Middle East conflict, an explosive stalemate

We hope that the Middle East fighting will come to an end and the global community will understand the necessity of finding a solution to the Palestinian issue.
Keywords: Middle East, West Asia, Iran, Israel, USA, Conflict, War, Radical, Terror
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As Israel’s pounding of Gaza continues without relenting in fulfilment of an assertion made by the Israeli Prime Minister, it sparked widespread rumour that Iran was weighing its wings to react effectively. Hamas was feeling diffident of Iran matching her anti-Jewish vitriol with action on the ground. 

While the US’ limited naval force made its presence in the Mediterranean and even responded to Hauthi’s adventurism of seizing some commercial cargos on international waters, President Biden and his Secretary of State, both asserted that the US would not bring any charge against Iran in the context of Israel-Hamas spat in the Middle East. 

Observers have been making wild speculations about Washington’s subdued tone about the Middle East flare up; One speculation making rounds in influential political circles is that Tehran and Washington are engaged in secret talks over their relations and other matters in which two prominent subjects are getting prioritized. One is denying Iran her much-pursued nuclear capability and related matters, particularly economic sanctions imposed by the US and others in the West. The second is Iranian proxies in the Middle East and their widespread activities technically called Islamism.

Nobody knows the veracity of covert contacts, their range and scope or the parameters within which talks proceed. 

But notwithstanding the force and intent behind these secretive talks, there seems no reduction in overground firepower particularly from the side of Israel. Many world leaders, including the foreign minister of the UK, who has been doing a good deal of legwork, have tried to stress upon Netanyahu to respect the opinion of many leaders.

The situation worsened after Israel’s air force attacked the Iranian Consulate in Syria which was considered the den of anti-Israel conspiracies. Some Iranian army officers, reportedly connected with the Qods Force were eliminated., 

This gave a new stimulus to the rumour machine, and even President Biden said that Iran would retaliate. What could be the outcome of escalating the inflammable situation on two sides was not fully debated at political levels. Commentators inferred that Biden was overtly hinting at some punitive action against Iran in case Tehran chose to escalate the conflict to the regional level. 

But contrary to this expectation, Biden bluntly told the Israeli ambassador in Washington that the US would desist from joining the war if it happened between Israel and Iran. He thinks there is space still available to give a chance to peaceful dialogue.  based on using all options for de-escalation of hostilities.

Reports are that the American polity is divided on the issue of cessation of hostilities in Gaza; as there are diehards on both sides. In the meanwhile, many voices are suggesting that Tel Aviv should demonstrate more restraint. Mark that similar exhortations made to Iran turned futile although Iran has not suffered the holocaust as did Israel on the 7th of October. This speaks a lot about Iran’s designs of aggression against Israel. Some analysts are disposed to say that unless Iran is cut to its size, the Palestinian issue will not die down. 

Iran is emboldened not as much by her military strike power as by the covert and overt patronizing she is getting from Russia and China, the two ideologically sworn adversaries of the United States.

Recent revelations are that Iran and the US have held secret talks apparently about resolving attacks of Iran-backed Houthi rebels on shipping in the Red Sea. The two countries have been implacable foes for decades beginning with the story of prolonged hostage-taking of American embassy staff in Tehran after the ouster of monarchy in 1979. On the face of it, this warming up seems only a facade knowing that the ideology of the Islamic Republic established in its wake has played heavily on anti-imperialism and rejection of what is seen as “the US hegemony”. The Islamic Republic considers itself the defender of the oppressed. 

But for a disinterested commentator, it is highly desirable to take a holistic view of the prevailing situation. In international diplomacy, dialogue channels are always kept open. The other party’s point of view has to be understood. 

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami’s speech at the UN General Assembly in 1998 known as Dialogue among Civilizations drew on intellectual debates about the aims of the Islamic Revolution and reforming the Islamic Republic. The speech had recommended designating the year 2001 as the year of dialogue among the civilizations, a proposal that was unanimously adopted by a vote of the UN General Assembly.  Later on, in the same year 1998, Khatami addressed the American people on CNN in which he drew a parallel between the American war of independence and Iran’s search for a national identity, declaring, “We feel that what we seek is what the founders of the American civilization were also pursuing four centuries ago. This is why we sense an intellectual affinity with the essence of the American civilization,” wrote Shaba Holliday in Asia Times on April 4, 2024.

In 2001, Khatami condemned the 9/11 terrorist attack. Under his direction, Iran is also reported to have signed a secret deal to assist US forces in their campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan. 

During the presidency of Khatami’s successor Mahmud Ahmadinejad, relations between the two countries sank low and Iran was labelled a key member of George W Bush’s “axis of evil.”

During Obama’s presidency (2009) reports of the use of extra force to disperse protests against a fraudulent presidential election were taken note of by the American president Mr Obama who called it: “unjust” 

Iran continued with its nuclear programme despite severe opposition by the West. As a result, EU, UN and US sanctions hardened.

We hope that the Middle East fighting will come to an end and the global community will understand the necessity of finding a solution to the Palestinian issue. People everywhere want safe environs to have a good life.

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K N Pandita

K N Pandita has a PhD in Iranian Studies from the University of Teheran. He is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University.

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