Will Another War Erupt in the Middle East in 2022?
At the dawn of 2022, Middle East’s crises seem to deepen at a worrying pace. Can one or multiple factors trigger a multi-state conflict?
CasinoAlpha’s team of event-odds experts presents a multi-faceted overview of the humanitarian, political and diplomatic tensions that dominate the region. Each hot spot is accompanied by a prediction of possible outcomes.
This article talks extensively about grave issues such as wars, famines, death, and economic descent. These issues should not be taken lightly by any means, let alone be turned into bets. This is just an analysis from odd professionals on the current tensions.
Hopeful for improvement
We hope that all the conflicts described here will be solved as soon as possible, stopping the staggering number of casualties and putting an end to the terror.
The Middle East: overview of the past 20 years
As online gambling professionals, we had to rely on academic literature, reports, journalistic investigations, and professional opinions to create this article.
Current state of affairs
Both academia and an astounding majority of media outlets agree: there is increasing tension in many Middle East territories.
The first domino piece falls: previous events
Most of the pressing tribulations currently ongoing in that part of the world are the consequences of aggressive US intervention. A series of unfortunate foreign policies fuelled war in the Middle East.
The first blunder happened under Eisenhower, and it was called “Operation Blue Bat”. US Marines were employed to intervene in Beirut (Lebanon) to occupy the international airport and the city’s port.
14000 men were deployed for 3 months to sustain a pro-Western leadership against the communist influence. There was no bloody conflict prior to July ’58, when the operation was authorised. It was merely a result of the “Red Scare”.
5 years later, JFK offered the Saudi Royal Family protection against an Egyptian offence. Due to Kennedy’s anti-conflict policy and the withdrawal of Egyptian aggression, there was no actual conflict.
2003’s Iraq invasion
US troops’ invasion of Iraq post 9/11 shaped our world permanently. Deemed “the worst decision of US foreign policy”, it is the first moment in a streak of bloody events that extends into 2022.
The Iraq side of the war in the Middle East has gone through several redemption moments from the US, mainly under the Obama administration. But the efforts were too lax and chaotic for a proper resolution.
The official withdrawal in 2011, from a joint effort of the White House, Congress, and civil polls, was stopped far from a conclusion. Two years later, a divided country started to eat itself up between Iraq, Iraq’s allies, and the Islamic State.
Even if the ceasefire happened in 2017, the war in the Middle East today comes under the form of ISIS insurgency, which concludes each month with casualties.
Unified causes for continued conflict
Jacob Mundy, a professor at Colgate University in Hamilton who specialises in themes of peace and conflict, summarises the literature by pointing out that the MENA countries have always been composed of authoritarian-prone states with a lot of resources.
That usually fuels the potential for conflicts to an extended degree. However, Mundy agrees with voices in both universities and media in saying that war in the Middle East is not worse by any means than in a similar economic context.
Furthermore, promoting that the war in the Middle East is way worse than other regions or that it is the “normal” state deepens a toxic approach that muddies the waters of responsibility.
Chances of war in the Middle East from two-party clashes
When it comes to two sides fighting, we could identify two possible scenarios that might turn the scales towards a major war.
This article was crafted and posted in January of 2022. Some of the situations discussed in this section were, at the time of the writing, and still are ongoing. We make our best efforts in keeping our text updated in conformity with the facts as they happen.
Palestine & Israel’s fight in Gaza
Since 2018, Global Policy specialists in Washington have kept issuing warnings of escalating tension concentrated in and around the Gaza Strip as the death toll rises on both sides, albeit disproportionally disadvantaged for Palestine.
As time passes, chances change
Out of all the issues or situations which we break down in our article, this is one with the highest chances of war in the Middle East. Even so, Palestine’s capacity to fight back the imposed economic and humanitarian suffocation decreases by the day.
Can Palestine fight back?
From a military point of view, no. The territory has its major strategic points under Israeli control.
Socially, momentum can rise and put pressure on Israeli control. In fact, 7 Palestinians were shot to death at the border during a 20000-person march in 2018 as a result of social frustration.
But these kinds of incidents are, besides tragic, incapable of triggering fights at a significant scale.
So, why do we say this tension may snap?
