Iran Just Made a Big Mistake. Israel Shouldn’t Follow.

It would be easy to be dazzled by the way Israeli, American and other allied militaries shot down virtually every Iranian drone, cruise missile and ballistic missile launched at Israel on Saturday and conclude that Iran had made its point — retaliating for Israel’s allegedly killing a top Iranian commander operating against Israel from Syria — and now we can call it a day.

That would be a dangerous misreading of what just happened and a huge geopolitical mistake by the West and the world at large.

There now needs to be a massive, sustained, global initiative to isolate Iran — not only to deter it from trying such an adventure again but also to give reason to Israel not to automatically retaliate militarily. That would be a grievous error, too. Iran has a regional network, and Israel needs a regional alliance, along with the U.S., to deter it over the long run.

So there must be major diplomatic and economic consequences for Iran, with countries like China finally stepping up: When Tehran fired all those drones and missiles, it could not know that virtually all of them would be intercepted. Some were shot down over Jerusalem. A missile could have hit al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest shrines. (You can see pictures online of Iranian rockets being intercepted in the skies right over the mosque.) Another could have hit the Israeli Parliament or a high-rise apartment house, causing massive casualties.

In other words, we are talking about an escalation without precedent in the long-running, tightly contained, shadow war between Iran and Israel that had almost exclusively been limited to targeted Israeli strikes against Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps units in Lebanon and Syria — where they have no business being in the first place — and Iran retaliating by having its Lebanese proxy militia, Hezbollah, fire rockets at Israel. We’ve also seen Iran smuggling arms and explosives from Syria into Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank to be used to kill Israelis and destabilize Jordan — and the Mossad assassinating a nuclear scientist inside Iran.

But Israel has never launched such a massive missile strike directly at Iran, and Iran had never done so to Israel, either, before this. Indeed, no country had attacked Israel directly since Saddam Hussein’s Iraq did with Scud missiles 33 years ago. Without a U.S.-led global initiative to impose sanctions on Iran and further isolate it on the world stage, Iran’s behavior would be tacitly normalized, in which case Israel will most likely retaliate in kind and we’re on our way to a major Middle East war and $250-a-barrel oil.

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