Israel, Arabs and Iran’s balancing act

I don’t as a rule post partisan political opinions about Israel, except in the narrow sense of following its wars.

This is because every time I have strayed onto that particular highway with middling sort of views, one gets smashed from both ends. The Israel debate is polluted by accusatory demagogy and bad faith.

But its worth saying a few things about the geopolitical situation in the Middle East swirling around the latest killing.

Iran apparently has announced that in solidarity with the oppressed of Gaza, it will provide naval escorts to humanitarian convoys in the near future.

We don’t know a lot about how Tehran views things, or how exactly power is distributed. But we can confidently say that one danger of Iran’s rise as a possible nuclear power with considerable regional weight is the emergence of a countervailing bloc of Arab states. Worse, it could even spur an Israel-Arab rapprochement of sorts, with Turkey and its collaboration with Israel into the mix as well.

So how to divide them? Identify with the Palestinian cause, present Iran not as a Persian superpower but as a defender of Islam from the Crusader-Zionist state.

And then an opportunity comes along: unlike in Gaza, or Lebanon, Iran has the latitude to confront Israel in international waters – space not owned by any state. It can stage a confrontation precisely at the time when the Islamic region from Turkey to Saudi Arabia is wired and inflamed by Israel’s behaviour. Running the risk of Israel retaliating, Iran can stand as the vanguard of anti-Israeli resistance. And it could tempt Israel to lash out intemperately.

And so the chess game proceeds. Sadly for all the Palestinians and the Israelis in rocketed areas, they are the pawns. So it goes.

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