The analytical group SouthFront recently released a remarkable video about the possibility of a war involving Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and Israel. Of course, this inevitably means that the war would involve Russia and the United States as well.
To understand the context of this scenario, one first needs to understand what has happened in Syria and other Middle Eastern countries in recent years. The original plan of the US and Saudi Arabia (behind whom stood an invisible Israel) was the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad and his replacement with Islamic fundamentalists or takfiris (Daesh, al-Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra). The plan involved the following steps:
- sweep away a strong secular Arab state with a political culture, armed forces and security services;
- generate total chaos and horror in Syria that would justify the creation of Israel’s “security zone”, not only in Golan Heights, but also further north;
- start a civil war in Lebanon and incite takfiri violence against Hezbollah, leading to them both bleeding to death and then create a “security zone”, this time in Lebanon;
- prevent the creation of a “Shiite axis” of Iran/Iraq/Syria/Lebanon;
- continue the division of Syria along ethnic and religious lines, establish an independent Kurdistan and then to use them against Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.
- give Israel the opportunity to become the unquestioned major player in the region and force Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and everyone else to apply for permission from Israel in order to implement any oil and gas projects;
- gradually isolate, threaten, undermine and ultimately attack Iran with a wide regional coalition, removing all Shiite centers of power in the middle East.
It was an ambitious plan, and the Israelis were completely convinced that the United States would provide all the necessary resources to see it through. But the Syrian government has survived thanks to military intervention by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. Daesh is almost defeated and Iran and Hezbollah are so firmly entrenched in Syria that it has driven the Israelis into a state of fear bordering on panic. Lebanon remains stable, and even the recent attempt by the Saudis to abduct Prime Minister Saad Hariri failed.
As a result, Saudi Arabia and Israel have developed a new plan: force the US to attack Iran. To this end, the “axis of good” (USA-Israel-Saudi Arabia) was created, although this is nothing new. Saudi Arabia and the other Arab States in the Persian Gulf have in the past spoken in favor of intervention in Syria. It is well known that the Saudis invaded Bahrain, are occupying it de facto, and are now at war in Yemen.
The Israelis will participate in any plan that will finally split the Sunnis and Shiites, turning the region into rubble. It was not by chance that, having failed in Lebanon, they are now trying to do the same in Yemen after the murder of Ali Abdullah Saleh.
For the Saudis and Israelis, the problem lies in the fact that they have rather weak armed forces; expensive and high-tech, but when it comes to full-scale hostilities, especially against a really strong opponent such as the Iranians or Hezbollah, the “Israel/Wahhabis” have no chance and they know it, even if they do not admit it. So, one simply needs to think up some kind of plan to force the Shiites to pay a high price.
So they developed a new plan. Firstly, the goal is now not the defeat of Hezbollah or Iran. For all their rhetoric, the Israelis know that neither they nor especially the Saudis are able to seriously threaten Iran or even Hezbollah. Their plan is much more basic: initiate a serious conflict and then force the US to intervene. Only today, the armed forces of the United States have no way of winning a war with Iran, and this may be a problem. The US military knows this and they are doing everything to tell the neo-cons “sorry, we just can’t.” This is the only reason why a US attack on Iran has not already taken place. From the Israeli point of view this is totally unacceptable and the solution is simple: just force the US to participate in a war they do not really need. As for the Iranians, the Israeli goal of provoking an attack on Iran by the US is not to defeat Iran, but just to bring about destruction – a lot of destruction – and then watch as Shiite Muslims and Sunni Muslims kill each other.
So everything is simple. Let the Saudis attack Lebanon, the Iranian troops in Syria and/or Iran under any pretext. At the same time America runs a full on pro-Israel propaganda campaign, explaining to the average American, easily fooled by TV, that Iran poses a threat to the entire region; that it is the aggressor, and that the Saudis are just protecting themselves from Iranian aggression. Thus congressmen and senators from the Israeli lobby on Capitol Hill are under orders to explain to the American people that the United States should “lead the free world” in order to “protect the only democracy in the middle East against Iranian aggression” and that the United States bears “responsibility” for preventing “the seizure of Saudi oil fields” by Iran etc.
