If there were a competition to determine the part of the globe with the most intrigue and shifting alliances, the Middle-East would have to come at the top of the list. They’ve certainly had a lot of practice at the art of deception, and the wars that have been fought have often involved factions as combatants as much as nations.
In fact, the Middle-East suffers from some problems that have been inflicted on it. Nation-states are often thought to be rather homogeneous with a real sense of national identity and shared culture. While this is largely the case in a nation such as Iran which is merely ancient Persia, other countries are not this fortunate. They had their borders drawn by Europeans powers after World War I and later without regard for whether the inhabitants in those nations had much in common.
As a result, it is not unusual for ethnic as well as religious groups to have more in common with those in a neighboring country than they have with those living in the town down the road. And recall that Islam is not monolithic, but rather contains a variety of sects, some violently opposed to each other.
So as we see in Iraq, just because you have a nation that we as westerners think of as filled with Muslims, this does not mean they are all going to get along. Same thing with Syria. History over the last several decades have proven this over and over.
Then there are some big players that you would think should be ready to annihilate each other such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. After all, Saudi Arabia contains Islam’s two holiest cities, and Israel contains its third. And Judaism and Islam typically don’t mix. Yet there is much evidence to support the notion that the two nations actually cooperate with each other, although much of that goes on under the table for obvious reasons.
So we are left with these groups, many of them militant, all of them embracing some form of Islam, that are at odds with each other as well as with Israel. And they each cooperate and receive funding from various Muslim nations to act as those nations’ proxies.
So we should not be surprised to have learned that Iran has funneled $830 million to Hezbollah to act to increase Iran’s influence in the Middle-East. One place where the United States gets involved is with the sanctions imposed against Iran over its alleged nuclear weapons program and the relaxation of those sanctions by the Obama administration and European states thereby freeing up $100 billion for Iran.
Complicated enough yet?
“Two years after the nuclear deal was signed by Iran and world powers, the Islamic Republic is reported to have boosted its financial support to Hezbollah to $800 million a year, a dramatic increase from the $200m. it was said to be giving its proxy when sanctions were in place.
“Hezbollah, one of the most prominent terrorist organizations in the world, has become bogged down fighting in Syria for Bashar Assad. Of its approximately 22,000 fighters, about 7,000 are fighting for the Assad regime, and some 2,000 have been killed in the four years the group has spent in Syria.
“The US and European countries lifted sanctions against Iran in January 2016, releasing roughly $100 billion in assets after international inspectors found that Iran had dismantled large parts of its nuclear program. According to US media, officials say President Donald Trump is ready to extend those waivers that were issued under the Obama administration.
“According to IDF assessments, while Hezbollah has increased its military capabilities due to its fighting in Syria, the group has spread its troops across the entire Middle East and is hurting financially.
“The finances of the Lebanese Shi’ite group, designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by dozens of countries around the globe, also has been hit hard due to years of sanctions by the United States.”
One thing is for sure. $100 billion in funds from sanctions relief certainly makes it possible for Iran to empower Hezbollah should the Islamic Republic so desire. And that makes Israel nervous.
“According to [a U.S. Congressional] committee, the 2015 Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act (HIPA), which threatens sanctions against anyone who finances the group in any significant way, was a good start but needs enhancing because Hezbollah continues to remain a significant threat to Israel.
“Iran also is reported to be spending hundreds of millions of dollars for its militias in Syria and Iraq, as well as supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen who are fighting pro-government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition.
“Although HIPA placed major restrictions and other measures of the Lebanese banking sector, lawmakers in Washington believe it needs to be widened to cripple the group, which is involved in fighting in those countries.”
Here’s where things get even more complicated. Hezbollah and Hamas, other than having a common hatred of Israel, are at odds with each other over any number of issues including their differing Islamic beliefs:
“Tehran, which froze its financial support to Hamas in the Gaza Strip after the group refused to support the Assad regime in 2012, is now reported to be providing the Gazan terrorist group some $60m.-70m.”
Not surprisingly, Israel regularly conducts military exercises in the event war quickly escalates. Dealing with non-state actors such as Hezbollah and Hamas makes matters even more complicated as the ability of those groups to infiltrate Israel is a serious threat, not to mention the extensive array of deadly conventional weapons including rockets that have been provided to them.
Hence, it should come as no surprise that as one American president after another attempts to settle the “Middle-East Crisis,” they find only marginal success. The problem is you cannot get all the actors to sit down at the same table let alone have talks. As long as the Middle-East remains as fractured and as filled with extremists as it is now, peace, tragically, will be fleeting.
Source: Jerusalem Post