4/15/2024 - Politics and Society


By Jose Daniel Salinardi


What role do China and Russia play in the Middle East crisis? The nuclear factor remains the dominant concern for Israel and the West.

Are we really facing the beginning of a direct military conflict between the two countries? Is this Iran's real firepower, or did the April 13 attack obey internal political needs of the theocratic regime of the Ayatollahs after Israel's attack on their consulate in Damascus, Syria? What role do China and Russia play in the Middle East crisis? The nuclear factor remains the dominant concern for Israel and the West.

Last Monday, April 1st, an Israeli air strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria, resulted in the destruction of the building where it was located and the death of at least seven members of the Revolutionary Guards, the Iranian ideological army. A few days later, and after proclaiming its right to retaliate, Iran launched a massive drone and rocket attack on Israel. So far it would seem that this is just another episode in the permanent crisis that the Middle East is experiencing as a consequence of the confrontation between Israel and Iran. But this is not the case. In addition to Syria, there are third parties involved in this episode, although not in person.

Tartous is a Syrian city located on the Mediterranean Sea, approximately 160 kilometers from Damascus. How is it related to the event we are commenting on? Its port is used as a base by the Russian Navy. The relationship between Damascus and Moscow is historical, as is the presence of Russia in Syria. Can Israel's attack on the Iranian diplomatic representation in Damascus also be considered an attack on Russia? Surely not, although it is an attack on a country allied with Vladimir Putin and the Ayatollahs. The Israeli attack ended up reinforcing this already very close link to the point that Iran is one of the main suppliers of the combat drones used by Russia in its war with Ukraine, which are manufactured by a company owned by the son of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

For some time now, Israel has been watching with concern the rise of Iran in the geopolitical armament of the Middle East, helped not only by Russia but also by another country that has quietly increased its importance in the region: China, another major supplier of combat technology to Russia, which has just recently received a warning from the United States about new sanctions in case it continues its military aid to Iran. It was China that was the driving force behind the rapprochement of the Ayatollahs with Saudi Arabia, as well as Syria's return to the Arab League.

On the other hand, most of the democratic countries of the West, with the United States and Great Britain at the head, support Israel militarily, which turns an eventual direct military confrontation between Iran and Israel into a conflict of global characteristics. Is this what has been initiated with the attack of last night, April 13? Definitely not.

The Iranian attack was more for internal consumption after the Israeli operation in Damascus, than to produce real damage. It did not use its real missile and firepower that would lead the region into an unpredictable war. Moreover, Hezbollah participated only symbolically. Surely Israel will conduct a spectacular one-off operation of limited damage that will show its capability but not change the level of military confrontation to another scale. What should we pay attention to, then, to know if a war between Iran and Israel has definitely started? The key is the Iranian nuclear development plan.

It has been proven that Iran has the capacity to enrich uranium to 90%, even if it does not admit it and the International Atomic Energy Agency has not obtained proof of this. But the data from Western intelligence services and from Israel itself seem irrefutable. The question is, then, when will this potential be converted into concrete weapons of mass destruction. While Iran already seems to be treading this lethal path, Israel and its allies are playing " Peter and the wolf": a permanent warning to Iran that if it attacks, it will be attacked. A strategy that paid off until Russia and China aligned themselves with Iran, and emboldened the theocratic regime. The recent direct attack on Israel and not the use of proxies like Hezbollah or Hamas, seem to go in that direction. Some might ask: but if Iran is already producing nuclear weapons and has the support of Russia and China, and its objective is the disappearance of the state of Israel, are we not already on the threshold of a war in the Middle East? Again, no. The result would also be catastrophic for Russia and China, because of its global effects. Therefore, it will be precisely these two countries that will be responsible for maintaining an unstable balance in the Middle East while continuing to increase their importance in the region. Russia cannot be distracted from its war with Ukraine, and China is preparing for a further increase in tension with the United States in the face of an eventual return of Donald Trump to the White House. There will be no war in the Middle East, although there will be growing tension.

An additional concern, certainly not a minor one, for Western intelligence services, is the "inspiration" that Iran's military incursions and its proxies may arouse in the numerous "lone wolves" they have scattered around the world. Nobody knows who they are, when they will act, or how they will act. They do not take orders from anyone, they do not even know each other. That is the real threat to the countries of the West today. The visit of the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States to several countries where the presence of people linked to Islamic terrorist groups is suspected (among them Brazil and the Argentine Republic) and a recent law passed by the US House of Representatives, which will soon be dealt with and surely approved by the Senate, lifting some restrictions to internal security agencies to carry out espionage tasks, ratify that the threat to the United States, Latin America and Europe is much closer than the Middle East.

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Jose Daniel Salinardi

Jose Daniel Salinardi

Jose Daniel Salinardi is a Certified Public Accountant graduated from the School of Economics of the University of Buenos Aires.

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