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Foreign Affairs, Part II: Iran vs. Israel

There's some pretty skilled statecraft going on right now, and it's getting very little attention from most media outlets.

As readers will recall, Israel killed a high-ranking Iranian general a little over a week ago, and did it without clearance from the U.S. or any other ally. Iran was certain to retaliate, and did so this weekend, sending 300+ missiles and drones at Israel.

The Iranian attack, despite being fairly massive, did very little damage. Indeed, most of the incoming armaments were shot down before reaching Israel, courtesy of a partnership between the Israeli Defense Forces, the U.S. Navy, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The attack was so ineffectual that it gave rise to speculation that the Iranians deliberately blew it, launching an offensive that allowed them to "save face" while not escalating tensions in the region any further. That is a little hard to accept, since wouldn't 20 missiles and drones be enough for that? Why 300? But either way, it's a feather in Joe Biden's cap. Either he persuaded the Iranians not to escalate, or he quickly put together an ad hoc alliance of anti-Iranian forces in order to defend very successfully against the attack.

And then, just as importantly, Israeli Cabinet minister Benny Gantz announced yesterday that there would be no "imminent" response to Iran's attack. This has Biden's fingerprints all over it; the White House demanded de-escalation. There was wisdom in it for the Israelis, as well, since they are not in a great position to be fighting multiple wars at once. But the White House's strong words sealed the deal.

In short, it appears that the Biden administration's diplomacy has managed to de-escalate a situation that could easily have spun out of control. The White House considered a presidential address, to let Americans know about the progress that has been made. And is there really any doubt that if Donald Trump had pulled this off, he'd be all over TV and social media crowing about it? But in the end, Team Biden decided that an address would be needlessly provocative and insulting to the Iranians, and risked undoing the good that has already been done. So, no address.

Again, that's what skilled statecraft looks like. And part of the deal, as president, is that you rarely get credit in the moment, because that's just not plausible. Maybe when you write your autobiography. Maybe. (Z)

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