AMU Intelligence Middle East Original

Iran, Israel and Various Changes in the Middle East Order

During the current war between Israel and Hamas, Iran has used the conflict as an opening to strike at Israel. Iran is attempting to force Israel into opening a second, northern front, using the shared border with Syria and Lebanon.

As a small nation with a small military force, Israel prefers to avoid expanding the conflict beyond Gaza. According to AP News, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) struck an Iranian consulate in Syria where Iranian military leaders were allegedly executing their war plans.

Of the 16 people killed in the airstrike, half were representatives of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Although Israel did not take responsibility for the airstrike, no other entity with a capable air force in the Middle East had an interest in striking that particular target at that time.

Iran swiftly blamed Israel for the attack – calling it a breach of the Vienna Convention whose provisions protect diplomatic establishments – and promised retribution.

Iran eventually launched an attack against Israel using numerous drones and missiles, most of which were shot down by Israeli and other allied defense forces. Israel responded days later with an attack of its own on Iranian soil, according to BBC News.

The Conflict Between Israel and Iran Has No Easy Solutions, Especially with Iran’s Dominance in the Region

The tit-for-tat attacks did not lead to the escalation of a conventional war that many people feared would occur in the Middle East. However, that doesn’t mean that the basis of the conflict has been resolved.

Since Iran became an Islamic Republic in 1979, it has steadily worked to spread its influence throughout the Middle East as a counter to the Arab world. Tehran has primarily relied on covert activities and the support of Shia militias to gain a foothold in areas that Iran had not controlled since its days as a regional empire.

Iran naturally latched onto the Palestine issue as one that would allow a Shia-dominant nation to insert itself into a situation that had long been dominated by its Arab competitors. With the fall of archrival Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime in 2003, Iran has come to dominate Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the point that its presence is unrivaled.

Iran’s presence in Lebanon and its support for Hezbollah has naturally brought it into conflict with Israel. Israel has been locked in conflict with various Palestinian factions since its independence and has fought Hezbollah since its founding in the 1980s.

Arab nations are following Egypt and Jordan towards normalizing ties with Israel. However, Iran and its allies will do what they can to disrupt any attempt at Arab unity, which Tehran sees as a threat to its ambitions.

Israel and Iran really saw their conflict intensify in the early 2000s, largely due to Iran’s support of regional terrorist organizations and Tehran’s drive towards nuclear weapons capability. Though this fight has been largely carried out through covert activities, both sides have an interest in developing conventional methods to deter attacks.

Iran is concerned with the potential of an attack from the U.S. and would like a counter to Israel’s nuclear capability. Israel, on the other hand, has a rather profound need for conventional deterrence, given the history of animosity found in the Middle East since the birth of Israel.

Israel and Iran are quite far apart, and many of those conventional arms are necessary for conflicts closer to home. As a result, both parties have invested in long-range weapons such as missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which can strike the other nation’s territory without overextending limited military capabilities.

Both Iran and Israel have demonstrated an ability to strike and defend using their weapons, but their attacks were meant largely as a demonstration of capability. Now, Israel and Iran will continue their covert and public campaign against one another.

Other Arab Nations Are Making Pragmatic Decisions for Their Own Security

The recent strikes between Israel and Iran, however, highlighted a shift in the Middle East order. Shortly after Iran launched their missiles at Israel, Saudi Arabia claimed that they played a role in intercepting some of those munitions according to Business Insider.

Jordan made the same claim, despite the kingdom’s rather vocal criticism of the Israeli war in Gaza. In reality, these claims are a pragmatic decision by other Arab states to not only normalize relations with Israel, but to use this new relationship for continued economic development in the region and mutual defense against Iran.

With Iran supporting Shia militias in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen – as well as Iran’s formal alliance with Syria – the other nations of the Middle East are looking for an alternative form of security. In essence, the work that started with the Abraham Accords didn’t forge a new relationship in the Middle East; instead, the Abraham Accords revealed that there is more work to be done.

Arab states do not necessarily have a newfound love of Israel and their position on the Palestinians is not dead. Instead, it shows a realistic approach in the form of cooperation against a rising adversary that has grown in influence.

Interestingly enough, this nascent relationship has the potential to improve the Palestinian situation, not out of affection but out of necessity because these Arab states cannot have Palestinian militancy undermining this cooperation. While that issue has a long way to go towards resolution, the outlines of the new Middle East order have become clear.

William Tucker serves as a senior security representative to a major government contractor where he acts as the Counterintelligence Officer, advises on counterterrorism issues, and prepares personnel for overseas travel. His additional duties include advising his superiors in matters concerning emergency management and business continuity planning.

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