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Why are Israel and Iran on the brink of war?

Did Iran fall into Israel’s trap when it attacked on Saturday, or did it outmanoeuvre Netanyahu? Are we on the brink of regional war, or can the US contain the spill?

When Israel bombed an Iranian embassy compound in Damascus on 1 April, killing top Iranian commanders, many saw it as bait laid out by Benjamin Netanyahu to force a direct confrontation that would drag the US into a wider regional conflict. More isolated than ever on the world stage after six months of brutal war in Gaza, Israel needed a distraction.

Iran vowed to respond, and despite warnings from US President Joe Biden, launched a large-scale drone and missile attack on Israel, the first direct confrontation with Israel after decades of proxy aggressions between the two adversaries.

Most of the attack was thwarted by the US and Israel’s aerial defence systems, with the help of British and French air power as well as, surprisingly, Jordan. It was an incredibly expensive show of defensive force that sent a message to Israel’s enemies, but also potentially exposed a contingency strategy the US had in place for years against Iran.

The aftermath of the attack, which Iran declared a victory, left the region and the world reeling, fearing what could be the first spark in a much-feared regional war spilling out from Gaza - one that Israel had at times provoked, but that all its neighbours, as well as the US and even Iran itself, had desperately tried to avoid.

In this episode of The Big Picture, we sit down with Middle East Eye’s editor-in-chief David Hearst to talk about whether Iran’s attack was a stroke of strategic shrewdness, or if it played directly into Israel’s hands.

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