Iran says West ‘should appreciate its restraint’ after attack

European allies urge Israel against military response to Iran as war cabinet convenes

Cameron says UK pursuing new sanctions against Tehran, claims regime suffered ‘double defeat’; Macron suggests diplomatic isolation more effective than military action

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (R) talking to French President Emmanuel Macron at a press conference in Berlin, Germany, March 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (R) talking to French President Emmanuel Macron at a press conference in Berlin, Germany, March 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

The United Kingdom, France and Germany urged Israel on Monday not to retaliate against Iran after its unprecedented attack on Saturday night, warning that a military response could send the Middle East spiraling into an all-out war, as Israel’s war cabinet prepared to meet to discuss its options against Tehran.

Speaking to the BBC ahead of an expected statement by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Monday afternoon, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said that while the inclination to respond to the roughly 350 attack drones and missiles launched by Tehran was justified, Israel needs to “think with its head as well as its heart, to be smart as well as tough.”

The UK has advised Israel that it would be better off not retaliating, Cameron said, declaring that the attack was a “double defeat” for Iran in that it failed to cause major damage to Israel while at the same revealing “to the world that [Iran is] the malign influence in the region prepared to do this.”

Although the UK is pushing Israel to show restraint and de-escalate, he noted that Israel will ultimately make its own decisions regarding how it protects its citizens.

France, too, has been offering advice to Israel in the wake of Iran’s attack, suggesting a policy of isolation rather than one of retaliation, French President Emmanuel Macron told French news outlets on Monday.

The situation in the Middle East is “very unstable,” he said, adding that France is urging Israel to show restraint and remains committed to ensuring its protection.

“We will do everything to avoid a conflagration,” he told the BFMTV news channel, adding that he was scheduled to speak to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later Monday, and was in contact with other countries in the region.

Both the UK and France were among the allied countries that came to Israel’s defense on Saturday night, in addition to the US and Jordan.

Tehran launched its attack on Israel after an airstrike destroyed an Iranian consulate building in Damascus, killing several members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including two generals. Both Syria and Iran blamed Israel for the attack, although Jerusalem has not commented on the allegations.

Air defense fire interceptors during a drone and missile attack by Iran as seen over Jerusalem, April 14, 2024. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

Pushing a similar policy of isolation as France, Cameron told the BBC that the UK government is looking into diplomatic steps it can take against Iran, in addition to the 400 sanctions it has already implemented.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock added her voice to those of her French and British counterparts, telling a news conference in Paris that after it “won defensively,” Israel must now secure its victory with diplomatic means.

“Now we must prevent an escalation in the region,” Baerbock said, adding she had spoken to Iran’s foreign minister on Sunday and clearly warned him about further escalation.

In the face of the criticism and potential diplomatic ramifications, Iran on Monday claimed it had only acted in self-defense, and suggested that the West “should appreciate Iran’s restraint in recent months.”

“Instead of making accusations against Iran, (Western) countries should blame themselves and answer to public opinion for the measures they have taken against the… war crimes committed by Israel” in its war against the Tehran-backed Hamas terror group in Gaza,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said.

At the same time as its allies urge restraint and de-escalation, Israel’s war cabinet prepared to reconvene after a three-hour meeting on Sunday afternoon ended without a decision having been made as to how best to respond to Iran.

Alongside the war cabinet’s deliberations on carrying out a retaliatory attack, Israel has urged the world to punish Iran with sanctions and other diplomatic measures.

Speaking at an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council on Sunday evening, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan called for the body to condemn Iran, reimpose sanctions and designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terror organization.

“The snooze button is no longer an option. The only option is to condemn Iran and utilize every means necessary to make them pay a heavy price for their horrible crimes,” Erdan told the meeting, which he had requested on Saturday.

The United Nations Security Council meets on the situation in the Middle East at UN headquarters in New York on March 25, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)

The United States is also looking to hold Tehran accountable through the use of diplomatic force, Deputy US Ambassador to the UN Robert Wood said.

Calling for the 15-member body to unequivocally condemn Iran’s attack, he said the Security Council has an obligation not to let Iran’s actions go unanswered.

“In the coming days, and in consultation with other member states, the United States will explore additional measures to hold Iran accountable here at the United Nations,” he said, without providing specifics.

“Let me be clear: If Iran or its proxies take actions against the United States or further action against Israel, Iran will be held responsible,” he said.

Iran’s Ambassador Amir Saeid Iravani defended his country’s right to strike Israel to the Security Council, claiming that “Iran’s operation was entirely in the exercise of Iran’s inherent right to self-defense.”

“This concluded action was necessary and proportionate,” he added.

Most Popular
read more: