Middle East tumult: No simple solutions to situation

mohey mowafy

aOn the night of his inauguration, our 45th president was, naturally, an ecstatic man.

I remember when he looked at his son-in-law and declared him to be the incoming Middle East guru who will bring that “peace settlement” between the Israelis and the Palestinians which has eluded everyone for more than 70 years. I remember myself, trying to wish that it become a reality.

But frankly, I also felt scared. My fear was because of the total lack of basically anyone in that entire ballroom who was informed about the history of the Middle East, particularly post World War I. It is not a hyperbole to claim the totality of the current regions’ perplexing dynamics to be perhaps the worst and most volatile in its history, and not only because the “Israeli/Palestinians conflict” has not yet been solved.

Our relationship with Israel is undoubtedly one of, if not indeed the, strongest relationship with a country. Garnish that with the Trump/Netanyahu bromance which began even before the 2016 election, only to flourish and increase in robustness. Mr. Trump’s authorization of moving the American consulate from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, only to be followed by allowing Israel to control the Golan heights, then hinting that he would not mind if Israel basically annexed the West Bank. I know, you are probably wondering if that could be allowed by international laws. One is reminded that UN and international laws have a say in that. But what we know for sure is that these developments will not make Jared’s mission any easier. On the same stage but mostly behind the curtains is, of course, Russia’s keen interest in replacing us there.

Then, more recently, came his declaration of Iranian Republican Guard as a terrorist organization. There is no doubt that Iran’s military and especially its special forces have been wreaking havoc in Mesopotamia for decades, by themselves or in company with other players (most recently in Lebanon and possibly Libya). And yet, some of those Iranian elite troops actually fought and killed many ISIS fighters in Syria. I told you it is complicated.

Then, there is the catastrophic seemingly unending proxy war in Yemen between the Saudis and the Iranians. The president refused to end our involvement in Yemen (supporting the Saudis). This ongoing disaster has already claimed the lives of about 1.5 million children, Yes, that is only the children. I urge the House to defund our involvement there.

What remains to be seen is if the IRGC’s terrorist designation will change the ground rules in the region, where the U.S. and IRGC-linked forces often operate in close proximity with one another in places like Iraq and Syria. Does it now mean that the U.S. will kinetically target IRGC-linked assets the way it targets other U.S. designated terror groups, such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS?

Of course not, that would be astronomically naïve if not blatantly stupid. It is also naive to think that Tehran will not look for ways to “mess up” Mr. Trump’s calculations. A major factor to consider is this, so far Mr. Trump’s punishment of Iran is to pressure those who purchase its oil, to go shopping somewhere else. Now, we are talking global oil prices. However, it might be before very long that Iraq will emerge as a formidable oil producing competitor. Again, remember Russia.

The unchanged factor is Russia’s drooling to replace us in the region – – not just Syria and not just for the oil either.

As if we needed a more worrisome development, which we learned as of late. Mr. Baghdadi has resurfaced, just as so many in the Arab world knew he would. His reappearance requires serious attention. One would wonder, why now after years of hiding? He had to assert his presence and his leadership after the devastating losses his terrorist group had suffered in Syria. Simple. He is saying I am still here, I am still in charge, our losses in Iraq and Syria are just temporary setbacks. Let’s get methodical. But his message is also intended for his old “competitors”, mainly Al Quaida.

While the number of ISIS fighters has dwindled, it is a well-known fact that many of those fleeing fighters are now mostly in South Asia, Northern Africa and Sudan.

These, and several other factors, have created some new realities. One such change is the expectation that ISIS’ new preferred weapon of terror may be suicide bombers.

Editor’s note: Mohey Mowafy is a retired Northern Michigan University professor.


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