Media across the Middle East during this past week was focused on Israel-Iran tensions, including inflammatory comments from Beirut to Baghdad about the war on the horizon. Yet much of the tension failed to attract the attention of international community. That doesn’t mean that behind the scenes the US, France and others were not working to calm the issue, but it does appear that most did not take the crises seriously.
The reason is that in Europe is engrossed Brexit, while Trump-centric news cycle spent time wondering if the US would buy Greenland, or if hurricanes would be nuked, or if the G7 would hold a meeting with Russia at a Trump resort.
In addition, there are protests in Hong Kong and a crisis in Kashmir. These are important issues, some of them with ramifications as important as what is taking place in the Middle East. Pakistan and India, for instance, have nuclear weapons.
The airstrike by Israel on 24th August, and Hezbollah’s claims that it downed Israeli drones on August 25, also did not lend themselves to much of a crisis. A few little drones that looked more appropriate for a wedding planner and an airstrike where only a grainy video seems to underpin Israel’s claims of “killer drones” is not major news globally.
Also, the allegations of Israeli airstrikes in Iraq are opaque. Some storage containers blew up, but there are not many details. And there is fatigue in Western media for stories about violence in the Middle East. In addition, the US is trying to end the Afghan war in the coming months, a war that also gets almost no media attention anymore.
Nevertheless, the Israel-Hezbollah tensions and US-Iran tensions have major ramifications. Jerusalem has said that Tehran is entrenching in Syria, and that it sends precision guidance technology to upgrade Hezbollah’s arsenal of 130,000 missiles. Hezbollah says it can strike all of Israel. Iranian-backed Shi’ite paramilitaries in Iraq are important, as is their long-term affect on Iraq and the region. Hezbollah holds the US and Israel responsible.
That could have an impact on US-Iraqi relations, and the long-term strategy to defeat ISIS. It is no surprise that ISIS is trying to expand again in Syria and Iraq with small attacks. Baghdad has launched major offensives to crush the ISIS networks, but Iraqis are dying in these battles every day. These tensions also relate to other tensions in the Gulf, as well as between Saudi Arabia and Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The Houthis tried to use drones or rockets to attack Saudi Arabia almost every day over the last week. These conflicts are linked, from Hezbollah to Houthis to Iraq and Syria. Yet they are so complex and have so many different leaders and groups involved that many feel they are too complicated to understand.
Outside of simple binaries like “Hezbollah vs. Israel” or “Iran vs. America,” the story is difficult to explain. Trump’s comments about Greenland, or Boris Johnson suspending parliament, seem easier to understand. A million people protesting in Hong Kong seems more important than two Hezbollah operatives killed.