02:53 - Source: CNN
Biden tells Netanyahu tonight was a win, nothing of 'value' hit in Israel
CNN  — 

President Joe Biden and senior members of his national security team, seeking to contain the risk of a wider regional war following a barrage of Iranian missiles and drones directed toward Israel, have told their counterparts the US will not participate in any offensive action against Iran, according to US officials familiar with the matter.

In a conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late Saturday, Biden sought to frame Israel’s successful interception of the Iranian onslaught as a major victory — with the suggestion that further Israeli response was unnecessary.

Biden told the Israeli prime minister in his phone call that he should consider Saturday a win because Iran’s attacks had been largely unsuccessful and demonstrated Israel’s superior military capability, a senior administration official said. The US assessed that there was “no significant damage within Israel itself,” according to a senior US military official.

John Kirby, the White House national security spokesman, said Sunday the ability to prevent widespread damage was a demonstration of Israel’s “military superiority” and proof that Iran was not the “military power that they claim to be.”

“This was an incredible success, really proving Israel’s military superiority and just as critically, their diplomatic superiority, that they have friends in the region, that they have around the world that are willing to help them,” Kirby told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin asked his Israeli counterpart, Minister Yoav Gallant, to notify the US ahead of any potential response to the Iranian attack, according to another US official.

Even as American officials stressed to their counterparts that the final decision on how to respond to Iran is up to Israel, Biden has sought to prevent a wider escalation of the conflict.

On Sunday, Biden met with his fellow Group of Seven leaders to discuss a “united diplomatic response” — with the emphasis on non-military actions that would limit the prospects of a wider war.

In a joint statement released after the virtual meeting, the G7 members condemned “in the strongest terms” Iran’s “direct and unprecedented attack” against Israel and expressed their “full solidarity and support to Israel and its people and reaffirm our commitment towards its security.”

“With its actions, Iran has further stepped toward the destabilization of the region and risks provoking an uncontrollable regional escalation. This must be avoided,” the G7 statement said.

A senior administration official later described the convening of leaders and their discussion about Iran as “constructive” and stressed ongoing support for Israel.

“We are committed to defending Israel. We would not be a part of any of any response they do. That’s very consistent policy,” the senior administration official said.

Israeli Prime Minister's Office
In this handout photo, released early Sunday local time, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks on the phone with US President Joe Biden. Portions of this photo have been blurred by the source.

Whether Netanyahu takes Biden’s advice remains an open question. The Iranian reprisals came at a moment of deep tension between the men over the war in Gaza. Throughout that conflict, the limits of American influence on Israeli decision-making have been laid bare.

Israel told the United States that it’s not “looking for a significant escalation with Iran,” the senior Biden administration said Sunday.

“The president was very clear that we’re going to help defend Israel, and he made very clear to the prime minister last night that we do have to think carefully and strategically about risks of escalation,” the senior administration official said.

Iran’s decision to fire weapons from its own territory toward Israel significantly ratchets up the long-simmering enmity between the two countries. There will likely be political pressure from inside Israel for some type of response.

Kirby said the attack — the first launched from Iranian soil against Israel — did not necessarily have to constitute the start of a broader regional war.

“We don’t believe it is nor do we believe it has to be,” he told Tapper, noting that the US and Israel both had a good sense of what Iran was planning to do ahead of time.

Gallant warned Sunday that the confrontation with Iran is “not over yet.” The country’s response options are expected to be discussed in detail during a meeting of Israel’s war cabinet meeting.

The Commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Hossein Salami, warned that Tehran would respond directly if Israel retaliates, saying a “new equation” had been created.

Tense moments in the Situation Room

Biden gathered Saturday with his national security team for “real-time updates” on Iran’s attack against Israel – at times leading to “tense moments” in the White House Situation Room.

One of those tense moments occurred when over 100 ballistic missiles were in the sky, with a short travel time to Israel.

“The results of the defenses, of course, were unclear until all was said and done. As the results of the defenses came in, which is when we knew that preparations and planning had succeeded, there was a bit of a relief,” the senior administration official said.

US officials have touted ongoing preparations ahead of Iran’s attack, which had been anticipated since a suspected Israeli strike on an Iranian diplomatic complex in Syria earlier this month.

Preparations ahead of Saturday’s attack started “nearly two weeks ago,” the senior administration official said, and involved a force posture adjustment, and ongoing discussions with Israelis and other partners in the region, among other measures.

After the White House determined Saturday’s attack was largely defeated, Biden connected with Netanyahu.

Biden has continued to be routinely updated, according to officials. On Sunday morning, the president again gathered his advisers in the Situation Room, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer, and Mideast coordinator Brett McGurk.

This story and headline have been updated with additional reporting.

CNN’s Sharon Braithwaite, Radina Gigova, Catherine Nicholls and Tamar Michaelis contributed to this report.