How Trump's actions could flare violence in Middle East
Thursday 10/May/2018 - 10:20 AM
"The Guardian" newspaper- By "Oliver Holmes":
Within 24 hours of Donald Trump’s announcement that the US was exiting the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal، both Damascus and Riyadh experienced missile attacks. Military analysts have warned that by leaving the agreement، the US move could serve to isolate Tehran at a time when it is engaged in multiple conflicts across the Middle East.
Israel، which captured a plateau from Syria in 1967، placed troops in the area on high alert on Tuesday in light of fears it may be targeted by Iranian forces operating across the frontier. Syria’s largest airbase، T-4، is believed to be the focus of Iran’s drone presence in its Arab neighbour. Idlib has seen an increase in bloodshed as Syrian and Russian jets have bombed rebel-held positions. A Saudi-led coalition is fighting the Iran-allied Houthi movement in Yemen، morphing the deadly civil conflict into a regional proxy war.
Here are the key players in the region، their objectives and the hotspots where violence could flare.
Iran Iran has been accused by its enemies of attempting to create a crescent of influence stretching from its border to the Mediterranean، through allies in Iraq، Syria and into Lebanon where its proxy، Hezbollah، has consolidated power. Early in Syria’s devastating seven-year civil war، Shia Iran sent tactical advisers to support president Bashar al-Assad. Since then، Tehran has entrenched its military in the country، deploying drone operators and fighters from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. In February، Israel said it downed an armed Iranian drone that penetrated its airspace.
Israel Israel’s prime minister has been one of the most vociferous critics of the Iran deal and has even been credited with helping convince US president Trump to pull out، using simple، theatrical presentations. Benjamin Netanyahu has warned of an impending war with Iran، accusing his arch-nemesis of attempting to establish a permanent military foothold in Syria. But، while repeatedly warning of Iranian plots to attack، it is Israel that appears to have led the charge with several reported strikes on Tehran’s forces in Syria this year. Shortly after Trump announced the US would withdraw from the Iran deal on Tuesday، Syria state media said air defences had downed two Israeli missiles.
Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia is locked into several proxy wars across the Middle East with Iran، which for a long time were centred in Syria، where the region’s two most powerful states have exploited sectarian Sunni-Shia Muslim splits. In 2015، Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia and an alliance of Muslim states intervened in Yemen’s civil war. Last year، Iran-backed Houthi militants began firing missiles at Riyadh، bringing the fight to the kingdom’s capital، with the latest salvo launched on Wednesday. As part of its anti-Iran push، the Saudi leadership has welcomed Trump’s move to reimpose sanctions on Iran.
Syria The Syrian civil war has torn up the country as world powers have moved to support opposing factions fighting for control. In its campaign to push back what it sees as Saudi influence، Iran has established itself as a key player in the war، mostly operating through pro-Assad militia spread across the battered state. Israel says Iran has recruited tens of thousands of Shia fighters in Syria.
Lebanon The Lebanese militant and political group Hezbollah has long been the tool used by its patron Iran to push its agenda far from its borders. Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006 and Israeli defence officials have warned that Iran is delivering missiles and rockets to the group via a land route with Syria.
Yemen Saudi Arabia and its adversaries in Yemen’s armed Houthi movement are fighting a three-year war that has unleashed one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. A Riyadh-led coalition، supported by the US and Britain، has launched airstrikes that have killed scores of civilians. Iran does not acknowledge its direct military involvement in Yemen، but is widely believed to be supporting the Houthis. On Wednesday، Saudi Arabia said Houthi rebels fired a salvo of ballistic missiles at Riyadh that were intercepted over the capital city. Iraq By arming and training thousands of Shia militants in Iraq، Tehran has sought to push back Islamic State fighters who seized much of the war-torn country in 2014. These factions remain armed and powerful in Iraq، while Tehran seeks to bolster the country’s fragile government.
Turkey Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the US would “lose in the end” for withdrawing from the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear agreement and warned that the move could create “new crises in the region”. Turkish-US relations have already been strained over US assistance to Kurdish militia within Syria that Ankara is fighting. A spokesman for Erdoğan warned shortly after Trump’s announcement that the US president’s actions would “cause instability and new conflicts”.
Qatar Isolated in the Gulf، Qatar has clashed with other Arab states. Saudi Arabia، the UAE، Bahrain and Egypt imposed an economic and diplomatic boycott on the small، rich nation last year، accusing it of supporting Islamist militants and aligning itself with Iran. Qatar denies the accusations but relations with its neighbours remain tense، and it has restored diplomatic links with Tehran.