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The dangerous spiral of escalation

2024-04-20 11:07:00, Opinione Ditmir Bushati
The dangerous spiral of escalation
Ditmir Bushati

Last weekend Iran launched a direct attack on Israel, through hundreds of drones and missiles from its territory, bringing to light the long shadow war between the two regional enemies in the Middle East. This show of force reflects a change in strategy by Tehran, which has relied on the doctrine of "strategic patience" and launching attacks on Israel through its satellites in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Iran embraced the doctrine of "strategic patience" after the US killed commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad in 2020. Since then, Tehran has been careful to avoid direct confrontation with the US and its allies in the region. It even announced the Trump administration before hitting American targets in Iraq, in response to the killing of the senior military officer.

The direct attack on Israel shows Iran's willingness to clash, but in a calculated way without causing an escalation and without causing casualties. Domestically, the readiness and mobilization for war against Israel and its allies suffocates movements and protests demanding political change and more civil rights in Iran. At the regional and international level, Iran does not want to be perceived as weak.

Despite the attack on Israel, Iran's long-term strategy is based on mortgaging the achievements of the past decades and avoiding full-scale war. During the last three decades, Iran has invested in enriching uranium for the production of nuclear weapons, supporting Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon, supporting Hamas. He is also invested in strengthening defense cooperation with Russia, China, North Korea and Venezuela.
On the other hand, Iran aims to reach an agreement with the US and be recognized by the latter as a major regional power. This objective is also at the center of the conflict with Israel, which refuses to recognize Iran as a country of equal regional influence.

The turning point in relations with Israel came after the latter fired missiles at an Iranian diplomatic compound in Damascus, killing several senior Iranian military personnel. It is difficult to say whether or not the consulate met the criteria defined by international law, in terms of diplomatic protection. However, the Israeli attack on the Iranian building in Damascus was considered an attack "on Iranian soil" by Tehran. So, from Iran's perspective, it was Israel that crossed the red line, and last weekend's attack was nothing more than a retaliation.

Viewed in historical terms, Iran's attack against Israel constitutes the first serious external threat to Israel's security since Saddam Hussein launched missiles at Israel in 1991 . However, it must be said that Iran's response was rather a function of the "wounded cedar" internally due to the blow that Israel inflicted on the diplomatic complex in Damascus. The choreography of the attack was made known to the US in advance through Iraq and Turkey, to minimize the damage. This gave Israel time to intercept the drones before they reached Israeli airspace, and its partners to reiterate their ironclad commitment to Israel's security.

The US and UK used anti-missile systems to intercept Iranian missiles in the airspace of Syria, Iraq and Jordan. There is no evidence that Iran was aiming to strike US or UK assets installed in the region. It appears that Iran was not looking for a clash with Israel's Western allies.

The advance notice, as well as the choice of military targets of the attack, suggest that Iran was calibrated in conveying the message to Israel that it now considered the matter closed on its side. The US followed the same scenario in response to Iranian attacks on American service members in Jordan in late January. They waited a few days to strike back at Tehran through Iraq, giving the Iranians time to withdraw their forces from the area. In both cases the goal was not to escalate, but to restore the deterrence margin and address internal pressure in response to the attacks, avoiding a large-scale regional conflict.

For Israel, Iran's subversive agenda is too obvious to hide, let alone tolerate. Iran has no plans to stop supporting groups in the region that pose a serious threat to Israel. The building Israel bombed in Damascus served as a military planning center. Our experience shows that Iran uses diplomatic missions and cultural centers to spread its malign influence. Conducts cyber attacks to damage critical infrastructure. However, one thing is certain: since last weekend, the rules of engagement between Israel and Iran have changed.

Izraeli ishte mes dilemës për kundërpërgjigje dhe vetëpërmbajtje. Gjasat që Izraeli do të përgjigjej për të dëshmuar se sulme të kësaj natyre nuk mund të tolerohen në të ardhmen, duke peshuar përfitimet e kundërpërgjigjes përkundrejt thirrjeve të aleatëve të tij për ç’tensionimin e situatës, ishin të mëdha. Sulmi ajror i Izraelit afër bazës ajrore të Iranit në Provincën e Isfahanit, është zbatim strikt e i pashmangshëm i llogjikës së kundërpërgjigjes. Pasi kemi të bëjme me goditjen e një baze ajrore nga e cila u lëshuan dronët iranianë kundër Izraelit. Sipas medias shtetërore iraniane, dëmet janë të papërfillshme. Ndërkohë që Izraeli ka zgjedhur heshtjen.

Më shumë se sa një goditje frontale në tokën iraniane, që do të zgjeronte në mënyrë dramatike konfliktin, kemi të bëjme me një përgjigje të kalibruar që mund të lexohet si “administrim i përshkallëzimit të konfliktit”. Thënë ndryshe, përpjekja izraelite për t’u kundërpërgjigjur pa shkaktuar përshkallëzim të mëtejshëm ka qenë e suksesshme. Zgjerimi i konfliktit nuk është në interes të rajonit dhe aleatëve që mbështesin Izraelin. Sidomos në kushtet kur SHBA-të janë në prag të zgjedhjeve presidenciale.

Në kushtet e krijuara së fundmi, kryeministri izraelit Benjamin Netanyahu ka fituar një hapësirë për frymëmarrje politike së brendshmi, pas një vale të gjatë protestash të organizuara kundër planeve të tij për të kufizuar rolin e drejtësisë për t’i shpëtuar proceseve gjyqësore, dhe luftës së ndërmarrë në Gaza, e cila ka shkaktuar dëme njerëzore e materiale të pallogaritshme.

Gaza dhe civilët janë humbësit e mëdhenj të situatës së re, pasi vëmendja ndërkombëtare është zhvendosur drejt shmangies së një përshkallëzimi që do të çonte në një luftë rajonale. Megjithëse rrënjët e përhapjes së konfliktit në Lindje të Mesme janë në Gaza dhe në dështimin e shtrëngimit të rezolutës së Këshillit të Sigurimit të OKB-së, që kërkon armëpushim të menjëhershëm dhe lirimin e pengjeve, situata që nga 7 tetori i vitit të kaluar mbetet dramatike.

Për SHBA-të frenimi i ambicieve të Iranit në rajon është një çështje parësore. Projekti bërthamor iranian si edhe përpjekjet e Iranit për të riformatuar rajonin sipas dëshirës së tij përbëjnë shqetësime kryesore për Washingtonin. Në këtë këndvështrim duhen lexuar veprimet energjike të Washingtonit gjatë fundjavës, të cilat synojnë fuqizimin e aleatëve në Lindje të Mesme dhe njëkohësisht shmangien e viktimave.

The consequences of the conflict in the Middle East are felt in Europe more than anywhere else, due to the geographical proximity. Since the war in Syria in 2015, there is a big debate within the EU regarding the waves of refugees and the acceptance or not of the "different". Paradoxically, the rekindling of the conflict in the Middle East has been accompanied by an increase in anti-Semitism and an increase in Islamophobia in Europe, which serve as fuel for the far-right and left-wing parties in an election year for the European Parliament.

Although the art of diplomacy has so far proved effective in managing the dangerous cycle of escalation, the situation in the Middle East brings to mind the First World War, which broke out not because the warring parties wanted it, but because they were unwilling to abandon the dangerous spiral of conflict escalation.

Viewed in this context, the prevention of the escalation of the conflict, the immediate ceasefire and the release of the hostages in Gaza, the construction of a security architecture in the Middle East that ensures normal relations between the Arab countries and Israel, and at the same time lays out the road map for the creation of the Palestinian state are the only alternative to war./ CNA 

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