Strikes on Iran: Can one demand ‘restraint’ while funding Israel?

Biden is calling for ‘de-escalation’ in the Iran-Israel showdown while hurling money at the most unrestrained actor in the equation.

US President Joe Biden meets with members of his national security team in Washington, DC, on April 13, 2024, as Iran attacks Israel [Adam Schultz/White House via AP]

Early on Friday, Iran activated its air defence systems after reports of explosions in Isfahan province. According to Iranian state media, three small drones were shot down over the city of Isfahan.

And while no one has officially claimed responsibility for the aerial attack and the Iranian government has not assigned blame, it is not difficult to hazard a guess as to its origins, given Iran’s recent launching of hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel. This, mind you, took place purely in retaliation for the lethal April 1 Israeli strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria.

United States media outlets have reported confirmation from anonymous US officials that Israel was indeed the source of the latest attacks. For his part, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani – chairman of this week’s G7 meeting in Capri, Italy – has asserted that the US informed its Group of Seven partners that it had received a “last minute” warning from Israel re: impending drone action in Iran.

The action took place amid ubiquitous global calls for “restraint” to avoid further “escalation” in the region after the Iranian assault on Israel, which killed exactly zero people but saw Iran slammed with fresh US sanctions – something that obviously never happens in response to far more deadly Israeli behaviour.

For starters, since October 7, the Israeli military has slaughtered more than 34,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, including over 13,000 children. And while this would appear to be “escalation” enough, it merely comes on the heels of nearly 76 years of Israeli ethnic cleansing and massacres in Palestine.

Among those now calling for “restraint” in the Israel-Iran showdown is US President Joe Biden, who could perhaps make this call with a straighter face were he not the latest American head of state to be arming Israel to the hilt and thereby underwriting all manner of atrocities.

On Saturday, the US House of Representatives will vote on an additional $26.38bn in “security assistance” to Israel – aid that Biden himself has been cheerleading, writing in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece on Wednesday: “Israel is our strongest partner in the Middle East; it’s unthinkable that we would stand by if its defenses were weakened and Iran was able to carry out the destruction it intended this weekend.”

Never mind Israel’s monopoly on destruction in the area, which far predates this weekend. Rewind the clock, for example, to 2014 when the Israeli military killed 2,251 Palestinians in Gaza, among them 551 children, in a matter of 50 days. Over 22 days in December 2008 and January 2009, the same military killed about 1,400 Palestinians, 300 of them children.

Naturally, all such activity transpired with the full backing of the US.

In Lebanon, meanwhile, the US facilitated Israel’s slaughter of about 1,200 people over 34 days in July and August of 2006 by rushing bombs to the Israelis and agitating against a ceasefire.

How then, at the end of the day, does one promote “de-escalation” when one is actively hurling money at a most unrestrained actor? Replying to recent global calls for restraint, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the world for its concern and reiterated that Israel will do whatever the hell it pleases – as if we were not already aware of that.

Moreover, how does one even invoke the word “restraint” in a context of an all-out Israeli genocide in Gaza?

Not that the US itself has ever been very, um, restrained in the Middle East. Astronomical civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan come to mind – two blood-drenched locales where US aggression has made an absolute mockery of the US designation of Iran, instead, as a foremost “state sponsor of terrorism”.

In the Islamic Republic, too, the US is guilty of downright terrorism – just recall that time in July 1988 when the US navy blasted Iran Air Flight 655 out of the sky, killing all 290 passengers on board. Then there was the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s when the US assisted Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in his efforts to gas the Iranians with chemical weapons – the same Saddam Hussein, of course, who would subsequently be inflated to the role of super-terrorist to justify terroristic US efforts abroad.

And American and Israeli collaboration with the exiled Iranian Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) – for years categorised as a terrorist outfit by the US itself – only renders the whole scene all the more, well, escalatory.

Now, the US Department of State warns citizens against travel to Iran “due to the risk of terrorism” – although Friday’s drone action suggests that this “terrorism” might not necessarily be Iranian-perpetrated.

After all, as we’ve noticed, Israel doesn’t do “restraint”. And as Biden and his fellow powers that be continue to regurgitate tiresome and self-righteous calls for de-escalation in a region where the US and Israel have never exhibited restraint, we could start by de-escalating the hypocritical rhetoric.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.