In Israel on Sunday, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz described the situation in the Middle East in most volatile terms: “We are currently at what could be called a historical junction. There is a wide chasm between the way the Western countries split up this region 100 years ago through various agreements — mostly for their own convenience — and the reality of today. As a result, there is a conceptual threat to the entire structure of the Middle East, as we have known it.”
Gantz also mentioned a new, borderless battlefield: Cyberspace. This field is not affected by the usual variables war strategists must take into account. Just devise a program (admittedly highly sophisticated), touch a keyboard button, and regardless of weather, manpower or morale, an attack is launched. Gantz, a much-decorated warrior of conventional warfare, marveled at the instantaneous nature of it. “Once, you knew who the players were and what their relative strengths and weaknesses were in the military sphere. Things have changed drastically; the arc of (computer) threats is very wide. While we are speaking here, hackers can destroy an Israeli bank.”
Gantz summed up his appraisal of the region as follows: “We are witnesses to a very unstable geopolitical situation today. There is no reason to believe that what was and is will still be in another five or ten years.”
Though chaos and instability reign today and may do so for “another five or ten years” or longer, it is possible to identify the source of this destabilization on a map. Though his implication was clear, what IDF Chief of Staff Gantz did not say was that, as with most of the world’s mayhem, it emanates from one address: Iran.
Iran’s presence is being simultaneously felt in regions throughout the world: Switzerland, at the nuclear talks with U.S. and European powers; Lebanon and Syria, where its militia Hizbullah and its IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) engage other armies; Israel; the White House and Congress in the U.S.; Argentina, in the investigation of the 1994 AMIA bombing and the related recent assassination of the chief prosecutor, Alberto Nisman. That single sentence covers four continents suffering from Iran’s interference. Iran creates chaos as a strategy to destabilize its opponents, playing world politics with the acumen it is praised for in the Persian market. The naïve, like Obama, stand little chance in negotiations with so seasoned an adversary; and the morally and politically bankrupt, like Argentina, Lebanon, and Syria, are tactically manipulated by the mullahs of Iran.
On January 18, in a “targeted assassination” against a joint Iranian-Hizbullah convoy driving along the Syrian Golan Heights, Israel eliminated Jihad Mugniyeh, Golan commander of Hizbullah, and the Iranian losses included three generals: General Alladadi, IRGC liaison to Hizbullah and to Syrian intelligence, who also directed Iranian-Hizbullah weapons shipments; General Tabatabai, IRGC commander in the Golan Heights; and General Assadi, the suspected commander of Iranian forces in Lebanon.
The question is not “Why did Israel destroy the convoy?” as asked by some in the media; the question is “What were these high-ranking Iranian generals doing on the Syrian-Israeli border?” The answer to that is Iran’s military strategy of creating constructive chaos. Though Hizbullah is considered amongst military experts to be a top-flight fighting unit, significantly better than Hamas, it is not ready to engage in battle with Israel, so it reverts to its former model of asymmetric warfare, engaging in limited battles with the intent of destabilization. Israeli intelligence indicated that the generals were meeting with Mugniyeh and Hizbullah leaders with the intent of turning Israel’s presently “quiet” northern border into a “hot-zone.” By instigating skirmishes, Hizbullah, Iran’s regional proxy, planned to probe Israel’s strength and ascertain weaknesses as part of a strategy of extending Hizbullah’s frontline of engagement with Israel from its strongholds in Lebanon to the Hermon mountain range in the Golan, along the Syrian-Israeli border.
Iran’s sending a top-level presence to Israel’s northern border was predicated on an astute understanding of America’s real-time reality: needing Iran in the West’s battle against ISIS, borne out by Obama’s acceding to their demands on the issue of functioning centrifuges; and the present nadir of U.S.-Israeli relations, due to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s planned address to both chambers of Congress. Though the U.S. publicly supported Israel in the attack on the convoy and Israel’s response to Hizbullah’s shelling of an IDF patrol killing two Israeli soldiers, Iran knew the U.S. would not permit Israel to expand the conflict because of Obama’s perception that Iran is essential to U.S. regional issues.
As mentioned in a previous column, chess, the ultimate game of strategy, was invented in Persia, and they remain masters of it in the political sphere — so good, in fact, that they have dictated strategy and manipulated the most powerful person in the world, the president of the United States. Hopefully, the match will not be lost before 2016 when someone else is playing the White (House) pieces.
Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst, and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.