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Is Israel’s Gaza war a prelude to regime changes in Iran and Syria?

The United States has decided to deploy USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, its second aircraft carrier in the eastern Mediterranean in the wake of the Hamas-Israel war

Amid the fog of war, the accumulation of war material in the eastern Mediterranean stands out as the fulcrum that could define the course of the on-going Hamas-Israel war.

The US carrier task force led by the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford is spearheading the amassing of mega-firepower in these waters.

The carrier group also includes armed- to the teeth warships comprising USS Normandy — a guided-missile cruiser. Besides, the USS Thomas Hudner, USS Ramage, USS Carney, and USS Roosevelt are part of the battle group. The Arleigh-Burke-class guided-missile destroyer is also pulling in military heft into the task force.

A second US carrier group, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group will also be deployed in the eastern Mediterranean, the US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin announced on Saturday. The official purpose of the deployment is to “deter hostile actions against Israel or any efforts toward widening this war following Hamas’s attack on Israel.”

The British, the essential junior partner of the Anglo-Saxon alliance after World War-2 are also pitching in with two Royal Navy ships, P8 surveillance aircraft, three merlin helicopters and a company of Royal Marines – to the eastern Mediterranean.

It is likely that the massive accumulation firepower has a dual purpose. One is to deter the Iran and its allies to enter the Gaza military theatre, as officially stated. But a broader geopolitical Israeli-western enterprise could also be in the works, with Iran, Syria, and Lebanese Hezbollah in its cross-hairs.

A little bit of back story traced to the so-called Arab Spring is essential to explain the impending blood bath in Gaza and the possible geopolitical pathways that it is expected to reveal.

After the success of western backed regime change projects in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya in 2011, the Obama administration trained its guns on Syria under the rubric of the Arab Spring. But that goal could not be accomplished on account of military intervention by Russia, which was diplomatically backed by China, especially during voting at the United Nations Security Council.

The turning point of the Russia-China stance was the killing of Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi on October 20,2011. Qadhafi was hounded by NATO backed Islamists, who then managed to accomplish regime change in a pivotal oil-rich North African state.

With the toppling of Qadhafi, high decibel alarm bells began to ring in Moscow and Beijing. So, instead of abstaining from western backed resolutions supporting the advance of the Arab Spring, Russia and China vetoed the resolution, amounting to consent and legitimacy, for toppling the Bashar Assad government in Syria.

After Qadhafi was brutally murdered in his home base at Sirte, both Russia and China concluded that the cascading Arab Spring was a giant geopolitical project. The question that then arose was—will the Arab Spring stop at the gates of the Arabia, or, instead, enter new territory, governed by “authoritarian” leaders?  In Moscow and Beijing, it was concluded that regime change project post-Qadhafi would first target Syria, and thereafter go for the jugular in Iran.

Consequently, for both Moscow and Beijing in that order, Syria was identified as the first defence line to stall the supercharged regime change storm. In anticipation of regime change in Tehran, the two Eurasian giants saw Iran as their second defence line. It was understood that if Tehran fell, the Eurasian core, the existential bulwark for both Russia and China, would stand exposed to sweeping tide of serial regime changes.

Unsurprisingly Putin’s Russia was first off, the blocks, militarily intervening using air power to prevent Bashar’s fall. To fortify the Eurasian buffer, Russia and China also took the strategic decision of build a special relationship with Iran, which is now both a part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and BRICS grouping of the emerging economies.

Now fast forward to the accumulation of forces in the eastern Mediterranean and the Gaza crisis. After failing to achieve their objective of weakening Russia through the Ukraine war, NATO, this time with Israel is once again back in the Middle East targeting the “axis of resistance.” This phalanx in the Levant comprises Syria, Iran and Tehran backed Hezbollah. Incidentally the West has an axe to grind with Hezbollah. In 2006 the Shiite group had successfully fought Israel, thus embarrassing former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who anticipating quick Israeli success, had prematurely described the war as the “birth pangs” of a new Middle East.

So, the question that arises after Saturday’s surprise attack by Hamas on Israel, is whether Tel Aviv is now working with the West to accomplish the unfinished and maximalist agenda of regime change in Tehran? Is the accumulation of firepower in the eastern Mediterranean part of a bigger regional enterprise? Some Middle East watchers think that the Gaza counteroffensive has a bigger objective.

For instance, in an interview with Russia Today, Michael Maloof, former senior security policy analyst at the US Department of Defence, is of the view that Netanyahu would like Washington to get directly involved in the conflict with Hamas because he hopes to expand the war to Lebanon and Iran.

Maloof points out that deployment of USS Gerald R. Ford and five guided missile destroyers to the Eastern Mediterranean “meets Netanyahu’s wildest dreams.”

“He wanted the US involved in this conflict,” the former Pentagon official told RT.

Netanyahu “wants to open up the war with Lebanon, by attacking Hezbollah” in pursuit of his ultimate objective, “to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities,” Maloof added. For that to happen, “he has to have a Gulf of Tonkin moment, if you will.”

Maloof recalled how US President Lyndon Johnson essentially started the Vietnam War by sending ships to the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964. An alleged North Vietnamese attack on two US destroyers was then used as a pretext for direct involvement.

Reading the tea leaves well, Iran has gone into overdrive to curb Israel’s perceived geopolitical ambitions.

Unsurprisingly, during his visit to Lebanon that began on Thursday, Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, warned the United States to restrain Israel.

“America wants to give Israel a chance to destroy Gaza, and this is… a grave mistake,” he charged, adding, “if the Americans want to prevent the war in the region from developing, they must control Israel,” an AFP report quoted him as saying.

On the same visit which included stops in Baghdad and Damascus, Amir-Abdollahian stressed that on Saturday that it was still possible to prevent a regional expansion of Israel’s war Hamas, but time was running out.

“There is still a political opportunity to prevent a widespread crisis in the region,” Amir-Abdollahian told a press conference in Beirut.

But “maybe, in the next few hours, it will be too late”.

The Iranian minister warned that pro-Iran militants “have designed all the scenarios and are prepared, and their finger is on the trigger to shoot”.

Also Read: Why Iran holds the key in deciding the fate of the Hamas-Israel conflict