It looks as if we are seeing the classic definition of “state-sponsored terrorism” in the Gaza strip. Hamas, increasingly close to Iran, is being subjected to Israeli air strikes and (as of this writing) a possible ground offensive by the IDF to root out and destroy the militant elements who have fired rockets and mortars into Israel.
Eventually, Iran (and Hamas) knew that Olmert would not stand by forever without action, and now that action has come. So, just what does Iran expect to gain from this situation? Here are a few ideas:
- As in 2006, the fighting with Hamas will distract the world from Iran’s pursuit of nuclear capability, and when the world discovers Iran’s nuclear fait accompli, much of the Arab world can justify their inaction with the claims that Iran must be able to defend herself against Israel.
- Iran’s economy has been in deep trouble with the collapse of oil prices. Much of the expansion of Iran’s military capability and ability to pay for nuclear technology (both supplied by Russia) depends on oil prices being much higher than current levels, driven down by world demand in the wake of the economic doldrums. This conflict between Israel and Hamas, and its potential second and third order effects, have driven oil prices to near $40 a barrel again overnight. More of the same would be fine with Iran. And the rest of OPEC.
- Iran seems to be in the lead to whip up even more vitriolic anti-Israeli sentiment in the Muslim world. Will this allow Iran herself to have more sympathy among Middle Eastern countries previously cool toward her actions, particularly those actions in pursuit of nuclear capability?
What is also important to consider is the response of Iran’s benefactor, Russia, to the situation in Gaza. The Russians have been very quick to issue a strong public condemnation of Israel. This, without any real public statement critical of Hamas and the rocket attacks into Israel. Keep in mind that a revival of higher oil prices would be of great benefit to Russia, whose economy is also in very deep trouble. An Iran with the the ability to pay for nuclear technology and military hardware from the Russians sweetens the pot even further.