The always tumultuous Middle East is on overdrive, with several major crises exploding at the same time. The instability on several fronts can be grouped under
the heading of the Four I’s: ISIS, Iraq, Iran and Israel.
Consider these recent developments in each of those four key players in the Middle East.
• ISIS, or Islamic State: President Donald Trump announced that a brilliant Navy SEAL raid resulted in the death of ISIS founder and leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Later it was revealed that an ISIS spokesman and Baghdadi’s possible successor, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, died in the same raid.
The death of Baghdadi is a severe blow to ISIS, which has committed hundreds of atrocities and at one time operated a caliphate the size of Great Britain. The caliphate was destroyed by concentrated military action. ISIS has major cells around the region, but without Baghdadi and with no land base, its power is greatly reduced, as was the case with al-Qaida after Osama bin Laden was killed in a similar raid.
ISIS has already named a new leader, Abu Ibrahim al- Quraishi, who has vowed revenge for the killing of Baghdadi. At this point, ISIS may be said to be down but not out.
• Iraq and Iran: The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which resulted in the ouster and death in 2003 of the brutal dictator Saddam Hussein, created a power vacuum that another adversary, Iran, was eager to fill.
Last month, Iran directly intervened to keep in office the corrupt and inept Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, who took office a year ago. Massive street demonstrations demanded Mahdi’s ouster, but Iran’s brutal Al-Quds force of the Republican Guards staged a countercoup to keep its puppet prime minister in place. Now, Abdul-Mahdi has offered to resign if political parties can agree on his successor.
Thus a war that cost the lives of 5,000 brave American troops has eventually led to a sad and dangerous situation in which a virulently anti-American regime is in control of the still war-torn nation.
In addition to its virtual control of Iraq, the theocratic regime in Iran has worked with Vladimir Putin’s Russia to keep Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in power, to step up its nuclear weapons development, and to supply Hamas and Hezbollah with thousands of missiles aimed at Israel. Harsh U.S. sanctions against Tehran have not reduced its campaign of state-sponsored terrorism and destabilization.
Israel: As those crises continue nearby, Israel’s government is in disarray as well.
After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed for a third time to put together a majority coalition, President Moshe Rivlin gave Benny Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White Party, 28 days to gain a total of at least 61 seats in the 120-member Knesset.
Both Benny and Bibi have resisted a national unity government with a rotating prime ministership. Israel cannot afford more months without a fully functional government. As instability rages all around them, it is time for both of these patriotic leaders put aside their differences and agree on a way forward.
So the world continues to be caught up in a fifth I: interesting times indeed.