A Lull Before The Storm
West Asia or Middle East has remained uncharacteristically quiet for some time during the second wave of COVID-19 Pandemic, except for the 11-day Israel-Palestine conflict. Perhaps, it is because of the Joe Biden Administration’s relentless effort to shift the centre of gravity of its international security concerns to the Indo-Pacific Region. Although the conflict between Israel and Palestine diverted the attention of the Global Community in May 2021, a section of experts has expressed serious concern over the evolving situation between Iran and Israel that seemingly bears a greater strategic significance in the region with unpredictable consequences. In fact, the Gaza tension is also connected to the Iran-Israel standoff in various ways. Some Geopolitical Strategists have predicted a war-like situation between the two Regional Powers in the near future.
Caretaker Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu recently said that he was ready to risk friction with the US over Iran. Speaking at an event in Jerusalem in the first week of June, Bibi stressed: “If we have to choose, I hope it doesn’t happen, between friction with our great friend the US and eliminating the existential threat, eliminating the existential threat wins.” He made the statement when asked whether he was prepared to risk tension with the US to neutralise Iran’s nuclear capabilities. He admitted that Israel’s greatest threat remained the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran. At the same time, Netanyahu made it clear that Israel was fully prepared to prevent it from happening even if the US and other Global Powers succeeded in reinstating the 2015 Iran Nuclear Accord.
It may be noted that Iran had accused Israel of being behind a number of attacks, killing Iranian nuclear scientists or sabotaging Iranian nuclear facilities. Although the Israeli PM made no comment on the Iranian allegation, he stated that the Iran nuclear deal should address Tehran’s support for militant groups, its military actions across the region and its development of long-range missiles capable of striking the Jewish Nation.
For long, Mossad, the national intelligence agency of Israel, has been claiming that the Palestinian Hamas Movement receives millions of dollars of military aid from Iran each year. Still, Israel is yet to take any military action against the Islamic Republic, as the former knows that Iran is a tough nut to crack. Israel’s fatal weakness against Iran’s Axis of Resistance has been exposed, due to the former’s military doctrine that assumes periodic ‘wars between the wars‘ in its confrontation with Iran and its proxies, Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas outfits. However, it’s failing… with each round of fighting, Israel’s strategic position erodes even further.
Meanwhile, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a fresh warning to Israel, saying that Israel is “not a country, but a terrorist base“. Delivering a speech on al-Quds Day – an annual show of solidarity with the Palestinians, Khamenei stressed that the Islamic Republic would never recognise the Jewish State, and would always support the Palestinian cause, apart from backing armed groups, such as Hamas and Hezbollah. He further admitted that it has long been a pillar of Iran’s foreign policy. “Fighting this despotic regime is fighting oppression and terrorism, and (doing so) is everyone’s duty,” he told the audience.
Khamenei strongly criticised Israel’s attempt to normalise ties with “some weak Arab Governments” in 2020, saying that these were attempts to undermine the Israeli “nightmare of Muslim unity“. As Israel has normalised ties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan in recent months, the Supreme Iranian Leader said: “I say this decisively: these attempts will get nowhere.” Khamenei also urged the Palestinians to continue their resistance and the Muslim Governments to support them. “The decline of the enemy Zionist regime has begun and will not stop,” he warned.
According to experts, as it is not possible for Israel to get involved in an armed conflict with Iran, Jerusalem would continue the Cold War with Tehran. In a changing regional geopolitical landscape, the two other regional powers – Saudi Arabia and Turkey – could also join hands with Iran, creating more trouble for Israel. Bibi is not in a position to accept such a challenge!
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