DER SPIEGEL. Tension in the Middle East: The Groundwork Is Laid for a Vast New Conflict (25-9-19)

The attacks on the country’s two biggest oil facilities last month represent an unprecedented humiliation for the Saudis and The kingdom feels disgraced, angry and injured. It also became clear that the Saudis are certain who was behind the attack. The attack fits into the ‘pressure against pressure’ strategy that Tehran has been taking against the U.S. since the spring.

But what, exactly, will be the consequence?

It was three months ago that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard shot down a $100-million American surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. Washington initially planned a retaliatory strike, but President Donald Trump called off the operation at the last minute, supposedly because too many Iranians would have died as a result. Instead, the U.S. military reacted with a cyber-attack against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

The Middle East appears to be sliding into a war and it may even have already started. It is a new kind of war, a 21st century conflict for which there is no formal declaration of war, no clear fronts and a wide variety of battlefields. There are attacks the provenance of which may never be known, and while some of the fighting is conventional in nature, much of it is not and involves drones in the air and viruses in cyberspace. More than anything, it is a confusing war, in which nobody really has control, not even those who are ostensibly leading it.

A trio of leaders is in the process of setting the entire region on fire. It includes U.S. President Trump, whose aggressive and meandering policy has pushed the already fragile region into chaos. It also includes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS for short, a young and unscrupulous leader who is involved in a gruesome war in Yemen. Finally, there is Iran’s revolutionary leader Ali Khamenei, a Shiite fundamentalist who has been toughened by the Islamic Republic’s four decades of battle against the ‘great Satan’ in Washington.

The full, 5,600 word very sobering analysis can be found here.

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Ramesh Thakur is a professor emeritus at the Crawford School of Public Policy, the Australian National University.

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