The West urges China to intervene with Iran amid fears of a direct attack on Israel

The West urges China to intervene with Iran amid fears of a direct attack on Israel

Iranians attend a funeral procession in Tehran held for seven members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps who were killed in an attack in Syria.

Hossein Beris | Afp | Getty Images

Western diplomats have increased pressure on China to prevent Iran from escalating tensions in the Middle East with a direct retaliatory strike against Israel.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other counterparts in Turkey and Saudi Arabia earlier this week as fears of Tehran’s retaliation against Israel grew.

Blinken called on foreign ministers to “make clear that escalation is in no one’s interest and that countries should urge Iran not to escalate,” US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said on Thursday.

“We have also spoken to European allies and partners in recent days and called on them to also send a clear message to Iran that escalation is not in Iran’s interest, not in the region’s interest and not in the world’s interest.”

Germany, whose Chancellor Olaf Scholz is visiting China next week, is also in contact with Beijing on the Iran issue, where China has influence, according to a Reuters report on Friday citing German officials.

U.S. and European officials are walking a fine line toward China, denouncing the country as a trade risk while pushing it to use its considerable diplomatic influence against countries isolated by Western sanctions.

Beijing is a key trading partner of Russia and Iran as one of the last recipients of their oil exports. The three countries are also members of the China-led BRICS coalition of emerging economies.

Iran strikes back

Israel’s war against the Tehran-backed Palestinian organization Hamas began in October after a terrorist attack by the militant group. Israel has also clashed with factions in Lebanon, Yemen and Syria that it views as Iranian proxies.

Israel’s close ally Washington has repeatedly warned Tehran against interfering in the conflict in the Gaza Strip.

Tehran, for its part, insists it does not direct the militant groups in their offensives, but has previously praised the October 7 Hamas terror attack.

Tensions heightened earlier this month when a suspected Israeli attack on the Iranian consulate in the Syrian capital Damascus on April 1 killed seven Iranian military advisers, including senior officials. Israel has not accepted responsibility for the incident.

On Wednesday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Israel “should be and will be punished for the killings in Damascus.”

“Consulates and embassies of any country are considered the soil of that country. If they attack our consulate, it means they have attacked our soil,” he said, according to the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran News Agency.

In an apparent reaction, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said that day: “If Iran attacks from its territory, Israel will respond and attack inside Iran,” according to a Google translation.

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The foreign ministers of Britain and Australia called on Iran on Thursday not to escalate the conflict.

“Today I made it clear to the Foreign Minister [Hossein] Amir-Abdollahian said Iran should not drag the Middle East into a major conflict,” Britain’s David Cameron said on social media on Thursday. “I am deeply concerned about the possibility of a miscalculation that could lead to further violence.”

Australia’s Penny Wong also said she had called on Iran to “use its influence in the region to promote stability.”

Amir-Abdollahian noted that he also spoke with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and responded to his three counterparts on social media.

He said if Israel “tramples international law and the Vienna Conventions and violates the immunity of diplomatic agents and premises and the UN Security Council.” [U.N. Security Council] “If we are unable to issue a statement condemning the terrorist attack on the Iranian embassy in Damascus, a legitimate defense aimed at punishing the attacker becomes necessary.”

The Israeli Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the statement.

“Iron” ties

Any direct attack by Iran on Israeli soil would likely increase the international impact of the Gaza conflict, which has hit markets through higher oil prices and trade disruptions caused by Yemeni attacks in the Red Sea.

The Israel Defense Forces, the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to CNBC requests for comment on the possibility of such an offensive – risking an Israeli response.

“We have established a simple rule: whoever harms us, we will harm him. We are ready to meet all security needs of the State of Israel, both defensive and offensive,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after a visit to Israel’s Defense Ministry’s Tel Nof air base, according to comments released by his office on Thursday.

Washington has expressed solidarity with Israel, although support appears to have waned slightly after Israeli strikes killed seven humanitarian workers in the Gaza Strip, which Israel later called a “grave mistake.”

US President Joe Biden said on Thursday that Iran is “threatening a major and significant attack on Israel”.

“As I told Prime Minister Netanyahu, our commitment to Israeli security against these threats from Iran and its proxies is ironclad,” he added.

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2024-04-12 15:17:39