The Israel-Palestine conflict has entered a new, ghastly phase.
It is no longer a war between insurgents and counterinsurgents; a self-contained, albeit gruesome, affair. The conflict has been well-and-truly globalized.
Not only have Western governments weighed in with their expectations and pleas for peace (how can Israel make peace with insurgents who behave as savagely as Hamas has?) but, more importantly, the rabidly anti-Semitic and anti-American Islamic Republic of Iran.
As I exclusively reported in my recent book, The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy “In February 2020, both Hamas and Iran were sending signals of their growing cooperation, and Israeli intelligence feared that Hamas, with Iranian assistance, was stockpiling arms for a new round of religious warfare against Israel.”
Iran Brings Hezbollah, Hamas, and Fatah Together
Indeed, as far back as 2017, leaders of Fatah (a onetime rival of Hamas) met with leaders of the Shiite terrorist group based in Lebanon, Hezbollah, in Beirut. At that December 2017 meeting, the leaders of Hezbollah and Hamas agreed to collaborate with each other to “activate a third intifada [against Israel].”
Since then, Iran has worked assiduously to link the efforts of Hezbollah in Lebanon, as well as Hamas and even Fatah in the Palestinian territories, into a combined force that can truly threaten the Israeli military.
The recent Hamas attack against Israel proves that Iran’s play is working. This is not some isolated incident. The Hamas attack, and whatever Hezbollah attack is coming soon against Israel, are part of a wider regional conflict that Iran is encouraging.
The more chaos Tehran can create in the region the more that Iran can use that chaos as a ladder to ascend to the dominant position in the Middle East. The Iranians are reconstituting the old Safavid empire—and they’re trying to achieve this herculean task atop the bones of Israelis.
Washington policymakers were caught completely unawares by the Hamas attack against Israel. In the wake of that horrific attack, what many are calling “Israel’s 9/11”, Western leaders have been calling for restraint and have striven to keep the conflict as localized as possible.
What these naïve policymakers fail to comprehend is that this is an inherently regional conflict—potentially even global, given China’s and Russia’s continued support for Iran.
Therefore, the United States should be much more proactive in this conflict.
Understanding Iran’s Grand Strategy
I am not suggesting the deployment of ground forces into yet another regional conflict. But the Iranians are clearly trying to break America’s loosening grip on the region with these attacks.
So, what I propose is a coordinated strategy of supplying intelligence, financial assistance, and diplomatic support to the Israelis in their hour of need.
Beyond that, though, Israel cannot address the Iran threat on its own.
And if the Saudi-Israeli security alliance that was slowly coming to fruition has been stymied by what will be necessary Israeli reprisals against the Palestinian Arabs of Gaza, then, Washington will have to be more involved against Iran.
Sensing Iran’s hidden nefarious hand in this sordid affair, Israel has done what it can to slow Iranian perfidy. The Israeli air force launched a decisive strike against a military convoy moving across Iraq and Syria that emanated from Iran.
The concern was that the Iranians were moving that convoy to help supply Hezbollah in Lebanon with weapons and possibly even more personnel (the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps routinely deploys in support of Hezbollah) as part of a larger Iranian-backed buildup against Israel.
At the end of the day, though, without the support of Saudi Arabia—certainly without American backing—Israel will be completely overwhelmed if Iranian-backed Hezbollah launches a sustained campaign of terror against Israel at the same time that Israel is warring with Hamas in Gaza.
Sadly, I Must Now Defend Lindsey Graham
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is a man with whom I have many disagreements. I think he is loose-lipped and has a sloppy sense of strategy when it comes to foreign policy.
But even a broken clock is right at least twice a day.
Recently, Sen. Graham stated that if Hezbollah did open a second front against Israel, then the United States should deploy its air force to bomb the oil refineries of Iran (those refineries are key sources of funding for Iran’s war machine).
Contrary to what has been said about Graham’s remarks, they were not neoconservative at all. Neoconservative foreign policy can be summed up as, seeking regime change in a foreign land via preemptive military strikes.
Graham’s comments were both rational and deterrent based.
Because the Hamas attack against Israel was part of a larger movement by state actors, mainly Iran, as part of a grand strategy designed to annihilate the existing regional order and to replace it with an Iranian-led one—such an order, by the way, would be inimical to the strategic interests of the United States or the safety of Israel—the United States would be justified in threatening Iran with airstrikes.
What is in the US national interest is to remain a dominant player in the oil-rich Middle East. This is not necessarily because America relies on oil from the region (although it does receive some oil from there). But because so much of the rest of the world does—notably China. By ensuring a dominant status in the Mideast, the Americans can help to determine the flow of energy.
Israel is a key partner in the region as is Saudi Arabia.
China has already slowly started cleaving Saudi Arabia away from the Americans’ strategic orbit. Should Washington lose Israel or have a diminished partner in Israel because of Iranian actions, China will have gained an upper hand over the United States.
Only the US Can Deter Iran
The Islamic Republic of Iran has made itself a strategic foe in the Greater Middle East since its inception in 1979. Anything that helps Iran to achieve its bloody grand strategy in the region will do grave harm to the national interests of the United States.
Perhaps Graham was wrong to threaten the oil refineries of Iran. But he was correct to advise the US government to issue a deterrent threat to Tehran: if you have Hezbollah open a second front against Israel, we will view it as a threat to US national interests (it is), and will retaliate against you on behalf of Israel.
A 19FortyFive Senior Editor and an energy analyst at the The-Pipeline, Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life (Encounter Books), and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (July 23). Weichert occasionally serves as a Subject Matter Expert for various organizations, including the Department of Defense. He can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.