Putin shared surprising advice with Iranian counterpart following unprecedented attack on Israel

Russian President Vladimir Putin joined international calls for cool heads in the Middle East as tensions remain high following Iran’s unprecedented attack on Israel over the weekend. 

‘Vladimir Putin expressed hope that all sides would show reasonable restraint and prevent a new round of confrontation fraught with catastrophic consequences for the entire region,’ the Kremlin said in a readout of a call with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, according to a translation by The Moscow Times.  

‘Ebrahim Raisi noted that Iran’s actions were forced and limited in nature: At the same time, he stressed Tehran’s disinterest in further escalation of tensions,’ the Kremlin added. ‘Both sides stated that the root cause of the current events in the Middle East is the unresolved Palestinian-Israeli conflict.’ 

‘In this regard, the principled approaches of Russia and Iran in favor of an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, easing the difficult humanitarian situation, and creating conditions for a political and diplomatic settlement of the crisis were confirmed,’ the Kremlin concluded, adding that the call discussed ‘in detail’ the airstrike on Iran’s consulate in Damascus.

On Saturday night, Iran launched hundreds of drones and a mixture of cruise and ballistic missiles in retaliation for strikes against its diplomatic mission, or, as other reports claim, an adjoining Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) compound in Damascus. 

The strike killed seven IRGC members, including Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi, the senior commander of the forces since the assassination of Gen. Qasem Soleimani in 2020.

Israel never took credit for the strike, but other countries, including the United States, attributed the attack to the Jewish state. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly wanted to retaliate directly, but he changed his plans after President Biden told him to ‘take the win’ and stressed the U.S. would not support any direct response to Iran’s strike. Instead, Israel struck Hezbollah sites in southern Lebanon. 

However, Israel continued to stress a desire and intent to retaliate against Iran, with Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant telling U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Sunday that Israel had no choice but to respond. 

The Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) Chief of Staff Gen. Herzi Halevi added on Monday that ‘Israel is considering next steps’ and that ‘the launch of so many missiles and drones to Israeli territory will be answered with retaliation,’ Axios reported. 

The insistence on retaliation, despite pressure from Israel’s closest and arguably most vital ally to do otherwise, continues to worry the international community. 

‘The Middle East is on the brink,’ United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres told a Security Council meeting called on Sunday in response to the strikes. ‘The people of the region are confronting a real danger of a devastating full-scale conflict. Now is the time to defuse and de-escalate.’ 

Biden has continued to increase his pursuit of a ceasefire deal, telling Iraq’s prime minister that the U.S. is ‘committed to a ceasefire that will bring the hostages home and prevent the conflict from spreading beyond what it already has.’

‘The United States is committed to Israel’s security,’ the president said, according to a readout of the phone call. White House national security communications spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that the president is ‘certainly not looking for a war with Iran, and I am confident that Prime Minister Netanyahu is aware of the president’s concerns.’ 

Reuters contributed to this report.

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