fischer215_Mostafa AlkharoufAnadolu via Getty Images_tel aviv iran attack Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu via Getty Images

The Gaza War Goes Global

The escalating war in the Middle East must be understood in a broader context. The fact that the Iranian regime felt emboldened to risk a direct strike on Israel attests to a changing world order in which Western power is increasingly open to challenge.

BERLIN – With Iran’s drone and missile attack on Israel on the night of April 13, the war in the Middle East has taken on a new dimension. For years, the conflict between Iran and Israel had been a “shadow war” in which both sides avoided direct military strikes on each other’s territory. Instead, the conflict reached furtively into the streets of Tehran, where there have been assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and engineers, and into war-torn areas of Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Gaza. In those hot spots, the so-called Axis of Resistance – comprising Hezbollah (in Lebanon), Hamas (in Gaza), and the Houthis (in Yemen) – receives extensive support in the form of Iranian money, weapons, and training.

The current war started on October 7, 2023, when Hamas launched an attack on Israel that claimed 1,200 lives and 253 hostages. Israel soon hit back, and the war has been raging in Gaza ever since. As a result of the Israel Defense Forces’ campaign to eliminate Hamas once and for all, more than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed, and the enclave has been laid to waste.

Despite these horrors and the appalling conditions in Gaza, the war is the latest chapter in a bloody conflict that Israelis and Palestinians have been fighting over the same stretch of land for almost 80 years. By contrast, Iran’s direct attack against Israel represents something new. To launch a strike from Iranian territory, rather than operating through proxies, is to invite retaliation against Iran itself. The Iranian regime either must feel very sure of itself, or is under enormous pressure to make a show of strength, even if that means risking “open war” not only with Israel but also with the United States.