The prospect of being entangled in a Middle East conflict arouses unease within the Biden administration as threats and explosives continue to accumulate in the region.
The Washington Post reports that on Monday, Israel declared that it had struck 320 targets in the Gaza Strip, from which Hamas militants emerged on October 7 and murdered 1,400 Israeli citizens.
As Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah engage in combat along the northern border of Israel and Lebanon, the Iranian foreign minister is in discussions with Hamas to examine what Hamas refers to as “all methods” to halt Israel. According to Axios, Iran’s foreign minister has already warned that “the region will go out of control” if Israel continues to attack Gaza.
If Hezbollah escalates its involvement Israel’s economy minister, Nir Barkat said it would “eliminate Hezbollah” but not stop there, according to the U.K. Daily Mail.
“The plan of Iran is to attack Israel on all fronts. If we find they intend to target Israel, we will not just retaliate to those fronts, but we will go to the head of the snake, which is Iran,” he said.
“It’s quite a dangerous situation,” a senior administration official said, according to Axios. “It could all veer off the rails really quickly. The whole region could be in conflict.”
According to unidentified sources cited by Axios, one priority of the Biden administration is to slow down Israel’s planned massive invasion of Gaza so that the country can deploy additional military assets, such as air defense systems, into the region.
The United States announced on Saturday that it was deploying missile defense systems to the region and repositioning the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group closer to Iran than it had been previously deployed, despite the fact that U.S. forces were under attack in Iraq and Syria.
During a Sunday interview with NBC, Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed the administration’s apprehension regarding the possibility of escalation.
“We expect that there’s a likelihood of escalation … by Iranian proxies directed against our forces … We are taking steps to make sure that we can effectively defend our people and respond decisively if we need to,” he said.
“This is not what we want, not what we’re looking for. We don’t want escalation,” he said.
In light of this, the United States urges Israel to “go in smartly,” according to an unnamed official cited by Axios.
“The biggest way to see this escalate, see other groups come in, is to go in in a reckless fashion. It’s impossible to say what they’re going to do. The country is absolutely traumatized, as you would expect,” the official said.
The political landscape may be significantly impacted by the conflict, as Biden’s 2024 presidential election approaches in about a year, as reported by The New York Times.
“I don’t anticipate any long-term benefits politically,” Julian Zelizer, a professor of political history at Princeton University, said.
“We live in an era now where polarization is so deep that no matter what the magnitude of the crisis is, or the performance of the president, it’s not likely to make a difference,” he said.
Former President Bill Clinton’s pollster in 1992, Stanley Greenberg, remarked that Biden delivered an eloquent speech last week summarizing the issue, but added that by the time Americans cast their ballots, it will be an ancient matter.
“Of course, a year from now, voters will be voting on the cost of living, the economy, the border, crime and other issues,” he said. “Foreign policy is rarely a voting determinant, but President Biden may be leading the attack on isolation and a new partisan choice on how we gain security.”