On October 15th, the Reut Group released its analysis titled “Middle Eastern Game of Thrones”, which looks into the competition for regional hegemony and primarily Israel’s part in it. It is authored by Eran Shyshon, Adi Levy, Alex Grinberg.
The entire report can be found here [pdf].
The Reut Group is a non-profit organization that was founded in 2004 by Gidi Grinstein as the Reut Institute to become a leadership, strategy, and impact organization. Reut creates and scales innovative models that tackle critical challenges facing the State of Israel, Israeli society and the Jewish world.
It is extremely Israeli biased, as can be expected.
From the analysis presented by Reut Group one significant conclusion can be reached from simply an initial glance – Israel is quite interested and is, to a very large degree, behind the instability in both the Middle East, as well as in South Caucasus.
Despite it all, the report splits the Middle East into four “factions,” neither of which Israel officially is a part of:
- Iran and the Shia Axis;
- Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood Axis;
- pro-Western Sunni Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt;
- jihadism, most identified with the Islamic State, which is witnessing a downward trend.
Iran is, of course the largest threat to Israel.
How Iran specifically threatens Israel is summarized below:
“The attempt to conceptualize the Iranian war plan against Israel, which we will refer to as a “borderless open war”, raises the following principles:
- The firing of tens of thousands of missiles from a geographical area that stretches from Iran and Yemen to the Gaza Strip and through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, over several months, during which Israel is unable to end or contain the situation, or even defend itself against so many high quality targets located over such an expansive area.
- The “ring of fire” is intended to, first and foremost, enable Iran to deliver a conventional “second strike” in the event its nuclear program is attacked.
- Nevertheless, the “ring of fire” infrastructure also provides Iran with the option of a conventional “first strike”, which Iran believes could lead to Israel’s collapse. The acquisition of nuclear weaponry would provide Iran immunity from a significant, external attack and would also theoretically prevent Israel from using such weapons in response to an attack orchestrated by Iran. In the eyes of the Iranians, the combination of damage to the home front and the country’s functional continuity in the long term would ultimately lead to immigration and Israel’s collapse.”
The factions that compete for hegemony are not specifically presented as what corresponds to reality, but what Israel would like to see reality as, it is very apparent.
A big issue for Israel is Russia, since it is an ally, but a conditional one, and sometimes not even that.
Two points make that more than clear, Tel’Aviv needs to be wary of Moscow and suitable measures need to be in place in case of an issue.
“10. Despite the image of Russian strength, Moscow has limited influence in the region. Russia is taking advantage of the United States’ withdrawal to better establish itself in the region, but it lacks the capabilities (and intention) to effectively replace the American presence. Russia has no natural allies in the region and even its influence on the Assad regime is limited. Nevertheless, Russia has managed to become a key player and even a mediator in Syria and, and to a lesser extent, in Libya.
11.Russian interests continually conflict not only with those of Israel, but also with the interests of Turkey and Iran. Russia usually tries to avoid confrontations with Israel, but the potential for friction is high due to Israel’s military efforts against Iranian entrenchment in Syria, which hampers Russian ambitions to lead the economic and military reconstruction of the country.”
Separately, Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood appear a threat, even though Turkey also appears to be providing a sort of guise for Israeli weapon sales to Azerbaijan, but more on that later on.
After all, Turkey is a strong supporter of Palestinian rights, opposes the annexations Israel undertakes.
“This document warns that, in the next significant round of fighting between Israel and Hamas, the danger of an unprecedented escalation and clash between Israel and Turkey is likely. Turkey has altered its approach in recent years. The country is currently intervening militarily in the conflicts across the region, most notably in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Turkey seeks to uphold the banner of the Palestinian struggle and even granted Turkish citizenship to exiled Hamas leaders. It is not certain at all that Turkey will be satisfied with its heretofore rhetorical opposition to Israel during next rounds of fighting with Hamas.”
Additionally, a much more worrisome event for Israel would be “regionalization” of a possible conflict. Tel’Aviv would struggle in an open conflict with Hamas from Gaza, and Hezbollah from Lebanon, but there is a much worse scenario.
“Israel also faces the threat of “regionalization” of the conflict. It seems that the most likely ultimate threat scenario for Israel would be a fight on two fronts, one against Hamas in Gaza and the other against Hezbollah in Lebanon. In fact, however, a more threatening scenario is for the Gaza front to become a regional front with the active involvement of two claimants to the regional throne – Iran and Turkey – and their cooperation with one another.”
As such, several things can be concluded from the document.
According to the Reut Group, a big war in the Middle East is rather inevitable, and Israel needs to take contingency measures.
If it’s passive, it will receive two fronts – from Hamas and Hezbollah, and even worse – a united Iran-Turkey coalition with the likely tacit consent of Russia.
This could potentially be avoided by pitting Iran against Turkey due to behind-the-scenes actions.
“Turkey and Iran’s pursuit for hegemony has created ongoing friction and tension between them. Their activities in Iraq and Syria and, more recently, that of Turkey in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, have resulted in nearly direct contact with one another. All of this must be understood within the historical context of the hostility between Sunni Islam, represented by Turkey, and Shia Islam, represented by Iran.”
However, Turkey and Iran have effective mechanisms for communicating, and support for the Palestinians in Gaza is also a big common interest.
The goals of each faction and more can be tracked in the table below, also part of the analysis.
Regardless, with war essentially unavoidable, it is advisable to act as long as possible with the instruments of intelligence, soft power and diplomacy, that is, bribery, blackmail, political assassinations, compromising evidence, and more. However, strikes against the primary targets must be taken, but only when there’s no threat of heavy retaliation.
