Iranian lift up a flag and the mock up of a missile during a celebration following Iran's missiles and drones attack on Israel, at Palestine square in central Tehran, Iran, April 15, 2024. (AFP Photo)

Israel or Iran: Who should we blame first?

The whole world has been holding its breath and watching the Israeli-Iranian tension for the last two weeks.

The whole world has been holding its breath and watching the Israeli-Iranian tension for the last two weeks.

The international community was waiting for an Iranian response to Israel’s unclaimed attack on the Iranian Consulate building after the April 1 Israeli strike on the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, which killed seven members of the Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), including two generals in charge of leading operations in Syria and Lebanon, along with six other people. Iranian officials announced that they would respond harshly to the Israeli attack.

The Iranian response came on last Saturday. Iran launched more than 300 drones and missiles toward Israel. These drones and missiles have caused only modest damage on the Israeli side since most of them were intercepted by Israel and its allies, namely the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Jordan.

What exactly happened between Iran and Israel? How has the latest tension begun? In this short piece, I will try to underline several universal guiding principles of international relations that must be considered by all states.

The whole world knows that the tension started with the Israeli attack against the Iranian diplomatic complex in Damascus. According to international custom and the basic principles of international law, diplomatic buildings and personalities have diplomatic immunity, which is one of the oldest practices of international relations.

Diplomatic immunity

Diplomats representing their country abroad enjoy diplomatic immunity throughout their diplomatic post, even during political tensions and armed conflicts. The main principles and practices of diplomatic immunity have conformed to the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, considered one of the most important cornerstones of modern international relations. The Vienna Convention, which was signed and ratified by almost all members of the United Nations, is considered one of the most successful instruments of the U.N. system.

According to the Vienna Convention, the premises of a diplomatic mission, the embassies and consulate buildings, are inviolable and must not be entered by the host country. The host country must never search the premises and cannot seize its documents or property. The host country must protect the mission from intrusion or damage (Article 22). This provision extends even to the private residences of diplomatic agents (Article 30).

After this brief legal definition, we can discuss the latest Israeli attack and the Iranian response. Targeting the Iranian diplomatic mission was a further Israeli step to expand the war to the Middle East. Thus, the Israeli government, which is under increasing pressure from the international community, including the Western people, wants to divert the world’s attention from Gaza. As a matter of fact, the Iranian attack has briefly shifted the world’s attention from the deaths of more than 33,000 people, mostly children and women, in the Gaza Strip. As a result of this intention, Israel has been targeting the Iranian proxy actors in Syria and Lebanon since the Oct. 7 attack and its brutal response.

Western countries did not even condemn the Israeli attack against the Iranian Consulate building. For instance, when asked, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has refused to condemn the Damascus consulate bombing. In other words, the attack was recorded as another red-line violation by Israel. However, all Western countries strongly condemned the Iranian drone attack against Israel. Many Western politicians have even painted Israel as the victim of unprovoked aggression. Thus, they remain totally indifferent to all of Israel’s longstanding transgressions. In spite of putting pressure on Israel to stop its atrocities in Gaza, the Western countries have increased their support to Israel.

Israel’s political maneuvers

It seems that Israel’s attempts to divert the attention of the world from Gaza and to get more support from its Western allies worked out. By providing more support, the Western countries continue to encourage the Israeli government to commit more crimes in the Palestinian lands. With all these steps, they continue to sacrifice the basic universal human rights principles and moral values, as well as their national interests, for Israel.

Israel has violated several significant principles of international law. First of all, it has violated the national sovereignty of the Syrian state. Not to mention the Palestinian lands, Israel has insistently been violating the national sovereignty of its neighbors, especially that of Lebanon and Syria. Second, Israel has hit the Iranian Consulate building, which has diplomatic immunity. Therefore, it violated some basic principles of the Vienna Convention.

On the other hand, the Iranian side, which was provoked by Israel, has explained to the world that its response was a self-defense move. Iran’s ambassador to the U.N. says his country’s drone and missile attack against Israel was an “exercise of Iran’s inherent right to self-defense.” Iran and its supporters have pointed out the double standard of Western countries, who did not even condemn Israel for targeting a diplomatic building after Iran’s attack on Israel, which Iran claimed was a response to the deadly Israeli bombing of the Iranian Consulate. Meanwhile, the latest attack was the first direct Iranian attack against Israel in response to Israel’s strike on its consulate.

All in all, the pro-Western and pro-Israel narratives continue to dominate international relations. However, watching the Israeli mass killings and targeting civilians, the pro-Western narrative is gradually losing its effect. At the U.N. meeting, many states have supported Iran. Even large segments of public opinion in the West have been increasingly critical of their own governments. Unilateral implementation or interpretation of principles of international relations and international law will no longer be accepted by the international community. The world’s Western and non-Western public opinion no longer trusts Western governments. Considering the developments in the last two weeks, it is Israel and its supporters to blame rather than the provoked Iran.

[Daily Sabah, April 17, 2024]

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