Israel, Iran Step Back From Brink, but Risk of War Rises

Experts say next phase means uncertainty, chance of miscalculations
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 19, 2024 2:16 PM CDT
Updated Apr 19, 2024 2:30 PM CDT
Even Without Escalation, Middle East Is 'More Dangerous'
People visit the Mount of Olives overlooking the Dome of the Rock at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem on Friday.   (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Iran appears to have indicated Israel's strike on Friday won't lead to a major escalation, and both nations apparently want to return to the shadow war they've fought for years instead of launching more direct attacks. But analysts and government officials say that doesn't mean the Middle East is now a safer place, per the Wall Street Journal. The countries have crossed a threshold, experts said. "We're in a new stage that is much more dangerous and precarious than we used to be in," said Brig. Gen. Assaf Orion of Israel's Institute for National Security Studies.

The recent back-and-forth broke the longstanding taboo on direct attacks, notes Reuters, one that had let proxy groups carry out the fighting. A period of uncertainty is next. "I think it's going to be very hard to completely go back, and are the sides clear on what the new rules of the game are?" said Dalia Dassa Kaye, a senior political scientist at UCLA. "When you're in that new territory where the rules of the game have changed, there's a period of testing by each side. Those weeks and months can be a very unstable moment." The cost of either side miscalculating—or just making a mistake—could be high.

This round started with a major miscalculation by Israel, US officials said, in assuming Iran would not do much after the April 1 strike on its embassy in Syria, per the New York Times. With tensions higher now and direct attacks no longer off the table, analysts say the risk of escalation is greater than it was a month ago. In addition to their internal debates about next steps, both countries are under international pressure to back off; analysts said that probably influenced Israel to make its Friday strike a relatively minor one. For one, the foreign minister of Jordan, which borders Israel, said his country "made it clear to all it will not be a battleground for Israel and Iran." (More Middle East stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.