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The Rise of Israel in the Region

The Rise of Israel in the Region

Tuesday, 15 May, 2018 - 12:15
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.

The United States going back on its commitments to the nuclear agreement with Iran is an important development with potential political implications for the entire region.

The new developments are subject to the ongoing US position regarding Tehran, which could change if the Iranian government offered concessions to the Americans. President Donald Trump has already promised to allow Iran to return to the agreement if it retreats and accepts his amended terms, including stopping the regime from developing a nuclear program for military purposes indefinitely and the withdrawal of its troops and militias from wars outside its borders. However, we do not think that the Rouhani government would accept these conditions at present.

When sanctions are activated and the pressure on Iran increases, Israel will have a new regional role it has never previously played. In the past, Israel’s activities were confined to its own security against wars and confrontations with neighboring countries. But it is now likely to take on a new role — that of a police force that monitors and holds Iran accountable.

It has carried out major military operations against Iranian positions in Syria and says it completely destroyed the infrastructure built by the Revolutionary Guards there. Assuming that half of this estimate is true, Israel would have curtailed Iran’s strength for the first time since it entered the war nearly five years ago. Israel has openly stated that it intends to eliminate the Iranian presence in Syria, increasing the likelihood of further confrontation that would also be violent. If Israel succeeds in getting Iran and its foreign militias out of Syria, the balance of power among the belligerents would change. Who would replace Iran? Would the Russians increase their presence? Would it be the Arab forces, mostly Egyptian? Or would there be an independent political movement under the UN’s auspices and overseen by the blue helmets?

On another hand, Israel says it’s concerned in pursuing Iran’s nuclear program and it will try to have a role in any military confrontation or military siege. A direct confrontation is highly unlikely, but there may be smaller military operations against the Iranian presence outside of its territory. The aim is to put pressure on the regime in Tehran to withdraw its fighters from Syria, Iraq and Yemen, or to embarrass it in front of its citizens and peoples of the region, as happened in Syria last week.

Thanks to Iran’s expansion, Israel’s regional role is growing more than ever before. Previous confrontations between Israel and Iran have always been through Tehran’s agents, like the Palestinian Hamas Movement and the Lebanese Hezbollah Party. The Iranian command, particularly the Revolutionary Guards, must be extremely embarrassed because it lost the recent confrontations which resembled a semi-state of war as this is the first there is a battle of this size between the two countries.

As long as the US administration entrusts this new role to Israel, and if it is suitable to the Arab parties, it is likely to expand in the future. Israel is a relatively small country, roughly the size of Kuwait, but it has a superior regional military capability. Taking advantage of tensions and the changing situation, it is establishing a new position for itself. The rise of Israel coincides with the end of the long US abstinence from transferring its Israeli Embassy to Jerusalem, and with the inclusion of Egypt in solving the security problems in the Gaza Strip as a result of the demonstrations on its border.

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