Amid growing tensions among Middle Eastern countries, experts worry that a nuclear war will break out between Israel and Iran sometime this year. Though an all-out attack by either side was held in check in 2012, 2013 may yet see the two countries lash out at each other on a grand scale.
Reports confirm that Iran continues to develop and grow its nuclear program despite criticism and diplomatic pressure, while forecasts for Israel’s attainment of a “red line” (i.e., a lack of nuclear capability) are set for an unspecified date before year’s end. And although President Barack Obama has not specified his red line, he has stated that he would prefer stronger sanctions, eventually followed by military action, rather than allow for a nuclear Iran that influences other nations to run nuclear programs of their own. Should Obama decide in favour of war, a bipartisan majority in Congress will very likely support the initiative.
According to Maariv newspaper, an intelligence report by Israel’s Foreign Ministry found that, should Iran declare war, it will have little to no support from its allies, i.e., Syria and Hezbollah. A group confrontation with Israel would not be feasible, given the enfeebled condition of the government in Damascus and the obstruction of the supply of military weapons to the Lebanese resistance party. Essentially, the nearly two-year-long crisis in Syria has served to accelerate the disintegration of its central government and weaken its military, a set of developments that has effectively shut the country out of any possibility of providing aid to Iran in its conflict with Israel.
Late last year, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah appeared on Al Mayadeen TV for an interview where he was quoted as saying that, if Israel were to launch an assault on Iran’s nuclear plants, Iran would retaliate by targeting US military bases in the region. Nasrallah gave Israel and the US stern warnings some months after conflict erupted in Syria in 2011: any war on Syria and Iran would affect the whole region and, despite the Syrian crisis, his party is ever-vigilant and ever-ready to meet any challenge that may come up.
But while outright military action has yet to be taken, signs point to ongoing, covert cyber warfare waged by Iran, Israel and the US. The three countries are engaged in a private campaign of offensive cyber operations, sabotage, assassinations and other related coercive measures, all of which do not bode well for the Middle East, as prospects of all-out war in the region seem closer to realization than before. On the other hand, economic warfare in the form of government sanctions by the US is very much in the public eye, having led to a gross devaluation of the Iranian currency, a critical loss of control over the Iranian regime, and greater difficulties in meeting the country’s most basic economic needs.
So far, the various impulses for war have been checked and contained, but it remains to be seen whether this will be the case in the near future. The stakes are high, and the unfolding cyber war may yet prove decisive in the potential eruption of war proper between Israel and Iran.
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