COMMENTARY | This morning, Yahoo News announced that “[a] rocket fired from Egypt’s Sinai desert hit a southern Israeli resort city.” The attack did not injure anyone; however, it marks at least the second time in less than a year that militants have used the Sinai Peninsula to stage a key strike against Israel. Until recently, these attacks were rare, as Egypt has done a good job of patrolling the area. However, the situation changed last year when Egypt’s populace overthrew Hosni Mubarak and no group immediately stepped in to take his place. The recent activity in the Sinai should remind us that the Iranian situation is but one of a number of issues involving the Middle East, which could reach a crisis point before the November elections.
The news media has focused a significant amount of attention on Iran, which is one of the potential flashpoints. The Iranians are refusing to end their nuclear production program even in the face of tough sanctions from the U.S. and its allies. An article in The Telegraph indicates that Israel may take matters into its own hands and bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities if no progress is made on this issue in the next few months. An Israeli airstrike on Iran could potentially create a nightmare scenario for President Obama on the eve of the November election.
While the Iranian crisis is of concern to President Obama and his staff; they also have to be weary of other, potential conflicts erupting in the Middle East. As noted earlier, Egypt’s government is in flux. Over the next few months, that country’s new regime may decide to take a much more hostile attitude towards Israel. Such a move would almost immediately increase tensions in that section of the Middle East. At the same time, traditional hostilities between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip and in Lebanon may turn into conflagrations at any time. Finally, the Syrian civil war could worsen in the coming months, thereby forcing the Obama administration to become more embroiled in that country.
What makes a potential conflagration in the Middle East particularly troubling is the fact that Russia and China, two of the world’s more powerful nations, have allied themselves with Middle East regimes that the U.S. opposes. Therefore, per Whiteout Press, any conflict in the Middle East has the potential to bring tensions between these superpowers to a boil. As a Los Angeles Times article notes, if this type of conflict occurs before the Presidential contest is over, it might spell disaster for President Obama’s re-election chances.
President Obama is likely hoping that the Middle East remains relatively quiet for the next few months. However, he may not get his wish. Today’s news out of Israel should remind everyone that the Middle East is a powder keg waiting to explode.