Middle East security declining amid strikes | Power & Politics

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Security in the Middle East is fast deteriorating multiple nation states and militant groups are now striking Targets in the region Israel continues to hammer Gaza as it fights its war against Hamas it’s also hitting Hezbollah Targets in southern Lebanon Hezbollah is likewise striking Israeli Targets in Northern Israel from Southern Lebanon meanwhile

Further south the houthis in Western Yemen continue to Target us and UK ships in the Red Sea as well as commercial Freight vessels in response the us and the UK are firing back at houthi Targets in Western Yemen the US is also targeting militant groups in Syria and

Iraq in retaliation for attacks on us Personnel in both countries further east Iran is now striking Targets in Iraq Syria and Pakistan retired vice admiral Mark Norman is a former Vice chief of Defense staff of the Canadian Armed Forces he’s now a senior defense strategist at Samuel Associates a

Consulting and government relations firm that assists clients with securing government contracts including defense procurement contracts tuno previously served as a Middle East analyst for the Canadian defense department he’s now an associate professor at the University of Ottawa happy to have both of you to help

Put all of this in context because as we just laid out there is a lot going on vice admiral I want to start with you I mean we have been talking for months now uh since the start really of this this escalation uh of the war between Israel

And Hamas there there have been concerns that there would be a widening conflict in the Middle East given everything we just laid out are we there well it if we’re not there we’re getting very close I’m not exactly sure where we would draw the line um my personal uh

Concerns have been uh the extent to which uh Hezbollah and the Israelis would would get involved and that appears to be underway and I’ve been watching Iran very carefully and their actions today are um completely provocative um and uh although I’m somewhat bewildered by the targets they’ve chosen they’re clearly sending a

Message that they have the capability uh to strike uh inside the region and and they’re obviously prepared to do so so I think these are significant concerns and of course the Red Sea uh issues uh are fairly recent but uh they have broader uh global economic uh implications as

This goes forward Tas you know is there a particular Tipping Point that you look at as evidence that this has become a wider conflict the real tipic point that would bring us into a region-wide conflict in which case we are in a different world uh we have not crossed

That Tipping Point yet and I remain very cautiously optimistic though I’m a bit shaky H but still optimistic that we won’t reach that Tipping Point it’s full allout war between Hezbollah and Israel that’s the GameChanger as long as that doesn’t happen uh we are in a dangerous situation uh there is localized fighting

In Gaza extremely serious now uh there is a linked but distinct theater in and around Yemen um but as long as Hezbollah maintains its calculus that it does not want allout war with Israel which is the case for now uh these are we are not into the full Regional War if that

Changes then we’re in a different planet okay let’s uh look at a few of these conflicts and just try to make a bit more sense of what’s going on vice admiral on the houthis these us and UK strikes have not shown any sign that it is deterring them is is that at all

Surprising not really um many of these launcher systems are mobile uh as I understand it they might have successfully destroyed 25% maybe maybe 30% um clearly the hooes are being supported uh they’ve distributed these capabilities you know fairly widely it’s a bit of a needle in a haast stack

Scenario for the Americans and the UK forces and to be honest they’re having um a significant asymmetric impact in terms of uh the fact that they’re they’re basically bloodying the nose of the West and that is uh helpful in the broader uh anti-western anti-American uh narrative that’s uh all through the

Middle East at the moment as we talk about the narrative tamas you know uh the hudis have said that this this is retaliation for what is happening in Gaza H is that the full picture of what’s Happening Here No at um and and the war in Gaza is a pretext for the

Houthis it’s the Catalyst uh houthi ideology since the beginning even when they were a small Insurgent group in Northwest Yemen 30 years ago their ideology was already very much anti-israel anti-American so the the foundation is there uh but over the past years there have been houthi attacks on

Shipping in the Red Sea this is not new this did not start in the last weeks it started around 2017 there have been attacks including on American ships on other ships uh for those of us watching Yemen we have seen hthi capabilities in general enal including Maritime capabilities short to see missiles

Amphibious assault teams Naval mines drone boats we have seen these capabilities increase fast in recent years in large part thanks to Iranian support uh and given houthi ideology given their worldview given their links to Iran they’re very close links to Iran for all of us it was just a matter of

Time before they would put that threat to execution and that it would represent a significant problem for regional security for the global economy the war in Gaza was obviously unpredictable but it provided that pre and this is very important context because um there might be a ceasefire in Gaza soon maybe later

We don’t know um when that happens it will not be the end of the houthi threat to the Red Sea because these are distinct problems well and that perhaps makes this next question all the more pressing uh the US redesignated the houthis as a specially designated as specially designated Global terrorists

The Canadian government says it’s assessing whether or not to add the group to this country’s terrorist list do you think it’s a measure Canada should take and and and and will it matter uh first of all just a couple points on the American listing the Trump Administration listed the houthis as a

Foreign terrorist organization which is a much harsher listing on the last day of its uh mandate in 2020 the Biden Administration removed that pretty quickly the logic here which is a logic I supported to remove them from that list was that the benefits were marginal and the costs were significant in terms

Of hampering humanitarian assistance morally that was a bad idea but strategically it was a bad idea because it was an argument that the houthis could use against the US part of the logic if I understand correctly this this from the Biden Administration today is that the sdg designation specially

