Strike in Damascus Escalates Israel’s Undeclared War With Iran

Israel’s bombing of an Iranian Embassy building in Damascus, which killed senior Iranian military and intelligence officials, is a major escalation of what has long been a simmering undeclared war between Israel and Iran.

But while the strike is a vivid demonstration of the regional nature of the war, Iran has been careful since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7 to avoid a larger conflict that could threaten its own government, which is already under significant internal strain.

Iran promises major retaliation, but neither Israel nor Iran wants a major shooting war, given the stakes for both countries. Even so, the danger of a miscalculation is ever-present, as both countries press for advantage in Gaza and southern Lebanon.

The Iranian officials who were killed had been deeply engaged in arming and guiding proxy forces in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen as part of Iran’s clearly stated effort to destabilize and even destroy the Jewish state.

For Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who presumably approved such a sensitive attack, the successful elimination of such key Iranian military figures is a political coup. It comes at a time when demonstrations calling for his resignation have increased in intensity, as the war against Hamas drags on and Israeli hostages remain in Gaza.

Displaying its ability to infiltrate Iranian intelligence, Israel is trying to hit the operational part of Iran’s regional proxies, its so-called Axis of Resistance to Israel, aiming to weaken and deter them, even as the war in Gaza continues.

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