The war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza has now claimed 25,000 lives since it began, with 178 deaths recorded in the last 24 hours. Due to this conflict, the Middle East has now become ground zero for other conflicts which have erupted between varying factions in the region.
(Iran’s Proxy Conundrum)
Iran has now come up against the task of having to protect its proxy groups which engage regional and international adversaries on behalf of the orthodox regime.
Iran is known to back Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthi insurgency which has a significant number of resources and assets stationed in Yemen. In the most recent chapter of the escalating conflict in the Middle East, Iran now sees all three of these proxies engaging in some form of conflict.
It is a well-known fact that Hamas is an Iran backed group, yet, Iran is not deeply invested in preserving Hamas, as has been evident in recent times. The Houthis and Hezbollah on the other hand, are seen as imperative buffers for maintaining Iran’s position in the region, without initiating a direct conflict with a western power or one of its allies.
Iran’s spat with Pakistan
With pressure mounting on the Houthis in Yemen, Iran has been forced to take a more active role in the dynamics of the conflicts which have erupted in the Middle East. It has also struck Pakistan, a nation with which it has enjoyed a fruitful relationship in recent times.
Experts in Middle Eastern geopolitics have expressed their concerns regarding the expansion of conflicts in the region, stemming from camps that have formed in support of and against the Israeli action in Gaza.
Iran found Pakistan’s relative silence on the matter quite perturbing and was also irked by the fact that anti-Iran terror factions are using Pakistan as a safe haven. These factors are said to have contributed to Iran’s surprising decision to conduct airstrikes and drone strikes on what it calls terrorists hiding in Pakistan.
In response, Pakistan responded with a proportional strike on what it deems to be anti-Pakistan terror factions in Iran.
Diplomatic relations between the two nations have been strained in recent days, which led to them expelling each other’s ambassadors. Thankfully, following the exchange of airstrikes, Iran and Pakistan have found common ground once more and are now resuming the pursuit of diplomatic means to resolve their issues.
While there is a silver lining to this kerfuffle, tensions remain high as Iran recognizes that Pakistani authorities continue to refrain from taking a definitive anti-Israel stance on the conflict in Gaza.
Sources have suggested that this is down to Pakistan’s tenuous relations with the United States and its allies, which have been affected profoundly by the nation’s role in bolstering the Taliban in Afghanistan prior to and during the retreat of the US military from the nation.
Considering the fact that Pakistan has been hit by an economic crisis of epic proportions, the nation now finds itself at the mercy of Western economic institutions, which have highlighted discrepancies in Pakistan’s use of resources and capital as one of the primary issues with backing the nation financially.
Thus, Pakistan is now caught between having to please Iran and its allies, by taking a strong stance against Israel and its western allies or proceeding in accordance with the expectations of the World Bank and other financial institutions which limit its ability to stand by questionable factions in the Middle East.
(US and UK take on the Houthis)
The United States and United Kingdom made the decision to take on Houthi installations in Yemen, to weaken the faction and take out their ammunition and resources, by conducting airstrikes and drone strikes on key targets.
The two nations saw this as the most appropriate means of dealing with Houthi attacks on cargo vessels in the Red Sea. The area is crucial for international trade and the fact that the Houthis managed to launch missiles to stifle the movement of cargo ships had become a cause of concern.
The attacks on Houthi installations in Yemen have not just affected the group’s supply chains but also act as a warning.
While the United States has categorically denied being interested in an open conflict, US President Joe Biden made it evident that he was prepared to launch fresh attacks on the Houthis to subdue them and protect trade and military routes in the Red Sea.
This attack on the Houthis has shaken Iran into action as it comes to the realisation that its proxies are now engaged in conflicts that are beyond their remit.
The collapse of this structure would mean that Iran would no longer have the luxury of a buffer in the form of multiple proxies in the region. Thus, whether it like it or not, the Iranian military and intelligence apparatus must now work towards preserving its proxies.
(International Pressure fails to sway Prime Minister Netanyahu)
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s approach to the conflict in Gaza has been condemned by many in the international fraternity. The exponential loss of life in Gaza that has been brought on by the conflict has made many question the extent to which Israel should pursue this path.
There have also been calls for both sides to consider some form of the two-state solution, which Prime Minister Netanyahu has categorically rejected.
As expected, Hamas is averse to the two-state solution as well, making it hard to conceive a scenario where either side would look at coming to an agreement with in its parameters.
Having said that, Israel’s most powerful and reliable ally, the United States would prefer it if Prime Minister Netanyahu was open to the two-state solution. This means that there could be room to negotiate as the war begins to wear on the Israeli and United States military apparatus.
(Attack on Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis)
As has been the case with other hospitals and medical facilities in Gaza, the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis has been encircled by bombings in its vicinity, much to the terror of the patients and medical staff at the hospital.
Nebal Farsakh, a spokesperson of the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS), shed light on the situation in Khan Younis, stating the following, “This is not the first time. [In the last few weeks], we got several attacks and bombings in the area of al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis. We got direct attacks at the Palestine Red Crescent headquarters with artillery shelling, which literally destroyed three floors and killed at least seven people who were inside the building.”
According to sources, the area has been placed under a communications blackout which has added to the confusion and panic.
Nebal Farsakh added that, “The situations there is extremely dangerous, they are hearing strong bombing in the area … anyone who is trying to move out or just walk in the street is being targeted. “The only means of communication is via the VHF waves. This is not stable, there is constant distortion.”
(Wider conflict possible in the Middle East)
Since Israel’s offensive is moving ahead with renewed vigor, the hopes of peace descending on Gaza have been set aside by astute observers of the ongoing conflict.
This has been influenced heavily by the activation of factions and the initiation of conflicts that had remained dormant until recently. With each of Iran’s proxies currently engaged in some form of action against Israel and its allies, Iran has found itself being pulled into taking action in recent days.
The United States and the UK have also opened the door to a full-scale conflict with the Houthis, who could attempt to disrupt the Red Sea trade route completely.
The situation has reached a point where nations which have very little involvement with the current state of the Middle East, have parked naval assets in the region to both, watch over their commercial interests and observe the region.
India is one of those nations and has managed to station a significant number of vessels in the region so as to keep a close eye on proceedings.
Naturally, Pakistan has noticed this and has followed suit so as not to allow India to have a march on this front. For all intents and purposes, the conflict in the Middle East is fast becoming the powder keg that could burn the proverbial house down.