U.S. officials are worried that violence in Israel’s neighbors will spiral into a larger regional war.
Missile strikes from Yemen. Killings in the West Bank. Attacks on U.S. troops in Syria. And that’s before Israel officially launches a ground invasion of Gaza, the territory controlled by Hamas militants who killed more than 1,000 Israelis on Oct. 7.
Biden administration officials are especially concerned that armed groups backed by Iran are preparing to exact more bloodshed. Aside from Hamas, those proxy forces include Lebanon and Iraq-based Hezbollah and the Houthis of Yemen.
“We see a prospect for much more significant escalation against U.S. forces and personnel in the near term. And let’s be clear about it, the road leads back to Iran,” a senior Defense Department official told reporters Monday. The official was granted anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak on the record.
Arab officials are worried, too. They are urging Washington to help defuse the tensions by using what leverage it has with Israel. Some say the United States should call for a cease-fire, but the Biden team is unwilling to do so, saying Israel has the right to respond to the Hamas attacks.
It’s especially tough to contain the violence because the sparks are flying in many different places. If tensions don’t lower soon, “the whole region will be affected,” predicted one Arab diplomat, granted anonymity for the same reason. “No one will be spared.” [Continue reading…]