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Israel calls for sanctions on Iran missile program after massive attack

Iranians lift up a flag and the mock-up of a missile during a celebration following Iran's missiles and drones attack on Israel, on April 15 2024, at Palestine square in central Tehran.
Iranians lift up a flag and the mock-up of a missile during a celebration following Iran's missiles and drones attack on Israel, on April 15 2024, at Palestine square in central Tehran.

Israel called Tuesday for new sanctions against Iran as part of the response to the Iranian military and some of its allies launching an unprecedented aerial attack on the Jewish state.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said on social media that he reached out to more than 30 nations to push for sanctions against Iran’s missile program and for declaring Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organization.

The United States is one of several countries that have already designated the IRGC as a terror group. Since October, the U.S. has imposed several rounds of sanctions targeting the Iranian ballistic missile program as U.N. sanctions expired.

Israel also appears bent on exacting a measure of revenge militarily, despite pleas by world leaders for a de-escalation of the situation.

Israeli military officials said Monday that Tehran must pay a price for Saturday’s barrage of some 350 missiles and drones, many launched from Iranian soil.

The Iranian attack “will be met with a response,” said Israeli military chief Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi.

“Iran will face the consequences for its actions,” he said, speaking from Nevatim air base in southern Israel.

Israeli military officials did not elaborate on what that response could look like, though Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said it would come, “at the time that we choose.”

The tough Israeli rhetoric comes even as its most ardent backer, the United States, has urged Israel to show restraint, arguing the failure of Iran’s drone and missile barrage to inflict much damage was itself a massive victory.

"It's pretty telling that Iran launched over 300 air threats … and 99% of those were knocked down," said Pentagon press secretary Major General Pat Ryder.

The White House on Monday was even more strident.

“Israel today is in a far stronger strategic position than it was only a few days ago," White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters, noting the range of countries that came to Israel’s aid.

Britain, France, Jordan and Saudi Arabia joined with the U.S. and Israel to shoot down the Iranian missiles and drones.

"Iran's vaunted missile program, something it has used to threaten Israel and the region, proved to be far less effective,” Kirby said. “Israel's defenses on the other hand proved even better than many had long assumed."

The Pentagon said late Monday U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “reiterated steadfast U.S. support for Israel's defense and reaffirmed the strategic goal of regional stability” as he spoke with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Senior U.S. officials have said the Iranian attack on Israel, the first ever launched from Iranian soil, involved more than 110 ballistic missiles, 30 cruise missiles and more than 150 one-way, explosive aerial drones.

They said Iranian proxy forces in Iraq, Syria and Yemen also took part in the attack.

Iran, which described the Saturday assault as a success, said it was a response to a suspected Israeli airstrike on its embassy compound in Syria on April 1 that killed seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers, including two senior commanders.

Some officials from Turkey, Jordan and Iraq said Sunday that Iran shared warnings of the attack ahead of time to avoid mass casualties and to prevent hostilities from escalating further.

But Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson rejected such claims during a news conference in Tehran on Monday, saying, "There was no pre-arranged deal between us and any other side.”

U.S. officials also disputed reports that the attack by Tehran was meant to be symbolic.

“I've seen reporting that the Iranians meant to fail, that this spectacular and embarrassing failure was all by design,” said Kirby, calling such claims “categorically false.”

“Given the scale of this attack, Iran's intent was clearly to cause significant destruction and casualties,” Kirby said. “The aim was to get as many of them [missiles and drones] through Israel's defenses as possible.”

Despite Iran’s intent, U.S. President Joe Biden has told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the United States will not participate in any Israeli counteroffensive against Iran.

But various U.S. officials said Monday that Washington’s support for Israel in the face of Iranian aggression remains “ironclad,” and that U.S. military assets placed in the region to fend off the Iranian barrage remained in place should Tehran try again.

Still, concerns persist that the Iranian attack and a potential Israeli response could spark a wider regional conflict.

“We call on all parties for self-restraint,” said Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Tamim during a visit to the U.S. State Department in Washington on Monday.

“We hope escalations and tensions in the area will end,” Tamim said, adding Iraq does not want to see the region “dragged into a wider war that will threaten international security and safety.”

European officials, likewise, urged caution.

"We're on the edge of the cliff and we have to move away from it," Josep Borrell, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, told Spanish radio station Onda Cero. "We have to step on the brakes and reverse gear."

French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday, his government will do all it can to avoid an escalation of the situation between Israel and Iran.

Speaking to French media BFM-TV and RMC, Macron also urged Israel to pursue isolation of Iran rather than escalation.

The White House later Monday confirmed those efforts are already underway, with members of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations, or G7, already working on a new round of sanctions targeting industries that support Iran’s missile programs.

The G7 includes Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.

Some information was provided by The Associated Press and Reuters.