The question of how to deter Hamas from starting another conflict has dominated recent discourse. Most observers ignore the fact that the terror group is an Iranian proxy, meaning it presents unique challenges to deterrence.
The newly announced Iran-China 25 Year Comprehensive Partnership is unprecedented in its scope. It contains a “mystery clause” that gives China control over how Iran spends its resources, which could ultimately amount to Iran’s selling its sovereignty to Beijing. The close military collaboration between the countries also has major implications for the decades-long US domination of the Gulf and large stretches of the Indian Ocean.
Iran’s new anti-Israel legislation has banned all contact with the “Zionist enemy,” however indirect, even going so far as to criminalize the use of electronics that contain components manufactured by companies with branches in Israel. The law has also mandated the creation of a “virtual embassy” in Jerusalem to protect the Palestinians’ interests. For all its hardline posturing, the law reflects chaos within the regime.
Qassem Soleimani was emboldened by the US administration’s failure to respond to repeated Iranian efforts to destabilize the Persian Gulf—so much so that he felt it was safe to attack Americans directly in Iraq. President Trump, who so recently was eager to leave the Middle East, ordered the killing of Soleimani in retaliation—drawing the US back into the Middle East.
President Trump’s ill-advised decision to withdraw from Syria should be viewed in the context of two broader developments. In terms of foreign policy, both the Republicans and the Democrats are moving from international engagement to neo-isolationism; and strategically, the Pentagon is shifting from the war on terror to a renewed focus on Russia and China.