October 21, 2023 | Daily Mail
How War Could Engulf the Entire Middle East
October 21, 2023 | Daily Mail
How War Could Engulf the Entire Middle East
Years from now, historians may look back on October 7, 2023, as the dark day that triggered an unescapable descent to global war.
For from the moment Israel rose to its self-defense in answer to a savage Hamas terrorist attack, Washington DC must have recognized the awful potential of this conflict to engulf the entire region – and perhaps, most terrifyingly, the world.
Now, as a heavily armed, Iranian-trained terror army eyes a full-scale bombardment of the Jewish State from Lebanon, there is an undeniable nightmare scenario looming just beyond Israel’s borders.
It’s a terrible chain of events kicking off with tens of thousands of Hezbollah rockets raining down on Israel, provoking increasingly destructive rounds of counterattack and escalation, and pushing the small nation of 9 million to its breaking point.
Drawn by the prospect of realizing their dark apocalyptic vision of the complete and utter destruction of Israel, the Islamist mullahs of Tehran activate their terrorist proxies from Syria to Iraq and beyond.
U.S. forces across the Middle East are attacked.
Oil trade is ground to a halt by the Iranian Revolution Guard chocking off the viral Strait of Hormuz.
And the Islamic Republic itself unleashes hundreds of long-range missiles on Tel Aviv, straining missile defense systems and compelling America to enter the fray before all is lost.
How this dreadful specter ends is anyone’s guess. It’s no wonder President Joe Biden has ominously warned, ‘any country, any organization, anyone thinking of taking advantage of this situation,’ to back off.
‘Don’t,’ said the president. ‘Don’t.’
The veiled threat was surely directed at Iran, as America deployed two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers – the USS Gerald Ford and USS Dwight D Eisenhower -to the eastern Mediterranean Sea along with the carriers’ supporting strike groups.
That is a lot of firepower.
The real question is whether Biden is prepared to use it and if an overwhelming show of American might alone will convince the Iranian puppet masters to restrain their agents of chaos.
The alternative – as it is detailed below – is nearly unthinkable…
TERROR ARMY ON ISRAEL’S BORDER AWAITING SIGNAL TO STRIKE
Skirmishes in the mountainous terrain of Israel’s northern border with Lebanon have already begun.
On Tuesday, Israeli forces said they killed four Hezbollah gunmen attempting to cross into Israeli territory. Later in the day, Hezbollah fired anti-tank missiles across the border, injuring three civilians.
For now, one cannot say whether these are preludes to full-scale assault or relatively inexpensive displays of solidarity with Hamas, but it is certainly all part of a plan.
For decades, the revolutionary Islamist regime in Tehran has built a network of terror groups determined to grind Israel out of existence.
It’s called the ‘ring of fire.’
Hezbollah, an offshoot of the Sunni Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, formed in 1982 with direct support from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
The group fought Israeli forces to a draw during a brief war in 2006, during which hundreds of Hezbollah rockets rained down on northern Israel, killing more than 40 people.
In the years since, Hezbollah has aggressively rearmed.
Israel estimates the group has stockpiled 150,000 rockets and mortars, several hundred of which are precision weapons that can hit within roughly 10 meters of their target.
If the Lebanese terror army does enter the fray, Israel will be forced to contend with a ferocious two-front war, even as the bulk of its forces are in the country’s south preparing for a possible ground invasion of Gaza.
Israel’s medium-sized air force would be stretched very thin by the strain, so warplanes launched from the two U.S. carriers in the Mediterranean would be extremely welcome.
American involvement would bring with it an extraordinary array of satellite surveillance assets. That said, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran have spent decades learning how to hide from an enemy with advanced technology that controls the air.
Airpower likely won’t be enough to defeat a deeply dug in Hezbollah force, which may indicate why a 2,400-strong U.S. Marine Expeditionary Unit is en route from Kuwait to Israeli waters.
But that raises the worrying prospect of American boots on the ground – U.S. lives in harm’s way.
ISLAMIST MULLAHS DANGLE BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT OVER TEL AVIV
If Hezbollah does go all in, that is the point at which the war may begin to spread like wildfire.
Iran itself could reinforce Hezbollah’s effort by striking Israel with its own ballistic missiles, which number in the thousands and many of which can easily reach the Mediterranean.
The causalities would potentially be catastrophic. More than four million Israelis live in the narrow coastal strip that extends about 25 miles to the north and south of Tel Aviv.
Israel may not wait for Iran to strike, sending its warplanes to hit Iranian targets first, potentially including Tehran’s nuclear program and missile launch sites.
Iran has six times the land mass of the UK, so it would be difficult for Israel to strike ballistic missiles on (or under) the ground, especially since most launchers are mobile.
Defense may be Israel’s better bet and that would rely on Arrow missiles, a companion to Iron Dome, which protects against short-range rockets and mortars.
However, Tehran’s principal uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow are fixed in place, albeit well-defended. Israel could also hit targets like the missile production facility in Khojir, east of Tehran, or the Parchin military complex.
Obviously, such a nightmare scenario would draw in the United States, though one might excuse Tehran for thinking that Biden will not allow himself to be pulled into another Middle Eastern war.
