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Is War at Hand Yet Again in the Middle East?

Hundreds of Protesters Wounded Amid Fresh Protests on Gaza-Israel Border

Rabat- Iran has probably lied about its nuclear program. But hasn’t Israel also?

It seems that the geographical name the Middle East is truly inappropriate for the region that has been unstable for over seven decades, experiencing many regional wars between Arabs and Israelis, between Iraqi Arabs and Americans, between Arabs and Iranians, and of course, Arab civil wars in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. The region should probably be renamed the Warring East instead of the Middle East.

As a matter of fact, many Arab political analysts have tongue in cheek changed the name Middle East in Arabic (sharq al-awsat) into the humiliating name (sharq al-awsakh), meaning “the dirty east.”

The Middle East is, yet again, gearing up for another war, but this time it will probably be more destructive. A new war could last longer than protagonists’ plans on paper because, once ignited, nobody will be able to stop it unilaterally. The risks are very high and the gains are probably very low.

The drumbeat of war sounds again

On April 30, 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented to the Israeli people, and by extension to the world, what he called evidence that Iran is lying. The media exercise was well-orchestrated to come just before the American campaign to disengage from the nuclear agreement with Iran and to engage in a potential war with it afterwards. The war-to-be will  be waged by America, Israel and all Saudi Arabia-allied Arab Sunnis in the region.

The conclusion was foreshadowed by an article in the British paper The Guardian, February 23, 2015, titled Leaked cables show Netanyahu’s Iran bomb claim contradicted by Mossad,” written masterfully by Seumas Milne, Ewen MacAskill and Clayton Swisher.

In the past, the Obama administration  was willing to give Iran a regional leadership role just short of becoming a nuclear power, but the current administration has other plans for the country: an Iran without nuclear capabilities and mullahs, a secular Iran that will not export its revolution or religion to neighboring countries and thereby threaten their stability.

The play within the play

In reality, Netanyahu did not come up with anything new; the whole world knows that Iran is working hard to become a nuclear power. It is no secret. It is an old dream that started with the Shah of Iran in the 1960s and continues today with open support from Russia, which wants to build an eastern coalition to counter American hegemony.

Nevertheless, it seems the coming war is fully scripted by Washington, and especially by the Trump administration. The main actors in the play are Trump himself in the leading role with Mohamed Ben Salman (MBS)  and Benjamin Netanyahu in support roles.

Since arriving in the Oval Office, Trump has been demonizing Iran and expressing willingness to pull the US out of the nuclear agreement. MBS, who recognized Israel’s statehood, joined Trump on stage to make the American-Israeli-Saudi alliance legitimate and official. In an interview with the Atlantic newsmagazine, he called the Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei Hitler, imitating President Bush’s actions before declaring war on Saddam’s Iraq. And last, but not least, Netanyahu who, “brought to light” Iran’s hidden game, appears on stage.

Now that every actor has pronounced his faith, action will probably ensue after the holy month of Ramadan. The war will be executed by America and Israel, but Saudi Arabia’s role will be to finance the effort (or, if you will, produce the play). What else can Saudi Arabia do, anyway?

Netanyahu’s speech and the previous actions of MBS in recognizing Israel and demonizing Iran is similar to “the play within the play” in Shakespeare’s  Hamlet. Hamlet’s instruction on proper delivery to the actors could be seen as Trump coaching Netanyahu and MBS.

How is the war going to unfold?

America and Israel are hoping to conduct an aerial war, short and sweet. They will bombard the strategic locations where the nuclear installations are and destroy military targets to cripple Iran’s potential to respond adequately in the initial stages of the military operation.  America and Israel are not planning to commit ground forces to avoid colossal troop losses. They are banking on crippling the enemy with a massive initial blow that will probably lead to a popular uprising in the major cities of Iran that will finish off the regime.

