Situation in the Middle East: Do not let retaliatory attacks escalate

If the military conflict between regional powers Israel and Iran intensifies, war will spread throughout the Middle East and the international community will be thrown into chaos. The countries concerned should devote their energies to bringing the situation under control.

Israel has reportedly carried out a missile attack on areas such as Isfahan in central Iran. The attack may have targeted an Iranian air base near the city. Although Israel has not acknowledged the attack, media outlets, including U.S. TV network ABC, reported the attack citing U.S. officials.

Details are not known, but explosions were reportedly heard in other areas such as Tabriz in northwestern Iran. Apparently in fear of an attack, Iranian authorities temporarily suspended flights at many airports, including in the capital Tehran. No deaths or injuries seem to have been reported in Iran.

The military clashes between the two countries were triggered by the bombing of Iran’s embassy complex in Syria on April 1. Although Israel has not admitted any involvement, Iran launched a large-scale attack on Israel with drones and missiles on April 13 and 14 in retaliation.

But since Iran has limited its attacks, avoiding densely populated areas, the United States and countries in Europe and elsewhere have urged Israel to exercise restraint in its retaliatory attacks. However, such advice went unheeded.

A cycle of retaliation is not in any country’s interest. Further attacks between the two will not be forgiven.

The two countries have been at loggerheads since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, and Iran has attacked Israel through pro-Iranian armed groups.

What makes this latest clash different from previous ones is that both countries directly attacked each other’s territory. If the conflict continues to escalate, it could spiral out of control.

The greatest concern is that Israel will attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. Tensions are only rising as the Iranian side has warned that it will launch a full-scale counterattack if its nuclear facilities are targeted.

In 2015, six countries including the United States and China agreed to ease economic sanctions on Iran in return for Iran limiting its nuclear program. The agreement, which brought Iran into a multilateral framework, kept tensions from rising in the Middle East.

However, after the administration of then U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in 2018, Iran is said to have decided to produce highly enriched uranium, which is more refined than is needed for nuclear power generation, causing suspicion in the international community.

The creation of a new multilateral framework should be considered, and the current fighting should be calmed.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 20, 2024)