Israel – Iran Conflict: The Imperative for Global Cooperation to Prevent Regional Escalation

For decades, Iran and Israel have been entangled in what is often described as a "shadow war," involving proxies, cyberattacks, economic sanctions, and aggressive rhetoric.

For decades, Iran and Israel have been entangled in what is often described as a “shadow war,” involving proxies, cyberattacks, economic sanctions, and aggressive rhetoric rather than direct military confrontation. However, recent events, such as the widely presumed Israeli bombing of an Iranian consulate in Syria, have dramatically heightened the tensions. This operation, which resulted in significant Iranian military casualties, marked a new threshold in the conflict. Iran’s subsequent direct missile attack on Israeli soil on 13 April 2024 represents a significant shift, demonstrating Tehran’s willingness to engage more openly and assertively. Although the vast majority of these missiles and drones were intercepted and neutralised by Israel’s Iron Dome air defence system, with critical support from the UK, the US, and neighbouring Jordan, the confrontation signals a precarious shift towards open aggression.

The current situation in the Middle East, particularly in Gaza, remains dire, exacerbated by ongoing military operations that have resulted in over 33,797 Palestinians killed and an additional 76,465 injured. This conflict escalated after a Hamas attack on October 7 that killed 1,200 people and took approximately 250 hostages in Israel. Now, more than six months into Israel’s campaign against Hamas, the conflict is intensifying longstanding regional tensions. The involvement of Iran-supported groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Yemen’s Houthi militants has further escalated the situation. Additionally, this new direct confrontation between Israel and Iran not only risks the stability of the involved nations but also threatens the broader region. The possibility of a “great war,” akin to the catastrophic conflicts of the 20th century, underscores the urgent need for careful diplomatic efforts to prevent further escalation and maintain stability.

This evolution from covert operations to overt conflict threatens to destabilise the Middle East’s fragile stability, risking a global crisis. The dangers are unmistakable: a full-scale military clash would likely draw in global powers, disrupt world economies, and result in massive human and material losses. The dangers of escalation are already clear, particularly in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, where Iran has already started seizing ships linked to Israel. Iran could further escalate tensions by deploying sea mines, effectively closing this critical waterway. Such an action would have catastrophic consequences for the global oil supply, leading to the  skyrocketing of oil prices. Approximately 17 million barrels of oil pass through the Strait each day, representing nearly 30% of global consumption. Restriction of the freedom of navigation in this area could trigger significant economic disruptions worldwide, highlighting the substantial risks associated with this regional conflict.

The stark truth is that in our deeply interconnected world, a war of such magnitude would leave no victors. The economic fallout alone could trigger a global recession, echoing the severe economic downturns that followed the world wars. Additionally, the potential use of not only conventional but also nuclear capabilities would be catastrophic. The human toll would be exacerbated by a humanitarian crisis characterised by violent displacement, widespread destruction, and the collapse of public services, impacting millions. Such a scenario would hit not only the affected regions but also strain the international systems of aid and governance.

Given these dire implications, the necessity for coordinated international action to prevent such an escalation cannot be overstressed. The United States, Russia, China, and the European Union—each with significant strategic interests and influence in the region—must prioritise diplomacy and collective action. The goal should be not merely crisis management but the establishment of a durable framework for peace that addresses the core issues driving hostility and competition in the region. The big and powerful countries, often seen as competitors vying for dominance, need to recognise that in a globalised world, stability in one region contributes to global stability.

Additionally, the role of international organisations like the United Nations in facilitating dialogue and negotiations is crucial. However, the UN’s effectiveness often hinges on the unity and cooperation of its member states, particularly the Security Council’s permanent members, who must overcome their rivalries to prevent the collective loss a regional war would entail. Historically, the aftermath of world wars has led to attempts to reshape international norms and institutions, from the League of Nations post-World War I to the United Nations after World War II. These were founded on the ruins of old empires and the idealistic hope that such conflicts could be averted in the future. Yet, as we stand potentially on the brink of another significant conflict, it becomes imperative to learn from the past—not to wait for war to be the catalyst for change but to proactively forge a new path toward peace and cooperation.

In conclusion, preventing a great war in the Middle East is not merely a regional imperative but a global necessity. The world’s powers must come together, not just in the spirit of avoiding conflict, but in the proactive pursuit of peace. Only through coordinated international effort can we hope to avert a crisis that promises no winners, only widespread loss and the potential collapse of the current world system. In this endeavour, the stakes could not be higher, and the need for leadership, vision, and persistence could not be more urgent.

Dr.Abdullah Yusuf
Dr.Abdullah Yusuf
Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor of Politics and International Relations, School of Humanities, Social Sciences and Law, University of Dundee, UK