While the world celebrates as the ISIS terror organization is forced from Mosul and faces defeat on multiple fronts, a second and potentially more dangerous threat is rising in its place, warns Zalman Shoval.
Shoval, a former Likud MK and two-time Ambassador to the United States says the Western world will face even more complex challenges once ISIS has been vanquished.
Writing in Israel Hayom on Monday, Shoval noted that as ISIS’ strength inside Iraq and Syria declines, Shia forces in Iraq will be free to pursue their larger goal of converting Iraq into a Shia bulwark and buffer for Iran.
But beyond that, writes, Shoval, Iranian hegemony will be fully extended across the breadth of the Middle East, from the Mediterranean coast in Lebanon, through Damascus and Iraq, all the way to Iran’s eastern border with Pakistan.
Iranian-backed terrorists further extend Tehran’s power, bringing Shia-aligned forces to the edge of Iran’s arch-rival, Saudi Arabia.
And as a patron of Syria, once the Syrian civil war is settled, Iran will have access to the Syrian side of the Golan Heights – right along Israel’s northern border.
The Obama administration, Shoval contends, played an unwitting role in enabling Iran’s massive expansion across the region: first by reducing America’s profile in the Middle East, thus creating a vacuum filled by Iran and Russia; and secondly by removing sanctions against Iran in the 2015 nuclear deal, thus revitalizing Iran’s stagnant economy.
Trump’s approach to Iran, however, while ostensibly more likely to rein in the Iranian threat, may have unintended consequences.
Regarding the nuclear deal itself, Shoval acknowledges, Trump and his security advisers have signaled that while they do not intend to scrap the 2015 agreement, they will significantly increase enforcement on Iran and aggressively prosecute violations by the regime in Tehran.
At the same time, however, Trump’s efforts to open a fresh page with Russia complicates matters with Russia’s client state, Iran, Shoval argues.
Engagement of Russia could potentially lead to Moscow expressing a greater willingness to bridle Iran’s ambitions. But, Shoval writes, it could also restrict America’s efforts to directly challenge Iran, with efforts to achieve a US-Russian rapprochement blocking aggressive action against Iranian violations of the nuclear deal.
Arutz Sheva columnist, Mark Langfan, predicted this situation in an op-ed last month.