IIF report says Gaza war edging Middle East closer to regional conflict

By February 20, 2024

Middle East (MNN) — A new report from the Institute of International Finance says the Gaza war is edging the Middle East closer to a regional conflict that would significantly impact the global economy.

Trey Hulsey, a consultant to ministries in the Middle East, says it’s not as simple as the U.S. and Israel versus Iran.

“When you say regional war, we have this idea of nations by nations. This escalated regional conflict is [by] paramilitary groups or proxies,” Hulsey says.

“It gets very messy, complex, and complicated because you have many different actors in this situation, and each of them has their own interests that override what their controlling party wants.”

For example, Iran funds and supports proxy militia groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen.

“There’s a real possibility right now that any of these small actors have the potential to pull the United States into a conflict that maybe the U.S. would prefer not to get involved in. But if things get unstable enough, the United States almost has to react,” Hulsey says.

See how the Gaza war expanded across the region in four months.

A 2009 cartoon of Hezbollah, Iran, and Hamas, with Iran as puppet-master.
(Graphic courtesy of Cartoons by Barry/Wikimedia Commons)

Iran’s recent aggression adds another complex dynamic. “Iran is probably feeling that they want to show themselves as stronger in the region so that others will listen to them more,” Hulsey says.

“Arabs tend to follow what they view to be ‘the strong horse,’ so they’ll back the party or the entity that looks like it’s going to win or is going to be the dominant force. So, if Iran shows [that it is] willing to flex its muscle versus only carrying out its strategic objectives through proxies like the Houthis or Hezbollah, ideally, the Arab world will view it as a sign of strength and perhaps fall in line so that less force is required going forward,” he continues.

“Perceived force is achieved force. If they (Iran) can show that they’re strong, they don’t need to follow through and bear the costs that go along with doing the hard things to show themselves as the strongest player in the region.”

Ask the Lord to protect believers in the Middle East. War fosters instability, which increases the risk of religious persecution.

“As the state and the control that the state exerts on communities and society breaks down, persecution starts to come less from the government, and communities start to feel free to exercise their prejudices or desired aggression towards outsiders,” Hulsey says.

“A good example would be Syria. When the government of Syria broke down and wasn’t able to control parts of the country, ISIS could do things that we view as horrific.”




Header image is a representative stock photo courtesy of ErikaWittlieb/Pixabay

Help us get the word out: