan Khokhar, Canada
Daniel Klein | Unsplash

The recent Israeli airstrike on the Iranian embassy compound in Damascus (apnews.com), which killed several high-ranking Iranian officials, represents a dangerous escalation in the long-simmering shadow war between Israel and Iran. This brazen attack on defacto Iranian soil, targeting the country’s diplomatic personnel, cannot be dismissed as just another salvo in this conflict. It crosses a red line and threatens to provoke a major Iranian retaliation that could engulf the entire region in a disastrous conflagration.

For too long, Israel has operated with impunity, repeatedly violating the sanctity of Iranian territory and assets. From the industrial sabotage of Iranian nuclear facilities (www.nytimes.com and www.bbc.com) to the assassinations of top Iranian scientists (www.nytimes.com and www.timesofisrael.com), a clear pattern has emerged of Israel brazenly flouting international norms to target Iran’s vital interests. These actions have now culminated in the assault on the Iranian embassy – an unambiguous attack on Iranian sovereignty itself.

The inviolability of diplomatic missions is a foundational principle of international law, rooted in centuries of tradition and practice. By striking at the heart of Iran’s diplomatic presence in Syria, Israel has shattered this norm with impunity. No nation would tolerate such a flagrant violation of its territorial integrity and the immunity of its representatives abroad. Iran, which sees itself as engaged in an existential struggle against Western aggression dating back to the 1953 coup, will almost certainly feel compelled to respond in kind.

The potential Iranian options are grim. Tehran could activate its regional proxies like Hezbollah to intensify rocket attacks on northern Israel, risking a wider conflagration. It could unleash its militia forces in Iraq and Syria against American troops still stationed there. Or it could accelerate its nuclear programme, putting it closer to the bomb that Israel was trying to prevent in the first place. None of these paths is predictable or desirable.

Compounding these concerns, Israel’s recent airstrikes killing World Central Kitchen aid workers in Gaza have drawn global censure for violating the protections afforded to humanitarian personnel, akin to the exalted status of diplomats. UN Secretary-General Guterres condemned the “unconscionable” killings, which bring the total humanitarian personnel deaths in Gaza to 196. WCK founder José Andrés decried the “deliberate targeting” of a coordinated aid convoy, calling it an assault on humanitarian efforts.

From an external observer’s viewpoint, the attack reflects an Israeli policy of ethnic cleansing, targeting anyone obstructing the elimination of Palestinians from Gaza. Amid calls for restraint and respect for civilian protection, the incident highlights the vulnerability of aid workers in conflict zones and raises serious questions about whether the rules meant to protect them are actually effective.

Ultimately, Israel’s relentless campaign against Iran, often as a proxy for broader Western interests, is stoking the flames of a regional war that could engulf the entire Middle East and beyond. The leadership in Jerusalem, as well as their allies in Washington, London, and elsewhere, must recognise that they are playing with fire. A measured, diplomatic approach focused on de-escalation is urgently needed before this conflict spirals out of control, with catastrophic consequences for all.

The world cannot afford another regional war, let alone one that risks going nuclear. The present generation of leaders has a moral obligation to find a peaceful resolution, lest future generations condemn them for their short-sightedness and recklessness. Preserving the sanctity of diplomatic missions and respecting national sovereignty are not mere abstractions – they are the foundation of a stable international order. Israel’s brazen attack has put that order at grave risk.

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