News & Politics

Will Israel-Iran 'Shadow War' Break into the Open?

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The recent attack by Israel on Iranian forces stationed in Iraq point to a clear escalation in hostilities between the two enemies. Iran appears to be throwing caution to the winds and is now openly arming its allies and proxies in the Middle East with modern missiles. And according to the Gatestone Institute, Israel is stepping up its responses to where there is now genuine fears of hostilities breaking out into the open.

Israel had already been attacking Iranian targets in Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. But an attack recently on a Palestinian base thought to be funded by Iran and the recent targeting of a Hezbollah base in northern Iraq show that Jerusalem will confront Iran wherever and whenever it threatens the state of Israel.

Meanwhile, why is Trump playing nice with Tehran?

Speculation that there could be a diplomatic breakthrough in the acrimonious stand-off between Washington and Tehran was based on the surprise appearance of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the French resort, apparently at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron, the summit’s host.

This prompted Donald Trump to suggest that he was prepared to meet with his Iranian counterpart, President Hassan Rouhani, if the circumstances were right.

Any genuine prospect, though, of such a meeting taking place, was quickly quashed after the Iranian leader said it could only happen if Washington ended its punitive sanctions regime against his country, a precondition no one in the Trump administration is likely to countenance.

The very idea of Washington sitting down with the Iranians at a time when it is continuing to threaten the security of its closest Middle Eastern ally would be unconscionable.

It’s not likely, given the Iranian hatred of the U.S. president. But it concerns the Israelis and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Israel will hold elections on September 17, and there has been speculation that Netanyahu is engineering these strikes on Iran’s bases in the region to appear as “Mr. security.” Certainly, there is a political element to Bibi’s moves.

But despite Washington’s feelers put out to Iran, the question of war and peace is, as it has always been, with Israel. No one doubts that Israel could make short work of the Iranian military. But Iran has hundreds of missiles capable of striking anywhere in Israel — Haifa, Tel Aviv, and every population center. Before the IDF was able to silence those missiles, how many civilians would die?

It would be suicidal for the Iranian regime to provoke a war with Israel. But with both sides making provocative moves, the situation becomes unpredictable. Might the two sides blunder into a ruinous conflict? The unpredictability of the Iranian regime is what makes that such a dangerous question.