The winds of war are once again blowing in the Middle East after short celebrations over the defeat of the barbaric Islamic State “Caliphate.”
“Don’t Be Alarmed But The Next War In The Middle East Is Brewing,” read the headline of a Daily Caller op-ed on the current situation that was published Monday.
The article cited Col. Richard Kemp, the former commander of the British army in Afghanistan, who said that there is a “high probability” Hezbollah will start another war against Israel in the near future.
After the defeat of the Islamic State group, all eyes are now on the increasing Iranian threat to the Sunni countries, Saudi Arabia in particular, and to the Jewish state. Israel now speaks openly about its contacts with the Saudis and other Arab states and is holding massive drills in preparation for war.
Israeli Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is a prominent member of Israel’s security cabinet, told Galatz, the official Israeli army radio station, that Israel receives assistance from moderate Arab states in the struggle against Iran.
“We have ties that are indeed partly covert with many Muslim and Arab countries,” Steinitz said, while adding that the Arab leaders insist on concealment in their relations with the Jewish state.
“Generally, the other side wants to conceal these ties. … We respect the will of the other side: when connections develop, whether it is with Saudi Arabia or other countries. Then we maintain secrecy,” Steinitz clarified.
Steinitz’ remarks came a few days after Gaby Eisenkot, the Israeli Defense Force’s chief of staff, gave a rare interview to a London-based Arab newspaper in which he also addressed the growing Iranian threat.
Eisenkot claimed Israel and Saudi Arabia share “a common understanding” when it comes to the Iranian threat and said the two countries have “common interests against Iran.”
Iran and Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, are engaged in a war of words about who is doing more to destabilize the Middle East and who is leading the region into a new war.
This latest escalation between the two archrivals started after the Iranian proxy Ansar Allah (Houthis) lobbed a ballistic missile at Saudi capital of Riyadh, something Saudi’ leaders considered an act of war by Iran, which is delivering missiles to its Yemenite ally.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Monday that Saudi Arabia was “fanning the flames” in the Middle East, according to Ha’aretz. He rejected claims Iran was the destabilizing factor in the most volatile part of the world.
“In fact it’s the Saudis themselves that are waging war in Yemen, blocking Qatar and stoking the crisis in Lebanon,” Zarif told reporters in Tehran, referring to mysterious events involving Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who some claimed had been kidnapped by Saudi Arabia. Hariri is now scheduled to return to Lebanon on Wednesday in order to submit his resignation.
The Iranian FM claimed his country was trying to achieve peace in the Middle East by participating in talks about how to end the Syrian conflict.
Zarif was responding to unprecedented criticism by the Arab League, which convened for an emergency meeting on Iran and Hezbollah (the Iranian proxy in Lebanon), and to verbal attacks by Saudi leaders who accuse Iran of “aggression” and of acting as a destabilizing force in the Middle East.
On Friday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir accused Hezbollah of hijacking Lebanon and meddling in the internal affairs of Gulf countries such as Bahrain and Yemen.
“We see Hezbollah hijacking the Lebanese banking system to launder money, we see Hezbollah hijacking Lebanese ports in order to smuggle drugs, we see Hezbollah engaging in terrorist activities and interfering in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen,” Jubeir claimed, while adding that this was no longer acceptable to Saudi Arabia.
Hossam Zaki, the Arab League’s assistant secretary, said after the emergency meeting in Cairo that joint Arab policy and actions were needed to stop Iran and Hezbollah, which was designated a terrorist organization by the Arab League.
“What Iran is doing against some Arab countries calls for taking more than one measure to stop these violations, interferences and threats, which are carried out through many various means,” Zaki told al-Sharq al-Awsat, a Saudi-owned and London-based Arab newspaper.
He was mainly referring to Iran’s use of proxy armies, which, after winning the wars in Syria and Iraq, now seem readying for war with Israel and Saudi Arabia.
The Iraqi umbrella organization of mainly Shiite militias Hashd al-Shaabi is already operating in Syria and its military actions are overseen by Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Brigade of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Hezbollah, on the other hand, has been transformed from a Iranian-backed terrorist organization into an army, and is reportedly in possession of heavy weaponry such as tanks, a large number of drones and all sorts of missiles.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah revealed on Monday his organization had delivered Kornet missiles to Hamas in Gaza in preparation for the next confrontation with Israel, which will be a multiple- front war, according to Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.
Anticipating military action against Hezbollah and Iran, Liberman demanded Monday a sharp increase in the budget of the Israeli military.
Citing “significant developments on the security front within the region,” Liberman demanded an increase in Israel’s defense budget of 4.8 billion Shekels (over $1 billion).
Israel spends 12 percent of its total budget on defense, whereas Iran invests 22 percent of its budget on its military, according to the Israeli DM.
“If Iran invests about 22 percent of its budget towards defense, we can’t be far behind them and at the same time preserve our superiority,” Liberman argued.
A day later, General Joseph Aoun, the chief of staff of the Lebanese Armed Forces, urged his troops to be “fully prepared” for war with Israel.
“I call upon you … to be fully prepared on the southern border to confront the Israeli enemy’s threats and violations,” Aoun said during a speech in honor of the Lebanese Independence Day.
The LAF commander also accused Israel of having “hostile intentions,” and called on his soldiers to work with the UNIFIL peacekeeping force in order to preserve stability.
Last week, Hezbollah already raised the alert level of all its forces in Lebanon, as it feared an imminent attack by Israel or other forces.
Hezbollah leaders reportedly also asked Iran to temporary stop weapon shipments to the Lebanese terrorist organization, apparently to prevent new Israeli bombardments on Hezbollah-bound weapon convoys in Syria.
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