Regional war in the Middle East

BOTH the US and the Axis of Resistance do not want an escalation of the Gaza war into a regional war, as this could lead to a world war with millions killed and untold damage to the world economy.

There seem to be a “tacit understanding” between the US and the Resistance not to attack (read: sink) or kill each other’s military assets and personnel so as to prevent the kind of escalations that lead to a regional war.

That is why despite escalations occurring all over the high seas in the Middle East, the feared regional war did not happen.

This is because there is no loss of American or Resistance’s lives in the escalations that had happened so far.

All these escalations have at its root the deep angst against the genocide of the Palestinians by Israel in the Gaza war, and its refusal to comply with both the UN General Assembly and Security Council resolutions for a permanent humanitarian ceasefire.

Gaza is now in a state of humanitarian disaster with all, especially children, suffering from acute hunger while being homeless and facing the threat of spreading diseases.

The world as a whole is giving the Gazans a deafening silence to its plea for mercy and assistance, with heart-wrenching pictures that speak vividly of their sufferings published by the media.

While all this is happening, Israel is even talking openly of an ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians when it said it was negotiating with some countries (Congo is mentioned) to accept the “resettlement” of the Gazans in these faraway places from the place they called home.

On New Year’s Eve, the US navy sank three Yemeni boats killing 10 Huthi fighters on the high seas in the Middle East.

This is not the first time such a confrontation occurred but it marked the beginning of an escalation to a regional war due to the sinking of the boats and the loss of lives.

The US itself immediately understood this and quickly announced the next day the repatriation of USS Gerald Ford back home to Norfolk, Virginia.

Earlier, on November 27 when the USS Eisenhower transited through the Strait of Hormuz and into the Persian Gulf, it was within striking distance of Iran.

Some military analysts at the time were concerned the Biden administration may succumb to the wish of the neoconservatives to strike Iran by raining down cruise missiles from the ship.

Some parties in the US are gunning for a war with Iran notable among them Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and former national security advisor John Bolton.

Graham made it clear he wanted the Biden administration to go to war with Iran in order to cut the head of the snake of the Resistance.

But to its credit, the USS Eisenhower sent a clear message to Iran about American intentions to defend maritime security, and not to attack Iran.

While the world is bracing for the expected response from the Resistance in the sinking incident, the unexpected happened.

Deputy leader of the Hamas Political Bureau, Saleh al-Arouri, was killed in a drone attack in Lebanon which bore the hallmark of an Israeli operation.

This was followed by a huge blast in Iran killing so many people near General Qassem Solemani’s tomb who was killed in 2020.

Arouri’s assassination was in a way the “expected unexpected” in the sense that in August, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had threatened to assassinate him.

In response, Arouri answered: “Abu Ammar [Yaser Arafat] was martyred along with Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and all the leaders of Hamas. Abu Ali Mustafa [PFLP leader] and thousands of martyrs. Our blood and souls are not more precious or more valued than any martyr. First and last, the martyr who preceded us is superior to us.” 

Amid Israel’s fear of retaliation, especially among the illegal settlers in northern Israel, the retaliation was swift when Hezbollah bombed numerous Israeli military sites.

Judging from the fiery statements of Iran supreme leader Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, it really looks like a regional war has already occurred.

But it is a totally different matter whether this regional war will involve world powers such as Russia, China or India.

Nasrallah, while emphasising the group’s commitment to protect Lebanon from Israeli aggression, also said of the willingness and capability to wage a war “without limits” against Israel if necessary.

Noting that Israel’s strength relies on its “ability to terrorise”, he also said this ability started to weaken when Hezbollah expelled Israeli forces from southern Lebanon in 2000 and weakened further after Hezbollah inflicted defeat on Israel during the July War in 2006.

After the 2006 war, he added, Israel declared the next war would be short, quick, and victorious. But now after three months of military operations in Gaza, nothing has been quick, no achievements have been clear, and nothing has been victorious.

He detailed how there was a discussion in Israel’s war cabinet in which an Israeli general said he twice told Netanyahu not to open a war with Lebanon because it would lead to the destruction of two-thirds of Israel.

“In the past, just one of the operations we regularly carry out along the border against Israel would have caused Israel to open a full scale war against us. Why has it not done so after hundreds of such operations? Because Lebanon is strong.

“But what happened yesterday was dangerous and criminal and this crime shall not pass without retaliation, and there are between us days and nights,” Nasrallah said in a reference to the killing of Arouri in the Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh.

“So far, we have acted with restraint for the sake of Lebanon’s interests, but if Israel insists on starting a war with us, then Lebanon’s interests will demand that we fight to the very end, with no limit,” Nasrallah said.

The escalation is not in the interest of Israel but it is in the interest of Netanyahu, as it will prolong the Hamas-Israel war that affords him the premiership as a protection against going to jail for his massive corruption charges.

Things escalated further when on January 4 when the US military carried out a strike in Baghdad against an Iraqi militia leader it blames for attacks against US forces in the country, killing him and another person.

A day before that, Washington and its 13 allies in the naval coalition of the willing had issued a final ultimatum to the Ansarallah, warning them to cease their attacks in the Red Sea or suffer the “consequences”.

“Let our message now be clear: we call for the immediate end of these illegal attacks and release of unlawfully detained vessels and crews. The Huthis will bear the responsibility of the consequences should they continue to threaten lives, the global economy, and free flow of commerce in the region’s critical waterways.”

The next day Yemen showed its defiance by detonating an unmanned naval vessel in the Red Sea – the first incident of its kind which could pose a clear and present danger for the US naval fleet.

Instead of de-escalating the situation after its major move on December 31 by sinking Yemeni ships, the US seems to revel in further escalations by killing a Resistance leader in Iraq and issuing a final ultimatum to the Huthis.

In fact some say the carnage in Iran could be a false flagged US operation in which the terror group Isis has claimed credit.

And to top it all, in a dramatic irony, the White House is worried the conflict in Gaza could expand to other parts of the Middle East and is drawing up plans for a possible US response if that happens, Politico reported, citing informed officials.

Internal discussions are underway in the Biden administration about scenarios that could see Washington drawn into a major war in the region, the outlet said in an article on January 4.

The potential for a wider conflict in the Middle East is growing, said sources including a senior Biden administration official.

The events of the past few days “have convinced some in the administration the war in Gaza has officially escalated far beyond the strip’s borders,” Politico wrote.

It looks like if last year the theme of global events was the failure of the US and its allies to anticipate and expect the unexpected, just a few days into the new year, the US seems to be able to do this.

And it did this in a very proactive way in “staging and dramatising” the unexpected.

Whether this could hasten the end of the US empire only time will tell. – January 11, 2024.

* Jamari Mohtar reads The Malaysian Insight.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

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