White House will ‘wait and see’ on Iran response after attempted Israel strike

U.S. President Joe Biden holds a press conference at the conclusion of the G7 Summit, in Hiroshima, Japan, May 21, 2023. 

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

The White House is taking a “wait and see” approach in response to Iran’s attempted strike on Israel, National Security spokesperson John Kirby said Sunday, as President Joe Biden aims to cool down the situation through diplomacy rather than military action.

“I think we have to wait and see what the Israelis decide to do,” Kirby said on “Fox News Sunday.” “President Biden, since the beginning of this conflict, has worked very hard to keep this from becoming a broader regional war, to keep the tensions from escalating.”

Iran launched several hundred aerial weapons, including over 100 ballistic missiles, at Israel on Saturday, most of which were intercepted through a coordinated effort between Israel, the U.S. and other partners in the region.

“There’s virtually no infrastructure damage to Israel at all,” a senior administration official told reporters on a Sunday call.

The Biden administration has been working to de-escalate the fallout of the attempted strike, which at first seemed to have the potential to trigger full-out war in the Middle East.

“If successful, this attack could have caused an uncontrollable escalation and broad regional conflict, something we have worked day and night to avoid since October 7,” the official said.

Israel has made clear to the U.S. that “they’re not looking for a significant escalation with Iran,” the official added.

On Sunday, Biden convened G-7 leaders to discuss the Iran attack. The meeting was planned “to coordinate a united diplomatic response,” Biden said in a statement on Saturday, indicating that the White House was committed to responding through diplomacy rather than military retaliation.

During the meeting, the G-7 leaders discussed sanction measures and the possibility that other nations would join the U.S. in designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group, according to the official.

“We will continue to work to stabilize the situation and avoid further escalation,” the leaders said in a statement following their meeting.

On Saturday, Iran said its attack “can be deemed concluded,” according to a statement from Iran’s U.N. mission, hinting that the escalation might be cooling, at least for the moment.

“Should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe,” the statement added.

Tehran previously warned that it was planning retaliatory moves in response to an attack on its consulate in Damascus on April 1, which it holds Israel responsible for. Israel, in turn, vowed to “react and attack” if Iran were to go through with those threats.

On a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night, Biden said that the U.S. would not participate in offensive operations against Iran, though the U.S. is still committed to helping Israel defend itself, a senior administration official told NBC News.

“It’s going to be up to the Israelis to decide what the next step is here,” Kirby said.

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