Are conditions now compatible with a possible war in the Middle East?

ive here. I hope that informed readers can offer a less inventive reading of events in the Middle East. However, this article begins by honoring the Wall Street Journal’s bizarre report on Iran’s contemplation of attacking Saudi Arabia. Mind you, the magazine has been running bizarre reports on Russia in recent weeks, but that’s not abnormal by Western journalism standards. Iran has made clear it will only strike defensively, but it is glad Hezbollah is mixing things up for it.

As for the JCPOA, I regularly referenced this discussion that Scott Ritter had in July (see starting at 122:30), which IMHO can’t be seen very often. Iran deliberately detonated it after a provocation instigated by the United States, Ritter says, which begs the question of why anyone would whip such an apparent dead horse.

Having said that, it is not difficult to see that the Middle East is in danger of war. If nothing else, Israel has to admit that its support among the Jewish community in the United States has been waning between generations. Younger Jews sympathize less with Israel than their parents and grandparents did.

By Paul Rogers, Professor Emeritus of Peace Studies in the Department of Peace Studies and International Relations at the University of Bradford, and Honorary Fellow of the Joint Service Command and Staff College. He is the international security correspondent for openDemocracy. He’s on Twitter at: @employee. Originally published at openDemocracy

On November 1, The Wall Street Journal reported on a Saudi intelligence assessment that Iran was preparing a military attack. The motive, according to the assessment, was to divert attention in part from the widespread protests across Iran, some of the most intense and sustained in years.

The United States and some Gulf states have raised military alert levels, but nothing has alarmed the Saudis. However, it raises the question of whether there is a growing risk of confrontation, stemming from the region’s complex interrelationships in the context of parallel political developments.

For example, in Washington, the Biden administration is still trying to restore the nuclear deal with Iran that Donald Trump abandoned four years ago, while Iran is developing its missile capabilities and supplying armed drones to Russia. And Israel has elected a far-right parliament that includes religious fundamentalists who will have an influence on Israeli politics not seen in decades.

In terms of the nuclear agreement itself, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was a multi-state deal made in 2015 during the Obama administration. It limited Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons in return for some sanctions relief and was viewed as a useful if incomplete deal. Then came Trump, who withdrew from it in May 2018, also imposing further sanctions with the aim of making it harder for his successor to reverse the process.

Since then, the Tehran regime has pursued a two-track response by drawing closer to Russia, notably by providing the drones used in the current war in Ukraine, while eroding its previous commitments to the JCPOA almost to the breaking point. These commitments revolve around the low level of uranium enrichment Iran has been allowed to do and the amount of enriched uranium it can stockpile.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported that two months ago Iran already had a stockpile of uranium enriched to 55.6 kilograms of uranium enriched to a level as high as 60%, and was also increasing its enrichment capabilities so that further enrichment could produce enough uranium for making Weapons for a nuclear bomb. Within three to four weeks. The JCPOA agreement has its roots in setting this theoretical “breakout period” at one year, so Iran has basically bypassed that. But if it is accused of breaching the JCPOA, it can simply respond that Washington abandoned the deal in the first place, not Tehran.

Having weapons-grade materials is not the same as producing a bomb, which could take months, but makes it so difficult to restore the JCPOA that a Biden administration may now only implement the proposals in continuation, if the JCPOA talks are spotty.

Instead, Washington is much more focused on supporting internal human rights movements in Iran while trying to punish Iran’s oil exports.

Neither shows much prospect of success – the regime in Tehran is determined to maintain its internal control, often with great violence, while it benefits from higher oil prices, caused mainly by the impact of the war in Ukraine. It is also testing new missiles, including a satellite launcher, to remind its people and neighboring countries of its technological capabilities.

Then there are the Israeli election results, which catapulted Itamar Ben Gvir, leader of the far-right Jewish Power party, to political prominence. The Japanese People’s Party is one of several religious fundamentalist parties, but it is the most important and likely to be part of a new governing coalition, with many of its supporters confidently expecting its leader, Ben Gvir, to be Israel’s next prime minister.

Benjamin Netanyahu will form the country’s next government, but given his legal troubles, the idea that Ben Gvir could be prime minister is not far-fetched. In any case, almost any combination of leaders would produce a country that is more hardline in its actions, raising the prospect of a long-threatened Israeli attack on Iran.

If the current tensions in the Gulf intensify and war breaks out, it will likely focus on Israeli air and missile strikes aimed at inflicting as much damage as possible on Iran’s developing nuclear infrastructure, as quickly as possible.

With Israel’s new alliances with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the view from Tehran will certainly be that these countries will be directly involved in the war. It follows from this that the infrastructure of the western Gulf, especially for the production and export of oil and gas, would be early targets.

Due to the rise of the Israeli far-right, the United States under Biden may not provide initial military support to Israel, but a major Iranian attack on Saudi and Emirati oil and gas will bring US involvement in a war against Iran close. emphasis.

This in turn raises the issue of the UK’s role. Over the past 12 years of Conservative governments, the United Kingdom has greatly increased its forces “east of Suez”, including a naval base in Bahrain, large facilities at Oman’s new port of Duqm large enough to support British aircraft carriers, and attack aircraft that have been They operated from bases in Kuwait and Qatar, and a desert warfare training center for the British Army was opened in Oman

There has been little debate about the ‘Make Britain Great Again’ position but it seems likely that every attempt will be made to thwart public debate in the event of an escalation of conflict, which is likely to be made most effectively by a new National Security Bill about to move into the House of Representatives. nobles.

Another Gulf War is far from the minds of most Western politicians, as their security expectations are dominated by Ukraine, and any hint of an imminent conflict is dismissed.

But the uneasy mix of these parallel political developments is why politicians may be wrong. The Tehran regime is under severe pressure at home, with a strong possibility that this will continue, so a foreign threat is useful as a key diversion, just as Israel elects a far-right government with far-right religious factions in positions of power. Which looks with horror at the prospects of a nuclear Iran

In short, prepare for the unexpected and urge to be as careful as possible. However, one thing is clear: if the conflict does indeed develop, the UK will be involved at a very early stage – something else for Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer to consider.

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