The twin bombings in Iran Wednesday, heightened tensions in the Red Sea, and the assassination of a key Hamas leader in Lebanon have experts sounding the alarm that the Gaza war risks turning into a larger regional war.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other top diplomats are due in several Middle East countries next week in an effort to mitigate tensions.
There are growing calls in Israel and Iran to expand war efforts, but analysts believe the political consequences of engaging in a full-blown conflict would be detrimental to both countries.
Israel “has crossed a red line” with Hamas leader assassination, but it could backfire
By killing Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri, “Israel has taken the calculated step of crossing a red line,” wrote The Independent’s global affairs editor Kim Sengupta. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is signaling to Israel’s foes that he is ready “for the consequences’' as he extends military operations outside Israel’s borders. But it also shows that Netanyahu needs “symbolic victories” with Hamas nowhere near defeated and Israel facing international condemnation for the rising death toll of Palestinian civilians. But the assassination could backfire for Netanyahu, Sengupta argued, given that Arouri was a key player in hostage negotiations, and following his death, Hamas said it will end talks with Israel. This could further fuel anger from the hostages’ families at the Israeli government.
Iran under pressure to escalate war with Israel, but that could spur revolution against the Islamic Republic
Iran has so far refused to engage in “open warfare” with Israel, wrote Iranian foreign policy expert Titra Parsi, but Israel’s ongoing attacks are putting strain on Tehran’s “long-game strategy” of fighting with Israel through proxy groups like Hezbollah. Growing voices within Iran are arguing “that the absence of a strong response undermines Iran’s deterrence,” Parsi said, adding, “This is a very dangerous moment” as the prospects of a wider conflict grow more likely “by the day.” However, Tehran’s involvement in a war against Israel and the U.S. could be politically disastrous for the Islamic Republic, given that the widespread dissatisfaction with the government, coupled with a conflict, could fuel a revolution to topple the regime, Iranian political commentator Bijan Ashtari said. “The country is completely devoid of people’s support,” he said.
Growing presence of warships from different countries is endangering the Red Sea
“The Red Sea is getting really dangerous now,” wrote former UK Navy Commander Tom Sharpe. But it’s not only because of Houthi attacks on the crucial shipping route. Governments across the world are sending their warships to the Red Sea, and every time a new warship or task force arrives and acts independently, “the risk of miscalculation goes up,” Sharpe argues. When a potential missile is detected, warship crews only have about 30 seconds to shoot down the projectile, but the Red Sea is now full of drones, military planes, and helicopters from governments that have sent their resources there, all while commercial aviation continues flying in the area. Having to be on alert 24/7 exhausts crews which risks the accidental downing of a non-Houthi military asset. That no sailors have been killed or ships sunk is down to “good luck” Sharpe wrote, but “how long will that luck hold?”