Is Middle East Heading Towards a Regional War?

Written by: Pathikrit Payne
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Is Middle East Heading Towards a Regional War?
The escalation of the conflict between Israel and Hamas could not have come at a worse time. With relentless rocket strikes by Hamas on Israeli cities resulted in massive bombing sorties by Israeli jets and with Israel planning to do a ground invasion of Gaza, the situation as it stands today is perhaps pointing towards the conflicts in Middle East only expanding in its geographical dimensions.

With Iraq and Syria mired in massive internal turmoil albeit aided and abetted by external elements, and with the sudden rise of ISIS as the most deadly terror group threatening more states of Middle East one wonders how the escalation of conflict between Hamas and Israel would have an impact on the overall situation in Middle East.

Will Iran support Hamas anymore?

If Israel eventually does a ground invasion of Gaza Strip to permanently root out the Hamas menace, what would be the consequence of that? Would it lead to Hamas seeking military help from ISIS? Would Iran, a long term supporter of Hamas support it this time, given the increasing widening of the gap between Shia and Sunni sects?

Incidentally, Iran is a Shiite nation whereas Hamas is a Sunni organization. Iran is already livid with Hamas for having taken the side of the rebels and Jihadists in Syria against the Shia regime of Assad resulting in millions of dollars of funding that usually used to come to Hamas from Iran having dried up.

If Iran does a ground invasion of Gaza Strip, will Hezbollah open up a new front along the Israeli Lebanon border to put pressure on Israel? Or is it that the Hezbollah already stretched to its limit to fight alongside the Assad Government against the Syrian rebels would prefer not to commit itself into another long standing conflict? Owing to the strong relation that Hezbollah has with both the Assad regime and Iran, it may not come to the rescue of Hamas this time.

For Israel the stakes are higher

On the side of Israel, it has more to lose than the Hamas. Given its massive economy, daily bombardment by rockets and living under perpetual fear of death does take its toll on the economy just as calling up reservists and preparing for ground invasion has its economic costs.

Besides, the manner in which Hamas has mastered the art of using human shield round its rocket launching pads by placing them tactfully in crowded civilian areas, Israel knows it well that prolonged conflict, bombardment and even ground invasion would lead to massive civilian casualties, which has already started and whose impact invariably would be against Israel in terms of negative sentiments against it.

What may work in favor of Israel...

On Israel's advantage is the change of regime in Egypt and the stranglehold of Muslim Brotherhood that the new President of Egypt Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi has put around it. Muslim Brotherhood has been a staunch supporter of Hamas but with Muslim Brotherhood having been reduced to a beleaguered lot and fighting for its own existence in Egypt, Hamas can no more count on sustained support of Muslim Brotherhood. It would thus be difficult for Hamas to sustain a prolonged campaign against Israel given its depleted resources and fund.

What if ISIS steps in and overtakes Gaza from Hamas?

There is also another round of theory doing the rounds that perhaps the killing of three Israeli teens, the incident which triggered the present round of crisis, was not done by the Hamas. It was done by a lesser known Palestinian Jihadi group named Islamic State in Bayt al-Maqdis which had claimed responsibility for the incident even as Hamas had denied its hand on the same.

There is no doubt that ISIS has much more to gain from a fresh conflict between Israel and Hamas. Israel's biggest concern, even as it braces for a ground invasion, is that decimation of Hamas and its loss of control on Gaza may create the worst kind of void which might create the ideal situation for the likes of ISIS to come and takeover.

Israel's Hobson's Choice- to have Hamas or not to have Hamas...

From this perspective it is a Hobson's choice for Israel as to whether go ahead with its ground invasion of Gaza Strip and destroy Hamas or let is sustain but with reduced strength lest ISIS come take that place. No doubt Israel would always prefer Hamas to a fanatic ISIS at its doorstep.

If ISIS takes its fight to Israel then it might get unprecedented popular support among many Muslim nations antagonistic towards Israel and it might increase its credence to such an extent that not only would its caliphate get recognition from many Islamic states, it might also then dare to go on to attack the Emirates and Monarchies in Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arab and UAE.

From this perspective, both Israel and Arab Monarchies would prefer to be on the same line and see that ISIS doesn't reach that zenith.Thus a rising ISIS may not only make Israel eventually go soft on Hamas but may also make many Arab states not taking too strong a stand against Israel on the issue of the current conflict between Israel and Hamas.

A prolonged regional conflict in Middle East is a real cause of concern for India

Whatever might be the eventual outcome, things as they stand today look extremely bleak for Middle East and the conflicts are engulfing the whole of region into a perpetual regional clash

From the perspective of India, the issue of a regional conflict in Middle East would only mean higher prices of crude oil and its resultant negative impact on economy, as also the spread of ISIS reaching beyond Middle East.

Already the news of Pakistani Jihadi group Tehreek-e-Khilafat joining the ISIS brigade (Read here) is a real cause of concern for India in addition to the recent news that 18 youths from India might have gone to Iraq to fight for ISIS. (Read: 2 Thane boys among 18 Indians who joined ISIS). There is also a bigger worry of ISIS type organizations tapping on the huge migrant working population from India in Middle East for indoctrination and for taking the war back home.

From Middle East to South Asia-the distance is not impossible to breach...beware !!!!

As the violence spreads more in Middle East, the possibility of more Pakistani jihadi groups joining the ISIS bandwagon and more of this radical extremism affecting India dangerously is a real cause of concern for India. From that perspective, the sooner the issues get solved in Middle East, the better it is. But that possibility now looks extremely bleak.

For India the only way out is to improve its own internal security architecture and brace for the worst. In a globalised environment conflicts in a distant region are no more isolated and distant incidents. In no time the effects of the same reach the doorsteps of those who remain completely unprepared for it or presume geographical distance would be good enough a barrier.

The geographical barrier was broken long time back by internet and radical extremism literature is all available in the internet for the willing to get indoctrinated and start mayhem in their home state. The likes of ISIS are banking on that only to spread their serpentine tentacles.

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