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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Will There Be Yet Another War in the Middle East?

One thing that is not lacking in the Middle East is war.  There's fighting against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.  There's fighting between Iranian backed rebels and government forces in Yemen.  There's fighting between the Assad regime and it's Iranian, Russian and Hezbollah allies on the one hand and the Sunni rebels on the other hand in Syria.  There's fighting between the Turks and the Kurds.  There's fighting between Egyptian government forces and terror groups in the Sinai.  The list goes on with fighting in Libya and elsewhere.  So, will we soon see another major addition to the list?

Things certainly seem to be moving towards another conflict in the region.  The new outbreak of fighting will be around the Gaza Strip.  Recent events have all been problematic for Hamas, the terror group that controls Gaza.  First, there has been a major diplomatic confrontation between Qatar and all its neighbors.  One of the biggest complaints against Qatar has been that it covertly supports terror groups, and that it must stop doing so.  Qatar is one of the biggest financial supporters of Hamas.  Much of the Hamas leadership actually lives in Qatar.  If, as likely will happen, Qatar capitulates to the pressure from its neighbors and cuts off terror funding, this will be a major blow to Hamas.  Second, the Israelis are starting construction of a barrier that will prevent Hamas from building tunnels under the border for use in future wars.  These tunnels allow Hamas fighters to get behind Israeli lines or at least close to Israeli lines from which positions they can inflict casualties.  In the last war a few years back, the principal Israeli goal was the destruction of the Hamas tunnels.  Israeli troops destroyed over twenty of these tunnels.  Since then, relief supplies intended to rebuild Gaza have been diverted to construction of more tunnels.  If the Israeli underground barrier gets built, all of the Hamas tunnels will be neutralized.  Third, Hamas is getting little attention from the Arab countries, and many of those countries are moving close to an informal alliance with Israel against Iran.  This too greatly weakens Hamas.  All three of these factors make it much more likely that the Hamas leadership will decide that only new fighting with Israel will improve the Hamas position for the future.

The strange thing about all this is that should Hamas actually start another fight with Israel, it is unlikely to be helped.  There may be calls for peace by other Arab nations, but that's about all.  The common interest that now binds the Israelis with the Sunni Arab nations (i.e., the need to contain Iran), will remain unchanged.  Hamas won't be able to alter that with yet more fighting.

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