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Tuesday, 18 May 2021

The region between war and chaos

Is the Arab region heading toward war?

Hassan Abou Taleb , Thursday 21 Dec 2017

War and chaos are bad options, and choosing one of them is like choosing between death by hanging and death through starvation. Both of them lead to death.

Concerning Egypt, it is against both against war and chaos and, to put things straight, it is also against hollow threats and systematic intervention in our affairs and our sister Arab countries’ affairs.

It sides with positive stability that pursues development and achieves people's ambitions through work and production, and favors dialogue without threats for the resolution of problems that might arise between states. Any comparison will inevitably end up with the logicality of the Egyptian outlook that aims simply towards life, its protection and advancement.

International relations literature holds that war is basically a political decision and is comprised of three kinds. The first is attacking war, which aims at taking the enemy by surprise through launching the first strike, though it does not necessarily achieves victory because the enemy can strike back with a mightier blow and thus regain the initiative, possibly seizing the victory.

The second kind is defensive war, which is imposed on a party by external assault and is inescapable because it demands the protection of both the land and its people. It mainly aims at repelling this brute aggression.

The third kind is pre-emptive war. It aims at driving the enemy into a state of chaos and fragmentation, exhausting its military and economic capabilities. Hence, it postpones the possibility that this enemy may consitute a threat to the attacking party, at least for some time.

In all wars, there is a price to be paid: suffering, sacrifices, and human cost that may sometimes extend into long years. In wars, a state of ultimate uncertainty prevails. We can sometimes know precisely the moment of the start of a war, but only God knows its end. It might come after a few weeks or after many years. There are several examples around us.

Even in the period preceding a war, there is some ambiguity. Perhaps this is intentional and premeditated ambiguity, or perhaps the ambiguity results from severely conflicting standpoints and consequently an inability to control events. It is not clear in this period when or where, or even if, war will break out. What’s happening in our Arab region now is this moment of uncertainty that often precedes war.

In the old days, the armies’ headquarters were known, their movements witnessed and targeting them was easy. That was before the huge technological advances in communication, computerisation and sophisticated, super-precisice and highly expensive weapons manufactured in the advanced western and eastern factories. But they do not use these weapons against each other, but impel others to use them in field experiments on their people and buildings.

Today wars take place between armies and militias, between regular forces and their proxies, whether they be regarded as forces of popular mobilisation, political party, or organisation. It is known that when engaged in wars, regular forces (i.e., armies) are governed by treaties and monitored by several watchdogs such as human rights organisations, the UN Security Council, and various mass media. This means that there is an amount of accountability, even after a while.

As for the mobilisation forces, the party, the militia, or the organisation, they are not governed by any legal or human rights considerations and its military might does as it pleases without being easily held accountable. According to such groups, what is important is to inflict the biggest possible amount of human and material losses on the enemy.

Despite the raging chaos that our Arab region is going through and its deadly results, the expansion of proxy wars and their failure to achieve the main objectives set for them, and in spite of the overwhelming sense of exhaustion overcoming all parties as well as their monumental losses, there are mutterings about yet another, new war -- as if the state of chaos stretching for six years is not enough.

What’s strange is that the war spoken about by many, seen as it is as a strong possibility near at hand, do not specify who will wage the war and for what reason.

The predominant hint goes as follows: There is an Arab Gulf power that may wage a war against a non-Arab regional power or, perhaps, against an extension of this non-Arab power in an Arab country. After the hint, an explicit pointing to Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Hezbollah arise.

For a sensible person, it seems a strange matter. Hezbollah is not an army with a specified locations but fighters who are armed and trained in urban warfare and live among Arab Lebanese civilians, whether Sunni or Shia.

No rational person can imagine that Riyadh might do this, for neither its geographical location nor fighting capabilities will allow it. Claiming victory seems unreachable.

Although extremely angry at Hezbollah as a logical extension of its attitude towards Iran, Riyadh’s position towards Lebanon does not mean that this anger will be transformed into a war, as foreign news agencies keep repeating in their reports.

What’s most likely is that Riyadh has met a decision to exert complex economic, psychological, and political pressure until some Lebanese political equations are changed in Saudi Arabia's favor. These will not occur unless there are Lebanese forces coordinating with Riyadh at the highest levels, aiming at seizing their own objectives on the ground.

Achieving victory from external remote area cannot be attained. This goes without mentioning that exerting all kinds of pressure has its limits and most likely that some of its shrapnel will harm some of Riyadh’s allies themselves if the current situation continues.

This probability spoken about by some is accompanied by an even lesser probability, i.e., waging a war against Iran itself. This lesser probability was not even carried out by the USA with all its military might, in spite of all of the Trump administration's noise and yelling about the Iranian menace. All that the President Trump's new strategy towards Iran was based upon was the desire to trim its external nails. On top of that, the Revolutionary Guard was added to the US list of terrorism sponsors -- not the list of terrorist organisations. The latter classification is stronger and entails more international legal and economic restraints, but the former still brought US sanctions.

This took place alongside the exertion of pressure on Iran's widespread arms sales in a number of countries such as Iraq. We cannot understand how the US is exerting pressure on Iraq while the Iraqi government and several political allies to the US. 

Washington also tries to exert pressure on Syria and that is understandable.


We can’t understand why it didn’t move while the Iraqi government and several political forces are close allies to the USA or in Syria but that’s understandable.(What didn't move? What is understandable??)

Still, we didn’t find an American movement against Hezbollah's forces stationed on Syrian lands. Even the American movements against the Houthis in Yemen, who are definitely Iran’s arm, are a symbolic movement rather than an actual one. If this was the case with America’s standpoint against those who are actual Iranian proxies, who is left wanting to transform the Gulf into an inferno?

(?? Is the assumption that America isn't serious about fighting Iranian proxies, and therefore Saudi can't be either? Implication that US is dictating Saudi policy on Lebanon?)

I don’t think there is anyone who wants to do this; not in Riyadh nor in any other Arab capital. Thus, war is excluded and all kinds of pressures towards alternative outcomes dominate the scene.

The writer is a political commentator.




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