Towards a full blown middle-east war 

Tehran has launched the much anticipated overnight reprisal attack against Israel, in response to the deadly April 1 drone strike on her consulate in Syria which resulted in the death of top Iran’s Elite Revolutionary Guard Corps officers. Members of the Guard killed included senior commanders Mohammad Reza Zahedi and Brig. Gen. Mohammad Hadi Haj Rahimi. Consequently, Iran had fired more than 300 ballistic and cruise missiles into Israeli territory injuring at least 12, military spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said. Telaviv also said the missiles were launched simultaneously from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. It concluded by adding that almost if not all the missiles were intercepted. The successful interception of the missiles was made possible in partnership with an alliance of countries like Britain, US and Jordan. 

Confirming the attack, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said early April 14 that a drone and missile attack was under way against Israel. Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, Commander of the Guards “claimed the drone attack against Israel was “more successful than we had expected” but warned that any retaliation by Israel would draw a more forceful response.” Iran said a “new equation” in its frosty relationship with Israel had been launched, and warned of a “much bigger” assault on Israel should Netanyahu decide on a full scale attack.  “We have decided to create a new equation, which is that if from now on the Zionist regime attacks our interests, assets, personalities, and citizens, anywhere, and at any point we will retaliate against them,” Hossein Salami told Iranian state TV. 

Aware of the capacity of Israel to preserve self and tenaciously defend national interest, Iran’s official position was restated by the Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian who warned that; “in case the Israeli regime embarks on adventurism again and takes action against the interest of Iran, the next response from us will be immediate and at a maximum level.” Reacting to the attack, Hamas has expressly thrown its weight behind Iran, saying it was a deserved response to the attack in Syria. Houthi rebel officials in Yemen also congratulated Iran for their action.

The Israeli’s three-man war cabinet made up of the Prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Benny Gantz former Defence minister is weighing commensurate options of response to Iran’s provocation which experts say is capable of pushing the middle east into a full blown regional war. This is exactly what Iran anticipates. Reacting to the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “we have intercepted, we have contained; together we shall win.” Israel will respond to Iran’s attack, but the latitude of the onslaught is yet to be decided, an Israeli official told CNN. The official said Israel is yet to decide whether to try and “break all the dishes” or do something more measured. 

Israel and Iran have engaged in a shadow war to exert more influence across the middle-east for years. They launch proxy attacks against each other and vested interests on land, sea, in the air and cyberspace. The latest bombardment of Israel marked a turning point in the conflict. According to Ahron Bregman, a political scientist and expert in Middle East security issues at King’s College in London, “it was the first time Iran directly attacked Israel from its own territory. Before now, Iran has largely used foreign proxies like Hezbollah militia to attack Israeli interests, while one key Israeli strategy was targeted assassinations of Iranian military leaders and nuclear scientists.” 

Western allies have urged Israel to de-escalate the ongoing war in Gaza which has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians and created a big humanitarian tragedy. Although the United States of America has taken a neutral stand promising not to join Israel in a likely offensive against Iran, President Biden condemned the attack and echoed the United States’ firm support to Israeli security. Other friends including Germany, Canada, France and Britain restated their commitment to Israel but expressed fears that Tehran’s assault could further undermine peace in the middle-east.  Biden had urged Netanyahu to consider the events of Saturday night a “win” as the attacks had been largely unsuccessful, and instead validated Israel’s ability to defend self against vicious attacks.” 

However, US military had warned that; “we do not seek conflict with Iran, but we will not hesitate to protect our forces and support the defence of Israel,” Biden, had issued a directive for deployment of aircraft and ballistic missile defense destroyers to the region in anticipation of any eventuality. “We will remain vigilant to all threats and will not hesitate to take all necessary action to protect our people,” he said.

The European Union, United Nations and other international bodies have made important phone calls, appealing, meeting and also mediating to prepare grounds for peace in order to forestall impending escalation of hostilities between the two nations. Israel does not take lightly any slur to her sovereignty. Those who understood how pugnacious and assertive Israel could be in a situation like this are simply waiting for the breaking news report. The middle-east is deliberately racing against peace and peaceful co-existence. Without urgent regional interventions and sincere global actions taken on genuine peace, this imminent crisis will gradually escalate to a full blown war. Instability in the middle-east is tantamount to elusive global world stability. 

However, global leaders seem not oblivious of the calamity awaiting to befall the earth. It is right to say that global politics is seen not to be played fairly. Information churned out concerning this crisis and decisions made on middle east issues are full of lies, biases, pretensions and subterfuge. Iran is bitter with the turn of events in the region and those who think the biases or Iranian position will fade away soon should think twice. Tehran is bent on snatching the regional dominance from Israel which she it feels is domineering by any means possible. They also feel Israel represents the interest of their longtime foes – the west, Europe and United States of America. Those who are the beneficiaries of the old order do everything within their reach to maintain the status quo, while the middle-east has continued to suffer endlessly as a result. Supremacy battle between the super powers has invariably had a devastating effect on the middle-east peace and stability. 

Supremacy battle, cultural and religious differences fuel the animosity between both countries. Israel is very much aware of Tehran’s involvement in sponsorship of major crisis in the middle east by engaging Hamas, Hezbollah and Houtis of Yemen as foot soldiers. Iran positions herself as the defender of Islamic interest while she continuously benefits from the ruins and instability in the middle-east. Whatever action Iran takes in the name of protecting the interest of the entire middle-east is both for economic and religious reasons. The attack on Iranian Embassy in Syria is the usual response to the existing tension.  It was also strategic in prosecuting the war in Gaza and weakening the military capacity of Iran which is bent on building nuclear war heads. 

Experts have in various contributions to the crisis sued for peace and recommended a two states solution for Israel and Palestine. However, Iran sees Israel from the prism of a stranger and usurper in the middle-east.  The major casualties of war are mostly innocent women and children. They knew next to nothing about plans, and attack against Gaza by Israel or Iran against Israel. When the hostility begins and pressure mounts high, leaders in both countries will find shelter and comfort in allied states leaving the vulnerable in the cross-fire. Global sympathy will drive the narrative based on state interests but the damage would have been done. Israel may not be contemplating the magnitude of what happened in Gaza to repeat in Iran but the retaliation will be devastating. The world will talk, sell their weapons and when the damage is done, they will donate part of the proceeds from the ruins of the war as aid and call for cease fire. 

Sunday Onyemaechi Eze, media and communication specialist, writes via [email protected], 08060901201