Who can stop Syria crisis escalating into a third Gulf War?
An Israeli helicopter has shot down an Iranian drone and, while on a retaliatory raid, an Israeli F16 fighter jet was downed by Syrian anti-aircraft fire. Furthermore, several Syrian and Iranian targets were bombed by the Israeli Air Force. If we take into account the interference of Turkey, the Russian bombings in support of the regime of Bashar Assad and the situation of the Ghouta and Idlib regions, the political landscape is frightening. Simply scary.
I will not repeat all the comments of Gulf specialists, but I will point out the great fragility and the extremely precarious security situation in the region. As we know, the area is weakened by the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis and their allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council are creating a military bloc against the Iranian enemy and its proxies, especially the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon and certain extremists in Bahrain. The situation is becoming increasingly tense, especially since no solution seems about to emerge in the crisis between the Gulf states and Qatar, which is exacerbated by the close geographical proximity of Iran, the incubator of terrorism, instability and regional interventionism.
In Riyadh, the discourse is clear; Iran cannot continue to destabilize the region with impunity.
So, looking at the state of affairs in the area, we have four arenas of conflict. First there is Lebanon, which is rebuilding on the eve of expected parliamentary elections but is the venue for confrontations between the pro-Iranian Hezbollah and forces backed by Saudi Arabia. Then there is devastated Yemen, a ground of confrontation between the Gulf countries and the Houthis, who are supported and armed by Iran.
Syria is devastated too and supporting, directly or indirectly, clashes between Israel, Turkey, Russia and Iran. Finally, the GCC is also under high tension, with Qatar refusing to submit to the demands of its neighbors. We must wait for the possible summit at Camp David in May to see if a well-negotiated solution will appear.
It seems that, in the face of an unpredictable America and an absent Europe, France is the only voice of reason when it comes to easing tensions in the Middle East.
In this heavily-armed region, the slightest incident will, without a doubt, ignite the gunpowder keg. The third Gulf War is taking shape before our eyes.
Only French President Emmanuel Macron with his proactive approach and his multiple diplomatic missions to Saudi Arabia and Qatar demonstrates a comprehension of the risks of this firestorm. Europe is mute and relatively non-existent, as Federica Mogherini — the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy — sometimes seems more concerned about protecting the Iran nuclear deal than the stability of the region.
Indeed, the Iran nuclear deal is a series of disappointments not only for the Iranians themselves, who showed their discontent on the streets in December, but also for the international community, which continues to watch the growth of the Iranian ballistic missile program.
Here again, only President Macron has strongly and unambiguously expressed his opposition to the program. Tehran’s approach was perhaps expressed best by Amir Taheri in Arab News, when he wrote Iran “could talk like Sweden but act like North Korea.”
The only thing that is certain is that we must to put an end to this uncontrollable situation. It seems that, in the face of an unpredictable America and an absent Europe, only France can be the voice of reason.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view