You can thank Obama for the looming Mideast war against Iran

As ISIL filled the vacuum left by the abdication of American power by the Obama administration, so now Iran will occupy the space left by ISIL

By Vivian Bercovici, NATIONAL POST

It has been a particularly busy few weeks here in the Middle East, even by the chaotic standards of the region.

As the world welcomed the demise of ISIL’s reign of terror in the Mideast, it largely missed a more spectacular development: the entrenchment of Iranian power and control, from Tehran to the Mediterranean Sea, controlling large swaths of Syria and all of Lebanon, and strategic outposts in Yemen and Libya. As ISIL filled the vacuum left by the abdication of American power by the Obama administration, so now Iran will occupy the space left by ISIL.

Iran openly brays its desire for the destruction of Israel and its intention to spread its extreme, radical and violent brand of Islam throughout the region. In Iran’s sights are Jordan, the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia.

The Obama administration romanced Iran, but snubbed and even humiliated traditional American allies, like Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Kuwait. As a result, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, two significant powers threatened and marginalized by Obama’s pro-Iranian policy, have become close and unlikely allies of Israel. Strategic, political, military and intelligence co-operation among these countries is reported to be deeply entrenched and close.

This almost surreal development makes the seemingly haphazard events of the last few weeks more understandable.

On October 30th, the Israeli Defence Forces blew up one of the many Hamas tunnels in a network burrowing from Gaza under Israel. Built mostly with funds siphoned from western aid, this subterranean, state-of-the-art terror warren exists for one purpose:  for Hamas to launch deadly attacks against Israeli civilians.

The timing was likely no coincidence. The tunnel strike was followed, in short order, by a series of stunning events that ricocheted from Jerusalem to Cairo to Riyadh to Beirut to Paris. Together, they expose the radically altered power dynamic in the region.

Within days of the tunnel incident, the 32-year-old Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had hundreds of his very wealthy and powerful compatriots arrested and imprisoned in the Riyadh Ritz Carlton. The decades-long understanding that the notoriously corrupt and wealthy Saudi princely class was immune from consequence became a thing of the past, instantly.

As this drama unfolded, Saad Hariri, the putative PM of Lebanon, announced his resignation in, of all places, Riyadh. A puppet of Hezbollah — the Iranian proxy army and governing authority in Lebanon — Hariri has been “indisposed” since his resignation.

Last week, a wan Hariri appeared briefly on Saudi television, attempting to reassure those concerned for his well being that he was fine and flitting about freely in Riyadh. Days later, French President Macron let the world know that PM Hariri and his family were welcome to decamp, at their pleasure, to France. Hariri arrived there on the weekend to reassure everyone that he would eventually be returning to Beirut and that of course he was never actually held “prisoner” all those days he was stuck in Saudi Arabia.

It all looks like a long-distance, bloodless Saudi coup of sorts in Lebanon. What is less clear is the endgame. There is no one but Hezbollah to assume real power in Lebanon. With the demise of ISIL, Iran wields power in a continuous arc from Tehran to the Mediterranean.

Israel has been warning of Iranian territorial ambitions since forever and was dismissed by Obama and his acolytes as being intransigent and, well, just not enlightened enough. Meanwhile, within 50 kilometres of the Israeli northern border, Iran has recently built an advanced military base. Hezbollah swarms the Lebanese border and has a military capability greatly enhanced since the 2006 war with Israel, aiming well over 100,000 powerful and accurate missiles at Israel from underground tunnels and civilian villages it uses as shields.

Enmeshed in this mess is the Palestinian Authority and its President, Mahmoud Abbas. After touting a recent “reconciliation” with the Gaza-controlling Hamas — another terror group also allied with Iran — Abbas is in a jam. Does he maintain his most recent rapprochement with Hamas, despite its collusion with Iran, and risk angering Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel? Or does he capitulate to their demands that he bolster their efforts to isolate Iran and its agents?

In the last few weeks in Israel, there have been much-publicized Air Force drills, focusing on the northern fronts with Lebanon and Syria.  In the event that there is armed conflict, it almost certainly will flare up on Israel’s northern fronts, with Lebanon and Syria, but the war will actually be with Iran. And it will be unprecedentedly ferocious, likely with significant civilian casualties.

After eight years of Obama’s Mideast policy, this is the outcome. The Saudis, Egyptians, Israelis and others in the region learned from Obama’s snubs that they can trust no one but themselves and have made it very clear that they will confront Iran, whether or not the West continues to cling to its illusion of moderate Iranian leadership. It could all get very ugly, very quickly.

November 23, 2017 | 1 Comment »

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  1. What’s wrong with going to war with Iran? Iran declared war on us in 1979. We should have waged total war against Iran then. War is inevitable. The longer we wait, the more costly. No conflict with a mortal enemy was ever resolved without war, whether one big war or a lot of little ones as with the Soviet Union. All we are saying is give war a chance.