Risk of broader regional war increases in Middle East

By Sumantra Maitra
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, April 11, 2018
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There's a lot which is understandable to the Israeli reaction of an arms buildup and having a siege mentality. A nation born through the scourges of the second world war, in a hostile surrounding preferably wants to keep the balance of power in its favor. One might not agree with Israel's policies but there's a certain logic to it. Israel has always kept its own national interests first.

A Palestinian holds a Palestinian flag during a protest near the border between eastern Gaza and Israel, on April 10, 2018. The mass protest, known as the "Great March of Return," demands Palestinian refugees' right to return to their homes occupied by Israel. [Photo/Xinhua]

From deporting migrants, to extra-judicial assassinations, to covert bombing campaigns, Israeli intelligence doesn't care what other great powers think of it and maintains an independent deterrence regardless of how much American support it receives. 

A complex system of signaling is going on through the Saudi Arabian charm offensive with the Saudi prince signaling greater support for Israel including a right for Jewish people to their own homeland. That's a remarkable shift in tone and would have far reaching consequences. That also means that the Saudi offensive in Syria against Iran would increase, as the Saudis are aligning themselves against Iran and wish to have Israel on their side. 

This will also have a splintering effect as we have recently seen in Gaza with Israel shooting dead several protesters, a lot of them claimed to be terrorists by the Israeli army. Hezbollah who are Iranian proxies, would want to test Israeli patience and that would result in provocations and bloodshed as well as further complications in the region. That's why Israeli actions in Syria, risks an overreach, and might lead to a broader war. Israel might not want it, but it will stumble onto something which it cannot control. 

On a recent raid in Syria, against an alleged Iranian weapons system and Hezbollah locations, Israel faced heavy withering fire, which led to an Israeli air force F16 crash. The pilots ejected but were seriously injured, according to Israeli reports. This proves two things. That due to decades of air superiority against minimal opposition, the Israeli air force grew complacent, and didn't expect a withering counter attack from a determined opposition. The loss of an Israeli F16 proves that the IAF isn't invincible. 

Usually a civil war escalates in two stages. In the beginning, when either side isn't sure of the other's full intention, they try to escalate as much as they can. Or else, during the dying days, when one side is almost winning. In a multi-prong proxy war, it is even more complicated. 

That is precisely where Israel stands now. This is the first time Israel lost a war plane in combat since a helicopter was shot down during the 2006 war killing all five on board. Israel then took punitive measures and raids inside Syria. "Syrians are playing with fire when they allow Iranians to attack Israel," Israeli spokesperson was quoted by the BBC adding that Israel was willing to take retributive measures but “without looking to escalate the situation.”

But what will happen when Iran is pushed too far by the Saudis and Israelis? Israeli raids in Syria have been intermittent so far, and sporadic, and Syrians or Iranians were otherwise compelled to reply. But as the axis powers now see victory in sight, they cannot just take such raids without retaliating. 

The legitimacy of a sovereign power is dependent on its retribution capabilities, and the Syrian or Iranian credibility is dependent on showing that they are capable of standing up to Israel. Similarly, Israeli raids which were based on the faulty premise that preventive strikes are acceptable against Hezbollah. But with Assad's depleted forces, it is likely that Syrian defenses are manned by Iranians and Russians. 

So, consider this eventuality. At this point in time, American and Turkish forces are facing each other near Afrin, and Russian and Iranian forces are manning Assad's air defenses. In this instance Israel continues to bomb Assad, and in retaliation loses a plane. Added to that Hezbollah and Hamas take this opportunity and attack Israel, prompting a regional wide war. 

That's a recipe for disaster. 

Sumantra Maitra is a columnist with China.org.cn. For more information please visit:


Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors only, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.

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