Designated Global terrorist is lighter in terms of its application and it is meant to uh uh impose certain limits on the houthis uh but not prevent them from traveling uh because you want them to go to Oman or Saudi Arabia to negotiate peace with Saudi Arabia and it is meant

To be not necessarily not prevent but at least be less difficult in terms of obstructing uh humanitarian assistance and that at this point given the tragedy in Yemen it is essential so does it matter whether Canada in a fashion follow suit from from a Canadian perspective it doesn’t matter uh because

Uh I mean symbolically it can matter it can be seen as a gesture supporting the US which from a Canadian foreign policy perspective is always important but concretely in terms of damaging the houthis no it doesn’t matter because they don’t have Financial assets here they don’t travel here they have

Virtually no connections to Canada uh vice admiral maybe just in closing on this question of the houthis is there anything given that the there there’s been no sign that what has happened in recent days is deterring them is there a path forward that you see here that that would lead to more meaningful

Deterrence yeah well I mean really there’s only two ways to deal with this to oversimplify it one is to continue to attack uh houti facilities as best the the the Americans and the Brits can um and that that’s a bit of a challenge um for a variety of reasons and the second

Is to uh continue to keep the diplomatic uh lines of communication open as uh Dr Juno just mentioned so that if there is some specific interests that can be satisfied um behind the scenes then then at least that’s a mechanism doing so but this is not it’s not a simple problem

It’s been around for a long time as Dr Juno mentioned and the the the solution is not at se I hate to say that as a naval officer but the solution is assure and it it it’s uh it’s going to be um rectified militarily or diplomatically and and I think there’s probably a

Higher probability of success with some sort of diplomatic resolution okay um ultimately they’re getting a lot of airtime right now and their message is uh fairly um powerful in terms of they’re they’re holding the West at Bay and that’s not a good thing for the West

Uh to be in that situation I’d like to get you both the weigh in on Iran uh Vice admirable I I believe you said earlier that you were a bit uh I don’t think you use the word befuddled but essentially that by some of the targets

That were chosen here what what is your reading of what’s going on yeah I mean you know we we’ve all been watching Iran very carefully and um wondering when they would decide that it was an opportunity for them to um basically show themselves explicitly I mean they’ve been engaged in this for

Some time through proxies and other organizations but to actually come out and uh do what they did um is is somewhat troubling not just because of what it represents but my concern more broadly is that um you know sure they’ve now sent a message to Israel and anybody else that they can

Reach anywhere they want in the region okay that that I don’t think anybody really doubted that but why why attack those neighbors um that that that to be honest is a bit confusing for me and I’m not sure maybe Dr Juno has some better perspectives well the you know one of

The core elements of Iran’s doctrine of its defense policy is to push insecurity away from its borders as much as it can to make sure that fighting occurs outside of its borders and even better that others fight for Iran uh that’s why Iran that’s partly why Iran supports

Hamas in Gaza and other Palestinian groups Hezbollah in Lebanon the houthis in Yemen it provides them with support it doesn’t cost it a lot of money I mean my assessment is that Iran spends maybe in the low 100 to $200 million per year on the houthis this is not a lot of

Money for a great return on an investment that bogs down Saudi Arabia for years in a very costly Quagmire that was great bang for the buck for Iran uh given its hostile relationship with Saudi Arabia and now this is just a major bonus for Iran it sees the US and

Accessor the UK being themselves stuck into what might become a quagmire of for them in Yemen uh while Iran is shielded from that fighting right while yemenis fight yemenis die H for Iran this is it has to count as a tactical success in terms of ensuring its own deterrence and

Security this is so complex as we laid out in the beginning as we wrap up here I wonder professors you know I’ll I’ll put this to you in particular and if Vice adal if you’d like to weigh and you can obviously the situation is going to

Continue to change is there a piece of context or sort of a lens that you look at this through that you would advise people to to to keep in mind as they try to make sense of the the continual movement of what’s happening there are a lot of things that

I could say to to answer that question I think one of them that I’ll say and I’ll say it because it doesn’t get said enough is um the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen and and I’ve I’ve studied in Yemen I’m a fellow at a think tank on Yemen I follow Yemen I I speak

To yemenis on a regular basis um and and the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen is absolutely horrible and it’s been the case for years and what we’re seeing right now is going to make that worse H and this is not meant as criticism of any specific actors policies it’s just

The reality that what is extremely difficult will become even more difficult because of insecurity in the Red Sea perhaps because of terrorist listings we’ll see exactly how that plays out um so that aspect is is not going to get better before it gets wor not going to get better in the short

Term quick final word from you vice admiral yeah obviously I would Echo that concern I would add to this um one of the perspectives that is often um missing in the conversation is what what are PE what are the individual interests of the different players and uh that I

Think um although there there’s no point in being sympathetic to some of these organizations because they are you know uh they’re they’re malignant and and terrorist organizations but ultimately um they’re all doing this for um for very specific reasons and that although we don’t like the answers it helps us

Understand perhaps what’s going on and why yeah and an important part of all of this thank you both so much for your perspective today really appreciate this

Multiple nation-states and militant groups are striking targets in the Middle East, increasing fears of an expanded war. Mark Norman, retired vice-admiral and former vice-chief of the defence staff, and Thomas Juneau, associate professor at the University of Ottawa, discuss if the Israel-Hamas war has reached a tipping point.

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