Iran and the Middle East will be “ground zero for World War III.” That was the warning I gave to audiences in 2021. It was also the title of the first chapter of my book, The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy, which attempted to warn of the dangers that Iran posed to the world—and offer solutions for how to avoid the likelihood of a third world war erupting in the Middle East.
Sadly, once the Biden Administration took power it proceeded to do the opposite of everything I and others from the Trump era had called for – namely finalizing the Abraham Accords by officially linking Saudi Arabia’s power with Israel’s to create a new, anti-Iran coalition while Washington keeps up its “maximum pressure” campaign from the Trump era.
Since its publication, many of my readers have described The Shadow War as “eerily prophetic” (although, I prefer to think of it as entirely predictable). It was predictable because Joe Biden, once he became president, went to work undoing all the success that the Trump Administration had enjoyed in the Middle East.
Biden Caused the War
While Biden maintained the Abraham Accords officially, behind the scenes, the Biden Administration undermined those agreements at every turn.
Publicly, President Biden distanced the United States from Saudi Arabia for perceived human rights violations (it’s the Middle East, who cares?) while privately Biden sought to simultaneously restore the Obama-era nuclear agreement with Iran and then to distance itself from Israel.
This sent the wrong signals to the Sunni Arab powers of the Middle East.
The first message it sent was that America would not have their backs against the growing Iranian threat.
The second message was that America was striving to isolate Israel diplomatically, meaning that there’d be no real incentive for the Arab powers of the region to realign their security and economic interests with those of Israel.
The third message it sent was that America’s position in the Middle East was in terminal decline and the powers of the region had better make other arrangements with other powers that had more staying power (such as Russia and China).
Lee Smith’s brilliant 2011 book, The Stronger Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations, detailed how the cultures of the Mideast—notably the Arabs, but I’d also add the Shiites of Iran—venerated power. They would respect and follow the most powerful actors they encountered on the world stage. Weakness, however, would be crushed—even if the weaker power had more in common with them strategically.
It was a cultural imperative to always back the stronger horse in the region.
That used to be the United States.
Today, unfortunately, the U.S. projects nothing but weakness and decline. Add to that the Biden Administration’s penchant for treating its allies like enemies and its enemies like would-be allies, and there’s little incentive left for the powers of the region to follow America’s lead.
The stronger horse today looks increasingly like the Chinese-and-Russian-backed Islamic Republic of Iran.
That’s why so many Sunni Arab governments have kowtowed to the Iranians in the current round of ethno-religious regional conflict now washing across the Mideast.
While the Sunni Arabs may view the Shiites of old Persia as apostates (the feeling is mutual in Iran), at the end of the day, they’re all sons of Muhammad—which means that, unless the Americans and Israelis are offering something better, with the fate of Palestinian Arabs on the line, the Muslim nations will stay together.
That doesn’t mean that the Sunni Arab states will become partners with Iran.
It just means that they’re not going to be very helpful in stopping Iran under present geopolitical conditions.
Already, the Saudis have reached out to Iran and have begun coordinating their diplomatic responses to whatever Israel decides to do to the Gaza Strip in retaliation for the Hamas terrorist attacks two weeks ago.
A Den of Villains
It should be obvious that the Hamas attack itself was orchestrated by Iran, coming just three weeks after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s historic speech to the United Nations in which he outlined the tentative formation of an Israeli-Saudi security alliance against Iran.
Now, because of the Hamas attack, Israel is forced to strike hard against Palestinian Arabs in the Gaza Strip. Hamas is quite literally hiding behind their own people to ensure maximum casualties.
Should large numbers of Palestinian Arabs die, their co-religionists in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Sunni Arab world will move farther away from Israel and closer to their fellow Muslims in Iran.
As Saudi Arabia looks the other way on Iranian revanchism, Qatar provides diplomatic, economic, and propaganda support to Iran’s proxies.
Jordan and Egypt refuse to ameliorate the refugee crisis arising in the Gaza Strip, in an effort to ensure maximum damage is done to Israel’s image in its hour of need.
Iranian-backed militants in both Syria and Lebanon move closer to Israel, preparing to open new fronts against the besieged Israelis. Meanwhile, Iranian-backed Houthi militants in Yemen launched ballistic missiles that were once destined for their neighbors in Saudi Arabia at Israel.
Oh, and Turkey, ensconced in its obsessive quest to reclaim the Ottoman Empire, launched devastating strikes against Kurdish forces in northern Iraq and Syria the same week that Iranian-backed Hamas attacked Israel.
Now, Turkish naval forces, along with Northern Cypriot naval elements, have promised to conduct live-fire exercises in the vicinity of U.S. Navy carrier groups that had been deployed to the Eastern Mediterranean to calm tensions.
Turkey, a NATO ally, could accidentally hit U.S. Navy units they are operating dangerously close to in the Eastern Med, creating an entirely new crisis—both for the Americans and Turks, but also for NATO itself (after all, an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all).
All this, as the vicious autocrats who rule over China and Russia sit back and smile, vowing to stand by each other’s side, no matter what, like two joyful lovers enjoying an all-expense-paid honeymoon in Paris.
And should this conflict between Hamas and Israel force Israel and its allies into wider strikes against Iranian militants outside of Israel, all these other great powers will be roped in.
This, by the way, is one reason why the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) is slow-walking its justified military response to Gaza.
A Lot Like World War I
Delayed military responses to terrorist attacks. Massive, entangling alliances that cut across ethno-religious boundaries. Territorial wars and fears of territorial wars. If all this sounds familiar to you, it’s because we’ve been through a similar psychodrama once before. In Europe, in 1914. In a conflict that most believe to have been one of the most destructive in history, World War I.
Yes, my friends, the third world war that I’ve been warning about since 2020—and being laughed out of every room in Washington, D.C., by some of your favorite television pundits—is here.
In the two World Wars that ripped the twentieth century apart, the main fight was over Germany’s place in Europe and the world system.
Today, the main fight is over Iran’s place in the Greater Middle East and the world order. Just as with Germany in the first two world wars, Iran will brook no compromise that does not allow for it to become the dominant power in its region.
Tehran, like Berlin of yesteryear, will attack and undermine any nation or group of nations that interferes with its bid to acquire regional supremacy. What’s more, Iran’s regime will align with any nation or group of nations—such as the growing China, Russia, and Turkey alliance—that will help it achieve its regional ambitions.
That, combined with Iran’s growing nuclear weapons capabilities, makes Iran the most likely candidate to trigger World War III.
Trump Was Right. Can Biden Admit That?
There’s but one hope remaining in the near term—the one thing that Biden refuses to do—and that is agreeing with former President Donald J. Trump’s twin policies of the Abraham Accords and the “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran.
Time is running out, but, if the U.S. government overtly used its influence over Saudi Arabia to force a marriage with Israel, some degree of balance could be restored and an off-ramp averting World War could be taken.
Does Biden have the gumption, though, to return to Trump-era policies that he believes are abject failures and symbols of some quasi-fascistic movement in the United States?
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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 writes opinion pieces for this publication.