In the last seven years, the fighting in Syria has been largely between the Syrian government forces of President Bashar al-Assad, supported by Russian and Iranian troops and planes, against several rebel groups who have also been battling one another. There is an alliance of militias supported by the United States (US). There is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) which wants to establish an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East. And there are various ethnic and sectarian groups, including the Kurds who want their own homeland.
Last April, the war in Iraq threatened to explode out of control when Syrian government forces used chemical weapons that killed some 60 people and injured some 1,000 others among Syrian civilians living in a rebel enclave. The US, with Britain and France, launched a missile attack that destroyed a chemical weapons center in Damascus. They made sure, however, that Syria’s Russian allies suffered no casualties.
This Thursday, May 10, a new new escalation raised new fears in the Middle East. This was a rocket attack by Iranian forces on Israeli bases in the Golan Heights. Shortly after midnight, Israel struck back with its own missiles, destroying a Syrian radar station, ammunition dump, and defense positions.
The US and Russia have both acted with great restraint in the Syrian war, but the new clashes between Israel and Iran have given rise to great concern. Israel, which is in Syria to defend its northern border, is known to have nuclear weapons while Iran has long openly declared its hostility to Israel and opposition to its very existence.
The new encounter comes at a time of new uncertainty in the Middle East after President Trump pulled the US out of a nuclear deal with Iran, which has now vowed to resume its nuclear weapons program. War fears are now swiftly rising in the Middle East in the wake of these developments.
We are fortunate that in our part of the world, in East Asia, North and South Korea are moving towards a peace agreement after over 60 years of hostility and threats. On June 12, US President Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong-Un will meet in Singapore for what the world hopes will finally end the threat of nuclear exchange between the two nations.
But we must hope and pray that that other conflict on the other side of the globe will be quickly and peacefully resolved. For the danger of a nuclear exchange there is real and in such a war, no one would be safe on this planet.