DThe large-scale Iranian attack on Israel has been strongly condemned by Western states. The United Nations and Arab states warned of further escalation. Iran celebrated the military strike as a success.

American President Joe Biden described the attack on Israel as “brazen” and once again pledged his “unwavering” support to Israel. “Our commitment to Israel’s security against threats from Iran and its proxies is unwavering,” Biden said. Earlier, he held an emergency meeting with his team in charge of security affairs. Donald Trump accused Biden of weakness. “The weakness we've shown is incredible,” the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said Saturday at a campaign appearance in Pennsylvania. “It wouldn’t have happened if we were in office.”

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) condemned the Iranian air strikes on Israel “strongly”. “With this irresponsible and unjustifiable attack, Iran risks a regional conflagration,” said Scholz, according to government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit. “In these difficult times, Germany stands closely by Israel’s side.” The federal government will “now discuss further reactions closely with our G-7 partners and allies.” Italy called an emergency meeting of the G-7 heads of state and government for Sunday afternoon.

“Our solidarity goes out to Israel in these hours”

Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) condemned the Iranian attack “in the strongest possible terms,” which “can plunge an entire region into chaos.” On Platform X she wrote: “Iran and its proxies must stop this immediately.” “Our solidarity goes out to Israel in these hours,” she added.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak condemned the Iranian attack on Israel as dangerous and “reckless.” Sunak said: “Iran has once again proven that it is intent on sowing chaos in its own backyard.” Britain will “continue to stand up for Israel’s security.” The French government condemned the attack as a new level of “destabilization.” Tehran is “taking the risk of military escalation,” said Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell spoke of an “unprecedented escalation”. “The EU strongly condemns the unacceptable Iranian attack on Israel,” Borrell said. This is also “a serious threat to regional security”.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for “an immediate cessation of hostilities.” He said he was “deeply alarmed by the very real threat of devastating escalation across the region.” The UN Security Council was scheduled to meet on Sunday.

Isolated cheers in Iran

On the streets of Tehran shortly after the attack began on Sunday night, people with Iranian and Hezbollah flags cheered Iran's retaliatory strike against Israel. They chanted “Death to Israel” and “Death to America.” Motorcades and honking mopeds drove through the capital. However, these apparently were not mass demonstrations. “We are here to express our support for the Iranian army and the Revolutionary Guards,” one man said in a video shared online.

Cheering demonstrators also gathered in front of the British embassy in the Iranian capital that night. In Isfahan, people gathered around the grave of General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior member of the Revolutionary Guard who was killed April 1 in what is believed to be an Israeli attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus. In Kerman, in the south of the country, people also gathered at the grave of Qassem Soleimani, the former architect of Iranian military operations in the Middle East. He was killed in a US attack in Iraq in January 2020. His likeness was also carried through the streets of Tehran.

The commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Hossein Salami, said the attack was “more successful than expected.” Iran has entered a “new phase of confrontation with Israel.” According to Salami, the Revolutionary Guards are capable of carrying out a major operation against Israel. However, they opted for a “more limited and limited operation”.

Arab states warn of escalation

Arab states did not explicitly condemn the Iranian attack in their initial statements. They warned of a further escalation of the conflict.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said Cairo was “in direct contact with all parties to the conflict” and was trying to defuse the situation. The ministry also warned of the “risk of a regional expansion of the conflict”.

The Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry called on the UN Security Council to “assume its responsibility for maintaining international peace and security.” In a statement, it warned of “military escalation” and called on “all sides to exercise utmost restraint and protect the region and its peoples from the dangers of war.”

The People's Republic also expressed its “deep concern about the current escalation”. China “urges relevant parties to exercise calm and restraint to prevent further escalations,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said. The country calls on the international community, “especially countries with influence, to play a constructive role for the peace and stability of the region.”

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