With the abrupt Hamas attack against Israeli targets and the ensuing Israeli campaign against Gaza, concerns grew over the spillover of hostilities across the region. About 70 days after the start of conflict, Israeli borderline with Lebanon is still unstable with sporadic exchange of fire between the two sides representing the probability of a full-scale war between the two sides.
Hezbollah leader Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah asserted in a televised speech few weeks after October 7 attacks that the troops under his command have no decision to directly intervene in Gaza conflict, but will respond any Israeli infringement strongly. On the other side, Israel is involved in an unprecedented campaign inside Gaza and prefers to avoid hostility on a second front.
The reverberations of Gaza conflict may still be found on other fronts starting from Syria and Iraq and may even be extended to Turkey and Iran. The two latter nations are staunch supporters of Gazan people against the atrocities of Israeli forces. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has recurrently lambasted Israeli violence and murder machine in Gaza and warned about future consequences. Iran has always been an Israeli regional foe, bearing the desire to annihilate what it deems as an illegal and unhistorical nation.
The ramifications of Gaza war in Iraq have proved strong and strange with American troops in the country targeted by unknown militia. The United States, as the main supporter and provider of military equipment and intelligence data for Israel, have been denounced by the majority of people in Iraq. Iraq is the only Arab country which has officially banned normalization of ties with Israel through legislation. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani has harshly criticized “brutal” Israeli aggression against the people in Gaza. Iraqi streets in different cities have been the scene of multiple popular demonstrations in support for the Gazan people ever since the war kicked off.
American military personnel in Ain al-Asad air base and Harir airbase in Iraq have inflicted over 82 drone and rocket attacks since the start of war in Palestinian lands. The assaults wounded 66 service members among the American troops leaving unknown devastations in US bases. The United States responded the attack by targeting two zones in Jurf al-Nasr region under the control of Kata’ib Hezbollah militia. The Iran-backed group is considered behind most the of the assault targeting the American troops in Iraq.
The assaults have a long precedent and can be figured out in light of the popular will to expel American troops from Iraq. The United States withdrew its forces from Iraq in 2011 after about eight years of intervention in local affairs of the country. Three years later, following a call for help by the local administration, the US forces, along with Iranian troops, intervened in Iraqi battlefield against ISIS forces. The Iraqi military had already collapsed after ISIS took over some of the major cities in Iraq. Seven years later, ISIS was annihilated, but US forces remained in the country under the pretext of a potential ISIS rise from the ashes.
Ever since then, the United States and Iran have been involved in a proxy war in Iraqi political and military fields. Iranian-backed public military militia, known as Popular Mobilization Forces, joined the Iraqi army, reinforcing Iranian positions. On the political front, Iran-allied parties succeeded in securing enough seats in legislature to play a key role in electing the Prime Minister. As such, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani is considered an Iranian-affiliated PM whose policies and remarks overtone Tehran’s policies in the region.
Having lost the battle in political and military arenas to Iraq and bearing the disastrous withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in mind, the US officially ended the combat mission in Iraq in December 2021. Washington, however, still have 2,500 troops in Iraq under the guise of trainers and advisors, while keeping two air bases and multiple other camps, combat outposts, and contingency operating bases.
Following the surge of assaults against American target, the US Defense Secretary announced the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) battery and other Patriot battalions across the Middle East to increase the security level of its forces. The move represents a dark fact for the US Defense operation in Iraq; Iran has succeeded in unifying its positions and approaches with Iraqi people, the parliament, the government, and multiple unofficial militia that are active across the country.
With the Israeli bloody campaign in Gaza entering the 12th week, Iraq has proved one of the main apparitions of spillover ramifications in the Middle East. While the humanitarian pause in Gaza war seemed to have halted the assaults against American troops, the restoration of hostilities in Gaza reignited the raids in Iraq. The raids may not transform the American ideological support for Israel. They may, however, bear two significances in the future regional developments. First, Washington’s policy of remaining on field to keep the evolution of events under control may be subject to reconsideration. Gaza war is not the first conflict in the Middle East, nor will it be possibly the last one. The Iraq predicament has made a precedent in displacing the war atrocities to the main supporters instead of the perpetrators.
Second, the displacement of atrocities from the center of conflict to the without may prove an influential tool by multiple sides of conflicts in the future. Evidently, one of the reasons that Washington seeks a long-time truce in Gaza is to deter the security hazards for its forces in the region. Iraq has made an example in the history of wars across the world that can shape the future conflicts and impact the policy-making processes before, during, and after the disputes.