The risk of a new large-scale war in the Middle East

The rising clashes between Iran and Israel in Syria have obviously increased the possibility of a new large-scale regional war. According to Israeli high-rank officials, Iran is continuing its provocations and violations for the Israeli red lines will raise the tensions level and likely turn it into an uncontrollable situation. The U.S. policy could aim to prevent such a brutal war by supporting its military presence in Syria for two critical reasons; to contain the Iranian influence in the region; to prevent a potential reviving of the Islamic State.

Meanwhile, the current U.S. administration planning to withdraw from Syria, the Iranian Israeli confrontation has recently increased and reached its highest level. The Israeli strikes against Iranian targets have become more aggressive. The Israeli air force has conducted numerous strikes in the past several months. For instance, in July Israel shot down a Syrian plane into Israel airspace over the Golan Heights, struck the Nairab air base in Aleppo and attacked several Hezbollah positions.

In addition, an Israeli strike near the Syrian-Iraqi borders on 17 July killed 52 militiamen from the Iranian backed Iraqi Kataib Hezbollah. The past attacks show Israel solid strategy of protecting its airspace, eliminating Iranian presence in the Israel borders and preventing Iranian backed entities from establishing an influence in the region.

Despite the continuous escalation of the level of confrontations neither Israel nor Iran are willing an all-out war. Therefore, the Israeli attacks have been intended to eliminate specific threats as well as Iran that behaves with a kind of restraint. According to reports, Iran’s presence in Syria is  85 kilometres away from the Israeli borders, however, Israel emphasized the needs of a full Iranian withdraw from Syria. One could say that Iran is aiming to establish a permanent military presence in Syria from which it can support the Lebanese Hezbollah and have the advantages of being close to the Israeli borders.

The escalations of the Iranian series of provocations to Israel will lead to Israeli large-scale military operation which is similar to the situation in the Israel-Hezbollah war in 2006. Today the Israeli prediction to the Iranian threats is very high in particular while Iran is emphasizing its strategic interests in Syria and its keen attempt to support Hezbollah with sophisticated weapons and an indigenous production capability. A higher precision targeting capability will change the game for Hezbollah and gives it the advantage of an effective strike into the Israeli depth, including critical infrastructure and populations centres.

A new Israel Hezbollah war with Iranian troops participating will be far larger and destructive than the 2006 war. Now Hezbollah has developed its battlefield experience from numerous operations in Syria and possesses a modern missile system with the ability of deep and accurate strikes into the Israeli territory. On the other hand, Israel will never hesitate to conduct wide-ranging air and land campaigns to attack Hezbollah positions all over Lebanon and Syria. This large-scale Iranian- Israeli potential conflict will kick off a new wave of violence in the region.

The U.S. has an immediate interest in Syria, in particular, reducing the Iranian hegemonic power in the region and preventing the reform of the Islamic state. The U.S. has engaged in multiple dissociations in regard to the Syrian matter, but a full U.S. withdrawal from Syria is not likely to occur especially while Iran is continuing its missiles supply to Hezbollah. Moreover, an American withdrawal will provide a suitable atmosphere for the Islamic State resurgence.  The solution that can reduce the risk of another brutal war in the region is that the U.S. needs to emphasise its military presence in Syria and involve its diplomatic power to contain the Iranian influence.

Ahmed Genidy
Ahmed Genidy
Independent researcher holding Master of International Relations and National Security with especial focus on Intelligence analysis. Highly interested in conflicts and security issues in MENA and an associate writer in FDI Australia.