The big question this week ought to be about Hillary Clinton’s wars, if she gets elected as the next US president. Her hawkish temperament and her bandwagon comprising neoconservative ideologues, Israeli-Saudi lobbies, military-industrial complex and so on brings us to the epilogue of the ‘Obama Doctrine’ in US foreign policies.
Where will it be that Hillary will choose to wage her war? The high probability is that she will choose the Middle East – not Eurasia or Asia-Pacific. Why is it so?
For a start, Hillary Clinton, unlike her predecessor Barack Obama will not seek indeterminate wars. She will calculate how a war in her first term would help her win a second term in the 2020 election. Neither Russia nor China can be defeated in a short, swift war, while on the contrary, there is the real danger of her triggering World War III with horrific consequences that are impossible to predict.
It is in the Middle East that the neo-conservatives in the US will look for action, given their unfinished agenda of sending Iran to the Stone Age, an outcome without which the destruction of Iraq and Syria hasn’t ensured Israel’s regional hegemony.
Israel and Saudi Arabia, estranged allies of the US, are expecting a Middle Eastern war under Hillary. Last week, a former Saudi general visited Tel Aviv and held discussions with Israeli officials. (Times of Israel) See an analysis by Simon Henderson at the Washington Institute titled Riyadh’s Diplomatic Dance with Israel.
The bottom line is, Israel and Saudi Arabia feel regional isolation. They failed to entrap Iran in a quagmire in Syria and/or Iraq. With Turkey’s course correction on Syria, Iran’s position strengthened further strengthens. The Islamic State and the extremist organizations, which Israel and Saudi Arabia covertly supported, are in retreat.
The latest incident of a Hezbollah drone flying over Israeli skies, photographing military deployments on the Golan Heights dramatically highlights that regional military balance is shifting. Meanwhile, Russia also refuses to ‘moderate’ Iran or Hezbollah, contrary to Israeli expectations.
Similarly, Turkey’s course correction following the July 15 coup attempt is a devastating blow to Saudi hopes of challenging Iran in Syria and Iraq. Saudi Arabia also cannot expect Israel to come and fight its war in Yemen or suppress the uprising in Bahrain. Israel knows it will get overstretched in any such misadventure in a Muslim country. Alas, Saudi Arabia cannot count on Egypt’s support, either. Egypt is a much weakened country and is also having serious problems in the Sinai region, apart from domestic political disarray.
In such a bleak scenario, how will Hillary manage to start a war in the Middle East? By the time she settles down in the White House, the ‘moderate’ rebel groups in Syria may have become an extinct species. Besides, without access to Turkey’s territory, US will be had-pressed to stoke the fires of renewed conflict in Syria and Iraq.
Therefore, all things taken into account, Hillary may have to settle for a war directly involving Iran. Of course, that will also be the preferred choice and demand of her Saudi Arabian and Israeli friends.
But, how can Hillary provoke Iran into a war? Tehran has the intellectual resources and diplomatic acumen to avoid fighting wasteful wars to secure its interests.
However, there is one way out of this strategic dilemma – ratchet up tensions by undermining the 2015 nuclear deal, notwithstanding Iran’s compliance with its terms. If the US undermines the deal, that is sure to provoke Iran to retaliate by reviving its nuclear program. There is a powerful lobby in the US Congress that favors a return to confrontation with Iran.
Of course, if Iran retaliates by restarting its nuclear program, that can be the perfect alibi for Hillary to clamp sanctions and revert to the ‘containment strategy’. There is speculation that a Saudi-Iranian conflict is also within the realms of possibility. The Saudis are also coordinating with Israel. (New York Times)
Make no mistake, Iran will defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity with all the force at its command. It may even seek the help of Hezbollah. The recent appearance of a Hezbollah drone on Israeli skies could have been a display of capability. (See my blog Hezbollah thumbs the nose at Israel.)
Indeed, the US would have the perfect excuse to get involved militarily in the event of such a conflict affecting Saudi-Israeli security. Weakening Iran and setting it back by a few years will immensely help restore Israel’s regional supremacy, apart from removing from the Middle East region an insufferable thorn in the American flesh. An outright invasion is not necessary for that purpose. In geopolitical terms, it is a double whammy insofar as Russia will also be deprived of an irreplaceable ally without which its effective role on the Middle Eastern chessboard is unsustainable.