TLR 195 – Beyond Containment, Toward Denouement

January 12, 2020

This issue is probably the longest I’ve ever written. Its sole focus is regional geo-politics, covering the developments in recent days as well as those of recent months, and also those I expect to take place in the coming months. Yet, despite its length, there is no coverage of Syria – with all due disrespect to Assad, Putin, Trump and Erdogan and due sympathy for the Kurds, this is an Israel-centred newsletter and there have been no important developments in Syria that impact directly on Israel. The same holds true for Libya, where important things are happening, but Israel is only very tangentially involved. Had there been nothing else to discuss, maybe I would have related to the Turkish operations in Syria, and in Libya, and much else – but that is hardly the case…

Instead, I have focused on three main topics. First, foremost and much the longest is that of Iran. Events in and around Iran just this month easily justify an entire issue but, to gain a better perspective, I felt the need to review developments since September. The bottom line of this remarkable run of hugely important events is that Iran is moving rapidly toward an internal crisis with the potential to bring down the regime. Whether or not that proves to be the outcome, the likelihood of further aggressive moves by Iran, and therefore by other parties against Iran, is unprecedentedly high – with all the potential for regional and even global destabilisation that such developments imply.

The second topic is much closer to home and much smaller in scope – but equally grim in its conclusion. The prolonged deterioration in the security situation in and around the Gaza Strip – specifically, the determination of Hamas and other groups to continue sporadic rocket attacks into Israel – has reached the point where a full-scale invasion of the Gaza Strip by Israel, with the aim of eliminating Hamas’ military capabilities and also its political control of the Strip, is now a strong likelihood in the course of 2020. The factors pushing Israel to replace the policy of containment with one of elimination are outlined – and here, too, the Iranian aspect of a supposedly Palestinian issue may prove decisive.

A very different set of developments, with far happier prospects for all parties involved, is taking place in the eastern Mediterranean – an area which has assumed an identity of its own. Here, old enmities are being rapidly replaced by new alliances and diplomatic structures, driven by the discovery and development of energy resources and the prospect of much more to come.

In between, a brief look at Lebanon – the country which links all the aforementioned themes: thanks to the dominance of Hezbollah, it is a key component of Iran’s new empire; again because of Hezbollah, it is the model which Israel wants to prevent Gaza emulating; but it also has the option of choosing to develop its own energy resources — if it is prepared to co-exist peacefully with Israel.

Contents

A: Regional developments

a) The Iranian empire under pressure

b) The impending invasion of Gaza

c) Lebanon teeters

d) The Eastern Mediterranean: Geo-political upheavals

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