‘Only a ceasefire in Gaza will break the cycle of violence in the Middle East’

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL January 29, 2024
Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

For four months now, pundits and players around the world have pondered and prayed on the point of no return in the Middle East. Prayed it will not come, that is.

The list of imponderables includes the following:

Then a new week began and with it a new contender for the point of no return: The killing of three US troops at a base along the Jordanian border with Syria by a drone attack.

An Iraq-based, pro-Iran militia claimed responsibility for the attack. Some 2,500 US military personnel are stationed in Iraq, and about 900 more in Syria. Though Iran denied responsibility, the challenge to America’s presence in the Middle East is now seen to be explicit, not just implied.

American retaliation is coming, President Joe Biden assured in the immediate aftermath of the deadly attack on US troops: “While we are still gathering the facts of this attack, we know it was carried out by radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq. And have no doubt — we will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner our choosing.”

But the point of no return will rest on what kind of retaliation.

The war-war faction of America’s Republican Party is baying crazily for escalation, to the point of US attacks within Iranian territory. “The only answer to these attacks must be devastating military retaliation against Iran’s terrorist forces, both in Iran and across the Middle East,” said Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton. “Anything less will confirm Joe Biden as a coward unworthy of being commander in chief”. His Republican colleague in the Senate, Lyndsey Graham added his own incendiary demand for tough-guy stuff.

It may be hard for Mr Biden, who’s seeking re-election, to ignore the siren-like calls but Middle Eastern leaders warn of a widening arc of violence in their region. Qatar’s Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, who’s been visiting Washington, D.C, said the continued spillover from Israel’s war on Gaza would undermine regional security.

Pragmatists are with peaceniks when they say only a ceasefire in Gaza will break the cycle of violence.

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