Is the Middle East on the Verge of a Wider War?

Region hit by a spate of assassinations, bombings and attacks on ships. Publication Type: Analysis and Commentary Three months after the Hamas terror attack on Israel, reverberations from the ensuing conflict in Gaza threaten to engulf the region in a wider war. Smoke rises from northern Gaza after an Israeli airstrike, seen from Sderot, Israel, on Oct. 29, 2023. (Tamir Kalifa/The New York Times) Recent events, including the killing of senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut, stepped up attacks by Houthis on ships in the Red Sea, Islamic State bombings in Iran and the killing of an Iran-backed militia leader in Iraq highlight mounting tensions across the Middle East. Taken together, these developments paint a stark picture of a region on the verge of a wider war. USIP’s Mona Yacoubian discusses the fallout of the war in Gaza, the likelihood of an even larger conflagration and what the United States is doing to keep the war from spreading. How have neighboring countries been affected by the war in Gaza? Yacoubian: Of Israel’s neighbors, Lebanon has been the most adversely affected by the growing conflict. The al-Arouri assassination — in the heart of Beirut’s Hezbollah-controlled southern suburbs — drew the Lebanese capital into the conflict for the first time since the October outbreak of hostilities, raising fears of a potential widening escalation. Lebanese government officials accused Israel of sparking a dangerous new phase in the conflict. Yet, despite these fears, Hezbollah has continued to signal its interest in avoiding full-scale war with Israel. In a January 3 speech just after the al-Arouri killing , Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed to respond to the assassination but thus far Hezbollah’s response has been more symbolic than significant, limited to a rocket attack on a small military base in northern Israel. Israel […]

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