Shifting Middle East sands

Recent rocket attacks on Israel may be signs of interesting realignments among her enemies.

Israel is under attack in the north and in the south. The geopolitics of the region is in a state of chaotic flux. Future developments are unclear but the factors that will determine them are known.

In the south, dozens of missiles have been fired in the general direction of Ashkelon. As usual, most fell harmlessly in the desert, and many of the better-aimed were deflected by the Iron Dome anti-missile system.

What is new and interesting is that the attacks have been launched from both Gaza and the Sinai. Hamas has been at pains to deny responsibility for the Gaza-based attacks, a responsibility claimed by Islamic Jihad. At the same time Hamas has declared that if there is war between Israel and Iran it is none of its business and it will stay neutral. Question: Is Hamas using Islamic Jihad as a surrogate, or is it unable/unwilling to exert control over Islamic Jihad's activities and stop the firing? Evidence suggests the latter.

If the latter, an interesting question emerges - is a terrorist enclave forming within a terrorist state? Might such a development bring into play the ancient adage "the enemy of my enemy is my friend"?

Meanwhile, in the Sinai, in large parts of which the Egyptian government has lost control, the rockets were apparently fired by "Al Qaeda operatives from Libya". Why? Were they contracted by someone? Did they simply decide on their own to traverse all of Egypt in order to fire missiles, perhaps looted from Libyan arsenals, at Israel? Are they under any central discipline, or are they simply using the Al-Qaeda label, as is becoming common in Africa and elsewhere? Who is paying and supplying them?

In the north the situation is equally complicated if less mysterious. The rockets were fired, as usual inaccurately, by Hezbollah, and it was Hezbollah targets that the Israeli Air Force attacked in retaliation. But the situation of Hezbollah is becoming ever-more precarious. Various incidents have indicated growing hostility between Hezbollah, which is Shia, and the Syrian rebels, who are Sunni. Since independence Syria has been ruled by members of the Shia Alawite sect (the heretical nature of which has been conveniently overlooked by the Iranian mullahs for geopolitical reasons).

Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, support the besieged Alawite government of Bashar al-Assad. If it falls, Iran will have lost a most valuable ally, indeed its only ally in the Sunni/Arab world, and Hezbollah will have lost a protector. What then?

What is clear in the Levant and elsewhere in the Muslim world is a resurgence of virulent sectarianism, which will represent both an opportunity and a threat to Israel. Playing factions off against each other is becoming a real possibility. Equally possible is an increase in attacks on Israel, as governments and terrorist movements try to divert attention from growing internal rifts.

Stay tuned to Radio Beirut.

Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC, and a lecturer at The Israeli National Defense College (MABAL), 2011-2012 session.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on July 12, 2012

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2012

View comments in rows
Update by email about comments talkback
Your name
Please insert your name
Hyperlink in a new window Hyperlink Right Left underline italic bold Bulleted List Ordered List Face1 Face2 Face3 Face4 Face5 Face6
Your comment

You comment was recieved and soon will be published.
In posting comments, I agree to abide by the Terms of Use
Globes encourages lively and frank debate, but posts that the editors consider merely abusive or otherwise inappropriate will be removed. Report inappropriate content
Thank you for posting your comment, which will be reviewed for publication.
Loading Comments...load
Load more comments
Benjamin Netanyahu Netanyahu: The boys were kidnapped by Hamas

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatens "dire consequences" following the kidnapping.

Benjamin Netanyahu Questions over police response to kidnapping

Hours passed before a search operation was launched. Netanyahu holds Palestinians responsible.

Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu Netanyahu bought furniture at public expense - report

"Yediot Ahronot": Attorney General is investigating if Netanyahu family bought furniture for its Caesarea private home.

Binyamin Ben-Eliezer  picture: Tamar Mitzpi Binyamin Ben-Eliezer questioned by police again

Ben-Eliezer's son Yariv is also suspected of receiving money from Avraham Nanikashvili.

Ruby Rivlin Reuven Rivlin elected president

Rivlin defeated Meir Sheetrit 63:53 in the second round vote in the Knesset.

Meir Sheetrit Meir Sheetrit discloses owning five homes

The Presidential candidate has bowed to public pressure and declared his assets.

Binyamin Ben-Eliezer  picture: Tamar Mitzpi Police find $600,000 cash in Ben-Eliezer's bank

The source of the money found in Binyamin Ben-Eliezer's safety deposit box is unclear.

Ruby Rivlin Presidential candidate Ruby Rivlin discloses assets

Dalia Dorner also disclosed her wealth, but Meir Sheetrit refused.

Dalia Itzik Dalia Itzik bought Tel Aviv home for NIS 4.6m last year

The Presidential candidate and former Knesset Speaker also owns two apartments in Jerusalem.

Erel Margalit The venture capitalist who wants to transform Israel

Labor MK Erel Margalit tells "Globes" about his plans to improve the Start-Up Nation.

IDF soldier Combat cameramen disprove Palestinian propaganda

A unit of highly trained combat soldiers uses cameras to document military operations.

Turkish bizarre

Truth is proving stranger than folktale as Turkey's spins out of Prime Minister Erdogan's control.

Prof. Zvi Eckstein supports NIS 3.30-3.40/$ floor rate

The former deputy Bank of Israel Governor is the first senior figure from the financial system to advocate a floor rate.

2014 will be year of change

Forces reshaping the Middle East are coming to a head, with Russia taking a close interest, and the West seemingly indifferent.

Gains and losses for Middle East secularists

Recent developments in Egypt, Syria and Turkey have clarified some issues, and obfuscated others.

Robot warfare Developing robots for warfare

Israeli research sees the future battlefield dominated by robots and unmanned devices.

Geneva changes Middle East strategic map

As the consequences of the nuclear agreement with Iran emerge, regional powers are scrambling to adapt.

Egypt has no time to lose

Unless economic reforms are introduced quickly, the country is liable to relapse into Islamic extremism.

Strange goings on in Turkey

Two recent decisions by Turkish prime minister Erdoğan make it look as though he is losing his grip.

See you in six months, Rouhani

Israel may look isolated over the nuclear deal with Iran, but the cards could yet fall its way.

China is changing

The Third Plenum of the Communist Party of the Peoples' Republic of China marks a turning-point in all areas of Chinese life - with consequences for Israel.

French gov't proposes building 2 Tel Aviv light rail lines

The Green Line from Herzliya to Holon and the Purple Line from Kiryat Ono to Tel Aviv would cost NIS 30 billion to build.

Israel's factious coalition looks wobbly on Iran

Besides US opposition, the state of Israel's government makes an attack on Iran unlikely.

Budget cuts threaten 10,000 defense industry jobs

Senior executives warn many factories are in danger of closing due to the drying up of defense ministry's orders.

Twitter Facebook Linkedin RSS Newsletters גלובס