What could Tehran’s counterplan be, given these conditions? The Iranians do not have a good option. The least bad option for them, remaining outwardly passive, risks them being accused by people who are not very smart that Tehran has given up. But even still, it makes sense to refuse entering into a confrontation with the enemy, at least at a strategic level. This absolutely does not mean that Iran should not resist at a tactical level. Even the group of Russian armed forces in Syria are under official orders to defend in case of an attack. We are talking about a strategic level. So as tempting as it may be, the Iranians tend to refrain from retaliation against Saudi Arabia. The same goes for Israel. It’s ironic, but Iran cannot do the same as Hezbollah did in 2006. The reason is simple: by the time the first Hezbollah rockets started falling on Israel, the Israelis had already reached the highest level of escalation. But in the current case of Iran, the United States can raise the level of violence far beyond the limit that the Israelis and the Saudis can reach themselves. The combined power of Israel and Saudi Arabia does not bear comparison with the firepower that the United States CENTCOM+NATO) can muster against Iran. It is therefore crucial that the Iranians do not give the Americans any pretext to officially join the aggression. Instead of bringing down the regime in Riyadh, it is more beneficial for the Iranians to allow and even assist the regime in Riyadh in destroying itself. This process is already underway and Crown Prince Mohammed only accelerated it with his repression of the ruling family. The Saudis’ chance for survival is much smaller than that of the US or Israel.
Needless to say, if the United States gets involved in hostilities against Iran and unleashes all of its military power against them, which is a very real possibility, then all bets are off and Iran should and will respond with a complete set of proportionate and disproportionate responses, including attacks on Israel and Saudi Arabia, on oil fields in particular, and even on CENTCOM bases throughout the region. However, this situation will have disastrous consequences for Iran, and therefore they will avoid it if at all possible. But on their own the Israelis and the Saudis are simply a union without a solid foundation, with even Hezbollah prompting fear in them.
The main question remains: will there be an attack? In short, probably yes. The simple truth is that the regimes in power in Israel and in Saudi Arabia are rather inadequate and they are backed into a corner and in a state of despair. The inability of Israel/Wahhabi forces to control even miniscule Qatar suggests the decline of power within these regimes. The recent visits to Moscow by Bibi Netanyahu and even the king of Saudi Arabia were part of an attempt to gauge the likely Russian reaction in the event of an attack on Iran.
Vladimir Putin made it clear to both visitors that Russia will not remain on the sidelines and will not allow them to attack Iran. If one looks at things realistically, Russia has a very limited set of options. Russia cannot just openly and formally participate in a war, if Russian personnel will be subjected to a direct assault. It would be too dangerous, especially if the United States was involved. But Russia can significantly (and very quickly) strengthen Iranian air defences, placing its A-50 and MiG-31 aircraft in Iran, guiding them in reconnaissance missions from airfields in Russian territory. Russia could provide the Iranians with intelligence that the Iranians themselves could never obtain. Moscow could also tacitly place some of their electronic warfare systems at key points in Iran. In the end, Russia can do for Iran what they did for Syria and integrate the Iranian and Russian air defence systems into a single network.
At present, it is clear that an attack on Iran is being prepared. An attack is possible and even likely, but the question is still not definitively resolved. For all their feigned courage, participants in the conspiracy against Iran actually know that Iran is a formidable and highly sophisticated enemy. They may also remember what happened when the Iraqis, with the full cooperation and support of the United States, Soviet Union, France, Britain, and a wide range of other countries, attacked Iran when it was weak. There followed a long war, but Iran was not defeated. Saddam Hussein is dead, and the Iranians are more or less in control of Iraq.
You would need to be crazy to attack Iran. The problem, however, is that the Saudis and the Israelis are close to this state. And they have proved it many times. So it just remains to hope that Israel and the KSA are “crazy”, but “not that crazy”.
Peter Lvov, Ph.D in political science, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”