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The current unrest pursuant to the “Arab Spring” is a mixed blessing for Iran. On one hand, if young Bashir were to fall, Iran will lose its most important ally in the western part of the Arab world. A break with Syria would be a serious defeat for Iran, since it would no longer be able to supply Hezbollah directly, nor would it have direct contact and supervision over its proxy terror armies in Lebanon, the Sinai, and the Gaza Strip. It would also be very bad news for Hezbollah, whose terrorist leaders rely heavily on Iranian supplies, funds, and armaments, all channeled into Lebanon via Syria. Hamas too would suffer from a break in its link with its Iranian godfather.
But on the other hand, Iran is exploiting the great opportunity created by the chaos and upheaval of the “Arab Spring”. Iran does not want to see its foothold in the west undermined by this upheaval, so it has helped Bashir in his use of extreme force; and it has also begun to manipulate the “Arab Spring” violence and unrest to its advantage.
To gain maximum benefit from the situation in Egypt and to turn the world’s attention from Syria, Iran has activated two of its proxies, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to renew attacks on Israel: blowing up the natural gas pipeline from the northern Sinai to Israel, firing scores of rockets into Israeli towns and villages near the Gaza Strip, most recently launching three brutal attacks on civilians near Eilat, and more in the offing. Igniting a new war between Israel and Egypt, or at least precipitating a crescendo in the incendiary calls for war from the Egyptian populous and neighboring Arab states, would be a marvelous win-win for Iran and for the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the best organized and most popular of the political groups contending for power in post-Mubarak Egypt.
If Israel’s response to the attacks from the Gaza Strip and Sinai were to trigger a war with Egypt, Israel is likely to win; but the turmoil and upheaval in the wake of that war would weaken the Egyptian generals currently ruling Egypt with a temporary de facto mandate. Once shamed in defeat, they would lose credibility and popularity (there already have been protests against their continued rule and postponed elections). This scenario would create the perfect storm into which the MB could sail to political control. If, despite the attacks, Israel shows restraint, the MB can still shame the generals for not confronting Israel, and then either provoke a war or use the failure of the generals to confront Israel as a way to shame and weaken them and pave the way for the MB’s own rise to power.
Better yet, if Iran, through its proxies, could spark a war with Israel, and the other forces confronting Israel were to join in, Israel would be fighting on many fronts at once. In that case, the likelihood of Israel’s victory is in question.
El Qaeda is thoroughly ensconced in the Sinai. Currently Israel and Egypt are said to be in conversation about Egypt’s re-militarizing the Sinai, so perhaps the Egyptian army could be deployed against al-Qaeda and Hamas there. But if the MB succeeds in gaining a position of political strength in Egypt, it is not likely that the Egyptian military will be deployed in the Sinai to drive al-Qaeda out. Quite the opposite, the MB wants a military confrontation with Israel. So it is likely to see al-Qaeda in Sinai as an ally in such a war. And if the MB and al-Qaeda go to war against Israel, then Hamas in the Gaza Strip is sure to follow. Hamas cannot stand idly by while its Egyptian brethren initiate the great final jihad against Israel.
With Egypt, al-Qaeda and Hamas attacking Israel on its southern and western fronts, Iran will want Hezbollah to get in on the action and make use of the thousands of rockets and missiles that it has stockpiled just for this very moment, thus opening a northern front.
Syria may have difficulty deploying a large military force on the Golan front if it must use its military against its civilian demonstrators; but Iran will be in a position to aid Syria in suppressing unrest (probably in a manner similar to what Bashir’s father Hafez el-Assad did in 1982), and young Bashir will want a distraction on the Golan front to turn his citizenry’s attention, and the opprobrium of the world, from his slaughter of unarmed demonstrators. Even if Bashir falls, undesirable for Iran but an eventuality that the Mullahs may be anticipating, a Syrian government run by the MB or other Islamo-fascists of that ilk will be delighted to join Egypt and others in a pincer-movement assault on Israel. So a Syrian Golan front is very likely to open once Israel is at war with Egypt, Hamas, el-Qaeda and Hezbollah.
In the West Bank, Hamas is strong because its extreme Islamo-fascist ideology and commitment to Israel’s annihilation hold the sympathies of many. Fatah and the PLO, the main components of the PA, are condemned in some circles for their collaboration with Israel. The PA will not be able to maintain a position of power if it chooses to sit out a war against Israel; especially since the PA is in stiff competition with Hamas for the hearts and minds of the West Bank electorate, and it looks like entering a shooting war with Israel is a good way to win those hearts and minds. So it is very likely that another intifada could erupt once the southern, western and northern fronts are aflame, probably targeting the Israeli communities scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Such a terror offensive could cause high numbers of casualties but is not likely to create an existential military threat. However, a West Bank terror war would be a serious distraction for Israel and would reduce Israel’s ability to concentrate its military on the fronts that are existential threats.
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