Until very recently, I was rather optimistic that the United States and Iran would avoid a direct war.

Although Tehran may not have directed Hamas to invade Israel on Oct. 7, an escalation in the Gaza conflict was easily predictable. Given Iran’s support and backing, Hezbollah in Lebanon, various pro-Iranian militias in Syria and Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen, all would surely launch attacks against Israel and the United States.

That said, Washington has sought to minimize escalation, fearing that the Gaza conflict could spread to the entire Middle East. Iran, having no chance of defeating the U.S. in a direct fight, also fears that the Islamic republic itself could be weakened, and in a worst-case scenario, may even be in danger of collapsing. Therefore, neither of them wants an escalation.