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How nations in the Middle East are responding to Iran's strike on Israel

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Iran launched hundreds of missiles and drones yesterday at Israel in retaliation for an attack on the Iranian embassy compound in Syria earlier this month. Israel says, along with the U.S. and other partners, that it intercepted 99% of the Iranian drones and missiles. NPR's Jane Arraf joins us from Amman, Jordan. Thanks for being with us.

JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: Thank you, Ayesha.

RASCOE: Jane, what has Iran said about the attack?

ARRAF: Well, it said it launched four waves of attack drones, more than 400 drones. Although, Israel puts that number at about 300. And it says it's the first time it used so many and at such long range. It followed the drones with ballistic and cruise missiles. Iran made clear after the presumed Israeli attack on its embassy compound in Damascus two weeks ago that it would retaliate, so this isn't a surprise. And it's important for Iran to be seen as exacting revenge on Israel for that embassy attack. The head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said Iran could have targeted much more, but it focused on air bases it said were involved in the airstrikes in Damascus.

RASCOE: Iran blames Israel for the strike on its embassy compound. Iran has now hit back. Does this mean it's over?

ARRAF: Well, this is the first time ever that Iran has launched an attack from its territory targeting Israel itself. But there are signs that Iran doesn't want it to go any further, and the U.S. has made clear that although it will protect Israel, it doesn't want conflict with Iran either. Iran's foreign minister emphasized just a short while ago that Iran had given other countries 72 hours' notice of the strikes and even sent notice to the U.S. through other countries that it did not intend to attack U.S. targets or military bases. This is Hossein Amir-Abdollahian speaking through an official translator.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HOSSEIN AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN: (Through interpreter) We told them that our target in this defense is simply to attack the Israeli targets.

ARRAF: He said Iran was grateful to countries in the region which told the U.S. they couldn't use their air bases or airspace to counter the Iranian attacks. For all the Iranian strikes, there is only one reported casualty, an Arab Bedouin girl in the Negev injured by shrapnel. Iran, though, has warned that its reaction will be, quote, "much harsher" than this if Israel counterattacks.

RASCOE: What's been the reaction from neighboring countries?

ARRAF: Well, it complicates already difficult dynamics. For instance, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia' Al Sudani arrived in Washington for a long-awaited official visit as Iran launched its attack. The biggest Iraqi militias and political parties are Iran-backed, and Iraq doesn't fully control its border with Iran. Some of the drones appeared to have crossed Iraqi airspace, and in addition, Israel said some of the attacks were launched from Iraq itself. It's a big friction point between the U.S. and Iraq, and it will likely make ongoing talks about the future of U.S. forces in Iraq even more difficult, Ayesha.

RASCOE: And what's the perspective from Jordan, where you are?

ARRAF: Yeah, Jordan's in a really tough spot. It hosts low-profile U.S. military forces here, and it's a close U.S. security ally. But it really doesn't want to anger Iran. Jordan also is one of only two Arab countries to have a peace treaty with Israel. It said after an emergency cabinet meeting this morning that it intercepted some of the airstrikes, and Iran's state media warned Jordan that if it cooperates with Israel, it will be its next target.

RASCOE: NPR's Jane Arraf in Amman, Jordan. Thank you, Jane.

ARRAF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Jane Arraf covers Egypt, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East for NPR News.