Middle East Update :: By Matt Ward

A fully-fledged war between Israel and Iran is no longer a question of if, but when. The withdrawal of the United States of America from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iranian nuclear deal, has shifted events in the Middle East into a much higher gear. The United States, despite the criticism Trump has received, is right to withdraw from JCPOA, as it is a deeply flawed and quite ridiculous international treaty.

All sides have long known that the main protagonist, Iran, has broken almost every key provision of the agreement since its very inception. Yet, despite this obvious disingenuousness, the international community has been more than content to let the charade continue – likely because they are not the ones lying directly in the crosshairs of a potential future Iranian nuclear weapon.

So America, under Donald Trump, who called the JCPOA a “horrible, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made,” finally brought the pantomime to an end. But Trump went further than simply ending the JCPOA. Vastly underreported by the MSM were the additional expectations that the United States has placed on Iran, post JCPOA.

In the final section of the “Talking Points” released by the White House to the press after Trump’s withdrawal speech, the Trump administration went very much further than merely withdrawing from the deal. It went on to state that, “President Trump is making clear that, in addition to never developing a nuclear weapon, the Iranian regime must” perform eight actions.

–Never have an ICBM, cease developing any nuclear-capable missiles, and stop proliferating ballistic missiles to others.

–Cease its support for terrorists, extremists, and regional proxies such as Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda.

–End its publicly declared quest to destroy Israel.

–Stop its threats to freedom of navigation, especially in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea.

–Cease escalating the Yemen conflict and destabilizing the region by proliferating weapons to the Houthis.

–End its cyber-attacks against the United States and our allies, including Israel.

–Stop its grievous human rights abuses, shown most recently in the regime’s crackdown against widespread protests by Iranian citizens.

–Stop its unjust detention of foreigners, including United States citizens.

This is the basis of a whole new US regional strategy, not just a withdrawal. Iran, quite frankly, has no chance of complying with these eight expectations.

The response from Tehran was bombastic. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ordered the country’s atomic agency to prepare to enrich uranium to “industrial levels” for use in nuclear weapons. And then, on Wednesday night, Iran decided to go on the offensive against Israel. After some small scale Israeli strikes against various Iranian targets inside Syria, Iran took the decision to launch twenty plus rockets into northern Israel.

Israel’s response was as immediate as it was decisive. Striking back at Iranian assets within Syria, with a severity of action not seen since the Yom Kippur War, Israel believes it has struck and substantially degraded all of Iran’s military capabilities within Syria.

“Whoever hits us will get hit seven times over. Whoever prepares themselves to attack us will be attacked first,” Netanyahu said. This is the Samson Doctrine, the Israeli first-strike military doctrine, and Iran should beware. (1)

Israel, in the severity of its response, has drawn a very clear red line in the sand against Iranian and Hezbollah attempts to move south through Syria towards the Golan Heights. Indeed, at point of writing, Israel believes it has destroyed all key Iranian military infrastructures within Syria.

Yet, Israel also knows that it treads a fine line in its actions in Syria. Israel’s decisiveness against Iran is constrained by two very clear red lines, both Russian: that the Syrian regime headed by Assad is preserved, and that there be no harm to Russian assets or personnel on the ground in Syria.

It was, no doubt, because Israel is treading such a fine line that Netanyahu just days ago visited Russia and was Vladimir Putin’s guest of honor at the annual Victory Day Celebration parade. Netanyahu, even whilst military operations were being prepared back in Israel against Iran, was attempting to gauge Putin’s acquiescence to Israeli strikes, and more important, to understand clearly what Russia’s limits were.

Once that was understood and coming at the same time as the US withdrawal from the JCPOA, and the near perfect alignment of Trump, Bolton and Pompeo, all staunchly pro-Israel, many in Israel saw the opportunity to move conclusively against Iran in Syria as a “now or never moment.” Iran’s misguided and rather pointless attack merely gave Israel the pretext to flatten them inside Syria.

Equally, the Saudis and Emiratis, now deep strategic allies with Israel against Iran, also seem to be gearing up for a fresh assault against Iranian power in their sphere of influence, the Gulf, in an increasingly imminent attack on Hodeida in Yemen. They also, like Israel, realize that this near perfect alignment of Trump-Bolton-Pompeo works very much in their favor as well.

We are witnessing the formation of a military alliance in the Middle Eastern region against Iran. The Tel Aviv-Riyadh-Abu Dhabi alliance, strange bedfellows but thrown together by a mutual Iranian threat, feel that they finally have a green light from both the United States, and to a degree Russia through their acquiescence, to really push back against Iran – in the Middle East through Israel, and in the Gulf through the Saudi’s and the Emirates, confronting Iran in a proxy war in Yemen.

What happens next will depend very much on how Iran chooses to respond. If the Iranians are wise, as some in Israel have intimated, they would sit back, not respond military against Israel, and negotiate with the Europeans to keep the Iran deal alive until Trump (they hope) is voted from office in 2020, a mere eighteen months away.

However, the hardliners in Tehran will likely have an altogether different set of ideas. They may rise to the bait. This may well be exacerbated by the exceptionally harsh sanctions the United States is about to place on Tehran. These forthcoming US sanctions will be designed by America to force the Iranians back to the negotiating table. Iran is well aware of the very weak hand it currently holds should it be forced to the table to negotiate. It is likely that, because of this, Iran may well believe that the only way they can improve their hand is via some form of military escalation against Israel.

Iran may confront Israel directly, through Syria, or they may decide to push their proxy group Hezbollah, to the north of Israel, into the battlefield against the Jewish State. If they do, Hezbollah will attempt to bring to bear more than 100,000 rockets against Israel. Devastating though this would certainly be, Israel is not as terrified of this scenario as many would think.

There is a growing belief within the IDF that right now, whilst Hezbollah forces are exhausted from such a prolonged and bloody fight in Syria, and whilst Iran has just been given a bloody nose, now is the appropriate and opportune time to move against their northern enemy and eliminate the threat whilst they are still weakened from battle.

It is a fight that Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah seems to welcome: “The war in Syria with proxies is coming to an end, and the second war with the genuine enemies may soon begin.”

Events in Syria and the Middle East are moving really fast. And with the approaching date of May 14th next week, they are unlikely to calm in the near future. The anniversary of the rebirth of the nation of Israel, a day the Palestinians and others in the Middle East commemorate as Nakba Day, literally the day of “disaster,” “catastrophe,” or “cataclysm,” means that the next seven days could well change the course of the entire Middle East, or the world.

Many are talking of the urgent need to prevent another war between Iran and Israel. It seems to me that war is already upon them. A conflagration is ahead.

Bible prophecy is, potentially, about to be fulfilled right before our eyes.

  1. https://www.raptureready.com/2015/06/20/samson-option-matt-ward/