Once Again, the Middle East Drags Us towards the Abyss; COMMENTARY

Daily Mail (London), May 1, 2018 | Go to article overview

Once Again, the Middle East Drags Us towards the Abyss; COMMENTARY


Byline: John R Bradley

TENSIONS between arch-enemies Israel and Iran once again threaten to plunge the two countries into direct military conflict - one that could all too easily lead to a new and terrifyingly unpredictable regional war.

In a flash, such a conflict could drag in other major regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and the Lebanese-based Shia militia Hezbollah, which are aligned militarily with the Middle East's two main opposing power brokers, the United States and Russia. On Sunday, a ferocious Israeli missile strike on alleged Iranian military bases in Syria reportedly killed dozens of soldiers. It is true that Israel has launched more than 100 such strikes inside Syria since the barbaric civil war broke out in that country seven years ago, targeting both Iranian and Hezbollah forces sent to the country to help prop up President Assad's regime, which is still technically at war with the Jewish state. However, the latest attack was the most brazen and deadly yet.

It was followed yesterday by a dramatic claim from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he has proof the mullahs in Tehran have been secretly developing nuclear weapons, in blatant contravention of an internationally brokered deal - sealed by Barack Obama in 2015 - aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions.

It saw the lifting of crippling economic sanctions on Iran, in return for limitations to the country's controversial nuclear energy programme.

Mr Netanyahu accused Iran of having a secret plan called 'Project Amad', whose goal is to produce five ten-kiloton nuclear weapons.

This unverified claim will of course have been music to the ears of Donald Trump and the anti-Iran hawks the President has surrounded himself with in the White House.

Even before this dramatically theatrical display from Israel, Mr Trump appeared determined to scrap the controversial nuclear deal next month, because he sees it as being fatally flawed. The deal is still strongly backed by Britain, the EU, Russia, China and the UN-sponsored watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency. All remain adamant that inspections show Iran has and continues to abide by its principles.

Indeed, during a visit to the White House last week, French president Emmanuel Macron urged Mr Trump to stick to the agreement - echoing similar pleas by Theresa May and Angela Merkel.

But is Mr Trump listening more closely to his old friend Mr Netanyahu? What we do know is that, as the deadline nears for Mr Trump's decision on whether to re-ratify the nuclear deal, unprecedented threats and counter-threats of death and destruction are being hurled between Tehran and Tel Aviv. …

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