Middle East on Edge: Iran-Israel Conflict Intensifies, Global Leaders Urge Restraint

The UN Security Council convened swiftly following Iran's unprecedented attack on Israel, warning of full-scale conflict and condemning the G7 nations' joint declaration, while Israel's Ambassador rebuked Iran's actions.

Middle East on Edge: Iran-Israel Conflict Intensifies, Global Leaders Urge Restraint
Photo Source: Launch of military missiles, by Vblinov via Pixabay, October 21, 2022.

21-04-2024

Masoumeh Rahimi

Middle East Researcher,

Global Human Rights Defence.

 

On April 14th, 2024, the international community waited apprehensively as the United Nations Security Council convened in an urgent session, following a significant escalation of tensions in the Middle East. This emergency meeting was in response to a direct and unprecedented attack by Iran on Israel, involving hundreds of missiles and explosive drones launched on April 13th. The attack, a potent retaliation against a previous Israeli airstrike on an Iranian consulate in Syria earlier in the month, marks a severe escalation in the ongoing shadow war between the two states. 

The strike by Israel on April 1st targeted a building in the Iranian embassy complex in Damascus, Syria, resulting in the deaths of several top commanders of the Revolutionary Guards of Iran.  This act, though not claimed publicly by Israel, has been interpreted by Tehran as a significant provocation. In retaliation, Iran’s operation against Israel was the first to originate directly from the Iranian state, signalling a bold departure from its usual strategy of operating through proxies.

During the UN Security Council meeting, UN Secretary-General António Guterres emphasised the gravity of the situation, urging member states to avoid actions that could further destabilise the region.“The Middle East is on the brink,” Guterres warned, highlighting the real danger of a full-scale conflict. He reminded the Council that the UN Charter bars the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, condemning Iran’s aggressive actions while calling for immediate de-escalation. 

In a display of global concern, the Group of 7 (“G7”) nations, including the United States, France, and Germany, held a virtual meeting shortly after the attack. They issued a joint declaration urging restraint and condemning Iran’s actions, which they labelled as provocations that could lead to an uncontrollable regional escalation. 

The US, expressing a firm position at the Security Council, echoed the call for accountability. “Iran’s recent actions cannot go unanswered”, stated Robert Wood, the Deputy US Ambassador to the UN. He announced that the US would explore additional measures at the United Nations to hold Iran accountable, stressing the obligation of the Council to respond decisively.

The Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, delivered a strong rebuke of Iran’s actions, showcasing video evidence of Israeli defence systems intercepting Iranian drones. Erdan’s presentation aimed to underline not only Israel’s defensive capabilities but also the blatant disregard by Iran for international norms. Contrastingly, Iran’s Ambassador to the UN, Amir Saeid Iravani, defended his country's actions as necessary and proportionate. He stated that while Iran does not seek escalation, it retains the right to defend itself. Iravani declared, “If the US or its allies initiate military operations against Iran, Tehran will respond proportionately.” 

As the world watched closely, this episode was a stark reminder of the fragile balance in the Middle East, where geopolitical tensions and historic grievances frequently intersect, challenging the international legal framework designed to maintain peace and security. The role of the UN and its member states will be pivotal in navigating this crisis as the world sees a path back from the brink of a potentially disastrous conflict.

Sources and Further Readings:

United Nations Security Council, 'Warning Middle East at Risk of Full-Scale Conflict, Secretary-General Urges All Parties to ‘Step Back from the Brink’, in Emergency Security Council Session' (14 April 2024) SC/15660 <https://www.un.org/press/en/2024/sc15660.doc.htm> accessed 22 April 2024.

]Al Jazeera, 'How Iran-Israel Tensions Have Escalated Since the War on Gaza: A Timeline' (19 April 2024) <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/4/19/how-iran-israel-tensions-have-escalated-since-the-war-on-gaza-a-timeline> accessed 22 April 2024.

New York Times, 'Miscalculation Led to Escalation in Clash Between Israel and Iran' (17 April 2024) <https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/17/world/middleeast/iran-israel-attack.html> accessed 22 April 2024.

United Nations Security Council, 'Warning Middle East at Risk of Full-Scale Conflict, Secretary-General Urges All Parties to ‘Step Back from the Brink’, in Emergency Security Council Session' (14 April 2024) SC/15660 <https://www.un.org/press/en/2024/sc15660.doc.htm> accessed 22 April 2024.

Government of Italy, 'G7 Leaders’ Meeting Following Iran’s Attack Against Israel' (14 April 2024) <https://www.governo.it/en/articolo/attack-against-israel-italy-calls-g7-leaders-meeting/25435> accessed 22 April 2024.

 Al Jazeera, 'Israel, Iran Trade Barbs at UN Meeting as Guterres Urges Maximum Restraint' (15 April 2024) <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/4/15/israel-iran-trade-barbs-at-un-meeting-as-guterres-urges-maximum-restraint> accessed 22 April 2024.

Yaron Steinbuch, 'Videos Capture Israeli Fighter Jets, Warships Downing Iranian Missiles, Drones' (New York Post, 15 April 2024) <https://nypost.com/2024/04/15/world-news/videos-show-israeli-fighter-jets-warships-downing-iran-attacks/>  accessed 22 April 2024.

'UN Security Council Convenes Amid Looming Israeli Response To Iran' (Iran International, 14 April 2024) <https://www.iranintl.com/en/202404143173> accessed 22 April 2024.

Stephen Collinson, 'Israeli and Iranian Strikes Transform Middle East Geopolitics' (CNN, 19 April 2024) <https://edition.cnn.com/2024/04/19/politics/israel-iran-strike-analysis/index.html> accessed 22 April 2024.