Explaining Israel’s growing role in the region

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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The US’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran is an important development that will have possible political consequences and transformations in the region and on the players, the arena and the crisis. The new developments are dependent on the continuity of the American stance against Tehran and which may change if the Iranian government makes concessions to the US. President Donald Trump had promised Iran to go back to the agreement if it backs down and accepts his conditions to amend the deal. These amendments include prohibiting Iran from ever transforming its nuclear program into a military program and withdrawing its forces and militias from the wars outside Iran. It’s unlikely that Rowhani’s government will accept these conditions during this current phase.

When sanctions are activated and pressure is increased on Iran, Israel will have a new regional role that it has never played before. Israel’s activities regarding its foreign security have been limited to wars and confrontations with neighboring countries. It’s probable that Israel will play a new role, the role of the policeman that’s watching and holding Iran accountable. On one hand, it launched significant military operations against Iranian sites in Syria and it said it completely destroyed the infrastructure which the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have built there. If we assume that half of this estimate is accurate, then Israel will have diminished Iran’s power for the first time since it got involved in the war in Syria around five years ago.

Israel has frankly said it intends to eliminate Iran’s presence in Syria, and this increases the possibilities of more confrontations that will also be violent. If Israel succeeds in getting Iran and its foreign militias out of Syria then the balance of power between the warring parties will change. Who will compensate for Iran? Will the Russians intensify their presence? Will Arab forces, mostly Egyptians, replace the Iranian ones or will a political solution sponsored by the UN and supervised by UN peacekeeping troops be enough?

On another hand, Israel said it’s concerned in pursuing Iran’s nuclear program and it will try to have a role in any military confrontation or siege. The confrontation is completely unlikely but there might be smaller military operations targeted against Iran’s presence outside its territories. The aim is to pressure the regime in Tehran to withdraw its fighters from Syria, Iraq and Yemen and embarrass it before the Iranians and the region’s people, like what happened to it last week in Syria.

Thanks to Iran’s expansion, Israel’s regional role is growing. This was not happening before. The confrontations between Israel and Iran have always been with the latter’s proxies 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 is assigning this new role to Israel, and it suits other Arab parties, it will probably expand in the future. Israel is a relatively small state as it has the approximate area of Kuwait; however, it has a regionally superior military capability. By exploiting tensions and the changes in camps, it will create itself a new status. Israel’s rise synchronizes with the end of a long US abstention to move the embassy to Jerusalem and with including Egypt in resolving the security problem of the Gaza Strip as result of protests there.

This article is also available in Arabic.


Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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