So What Else is Going on in the Middle East?

So What Else is Going on in the Middle East?

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

For those who immediately think about the Israel-Palestinian problem in considering the turmoil in the Middle East, matters are getting far more complicated and disturbing elsewhere. Not that the Israelis and Palestinians problem is going away, the violent nature of other conflicts in the region far exceed in urgency the tension between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Saudi Arabia is the newest actor that is revving up the action. It appears to want but not want a ceasefire in Yemen.  At the moment, the Houthis are no match for the Saudi led forces despite the support they are receiving from Iran. This is the case even if the Saudis do not resort to non-traditional weapons. As has been widely reported, the Saudis already have employed American built cluster bombs as well as their entire array of military hardware compliments of Uncle Sam and they appear to be inflicting major damage on the rebels. The fascinating debate is whether and/or for how long the Saudis will continue to attack their Muslim brothers; something that historically they have had very limited interest in doing.

The Saudis have multiple agendas here and are receiving tacit approval and support from their American military supplier. They want to prevent further Iranian infiltration and they are very concerned about rebel forces from any source; al Qaeda, ISIS, Iran, etc.  King Salman, the new leader of Saudi Arabia is clearly in the midst of defining his power and the direction of his regime. Saudi Arabia is undergoing major internal political shake-up with a wide array of ramifications; ruling line, anti-terrorist operations, liberalization, and economic stability. The U.S. and the West need uninterrupted oil supplies and they also want Saudi backing for a possible nuclear deal with Iran; about which the Saudis are very cautious. In order to avoiding further possible nuclear proliferation, the U.S. appears to be prepared to let the Saudis manage the tension in Yemen and throughout the Arabian Peninsula with little interference and full military backing.

Even the Palestinian-Israeli conflict itself is getting much more complicated. Numerous sources have reported that Hamas and Israel have been meeting regularly to try to extend indefinitely the fighting pause which has been in place basically since the fighting ended in Gaza last summer. While these meetings surprised some Israelis, it is the PLO and Mahmoud Abbas who are really annoyed and by these meetings. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas are unable to get together to establish a common agenda and strategy to deal with the Israelis; meanwhile Abbas learns that Hamas, the more radical group of Palestinians—who gravely threaten his own power base on the West Bank—has been meeting with the Israelis.

Enter into both the Saudi and the Palestinian concerns come all the growing radical Islamist groups which are threatening to destabilize the region even further. The Islamic State is clearly growing in support and Al Qaeda and Hezbollah are poised to create more than passing mischief. Into this uncertainty the P5+1 will be returning next week to Switzerland to continue their discussions with Iran while the U.S. fears that the incident in Garland, Texas may only be the beginning of Islamic stimulated violence at home.. 

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