Armed Conflicts
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Six moves before World War III on the international chessboard

Six "terrifying" steps that could lead the current crisis in Gaza to turn into a World War III, warns a British former naval chief, noting that the British and Americans would put a "boot" on the Palestinian enclave.

If things "go wrong", retired British Admiral Lord West predicts that not only could the UK and US become involved in the Israel-Hamas crisis but also in conflicts in Lebanon, Syria, Iran and Russia.

The Israel-Hamas conflict risks becoming an all-out war with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu expecting to deploy his full military might in the Gaza Strip.

"You see Gaza now ... you will soon see it from the inside," Israeli Defence Minister Joav Galad has said addressing his soldiers.

Retired Admiral Lord West believes that the situation in the Middle East has escalated dangerously since Hamas terrorists carried out their attack on Israel on 7 October, leading to the deaths of some 1,400 Israelis.

Israel's full military force has been massing on the border for two weeks as Gaza prepares for a large-scale ground invasion and what Tel Aviv expects is a "long war".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised that no Hamas terrorist "will be left alive" and that Israel is "fighting for its existence" against the "neo-Nazis".

Meanwhile, at least 4,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza after nearly two weeks of Israeli hammering. Rockets, air strikes, hospital bombings and a humanitarian crisis have followed, while Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah threaten to open new fronts.

"It is a dangerous, intoxicating mixture", Lord West said in a statement to the British newspaper "The Sun", adding: "This could turn into an explosive battle."

Lord West stressed that this crisis could turn into a powder keg that is about to explode, leading to World War III.

Predicting what could happen in the coming days, weeks or months, Britain's former navy chief believes that the situation could escalate with high civilian casualties if Israel reacts violently.

"It is perfectly understandable that Israel wants to retaliate," Lord West says. However, "if it takes prisoners and overreacts, it will provoke the Arab world which in turn will commit atrocities," he added. "Without food, electricity, water and the attack by Israeli ground forces, there is a possibility of massive casualties on the part of the Palestinians and when you have huge numbers of casualties, then the Arab world will change its attitude."

"And importantly," as Lord West points out, "if there are huge casualties in Gaza, then there is a possibility that Hezbollah will get involved."

The Iranian-backed Hezbollah organisation has full military and political control in Lebanon and has already fought against Israel in 2006, leading to the deaths of 1,200 people.

Since Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel on 7 October, Hezbollah has been sending "solidarity" rockets to Israel's northern border and threatening to take part in the war "when the time comes".

The result was the bloody border clashes, where in one of them, a journalist was killed and six of his colleagues were injured.

However, foreign powers have urged Hezbollah to stay on the sidelines for fear that if the Israel-Hamas conflict spreads to Lebanon, it will open a new front. "This is a particularly dangerous situation," Lord West points out. "If Hezbollah gets involved, 'that would be a real problem for Israel.' But if there is a dramatic escalation between Israel and Iran, then there is the risk of US and UK involvement.

For Lord West, Jerusalem has long regarded Hamas as a terrorist organization based in Lebanon and a greater threat than the Palestinian Sunni group, as it has more advanced weapons in its arsenal, including precision missiles and drones.

"Israel would again react very strongly against them, no doubt carrying out attacks in Lebanon ... where there is a chaotic situation anyway ... that is, the regime could easily collapse, which would cause more certainty in the region" , underlines the admiral in dismay.

Already the British have been ordered by the Foreign Office to leave Lebanon immediately after violent pro-Palestine protests broke out. The US embassy in Beirut has been targeted and UK ministers fear the Israel-Hamas war could affect the fragile nation at any time.
With the Lebanese government likely to collapse, the next step could be to involve Russia's ally Syria in the war.

"Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would be very foolish but he may feel that he should somehow get involved in the hostilities...But the problem is that Assad is backed by Russia," added Lord West, explaining that this would be a means for Putin to stay out of hostilities.

He believes that for Putin, the Israel-Hamas war is "fantasy" "because it has diverted the attention of the world community away from the Russia-Ukraine hostilities." "So the more public opinion engages in the Israel-Hamas war, the happier the Russian president will be," explains Lord West.

For the retired British admiral, Iran could "try to use its ability to 'inspire' terrorism in other countries to carry out new attacks against Israel." He argues that, should the situation take a turn for the worse, and in the event that Israel attacks Iran, then there is "no doubt" that Iran would not blame the US and the UK for involvement.

"So suddenly the situation could get out of hand," West stresses, believing that "Iran sees Britain as the little Satan, and the US as the big Satan."

The Tehran regime is the main backer of the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas as well as Hezbollah, based in Lebanon. But Iran's Revolutionary Guards have already warned Israel that it will be "exterminated" after Hamas' terrorist rampage. Tehran has repeatedly warned that a ground attack on Gaza would be met on other fronts.

The UK and US have already sent military and naval forces to support Israel in its war against Hamas and bolster regional stability. And on Friday, a US Navy warship opened fire, bolstering Israel's defenses.

The warship, operating in the Red Sea, shot down drones and missiles fired by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen believed to be targeting Israel. Meanwhile, a protracted war is expected following the Israeli army's offensive in the Gaza Strip. The war-torn country could end up fighting Hezbollah on its northern front, where it has recently sent thousands of reservists. "If Israel starts to fall apart because of Hezbollah and Hamas, then there is a real risk that the US and the UK will get involved," Lord West argued. And "if things go really wrong," he adds, NATO "will try to increase our capabilities in the eastern Mediterranean because that could turn into a battle," he said.


The final step that could plunge the world into an unprecedented war would be for Saudi Arabia to get involved, Lord West argues. For years, Iran has supported Yemen's Shiite Houthi rebels, who are at war with its Islamic neighbor, Saudi Arabia. They also share Iran's hatred of the US and Israel.

Already, terrorists have started firing rockets at military bases hosting US forces in Syria and Iraq after US President Joe Biden reaffirmed his strong support for Israel.

The Houthi rebels have provoked Saudi Arabia several times by launching Iranian-supplied missiles into its territory. This fact, combined with the general chaos that could prevail in the Middle East, could infuriate Saudi Arabia enough to "engage" in the massacre.



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