Some of these are full of details about possible timing and targets and are based on official declarations or intelligence reports. The multiplication of these articles and comments gives the impression that an Israeli-Iranian war is imminent. However, it is impossible to know for sure if such a possibility really exists. What is sure, nonetheless, is that both Israel and Iran are countries capable of foreseeing the terrible outcomes of such a war.
In most of these analyses, commentators talk about this war fatalistically, but they don’t explain why these two countries have to go to war against each other. What is the precise conflict of interest between them? Do they have a border problem, any territorial issue? Do they disagree about territorial waters or a continental shelf? Do they have migration or refugee issues between them? It is hard to identify the concrete problem that pushes them to war. When one is unable to provide a list of concrete problems, even though the prospect of war is all over the press, one needs a different explanation for this “risk” of war.
The first possibility is that these two countries don’t actually want to fight a war but that they still want to use this probability as leverage. Telling the nation that the country is on the brink of war may provide justification for colossal defense spending and authoritarian domestic policies. Besides, this “threat” is also a way to ensure Russia’s help in Iran’s case and US assistance in Israel’s case.
The second possibility is that this projected war is the reflection of a greater struggle. When you look at what is going on in Syria, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon or Iraq, it is not hard to see that the Middle East is marked by a relentless rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Moreover, there are a number of countries outside the region trying to maintain or establish influence in the region. In this context, the antagonism between Israel and Iran is used to push the region’s other states to choose a side. One of the countries that is most disturbed by the obligation to pick a side is Turkey. Because Ankara’s initial impulse was not to join a specific camp, but to maintain good relations with all actors involved in the region, like Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iran, Syria, Israel, Russia and the US. Nevertheless, the international system compels Turkey to make a choice.
It is obvious that the regional polarization around Iran and Saudi Arabia will only cause more bloodshed. Moreover, it is impossible to guess who will have the upper hand at the end of this bloody process. In order to prevent this catastrophic scenario, new regional and/or global partnerships are necessary.
A compromise on the nature of the international system depends on an agreement between Russia and the United States. However, right now, these two great powers are involved in a critical disagreement over the Syrian issue. This disagreement in fact reveals a broader one over how the international system should be organized. In other words, one can’t expect an international arrangement for the Middle East’s future without the joint approval of Russia and the US. However, as negotiations between these two countries could take a very long time, it would be wiser not to wait for them and to contribute to regional stability by establishing regional cooperation initiatives.
Egypt has recently made an important move in order to establish such cooperation: Turkey, Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia will create a mechanism to tackle the Syrian problem. Let’s hope it does work. Such a mechanism is the only guarantee that the religious communities of Syria, and thus of the entire Middle East, will cohabit in peace in the future.