How will Israel respond to Iran’s drone attack? Middle East experts offer views

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Nick Schifrin:

For decades, Geoff, Israel and Iran have fought one another in the shadows and through proxies, until Saturday night, when Iran launched the first ever state-on-state attack between these two countries, with more than 300 missiles and drones flown from Iran toward Israel.

That attack was a response to an Israeli strike in Damascus that killed senior Iranian commanders. What will Israel do next and what might Iran do in response?

We get two views. Eric Edelman served as U.S. ambassador to Turkey and was undersecretary of defense for policy in the George W. Bush administration. He’s now at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a research institute. And Vali Nasr was a special adviser in the State Department during the Obama administration. He’s now a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Eric Edelman, Vali Nasr, thanks very much. Welcome, both of you, back to the “NewsHour.”

Eric Edelman, let me start with you.

As Geoff just said, this attack by Iran was unprecedented. Do you expect Israel to retaliate in a significant kind of way? And should they?

Eric Edelman, Former State Department and Defense Department Official: Well, I think Israel has no choice but to respond, Nick.

This was, as you said, unprecedented, but the scale of this attack is what’s really sort of breathtaking, very large attack with both ballistic cruise missiles and UAVs, clearly meant to overwhelm Israel’s layered air defenses.

And I think it is impossible for Israel not to strike back in some way. But Israel is in a quandary, because part of its success in inflicting a pretty humiliating defeat on what is one of the main tools of coercion available to the Iranian regime was through the work of its allies, including the U.S. coordinating a lot of efforts with CENTCOM, also the U.K., France, but also Arab partners.

And Israel doesn’t want to alienate them. So the calls for restraint are clearly having an impact. The Israeli war cabinet has met, I think, four times now trying to determine exactly how to respond. And it’s a difficult decision for them.

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