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Hard as it is to draw your eyes away from the horrors of Hamas’s attack on Israel, it’s important to take a step back to see the bigger picture and what it portends for the future. This war could quickly escalate into a regional war if Iran, Israel, and others decide it’s now or never.
Make no mistake, while Hamas terrorists might be doing the actual fighting, Iran is pulling the strings. Iran funds Hamas, supplies their weapons, and gave the order to attack Israel from the west. If Hezbollah terrorists join the fight and attack Israel from Lebanon in the north, it will again be at Iran’s behest because Iran also funds and arms Hezbollah. If splinter terrorist groups go against Israel from the Palestinian territories in the east, Israel will face a multifront war fought by Palestinians, but paid for and directed by Iran.
Iran has been arming Hamas and Hezbollah for years. Why light the fuse now? Because Iran figures it’s now or never.
First, the window to sabotage Arab-Israeli peace is closing. In the last several weeks Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have both said they are close to an historic agreement. It would be the final step in the peace process that began in the Trump administration with the Abraham Accords. Peace between Israel and the Sunni Arab Gulf nations would pave the way for trade and investment. It would isolate Iran – politically, economically, diplomatically, and militarily.
Second, Iran sees the Biden administration as a golden opportunity. During his first term, President Trump bankrupted Iran thanks to increased U.S. energy production and lower oil prices. Iran not only had reduced oil revenues, but sanctions meant Iran had difficulty exporting oil regardless of the price. Iran’s funding of Hamas and Hezbollah had begun to dry up. At the same time President Trump cut funds to these terrorist groups.
President Biden reversed Trump’s energy policy, and cut back U.S. production. Oil prices went up. Biden removed sanctions on Iranian energy exports and resumed half a billion dollars of “humanitarian” funding to Palestinian groups, which they’ve used for military purposes. Biden gave Iran access to $6 billion in exchange for releasing five American hostages. Suddenly, Iran had billions to support terrorists and build nuclear weapons.
Third, Hamas’s attack on Israel was only the first step. The second step was to goad Israel into a massive counterattack. That’s why Hamas deliberately targeted civilians rather than the Israeli military, government facilities, and infrastructure. They set out to slaughter innocents. They’ve taken grandmothers and little children hostage. They’ve gone house to house gunning down families. They’ve paraded naked young Israeli women in the streets. They’re taking videos and proudly sending them out to the world.
Hamas terrorists may just want to kill Jews. But Iran has a bigger goal: forcing Israel to respond with a devastating scorched earth invasion of Gaza. Hamas locates its military headquarters and arms depots in schools, hospitals, and mosques. They use their own people as human shields for their propaganda value.
Soon the horrible imagines of Hamas gunning down Israeli civilians will be replaced by Israelis bombing Gaza and Palestinian corpses. World public opinion will change. The UN will condemn Israel, and press and politicians everywhere will call for Israel to withdraw. The anti-Israel wing of the Democrat party will demand the Biden administration cut aid to Israel.
The Biden administration has vowed to stand with Israel, and give the Jewish nation whatever it needs to defend itself. But if public opinion changes in the days and weeks ahead, will President Biden remain unwavering in his support of Israel? If not, and Israel feels backed into a corner, isolated, and no longer sure of American support, their leaders could conclude that time is running out for them, too. Then Iran’s looming nuclear weapons capability is something Israel can no longer avoid.
One way or another, this war has just begun. It will certainly get bloodier. Whether it expands into a larger regional conflict, with nuclear weapons ramifications, is up to Washington as much as it is up to Jerusalem and to Tehran.