Iran-Israel conflict

[Rappler’s Best] When proxies are not enough

Glenda M. Gloria

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

[Rappler’s Best] When proxies are not enough

Alyssa Arizabal/Rappler

'This has been a proxy war that is now reaching its logical conclusion after the October 2023 Hamas attacks on Israel and the latter’s blitzkrieg in all real and imagined supporters and allies of Hamas'

We woke up Sunday morning, April 14, to breaking news about a “swarm of explosive drones,” as Reuters put it, that Iran sent flying over Israel, along with hundreds of ground-to-ground missiles. It was an unprecedented, first-ever attack by Iran against its longtime foe within the context of the Gaza war that’s already upending military and political alliances and tearing societies apart in many parts of the world.

Israel’s mighty military managed to repel most of the flying bombs, but also within hours, US and British warplanes came to its defense, shooting down every Israel-bound drone they could spot. What follows next is beyond comprehension, even as Iran has said that it merely wanted to get even after the April 1 suspected Israeli attack on Iran’s consulate in Damascus, which killed its senior commanders. 

The Islamic Republic’s mission to the United Nations said that, with these attacks on Israel that did moderate damage, they now “deemed the matter concluded.” Iran said that any counter-moves would be met by a “much larger” response. World leaders are calling for restraint; the US said they don’t want war with Iran. 

Would Benjamin Netanyahu even give this any thought? Two days prior to the Iranian attacks – which US and Israeli intelligence had been warned about – Netanyahu said, “Whoever harms us, we will harm them.” But the US cautioned him that it won’t take part in any retaliatory act.

This has been a proxy war that is now reaching its logical conclusion after the October 2023 Hamas attacks on Israel and the latter’s blitzkrieg in all real and imagined supporters and allies of Hamas. Just prior to the drone-and-missile launches on Israel, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized a cargo ship that was perceived to have links with Israel. Four Filipino seafarers are on that ship. 

Before the weekend, both countries were content to fight their proxy wars. 

  • In March, Israel mounted a massive raid on Aleppo province in northern Syria, killing a senior Hezbollah commander in nearby Lebanon. Both Syria and Hezbollah are allied with Iran.
  • Barely a month after the Hamas attacks in October 2023, the Iran-backed Hezbollah launched, reportedly for the first time, explosive drones against Israel, prompting a back-and-forth between both sides over Middle Eastern skies.
  • Experts noted that Iran’s proxy has been calibrated in its post-October strikes, careful not to push the situation to a brink. 
  • But the air and ground fights persisted. In November 2023, Israel’s war jets and armored tanks hit Lebanon in retaliation for Hezbollah’s firing of missiles towards it.
  • Before the Gaza war, Israel and its Western allies had been linked to deadly attacks against Iran. In 2020 in Baghdad, the US military killed Iran’s top general in an air raid on his convoy in Baghdad, an operation that was described then as an escalation of the “shadow war” between Iran and Israel and its military allies. That same year, in November, Iran said Israel was behind the assassination of one of its most prominent nuclear scientists, Moshen Fakhrizadeh.
  • Here’s a timeline of the Iran-Israel war, which is now out of the shadows.

Closer to home, we’re no strangers to proxy wars. This matter of fighting America’s war has dodged Philippine governments, the country being a longtime military ally of the US and strategically located within the geographical axis of China and America’s friends in this part of the world – Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan, among others.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. himself has been advised to navigate the line between asserting territorial integrity over the West Philippine Sea and getting dragged into the US’ political and military agenda on China. 

In 2015, we asked, “Is the South China Sea now a superpowers’ battleground?” Three years later, in 2018, Rappler spoke with Hawaii-based South China Sea expert Alexander Vuving, who did predict that both the US and China would keep their rivalry to “the gray zone below the threshold of an all-out conflict” in the region. Read the interview here.

China-backed think tank has recorded, in 2023, at least 1,000 air sorties of the US military approaching China airspace as well as the passage of American carrier strike groups 11 times in the South China Sea. As for the Philippines and China, there’s no threat of an imminent war precisely because the Philippines cannot afford one nor would the US want one at this time, according to the same think tank.

But we all know, of course, that many have been saying the same about the US/Israel-Iran conflict for a long time. Until two actors took matters into their own hands, leaving America now between the devil and the deep blue sea. –

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Glenda M. Gloria

Glenda Gloria co-founded Rappler in July 2011 and is currently its executive editor.