‘Middle East slipping towards precipice of a regional war’

London (IANS) The Middle East has been slipping towards the precipice of a regional war ever since the Hamas attack on Israel on 7 October and the ferocious Israeli response in Gaza, the media reported.

The past week has shown how the cliff edge keeping it from that abyss could quickly crumble away, The Guardian reported.

Within hours of the outbreak of the Gaza war, the Hezbollah Shia militia in Lebanon began to fire on northern Israeli towns and villages in solidarity with Palestinians, triggering Israeli air strikes in response, and Houthi forces in Yemen attacked ships in the Red Sea with real or perceived Israeli connections.

The US moved two aircraft carriers and their accompanying strike groups to the region as American bases in Syria and Iraq came under repeated attacks from Iran-affiliated groups, drawing swift retaliation from Washington.

At the same time the West Bank erupted in protests at the bombing of civilians in Gaza and extremist Jewish settlers quickly sought to ride the wave of Israeli anger by seizing Palestinian land and terrorising its residents, The Guardian reported.

Each of these theatres of conflict has the potential to ignite a much-feared Middle East conflagration, and the past few days have demonstrated just how easily escalation, intended or not, could bring Israel into open confrontation with Iran, and suck in the US too, The Guardian reported.

An Israeli airstrike just outside Damascus killed a senior figure in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Sayyed Razi Mousavi, who was responsible for military liaison between Syria and Iran.

After Mousavi’s death last Monday, the IRGC issued a statement declaring the “usurper and savage Zionist regime will pay for this crime”.

Tehran’s Houthi allies have meanwhile have been firing on the US-led “Prosperity Guardian” naval task force assembled to protect shipping in the Red Sea.

American warships shot down dozens of drones and also a handful of ballistic missiles, The Guardian reported.

US Central Command issued a statement to say that Washington had “every reason to believe that these attacks, while launched by the Houthis in Yemen, are fully enabled by Iran”.

If a US warship is struck, President Joe Biden would be under intense pressure to deliver a decisive response, as he enters an election year with his tenure hanging in the balance and Republicans looking to focus on any trace of weakness, The Guardian reported.

On Thursday, a former Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennet, wrote a commentary in a US newspaper expressing the view of many on the hawkish end of the security establishments in both the Israel and the US that they are doomed to fight Iranian proxies indefinitely until Iran is taken on directly, The Guardian reported.

“The evil empire of Iran must be brought down,” Bennett argued in the Wall Street Journal.

“The US and Israel must set the clear goal of bringing down Iran’s evil regime. Not only is this possible. It is vital for the safety and security of the Middle East — and the entire civilised world.”

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