I wrote in December about the grave risk of a new war breaking out in any of several parts of the world within the next few months to a year. One of the areas I singled out was the Middle East - and recent developments make it more and more likely that a spark is about to be set to the tinder there. Consider:
- Hard-line Islamist parties have won three-quarters of the seats in the newly-elected Egyptian parliament, meaning they'll have a large enough majority to bulldoze through any laws they want. They're inveterate foes of Israel, and have already indicated that they want to abrogate the Camp David accords. This will effectively return Egypt to a de facto state of war with Israel (even if shooting hasn't started yet).
- Palestinians are threatening a 'third intifada' (following the first and second such uprisings), and want to pursue United Nations membership. If they're admitted to that body, it would amount to international recognition of Palestine as an independent state, in violation of the Oslo Accords.
- Hamas, the terrorist movement in control of Gaza, is growing increasingly friendly with Turkey, a former Israeli ally which has become overtly hostile to the Jewish state with the rise of an Islamist-influenced government in Istanbul. Indeed, following the increasingly hard-line anti-Israel position adopted by Turkey, Israel has canceled arms deals with that country, and military exercises between Turkish and Israeli forces have been suspended. Instead, Israel has just completed a military exercise with Greece, and announced there will be more. Greece is Turkey's rival in the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, and looks to be strengthening ties with Israel (it may also have provided Israel with technical intelligence concerning Iranian missile defense systems). This, naturally, annoys the heck out of Turkey, which (probably as a direct result) has just announced that it will hold military exercises with Syria, Israel's long-standing foe. The fact that the Syrian government is actively engaged in slaughtering thousands of its own citizens, in an attempt to suppress a popular uprising against the dictatorship there, clearly doesn't bother Turkey in the least.
- Iran, already known to be tied to Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, has again intimated that it might consider closing the Strait of Hormuz in response to external pressure, and may threaten cities and vessels throughout the Persian Gulf in the event of war. A war with Israel involving either Hamas, or Hezbollah, or both, would almost certainly trigger such a response in an attempt by Iran to reduce or divert the pressure on its allies. Unfortunately, with the advent of a government in Egypt controlled by hard-line Islamists, Hamas and Hezbollah are very likely to receive support (both moral and material) and encouragement to start precisely such a war. The fact that the 'third intifada' threatened by Palestinian extremists would be aided by such external conflicts, which would divide Israel's forces and attentions, is just the cherry on top of this unholy mess.
I'll be very surprised indeed if Israel's military preparedness is not being raised to a higher level, including the mobilization of critical personnel in the Reserves and urgent attention being given to getting all its planes, ships, tanks, artillery and other weapons to the highest possible state of preparedness for war. The signs are ominous. If you, like me, have religious faith of any kind, may I suggest that now would be a very good time to pray for peace - and for sanity among all the leaders involved?