The US is bracing for a significant Iranian attack on US or Israeli assets in the region next week

Omar Sanadiqi/AP

Emergency services work on a building damaged by an airstrike in Damascus, Syria, Monday, April 1, 2024. An Israeli airstrike destroyed the consular section of the Iranian embassy in Damascus, killing or injuring everyone inside, Syrian state media reported on Monday.


Washington
CNN

The US remains on high alert and is actively preparing for a “significant” attack that could target Israeli or US assets in Iranian territory in the next week. In response to Monday's Israeli attack on Damascus It killed Iran's top commanders, a senior administration official told CNN.

Senior US officials now believe an Iranian attack is “inevitable” – a view shared by their Israeli counterparts, the official said. Both governments are frantically anticipating that an Iranian attack could play out in different ways — with both U.S. and Israeli assets and personnel at risk of being targeted — and are working frantically to get the hang of it.

The Iranian attack was a key topic of discussion on President Joe Biden's phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday.

As of Friday, neither government knew when or how Iran planned to strike back, the official said.

A direct attack on Israel by Iran is one of the worst-case scenarios the Biden administration could pursue, as it would guarantee a rapid escalation of an already volatile situation in the Middle East. Such a strike could lead to the escalation of the Israel-Hamas war into a broader, regional conflict — something Biden has long sought to avoid.

Iran vowed revenge At least seven officials were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Iran's embassy in Syria. Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a top commander of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and senior commander Mohammad Hadi Haji Rahimi were among those killed, Iran's foreign ministry said.

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At least six Syrian civilians were also killed, Iranian state television said on Tuesday.

Zahedi, a former commander of the IRGC's ground forces, air force and deputy commander of its operations, was the highest-profile Iranian target killed since then-US President Donald Trump ordered the assassination of IRGC General Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad. 2020

The U.S. immediately told Iran that the Biden administration was not involved, had no prior knowledge of Monday's strike on the embassy, ​​and warned Iran against coming against U.S. assets.

“The United States had nothing to do with the strike, and we had no prior knowledge of it,” a National Security Council spokesman told CNN earlier this week.

The United States considers its own embassies and embassies abroad, as well as foreign embassies and consulates in the United States, to have special status. The US State Department said“An attack on an embassy is considered an attack on the country it represents.”

On Tuesday, Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said the US assessment was that Israel had carried out the airstrike.

“That's our assessment, and it's also our assessment that a few top IRGC leaders were there. I can't confirm those identities, but that's our initial assessment right now,” Singh said.

Following the October 7 attack on Israel by the Tehran-backed Palestinian group Hamas, Israel has intensified its military campaign against Iran and its regional proxies.

Israel's subsequent war in Gaza has killed more than 32,800 people, according to the besieged enclave's health ministry, caused widespread destruction and brought more than 1 million people to the brink of man-made famine.

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This story has been updated with additional reporting.

CNN's Helen Regan, Hamdi Alkhshali and Tamara Kiblawi contributed to this report.

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