In the global conflict with the Moscow-Beijing-Tehran axis, the American superpower needs to walk and chew gum.
As Hasan Nasrallah, the chief of Hezbollah, escalates his threats of a broader war and continues the shelling of Israel’s north, Jerusalem, as well as Washington, needs to face an increasingly toxic and dangerous international environment. Israel, Gaza, and Lebanon have become another front in a global confrontation that started in Ukraine in February 2022.
Since Moscow and Beijing proclaimed “limitless friendship” before Russia’s massive assault on Ukraine assault in February 2022, the two Eurasian great powers are shaping the global landscape to put maximum pressure on the United States and our allies. Iran spearheaded the current escalation in the Middle East to derail the Israeli-Saudi rapprochement. Russia and China support the escalation, as the U.S. intelligence sources are telling me that Wagner PMC trained Hamas in logistics. Wagner also started deployment of the Russian SA-22 anti-air systems.
The current crisis provides a unique opportunity for Washington to send an unequivocal message to Moscow and Beijing: back off—or lose Iran.
The United States is now facing a global coalition of Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran, which are trying to capitalize on the October 7 Hamas mega-terror attack, which left 1400 killed, tortured, and kidnapped, including over thirty Americans, and over 200 taken captive in Gaza.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has trained, equipped, and funded Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and reportedly coordinated the attack in a series of meetings in Beirut. Since the 1980s, Tehran also founded, trained, and equipped Hezbollah, the wholly owned subsidiary of the Islamic Republic. Iran is also a major supplier of drones to Russia and of oil to China. It is also a beneficiary of a giant, $400,000,000,000, twenty-five-year investment agreement with Beijing and an aspiring member of BRICS+ and Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Iran is the principal purveyor of instability in the Middle East, from the Red Sea, where its Houthi proxies have rocketed UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and U.S. oil facilities, military bases, and ships to Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, where Tehran weaponized the Shi’a militia to dominate Sunnis. The United States remains the “Great Satan” for the theocratic dictatorship, while Israel is America’s “Little Satan” earmarked for destruction.
Russia benefits from the chaos aimed at destabilizing the pro-American architecture of the Middle East, which ensures the steady flow of oil to the world—over 30 percent of oil ships from the Persian Gulf via the Strait of Hormuz. If the Strait is mined, or Iran fires upon the tankers, as they did before, oil prices will skyrocket, causing oil prices as high as $150 a barrel, a new spiral of inflation, and possibly contributing to Joe Biden’s defeat in 2024 presidential elections. Putin thinks that, while stuffing his coffers, he can help Donald Trump get elected, and the feeling is mutual.
As the late Russian political guru Gleb Pavlovsky said, Putin’s political system always raises the stakes. Russia has been providing international cover for Hamas since the Islamist movement won the U.S.-promoted elections in 2006. Putin was one of the first world leaders to congratulate Hamas and host its leader, Khaled Mashal, in Moscow—despite Russia’s supposed anti-terrorism stance in the Caucasus and Afghanistan.
Russia also used Iran as a battering ram against America for decades. It supplied missile technology to the mullahs in the 1990s, trained their nuclear engineers, built the first stage of the Bushehr nuclear reactor in 2013, and is planning to complete Stage 2 next year and Stage 3 of the reactor in 2026.
Moscow is now buying their Shahed and Muhajar-6 drones by a thousand to use in Ukraine in exchange for military tech transfer to Tehran. With the U.N. sanctions on the sale of missile tech to Iran expiring, Russia said it would not extend them, which means longer-range and more powerful missiles and warheads, possibly for future Iranian nuclear weapons. This is a potential disaster for the Middle East, Europe, and the world.
Russia and China are also coordinating their Middle East policies. Simultaneously, President Vladimir Putin and the Chinese Middle East envoy Zhang Jun blamed the United States for “failed leadership” in the Middle East and support of Israel. Moreover, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi declared that Israel “exceeded its right of self-defense.” This is from a country that is overtly planning an invasion of Taiwan and jailing up to 1,000,000 Uyghurs in labor camps.
China, which has a military base in Djibouti, near Bab-el-Mandeb, the global chokepoint at the entrance to the Red Sea, recently deployed a six-ship squadron to the Persian Gulf, first at Muscat and now in Kuwait. China recently brokered a historic rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran as Riyadh felt that Washington’s support was not forthcoming. Both oil-rich countries are major suppliers of oil to Beijing. However, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) lacks the background and the knowledge necessary for a sophisticated Middle East policy or for credible power projection thousands of miles from Chinese shores.
After the ignominious withdrawal from Afghanistan, the U.S. policymakers hoped to forget about the Middle East and yearned to focus on peer competitors: Russia and China. But the Middle East has the gravitational force of a black hole: it pulls great powers back in.
In the global conflict with the Moscow-Beijing-Tehran axis, the American superpower needs to walk and chew gum: it needs to support Ukraine while giving Israel the window to eradicate Hamas terrorists and deter Iran. Both China and Russia do not have the military power, especially naval and air assets, to credibly dethrone the United States as the dominant actor in the Middle East—if America has the political will and leadership to stay the course. If Iran does not heed warnings from Washington and unleashes the Hezbollah dogs of war, causing unacceptable damage to Israeli civilians, it needs to be severely punished, and its nuclear program, military posture, and possibly oil terminals destroyed. The kleptocratic Shia jihadi dictatorship is unlikely to survive this. That will be the message Moscow and Beijing will not be able to ignore.