Iranian notice of attack may have dampened escalation risks

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WASHINGTON, BAGHDAD, DUBAI - Turkish, Jordanian and Iraqi officials said on Sunday Iran gave wide notice days before Saturday's drone and missile attack on Israel allowing mass casualties and rampant escalation to be averted, but a U.S. official denied this.

Most of the hundreds of drones and missiles launched by Iran in a retaliatory strike were downed before reaching Israeli territory, though a young girl was critically injured and the region remains braced for further escalation.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said on Sunday Iran had given neighbouring countries and Israel's ally the United States 72 hours' notice it would launch the strikes, a move that would have enabled them to largely thwart the attack.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry said it had spoken to both Washington and Tehran before the attack, adding it had conveyed messages as an intermediary to be sure reactions were proportionate.

"Iran said the reaction would be a response to Israel’s attack on its embassy in Damascus and that it would not go beyond this. We were aware of the possibilities. The developments were not a surprise," said a Turkish diplomatic source.

However, a senior official in the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden denied Amirabdollahian's statement, saying Washington had had contact with Iran through Swiss intermediaries but did not get 72 hours' notice.

"That is absolutely not true,” the official said. “They did not give a notification, nor did they give any sense of ... 'these will be the targets, so evacuate them.'"

Tehran sent the United States a message only after the strikes began, and the intent was to be "highly destructive" said the official, speculating that Iran was saying it had given notice in order to cover embarrassment at the attack's failure.

"We received a message from the Iranians as this was ongoing, through the Swiss. This was basically suggesting that they were finished after this, but it was still an ongoing attack. So that was (their) message to us," the U.S. official said.

However, Iraqi, Turkish and Jordanian officials each said Iran had provided early warning of the attack last week, including some details.

The attack with drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles risked causing terrible casualties and triggering massive Israeli and U.S. retaliation that could have spiralled into a regional confl...

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