The most stable allies according to the Reut Group for Israel in a regional conflict is the Moderate Axis.
Iran is, essentially, the boogeyman in this scenario, and it could push them to further cooperate with Israel, more openly and not behind the scenes as it is now.
“The fear of Iran led to a cooperation of Israel with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf nations over a decade ago. This cooperation has paved the way for the latest political developments and agreements. Israel’s steadfast position towards Iran, exemplified by the Jewish state’s operations against Iran’s nuclear ambitions and aspirations in Syria, have led to the rapprochement between Israel and the Gulf states. The United States disengagement from the region has created the need for the Gulf states to update and upgrade their ties with Israel. Normalization with Arab countries has broken long-standing taboos that have prevented Israel’s economic and social integration in the region. Thus, it is possible that Israel is on the cusp of a new era in the Middle East.”
According to Reut Group, Russia is the weakest player in the region, which means it is the easiest to influence.
Turkey is the strongest, and when it comes to Ankara, Tel’Aviv can only play for time, and that’s about it, according to the authors of the report.
Most notably, furthermore, Reut Group believes that the United States need to somehow be persuaded to not withdraw from the region, but also deploy even more forces, in order to increase its influence to levels suitable to Israel.
The issue with the Palestinians is at a sort of standstill. It could potentially turn Turkey into a permanent adversary, but it appears that the Arab States are partially “fed up” with it.
“Arab states seem to be fed up with the Palestinian issue. It is no longer viewed as an issue supported by political capital and legitimacy for the rulers of some Arab nations. The refusal of the Arab League to condemn the United Arab Emirates following its peace agreement with Israel, when compared to the expulsion of Egypt from the Arab League for several years following its historic 1979 peace agreement, testifies to how great the change has been regarding the Palestinian issue.”
“The Palestinian ball may permanently land in Turkey’s court. While Hamas has long enjoyed the support of both Iran and Turkey, the PLO and the Palestinian Authority have seen the natural “home” of the Palestinian issue among other Arab states. However, the Palestinian feeling of abandonment by the Arab League following Israel’s peace agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, may lead the PLO to align with Hamas regarding Turkish patronage on the Palestinian issue, consequently hastening Palestinian reconciliation efforts. These developments may have significant implications on the conflict.”
All of this aside, when the winds of war start blowing, the best outcome for Israel in the next round of war would be the dismantling of the Iranian “regime.” This would be followed by the transformation of Iran into a secular state with incessant civil conflicts on its territory.
Another positive for Tel’Aviv would be active confrontation between Turkey and Russia, both in the Middle Eastern region and in the Caucasus and the Black Sea region, which will weaken both sides.
The ideal scenario for this would be a sort of alliance between Turkey and the UK, as well as for the US and Ukraine. It is not so surprising, since it’s almost entirely a reality, at this point.
Any reduction of the Arab population of Palestine is also always a positive.
The report provides somtimes contradictory, but a relatively clear pro-Israeli vision of the situation in the Greater Middle East, or at least how Israel wants to see it. This explains also the recent activity of Jewish structures in Ukraine and Russia. They support the disruptive and destructive agenda followed by the Kiev government, as well as support the negative tendencies and the pro-Western elites that cause instability in Russia, which on its own supports Israel’s interests, by simply causing Russia to be less active.
An intermediate tactical activity that appears to be taking place is Israeli support for Azerbaijan in the war against Armenia.
This is seen not noyl in some separate events in the public sphere but also in more direct actions like weapon supplies (for example the using of Ukraine as a sort of logistical hub to keep the weapons coming to Azerbaijan). There are regular flights now that transport arms to Azerbaijan.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is happy to accommodate, since this could potentially also curb Russia’s influence in the region, if it’s too late in responding adequately in one way, or another, in Nagorno-Karabakh. Zelensky is also Jewish and integrated in the Israeli-linked part of the Ukrainian elites. He doesn’t hide it and it is unlikely that he’s entirely unsupportive of the agenda.
Somehow also an Israeli court concluded that there is no conclusive evidence that Israeli weapons are even used in Nagorno-Karabakh, which is nonsense since there’s quite a bit of footage of loitering weapons such as the HAROP and the LORA missile being used in many occasions.
Turkey is slated as Azerbaijan’s biggest ally, but it is likely that Israeli-made weapons are much more commonly used in Azerbaijan’s offensive than Turkish ones.
Another point of instability in Southern Caucasus is the fact that Armenia appears to be receiving much less support than in expected.
The ‘Armenian Lobby’ in the US failed to achieve any progress for its cause. It was blocked by other, undisclosed structures.
It is also no secret that the Trump administration continuously seeks further integration with Israel’s leadership, connecting the two things is not difficult, nor a too big stretch of the imagination.
In the hostilities, Azerbaijan uses Israeli LORAs, Harops and the Cardom mortar system.
Azerbaijan also recently claimed that it has been developing its own UAV systems, for a while. It strongly resembles the Orbiter 1K, which is an Israeli-made system. The Orbiter 2M and the Aerostar are also in service in Azerbaijan.
The Azerbaijan-made drone is called “Iti Qovan” which means “We are chasing them like dogs”. The Iti Qovan and the Orbiter 1K can be compared, they’re essentially the same unit, they’re just renamed and produced under an Israeli license.
As such, it is obvious that Israel has deeply integrated itself in the Azerbaijani offensive on Nagorno-Karabakh and is stoking the fire. In the vision of Israel, the impending conflict in the Middle East appears all but certain, and Israel is reaching far and wide in attempts to position all pieces on the board in its advantage in order to guarantee its victory.
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