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Jul. 28 2010 - 12:09 pm | 562 views | 2 recommendations | 9 comments

Predicting the Israeli-Iranian war

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Let us say it. Barring the unforeseen, there will be a major Middle East war in the next two years.

On one side will be Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and possibly Syria. On the other side will be Israel… and likely just Israel.

Furthermore, odds are that Israel will initiate the war.

But they will have Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United States quietly (and not so quietly) offering support. The United States, for reasons of its own related to both the continued Iraqi occupation and support of the Saudi and Israeli governments, may even enter the war. If the war goes especially bad, the Arab powers may even enter as separate combatants agaist Iran. Turkey, meanwhile, will say platitudes in support of Iran while profiting off of both sides.

Meanwhile, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is at death’s door. Whoever his successor is will face a lively Islamist opposition movement. Over in Saudi Arabia, the King is gravely ill. It’s a bad time in geopolitical terms.

As much as Israel is disliked in the Arab Middle East, Iranian hegemony is feared more by old-line powers such as Saudi Arabia and Mubarak’s Egypt. Syria is not necessarily opposed to it due to their own unique situation.

In the thinking of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Iran simply appears more dangerous than Israel. Their fear is that a nuclear-armed Iran will upend the regional balance of power and endanger their regimes. From the viewpoint of the rulers, it is a rational fear.

So in a word, the situation is a catastrophe. But how will this war play out?

The Los Angeles Times’s excellent “Babylon & Beyond” blog has a list of possible Iranian war scenarios with a wealth of links. The Los Angeles Times says the unsaid — that in an Iranian-Israeli war, Saudi Arabia will likely grant Israel rights to their airspace.

Israel and Iran share no land border and are on opposite ends of the Middle East.

The Atlantic’s equally invaluable “Atlantic Wire” blog has a list of reasons Israel has not bombed Iran yet that is a must-read.

Meanwhile, the American neoconservative-leaning journalist Michael J. Totten jokingly wrote on his blog that he was headed to the Middle East to bring his readers “pre-war coverage from Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.”

Unfortunately, Totten is right. He may be flip about it, but the coming war will be especially bad for the Middle East.

Israel will suffer greatly. Iran will suffer greatly. The Palestinians will suffer greatly. Lebanon will suffer greatly. At the end of the war, there will likely be no winners. There will still be no Palestinian state and the Islamic Republic of Iran will still be in power. Israel will likely incur the world’s wrath, given the state’s leadfooted inability to gain public sympathy. Odds are that the regional power balance will shift greatly. Odds are that Israelis, Palestinians, Lebanese and Iranians will suffer mass civillian casualties. Whatever power shifts may happen in the region, millions will suffer. Greatly.

The only consolation is that the war will not occur in the coming months unless Israel decides to attempt a Ramadan attack before the rainy season kicks in. Odds are unlikely, but in the Middle East, nothing is impossible.

This war will be nothing to laugh about. Writing as an American, as a citizen of the one true global hegemon, I’m intensely worried about what the coming years will bring for us. How will America cope when the entire Middle East, from Cairo to Tehran, goes to war?


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  1. collapse expand

    Maybe I haven’t drank enough hysterical Kool-Aid, but I’m not so pessimistic about the chances of an Israel-Iran war. People seem to be talking themselves into believing that war is necessary or inevitable. I’m more worried about an accidental war. As you said, this is beginning to sound like the ‘67 War, which basically started through miscalculation.

    • collapse expand

      I wish I could be optimistic that saner heads will prevail in relations between the two. But the leadership in both Israel and Iran seem set on some sort of military conflict, which could easily trigger a regional war through miscalculation – as you said.

      Personally, I just wish that Iranian and Israeli hawks would lay off the hysterical Kool-Aid. They seem to be drinking a lot of it these days.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    Thanks Michael.. using the ‘..hysterical Kool-Aid’ reference is INCREDIBLY straight to the point. The HUGE part that Mr.Ungerleider left OUT of his Kool-Aid induced hysteria, is that there’s a better than 50-50 chance ANY action started by Israel will be turned in a very un-predicted way to end it quickly.

    Israel will make this war NUCLEAR. They will drop a tactical Nuclear weapon either on Iran’s ‘facilities’ OR on it’s major cities or both.

    Good luck getting that genie back in the bottle..

  3. collapse expand

    I’m torn by all of this. On the one hand, no matter how you slice it, the Apocalypse is gonna suck. On the other hand, the idea of religious people blowing the shit out of each other tickles me pink.

  4. collapse expand

    if they are foolish enough to destroy each other who are we to stop them ?

  5. collapse expand

    Mr. Ungerleider,

    It is highly unlikely that Israel would attack Iran without US permission. Israel’s military could not operate for long independently. I really doubt Mr. Obama would give his permission.

  6. collapse expand

    Good article Neal. I’ll miss your T/S posts, but will look for your great articles and timely analyses in your next venues. Keep up the good work!

  7. collapse expand

    The people of Israel need to wake up. Their American Jewish brethren are drunk from the suddenly potent, and very much strategic semblance of friendship in a united cause being served to them by the US conservative elite. It’s for a cause. Israel has become as big a pawn as the rest of the Middle East in the US agenda for maintaining global hegemony. For the fundamentalist Christian core of America’s elite, the so-called neocons, that same agenda has roots in religious fantasies. The culmination of that fantasy might have Jews sharing the fruits in the Garden of Eden, but only after a quick dunk for Jesus.

  8. collapse expand

    Do you have any predictions on how Europe will respond? I imagine it will be similar to America, only with more refugee issues.

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    About Me

    A New York-based journalist and blogger who has spent extensive time in the Middle East and is currently working on an MA thesis in Middle Eastern Studies. My thesis focuses on the 2009 Iranian election demonstrations and their coverage in the international media.

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    Contributor Since: July 2009
    Location:New York NY