White House touts ‘extraordinary success’ against Iran’s Israel attack but doesn’t want ‘wider’ war

Written by on April 14, 2024

ABC News

White House spokesperson John Kirby on Sunday praised the “extraordinary success” of Israel’s defense against a massive drone and missile attack unleashed by Iran on Saturday night but said that the U.S. does not want to see further escalation between the two nations or a broadening battle in the Middle East.

Kirby told ABC News “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos that the capabilities exhibited on Saturday underscored the “unprecedented sense of resolve and determination and military capability” by the U.S., Israel and other allies.

“It should tell everybody else that Israel is not alone, that this was a coalition put together to help Israel defend itself,” Kirby said. “Iran is just increasingly further isolated in the region.”

Still, he conceded that more will only be known “in the coming days” about how the long-simmering conflict between Israel and Iran progresses after Iran’s direct attack on Israel in retaliation for the bombing of Iran’s consulate in Damascus, Syria, earlier this month.

The Damascus strike, which Iran said killed top Iranian military officials as well as others, was blamed on Israel, who has not publicly commented. The Middle East has already been unsettled by an ongoing, six-month-old war between Israel and Hamas, sparked by Hamas’ October terror attack.

“The president has been very clear, publicly so: We don’t seek a war with Iran,” Kirby said on “This Week.” “We don’t seek an escalated tensions in the region. We don’t seek a wider conflict. And everything he’s been doing, literally since the seventh of October, has been designed to that outcome.”

Those remarks come after Iran launched more than 300 drone and missiles at Israel, Israeli officials said, marking the first time such an attack has emanated directly from Iranian territory rather than through its proxies elsewhere in the Middle East. The Israeli military said that 99% of the bombardment was intercepted, many outside of Israeli airspace.

While Iranian officials celebrated the barrage, minimal damage was recorded inside of Israel, according to Israeli officials. A 10-year-old girl injured by shrapnel is the only casualty recorded thus far, and a military base in southern Israel suffered minor damage but is still operational.

“However, it is important to say — the event is not over. We remain prepared and ready for further developments and threats,” military spokesperson Daniel Hagari said in a statement.

Iran’s retaliation had been forecasted for weeks and Iranian officials stressed afterward that the country “has no intention” of further operations, which it described as a proportional response to the strike in Damascus.

With the attack failing to do significant damage to Israel or its military capabilities, Kirby indicated on “This Week” that the White House would prefer to keep the situation from spiraling out of control.

Referring to President Joe Biden, Kirby said, “Everything he’s been doing since Oct. 7 has been to try to keep this from becoming a wider regional war. And he pre-positioned forces, even in the last few days, destroyers and fighter squadrons into the region to help Israel defend itself to keep it from becoming a wider war, to keep it from escalating further.”

It is still unclear precisely how Israel plans to respond to Iran.

Kirby told Stephanopoulos that Biden’s message to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been simple regarding threats from Iran: “He congratulated the prime minister on an extraordinary achievement and success last night, but also to reiterate that the United States is going to continue to help Israel defend itself. That’s a commitment going back many, many administrations and the president believes wholeheartedly in it.”

Kirby rebuffed criticism of Biden by rival Donald Trump that the president is inept on the world stage, leading to foreign crises. Kirby pointed to Biden traveling to Israel soon after its war with Hamas began as well as to how the U.S. had helped marshal defensive operations for Israel.

“That’s leadership not just in the world, but it shows the power of American leadership around the world,” Kirby said.

Stephanopoulos also asked Kirby about negotiations for hostages thought to still be held by Hamas during the war in Gaza, which is ongoing while Israel defends itself against Iran.

Kirby said the White House hopes Hamas takes a deal that was put on the table, though it is still unclear if Hamas intends to do so and how many living hostages it has to trade. In exchange, the fighting would be paused for more than a month to allow for more aid and support for civilians in Gaza.

“Hamas needs to take that deal. It’s a good deal. It will get those hostages out, at least the first tranche — elderly, sick, women — and it’ll give us what will be about a six-week cease-fire to allow for an increase in humanitarian assistance. It’s time now to move that forward,” Kirby said. “It’s up to Hamas.”

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