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Since the Israeli attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus on April 1, the war of words between the two countries has shown no signs of abating. While US officials fear an imminent retaliation, calls for calm are rising around the world.

Since the Israeli attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, which left 16 people dead, including seven members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran has not ceased its escalation against the Hebrew state.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, threatened on April 2 that Israel would be “punished” for the attack. He has reiterated his threats on April 10, echoed by several of his subordinates.

A source familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday that an attack from Iran targeting northern or southern Israel was expected within the next 24 to 48 hours. Additionally, on Friday, two US officials told CBS that they expected an Iranian attack on Israel the same day, involving “more than 100 drones and dozens of missiles.”

What form could such a response take?

Speculation abounds regarding the form of the Iranian response. Among the options being discussed, a direct attack on Israeli territory remains the most concerning for Israeli and American military leaders. According to The Wall Street Journal, the IRGC has already presented several options to Khamenei. Among them, the one reported by CBS.

The origin of an attack remains speculative, however. It could be launched from Iraq, southern Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, or even directly from Iranian territory – or from multiple locations simultaneously. It is worth noting that Damascus has categorically denied any retaliation from its soil.

However, the Iranian response may not manifest on Israeli territory but on Israel’s interests abroad. Israeli diplomatic missions and similar institutions constitute prime targets for a “fitting” response to the April 1 attack. This could also involve an attack on the Israeli military apparatus abroad.

US-Israeli retaliation

Regardless of the form of this response, Israeli and American officials have shown unity in the face of it. On Wednesday, April 10, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, then President Joe Biden reaffirmed their support for Israel against Iranian threats.

These statements have been followed by others. A US official cited by Al-Jazeera indicated on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity, that the United States would help intercept Iranian rockets or drones targeting Israel. He also noted that Washington could assist Israel in responding to any direct attack from Iran, although the details are unclear.

In parallel, the head of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), General Michael Kurilla, arrived in Israel on Thursday. His presence is intended to allow the two countries to coordinate their actions against Iranian threat.

It is worth noting that Israel has previously directly attacked Iran on its territory several times, including by assassinating many scientists linked to Tehran’s nuclear program between 2010 and 2020.

Media escalation intensifies

While awaiting a potential Iranian response, the media space remains the preferred battleground for the belligerents. Iran continues to make public threats.

“Consulates and embassies of any country are considered the territory of that country. By attacking our consulate, they attacked our territory,” said Khamenei on Wednesday, as quoted by the Mehr news agency.

For his part, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, on April 11, stated on X that “legitimate defense with the aim of punishing the aggressor becomes a necessity” in response to the Damascus attack, following a call with his German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock.

These threats have not gone unanswered. “If Iran launches an attack from its territory, Israel will retaliate and attack Iran,” responded Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz, speaking in Persian on April 10, after the latest statement by the Iranian Supreme Leader.

“Whoever harms us, we will harm them.” “We are ready to meet all the security needs of the State of Israel, both defensively and offensively,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared.

Meanwhile, the White House indicated on Thursday that it had “warned” Iran, while Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone with his Chinese, Turkish, and Saudi counterparts, urging them to pressure Tehran against any attacks on Israel, according to the State Department.

Behind the posturing, calls for calm

The verbal escalation in the media masks a much more cautious approach, with a clear desire for de-escalation. Behind American warnings and Iranian posturing, both sides have opened indirect channels to defuse the situation, according to a US official speaking on condition of anonymity.

On the Iranian side, Khamenei fears that a direct strike on Israel could lead to a miscalculation if Israel launches a massive attack on Iranian infrastructure. “The attack plan has been presented to the Supreme Leader, and he is studying the political risk.”

The example of the call made by Baerbock to Amir-Abdollahian, in which she urged Tehran to show restraint, is part of this dynamic. The United States hopes that this diplomatic tug-of-war, along with strong messages of solidarity and support for Israel, will further dissuade Tehran from taking action. Other actors not tied to Washington, such as the Kremlin, have also called for reducing in tensions.

However, some elements suggest that Iran has taken heed of American warnings. During his visit to Oman on April 7, Amir-Abdollahian conveyed a message to Washington that Iran would not act hastily but would respond to Israel’s attack in a way that avoids major escalation, Reuters reported. Another factor supporting this idea is the upcoming visit of the Iranian foreign minister to the United Nations headquarters in New York next week, which has so far remained scheduled.

Meanwhile, Argentine justice recognized on Friday that Iran, through Hezbollah, instigated the attacks carried out against the Israeli embassy in 1992 and the Israeli mutual aid association AMIA in Buenos Aires in 1994. This announcement is seen as additional diplomatic pressure against the Islamic Republic, with the current Argentine leader, Javier Milei, not hiding his sympathy for Israel.