This map shows the key players in the Middle East. For more on how Trump’s Middle East policy differs from that of Barack Obama, see Jack Thompson’s recent addition to the CSS Analyses in Security Policy series here. For more CSS charts, maps and graphics on proliferation, click here.
The signs are ominous—especially in Israel and its neighbours, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza. Violence, both actual and rhetorical, has been escalating on all three fronts. Gaza could become the immediate flash point as the Palestinians’ ‘March of Return’, which began on 30 March, intensifies and Israeli retaliation becomes increasingly lethal.
Israel has long been wary of Iran’s power projection in the Levant, particularly in Syria. Ties between Tehran and Damascus have been close since the 1979 revolution, but the relationship deepened after Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011. With the Assad regime’s survival at stake, Tehran doubled down on its support, providing critical military assistance—fighters and strategists—and economic aid estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Syria and Iran now have a partnership with existential stakes—for the Assad regime’s longevity and Iran’s enduring position in Syria, the most strategic property in the Levant. USIP’s Mona Yacoubian looks at Iran and Israel’s goals and concerns in Syria and the potential of their shadow war spilling over into a regional conflagration.
Every day Iran fails to strike back makes it look weaker.
Another war between Israel and Hezbollah may well be approaching. Iran, Hezbollah’s primary patron, continues to ship weapons to the Lebanese militia despite Israel’s insistence that doing so is something it cannot allow. Israel has conducted airstrikes on Iranian and Syrian targets in the past month accordingly, but to no avail. The more aggressively Israel behaves, the sooner a direct fight with Iran will come.
Despite the announcement by the Hamas leadership that it was willing to disband the administrative committee for the Gaza Strip, which was founded six months ago as an act of defiance against PA President Mahmoud Abbas, the road to Palestinian reconciliation is still long. Moreover, it is quite likely that Hamas has maneuvered skillfully, and has successfully caught Abbas and the PA in a honey trap, since if the PA-led Palestinian government returns to Gaza, it will assume the heavy responsibility for reconstruction in the Gaza Strip and the welfare of the population. » More