For two and half years, Biden has paid Iran just to stay at the negotiating table, even as it moves closer and closer to producing weapons-grade uranium, the essential ingredient of a nuclear weapon.
Yet if Tehran takes Biden’s measure and decides to escalate, that may change the calculus in Washington.
In addition to committing the U.S. Air Force to Israel’s defense and potentially putting Marines on the ground, Biden might use the Navy to shut in Iran’s exports, especially oil, severing critical financial lifelines.
Strikes on Iranian military facilities inside the country are less likely, although the White House may signal that’s how it would punish Iran for crossing certain red lines.
SYRIA’S BLOOD-SOAKED ASSAD AND HIS ILLICIT CHEMICAL WEAPONS STOCKPILE
With Iran directly involved, an array of lesser proxies would likely join the fight.
In addition to sending Hezbollah to fight on behalf of the Assad regime, Tehran also raised foreign legions consisting of thousands of Pakistani and Afghan Shiites to fight in Syria.
These militias profess their ultimate objective is to destroy the Jewish state.
Assad’s own armed forces are a hollow shell of their former selves, but he would likely dispatch troops to the front, if only to distract attention from the deprivation and oppression Syrians continue to experience at home.
For Israel, Syria’s entry into the war also raises the question of whether Assad would deploy his stock of chemical weapons or give them to other members of the Iranian-led axis.
Two years ago, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons suspended Damascus because of its refusal to allow inspections of the chemical weapons industry it claims to have dismantled.
Another target of opportunity for Syria and Iran will be the roughly 900 U.S. troops in northeast Syria, where they are supporting local forces preventing a resurgence of the Islamic State.
The Syrians, along with various Iran-backed militias, have consistently harassed these troops with mortar fire and drone attacks.
One attack killed an American contractor in March, prompting retaliatory strikes by the U.S. military. And now, other U.S. forces in the region may find themselves under threat.
2,500 U.S. troops stationed in Iraq to prevent the resurgence of the Islamic State are already a target.
U.S. TROOPS UNDER ATTACK IN IRAQ MAY ONLY BE THE BEGINNING
Over the last 24 hours, a small yet unknown number of American troops were reportedly slightly injured in a spate of drone attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq.
Iranian militias operating inside the country are happily claiming responsibility.
Two armed drones reportedly hit the al Asad airbase in western Iraq, another drone targeting al-Harir airbase in the north was intercepted and destroyed before it could do any damage.
The Iraqi government is nominally elected and sovereign, but Iran-backed Shiite militias take orders from Tehran while ignoring Baghdad’s directives.
In fact, the influence of Tehran and their militias are so great that the Iraqi government pays the militia member salaries and recognizes many units as official government forces.
These militias are now threatening to create more chaos should Israel escalate its offensive in Gaza. They could ramp up strikes on U.S. forces, attempt to overthrow the Iraqi government, or both.
Iran could also use Iraq as an additional launch site for missile strikes against Israel, potentially provoking Israeli retaliation further enflaming Iraqi public opinion.
SAUDIA ARABIAN OIL FIELDS GO UP IN SMOKE?
Earlier this year, Iran and Saudi Arabia patched up relations with help from China. That seemed to take off the table any prospect of Iran striking Saudi oil facilities amid a crisis.
That risk became clear in 2019, when a suspected Iranian drone strike on Saudi processing plants temporarily took more than 5 million barrels a day of production offline.
But with America in the war, oil facilities in multiple Gulf states would become attractive targets to Iran.
Likewise, U.S. military bases in Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain are well within range of Iran’s arsenal of ballistic missiles.
WORLD OIL SUPPLY STRANGLED, AS GULF BECOME BATTLEGROUND
Lastly, there is a potential for the current war to spread to the Persian Gulf, which is a long and narrow maritime passage whose eastern shore belongs entirely to Iran.
From January 2021 through July 2023, Tehran’s forces harassed, attacked, or seized 26 foreign vessels in the Gulf — many of them oil tankers.
Roughly 20 million barrels of oil per day, or one fifth of the world’s daily supply, reaches customers via the Gulf.
Just two days before Hamas launched its surprise attack, U.S. Navy ships came to the aid of a pair of tankers threatened by Iranian vessels.
To build leverage in a regional war, Tehran could block all seaborne traffic through Gulf, creating pressure on importing nations to side with Iran.
This kind of widespread chaos is precisely what Joe Biden wants to avoid.
With Hamas and Israel on the brink of a decisive battle for Gaza, the unavoidable question is whether Iran will commit all of its forces to the war, drawing in Israel’s neighbors, triggering upheavals across the Arab world, and even roping the United States into the last thing it wants – war in the Middle East.
One thing that may prevent escalation is a swift and crushing Israeli victory in Gaza. Another is a credible threat from the White House — preferably with backing from key allies, such as the UK and France — to severely punish those who seek to widen the war.
Yet as the invasion of Ukraine illustrated, villains are more than capable of persuading themselves that their plans are brilliant.
Dr. David Adesnik is a former Defense Department deputy director, director of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and an expert on Iranian proxy forces