Arab political analysts see this month’s fighting between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) as part of the Iranian mullahs’ ongoing efforts to increase their influence in the Middle East by arming and funding Islamist terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Pictured: PIJ gunmen in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 8, 2022. (Photo by Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images)
The recent war between Israel and the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) organization in the Gaza Strip should be seen, according to several Arab political analysts and authors, in the context of Tehran’s mullahs’ attempts to force the Biden administration to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. By unleashing Islamic Jihad against Israel, the mullahs are apparently trying to tell the Biden Administration, “You see what we are capable of doing? We have a number of militias and armed groups that could attack Israel and Arab countries. Hurry up and give us (Iran) everything we want before it is too late. Remove the Revolutionary Guard from the list of foreign terrorists. Give us billions of dollars or else we will continue to attack America’s Arab and Israeli friends. Hurry up and sign a new nuclear deal with us or else we will be angry at the US and we will continue to attack Israel and kill Jews.”
They see the three-day fighting between Israel and PIJ as part of the mullahs’ ongoing efforts to increase their influence in the Middle East by arming and funding Islamist terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
These efforts, of course, also aim to advance the Iranian regime’s plans to eliminate Israel. It is no coincidence that Islamic Jihad leader Ziyad al-Nakhala was in Tehran while his men were firing hundreds of rockets at Israel.
Before and during the visit, Iran’s leaders continued to publicly voice their intention and desire to destroy Israel and kill Jews. That is because the Iranians see the US under the Biden administration as incapable of confronting their dangerous schemes. As Major General Hossein Salami, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said on August 4: “The US has started packing its bags to leave the Middle East. It is no longer able to impose maximum pressure on us.”
PIJ, the second-largest terror group in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, is not different than Iran’s other proxies in the Middle East, especially Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthi militia, when it comes to threatening Israel and America’s Arab friends.
Like their patrons in Tehran, these proxies are all staunchly committed to the destruction of Israel and the killing of as many Jews as possible. PIJ continues to threaten and attack Israel, while Hezbollah and the Houthis are doing their utmost to destabilize security and stability in Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and the Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia.
In a clear warning to the Biden administration, the Arabs are stressing that the Americans are mistaken to think that Iran will change its dangerous policies and actions once it reaches a new nuclear deal with the US and the other world powers, including the European Union. The Arabs, in addition, are saying that the time has come for the international community to make Iran pay for its continued support for Islamist terrorist groups and intervention in the internal affairs of a number of Arab countries.
“The [Israel-PIJ] war is neither the first nor the last, but it proves once again that Iran is exploiting Gaza, as it is exploiting Lebanon, in order to strengthen Tehran’s negotiating cards with the West,” wrote Saudi author Tareq al-Hamid, a former editor-in-chief of the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper:
“Today, Lebanon is not suffering from war as much as it is suffering from Iranian occupation through Hezbollah, which threatens the collapse of the country as a whole. We are facing an Iranian political fantasy from which the region has gained nothing but devastation and destruction, whether in Gaza, Lebanon, or Syria, as well as Yemen and Iraq.
“This situation will not change, and this [Iranian] fantasy will not end until Iran pays a real price for all its crimes in our region.”
Veteran Lebanese journalist Rafik Khoury wrote that the West is “afflicted with an incurable disease in dealing with Iran: an addiction to weakness and an illusion of naivete.”
Noting that the mullahs are determined to pursue their plans to achieve nuclear weapons, Khoury criticized the US, France, Britain and Germany for continuing to delude themselves into believing that a new nuclear deal would stop the mullahs.
“The [nuclear] bomb is a fait accompli, and the illusions of preventing it by fulfilling Tehran’s demands are reminiscent of the Russian proverb: ‘It is too late to wish someone good health while you are going to his funeral’…
“Indeed, Western countries continue to bet on Iran’s so-called moderation and demand that it change its behavior, reduce its regional influence, and abandon its ballistic missile program. This is an impossible task, regardless of any deal presented to Tehran. Hostility to America is one of the foundations of the Islamic Revolution. Spreading the Islamic Revolution in the region is the task of the Islamic Republic. Iran’s strength is not only with weapons, the Revolutionary Guards, and the army, but also with influence in the region. Iran’s destabilizing behavior in the region is the highest priority in Iranian policy-making.”
Saudi academic Turki Al-Hamad wrote that the Arabs have lost interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, mainly because the Palestinians are allowing themselves to be manipulated and used by the mullahs in Tehran.
Al-Hamad also warned the Biden administration that the mullahs were trying to escalate tensions in the Middle East as part of an attempt to extract concessions from the Americans and the Western powers at the nuclear talks in Vienna.
“[Palestinian Islamic Jihad] is an extremist Islamic organization subject in its actions to Iranian orders through which Tehran seeks political gains in the Vienna nuclear talks,” Al-Hamad cautioned. “The mullahs are seeking to turn the conflict [with Israel] into a card in their hands.”
The mullahs are apparently trying to tell the Biden administration: “Look what our proxies are capable of doing to Israel and your Arab allies. If you (the Biden administration) don’t surrender to Iran, we will continue to threaten the security and stability of Israel and the entire Middle East.”
Another Lebanese writer, Elias Al-Zoghbi, wrote that he, too, agreed that one of the main reasons that Iran’s mullahs were supporting Islamic Jihad during the fighting was because they want to shift attention toward the nuclear talks in Vienna. Iran, he added, wanted to use the war in the Gaza Strip as another card in the negotiations in Vienna with the Biden administration and the other Western powers.
Emirati political analyst Dr. Jassim Khalfan pointed out that the Palestinian armed groups were “selling their services to others,” reference to the mullahs in Tehran.
“These armed groups are working in Iran’s interests,” Khalfan said.
“In return, they are rewarded [with weapons and money] for serving Iranian interests. The armed factions monopolize the [Palestinian] issue and oppress the people of Gaza under the slogan of resisting the [Israeli] occupation.”
Dr. Talal Al-Sharif, a former Jordanian parliament member, described the last round of fighting between Israel and PIJ as a “proxy war.”
“This is not resistance; These are proxy wars,” al-Sharif wrote, referring to the terrorist attacks carried out by PIJ and other Palestinian groups against Israel.
“The [Palestinian] groups just provide services to those who pay them. Wars by proxy and working for external agendas have destroyed the Arab world and many countries, the first of which is the Palestinian issue. Islamist groups linked externally and with agendas managed by others ultimately lead to non-Palestinian agendas. The Islamists have corrupted the [Palestinian] national project and destroyed the Palestinian cause.”
Lebanese journalist Rafik Khoury commented in another article:
“If the problem of Israel and the West is the mullahs’ possession of nuclear weapons, then the problem of the Arabs, besides the bomb, is Iranian penetration in societies, demographic change, and political and military hegemony directly and through its militia proxies over Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Gaza… But America’s broad calculations often seem narrow. The Biden administration acts as if the US has the ability to make mistakes and come out with the lowest price.”
The Biden administration needs to understand that any concessions to the mullahs will pose a critical threat to US interests around the world and harm America’s allies and friends in the Middle East. This is an important message that the Arabs are sending to the Biden administration after the resumption of the nuclear talks in Vienna. Iran would not have dared stand behind PIJ and encourage it to attack Israel had it not sensed indecision on the part of the Biden administration.
At this point, one has to ask if the Biden administration is negotiating with Iran and offering it billions of dollars simply not to attack Israel until President Joe Biden’s term is over in another two-to-six years.
Once again, the Biden administration’s irresolution has only served to embolden the terrorists and their masters in Tehran, as well as the Russians and the Chinese Communist Party.
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.