But Iran has another plan: a war of attrition that could be costly in human life to America and Israel, and an uprising of Shiites in the eastern region of Saudi Arabia. Iran will wage a total war. Attacks will come from Syria and Lebanon where Hezbollah will play a major role. Indeed Hezbollah’s missiles will rain on northern Israel and aim to maximize casualties.

If America and Israel are planning on a short war, Iran is planning a long and costly attrition war, which will reduce the Middle East to an inferno for a long period of time. There will be no navigation of the Persian Sea, no security in the air and no peace on land.

Iran’s strengths are:

1- Geographical depth

2- Shiite sense of sacrifice

3- Religious fervor and discipline

4- Military discipline and combat-readiness

Iran’s weaknesses are:

1- Aerial power weakness

2- Land encirclement

3- Lack of active alliances

Iranians are planning to wreak havoc on the Arab world, whom they suspect to be aligned with America and Israel. The Iranians will activate their dormant cells in the Arab world, and probably also in the West, to punish those who support the war. If Iran  has to go down the drain, they will incur as much damage as possible a la après moi le deluge.

Suzanne Maloney, deputy director of Foreign Policy and senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy and Energy Security and Climate Initiative, wrote in an article titled “After dumping the nuclear deal, Trump has no strategy for Iran” in Brookings:

“The premeditated American dismantling of an agreement that was the product of more than a decade of intense diplomacy and economic pressure marks a staggeringly counterproductive step. That it was undertaken over the vocal objections of Washington’s closest allies and without a clear strategy of mitigating the newly heightened risks of Iranian proliferation and conventional retaliation represents an abdication of American leadership on the international stage that is unparalleled in recent history.”

Expectations

The war might be destructive for Iran but that alone will not end the regime of the mullahs because they can rely on the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij to protect them from any internal uprising. So, the onslaught might diminish the mullahs’ power but it will not put an end to the theocracy at the country’s helm.

However, a weak Iran in the Middle East will be good news for Israel and its Arab allies, because it will lead to the probable downfall of Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Alawites in Syria and the Houthis  in Yemen, ultimately destroying the Shiite Crescent in the Middle East and ending Iran’s expansionist dreams once and for all.

Consequently,  Israel will come out of the painful war as the only power in the region and even as a co-protector of Arab countries alongside America. The demise of Iran will foretell the demise of Hamas in Gaza, and Abbas will take over the strip and sign, under gentle pressure, a peace agreement  with Israel. Saudi Arabia will regain its leadership of the Muslim world, but will be totally broken.

All in all, if everyone plays his cards right, Israel will probably pay the biggest price in human casualties but will undoubtedly win big, destroying Hamas, reining in Abbas and emasculating the Arabs, gaining peace in the Middle East and a huge market for its exports.

A make-believe scenario

America, Israel and Saudi Arabia are probably heading to war for fear of destabilizing a region that already has so many problems: the Palestinian problem, the Syrian conflict, the Yemeni war, etc. What if these three countries are only putting pressure on Iran to make it abandon its nuclear program entirely, without firing a single shot?

These countries are attempting to create a North Korean scenario, whereby the Americans used tremendous pressure on North Korea to make it accept talks, first with South Korea, and later with the US, in order to arrange future denuclearization.

Will such pressure bring the mullahs to their senses and make them abandon their threats towards Israel and destabilization schemes vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia and the Sunni world?

The mullahs have always been practical and sensible in politics, and chances are they will choose moderation and negotiation to avoid annihilation. If they do so, Trump will have won a political gamble, adding to his apparent present success on the Korean peninsula. These two political breakthroughs will probably ensure his reelection against the odds and will prove him right by making America great again.

The war on Iran will, probably, be costly as all wars are anyway, but in the end it will probably be worthwhile if it brings peace to the region and a new era of much-needed cooperation and goodwill.

Will the war, if it ever happens, bring democracy to the Arab world, at long last? Or will Arabs continue to prefer bread over a political system of representation and full accountability? It is difficult to see the outcome because the horizon is very hazy. Only time can tell.

You can follow Professor Mohamed Chtatou on Twitter:@Ayurinu

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial views.

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