Syria, Lebanon and even Iraq have been struck by air raids and drone attacks, confirming Israel’s broad leeway. The escalation could end up fuelling violence amid a silent international community. US policy towards the region remain ambiguous. War is not possible or imminent, but already ongoing.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Israeli operations in Lebanon, Syria and recently in Iraq against Iranian targets are likely to open a new front in the Middle East and highlight the ambiguity of US policy vis-à-vis the region.
Recent Israeli air attacks in late July and mid-August in Iraq and the fall over the weekend of Israeli drones in a pro-Iranian Hezbollah-controlled neighbourhood south of Beirut have raised the level of tensions.
For analysts and experts, Israel's attacks in Iraq took place with US approval. "Operations in Syria happen with Russian acquiescence and operations in Iraq happen with US acquiescence," whilst "the noose gets tighter" for Iran, writes Mideast specialist Joseph Bahout in L'Orient-Le Jour newspaper.
Reacting to Israel’s actions, Iraq’s president and prime minister described them “as attacks against Iraq’s sovereignty". In the country’s parliament, some lawmakers called again for the withdrawal of US troops from the country.
If US approval for Israeli attacks is evident in Syria and Lebanon, the situation in Iraq appears more complicated due to the presence of 5,000 American soldiers and the political tensions that it generates.
Aaron David Miller, a US scholar, notes that Israel moves independently on the most important issues concerning its own security despite shared attitudes towards US leadership. However, recent attacks in Iraq, as in Lebanon, against Iranian targets increase the risk of a destructive conflict in the region.
In this volatile context, the surprise visit by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, at the invitation of French president Emmanuel Macron appears to be, at least potentially, a sign of détente between Washington and Tehran.
US and Iranian delegates did not meet of course, but at least a first step was taken towards a possible meeting between Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rohani, thus favouring détente between the two parties.
In addition to Iraq, Israel has also targeted Hezbollah positions in Lebanon. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri complained about the violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty, but his condemnation of Israel seemed more pro-forma given the ties that link him to the United States and Saudi Arabia, the two countries that, together with Israel, constitute the anti-Iranian axis in the Middle East.
According to several observers, there are more and more signs of Israel's greater leeway in the region, justified to the outside world as a need to defend its territory and citizens from external threats.
Such a policy has been strengthened under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It includes drone attacks, air raids and the construction of walls (including on the border with Lebanon), which is controversial in terms of international law.
“The poor people of Lebanon do not matter; they do not exist. Palestinians matter nothing, living and dying, cramped like sardines in repulsive camps with hardly any rights. This has been going on for long decades,” writes philosopher, movie maker and investigative journalist Andre Vltchek.
“Israel,” he goes on to say, “justifies everything by its ‘defense’,” whilst “The world is doing nothing to stop it.”
“The West and its allies are escalating tensions all over the Middle East. Some say, ‘war is possible’. Others say ‘it is imminent’. But it is not just a possibility. There is a war. Everywhere. In Afghanistan and Syria, in Yemen and Iraq. Wherever you look! Even in Lebanon.”