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Consequences Of The Israeli War On Gaza

As Israel’s war on Gaza rages on in its second month, it is not clear how much longer this gruesome violence will continue before there is eventually a ceasefire. Some experts think that Israel’s military operations in the besieged enclave will continue into 2024. It is beyond terrifying to think about what Gaza would look like by then considering all the factors contributing to the blockaded territory’s worsening humanitarian disasters.

Palestinians look for survivors after an Israeli strike on a building last night in Jebaliya refugee camp, Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Abo Salamah)

Although we have no way of knowing all the ways in which this war on Gaza will impact the Middle East, there are a few assumptions about consequences for regional politics which seem safe to make. The most obvious point is that when the dust eventually settles in Gaza, there will probably be much more instability in the Middle East.

There will be many challenges for Washington to face given the extent to which the US’s image in the greater Arab-Islamic world has suffered from the Biden administration’s handling of the ongoing crisis in Israel-Palestine since October 7. In some ways, the current situation is reminiscent of US foreign policy two decades ago. After the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, there were extremely high levels of anti-American sentiments across the Middle East that lasted for many years. Yet, over time that anger against the US gradually decreased. However, since last month, levels of anti-Americanism have returned to what they were in the years following President George W. Bush’s war against Iraq.

On November 10, CNN reported that American diplomats in the Arab region have sent cables warning the Biden administration that its support for Tel Aviv is “losing us Arab publics for a generation” and that the US is “losing badly on the messaging battlespace” amid this ongoing war, which has resulted in over 11,000 Palestinian deaths in Gaza.

“The US, by virtue of its one-sided support for Benjamin Netanyahu, has alienated an entire generation of Arabs. This president, Biden, is the most hated president in the history of the United States. These are the effects on the reputation of the US and its image in the region,” said Dr. Nader Hashemi, the director of the Prince Alwaleed Center for Christian-Muslim Understanding at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, in an interview with Newslooks.

“Washington seems completely oblivious to how costly its support for Israel and its blocking of a ceasefire is going to be globally, particularly in the Middle East. The damage this has done to America’s standing will take a very long time to recuperate from. It may very well prove more costly than even Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq,” Dr. Trita Parsi, the Quincy Institute’s executive vice president, told Newslooks.

The White House Hits the Wall of Reality

The Biden administration, which put so much diplomatic energy into trying to expand the Abraham Accords prior to October 7, has demonstrated the extent to which it is out of touch with the “Arab Street”. The leadership in Washington for too long was making foreign policy decisions in the Middle East based on the assumption that the Palestinian issue could be buried. But now Team Biden must contend with reality and realize: First, the Palestinian issue isn’t going away; second, it is an important issue to many Arabs and Muslims worldwide; and third the Abraham Accords are not set to expand in scope any time soon. “Given the carnage and given how many Palestinians have been killed, and will be killed the upcoming weeks, it’s very impossible for an Arab state to strike a peace deal with any Israeli government that has just killed over [11,000] Palestinians,” commented Dr. Hashemi. “So, I don’t see the Abraham Accords moving forward in the near future. I suspect they’re probably dead for the next several years and perhaps forever because this war is a turning point and Gaza will not be rebuilt that quickly.”

The Role of Iran

Mindful of Iran’s support for Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah, tensions between Tehran and Washington are set to heat up. The leadership in Iran is more than pleased to see anti-Americanism spike in the wider Islamic world. This development offers Tehran opportunities to gain greater soft-power influence among more segments of the wider Arab-Islamic world while presenting Iran’s positions as reflective of public opinion across Global South countries while the US finds itself increasingly isolated.

If this conflict prolongs, Iran can certainly take advantage of the violence. “Nothing deprives Iran of the oxygen it needs to advance its regional policies more than a sustainable and fair solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. If Israel ends up creating more enemies than it is killing, Iran will be a net winner in this conflict,” Dr. Ali Vaez, International Crisis Group’s Iran Project Director, said in an interview with Newslooks.

On November 11, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi became the first Iranian president to visit Saudi Arabia in 11 years when he attended the Joint Islamic-Arab Summit. While in Riyadh, Raisi spoke before many leaders of many Arab League and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) members. Only two days earlier at the UN General Assembly the US joined a total of six other countries (three being ministates in Oceania) in voting against a draft resolution titled “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan”, which was supported by 145 members of the UN General Assembly.

While the extreme humanitarian crises in Gaza and the daily carnage can help Iran rally countries in the Arab-Islamic world and Global South against Washington and European capitals, Tehran does not want to see this conflict spill into more parts of the Middle East. Iran has shown much restraint since October 7, which underscores the Islamic Republic’s desires to avoid both an overt war with Israel and a reversal of the progress that Iran and neighboring Arab states (Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, etc.) have made in reducing regional tensions in recent years.

However, there are hawkish elements in Washington that have long wanted to see the US take military action against Iran. For these neo-conservatives, Hamas’s incursion into southern Israel on October 7 is an opportunity for them to achieve this objective. “There was a lot of discussion in the early days after October 7 where Iran was blamed for orchestrating that attack and I suspect the people who were fanning that narrative wanted to use this opportunity to accomplish a longstanding goal and that is to begin a war with Iran. But it’s pretty clear that Iran had nothing to do with October 7 notwithstanding their support for Hamas politically and financially,” said Dr. Hashemi.

With everyone in Washington so focused on this conflict in Israel-Palestine, it will be increasingly difficult for the Biden administration to engage Iran. This is especially so with 2024 being an election year and many lawmakers determined to attack the White House if it chooses to do anything diplomatically vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic. But engaging Iran one way or the other, as painful as that might be for some in the West, will probably become increasingly necessary mindful of Tehran’s influence over Hamas and other actors that are involved in this war.

“While it will be very costly politically for Western countries to warm up their relations with Tehran, the necessity of doing so is likely going to increase as a result of the weight of the Palestinian issue growing and Iran’s role within it,” Dr. Parsi told Newslooks.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Newslooks.com

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