Because starting from 2020 onwards, a lot of pressure is being directed towards Israel to put an end to the unequal power balance happening in Gaza, which closely borders on annexation.
138 UN states recognise Palestine officially. During the last year’s air raids, most of them expressed concern for the crisis in an official stance. It was echoed by impromptu marches of solidarity with the Palestinian people in European countries, the US, and Asia.
The latest sociological statistics show that Gaza’s population was over 2.1 million, making it overcrowded and prone to food, water, and medicine shortages. To ease these tensions, the UN prompted Israel to lift the blockade to no avail.
What is the only foreseeable solution?
Specialists agree that the only solution to the problem is allowing Palestinians self-government and self-determination. However, there’s no clue that this will happen any time soon.
Israel’s rivalry with Hezbollah, in Lebanon and beyond
|Type||Nation||Islamic Political Organisation|
|Armed Strength||272000 – 737000||11000 – 65000|
|State Allies||Most NATO Members||Iran, Syria, Russia, Lebanon, Iraq, North Korea|
|State Opponents||Palestinian Authority, Iran||Israel, Turkey|
|Non-state Opponents||Hamas, Hezbollah||Al-Qaeda, IS, FSA, Al-Nusra, Al-Sham|
A History of Incidents Between Hezbollah and Israel
Israel’s dissatisfaction with Lebanon is not necessarily a state vs state issue but more focused on the Shia militant group that sprung in Lebanon.
In 2018, Prime Minister Netanyahu gave an open warning to the opposing side, stating that based on intelligence driven-data, Hezbollah is preparing a missile site intending to harm its neighbour. All that in a speech in front of the United Nations.
From that moment on, chances of war in the Middle East rose to a high level, rivalling previous such instances.
Did you know?
Missile ownership is a source of trouble that could facilitate war in the Middle East. Other diplomatic clashes include Iran’s missiles which are, in part, shipped and stacked in Syria.
Multi-party civil wars & their chances of expanding
Civil wars and the unrest they cause may be another fuel towards upscale conflict.
We take a look at three cases and examine their consequences, particularly how they can enlarge themselves to bigger issues.
Syrian civil war
|Belligerents||Maximum Strength||Casualties & Losses||Max. Controlled Land|
|Syrian Arab Republic||313000||168062 – 180758||185180 km2|
|Interim Govt. / Turkey||172500||111774 – 15536||Sources vary|
|Islamic State||13000||40628||45377 km2|
Syrian civil war factions
The 4 sides fighting are not that easy to define, as this is not a one-on-one battle.
For reasons of simplicity, we take the general mass media sentiment and say that the main sides are represented by President Bashar al-Assad and his regime and its opposing forces, ISIS included.
- This is an ongoing conflict. Details below may change at a rapid pace.
- The death toll is estimated to be between 500000 to over 600000. This is an intricate and severe issue that should not be taken lightly.
Major foreign forces are involved, like Russia, Iran, and the United States, giving it high chances of devolving into something worse.
The major consequences include:
- Civilian deaths, including young minors and children;
- Controversial airstrikes, especially towards the Geneva Conventions;
- Spillage in Lebanon, as components of both sides travelled there with the strategic purpose of continuing the war;
- The refugee crisis which is now heavily affecting the Mediterranean countries like Greece or Italy.
Libyan Civil War
|Belligerents||Representatives||Government of National Accord||National Salvation Government||Islamic State|
|Other Participants||Egypt, UAE, Sudan*, Syria||Syrian National Army, Turkey||Shura Council, al-Qaeda**, SCBR militia||–|
|Support||Russia, France, Saudi Arabia, Chad, Jordan, Belarus, Greece, Israel||Qatar, Sudan*, Pakistan, Iran, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Malta, Italy, the EU, USA, UK and UN||Several Islamic, Jihadi, and Salafist militias||Al-Qaeda(2014-2015, alleged in 2016)|
*Sudan changed allegiance in 2019.
*Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb supported the National Salvation Government between 2014 and 2017.
Ending in 2020 as a temporary solution, the combined civilian and military conflict was the second of its kind, being officially referred to as the “Second Libyan Civil War”.
It erupted after the General National Congress refused the result of the 2014 election. Thus, two factions were created and two separate executive branches. The warfare between the two added one more side with the intervention of one faction of the Islamic State, regarding themselves as “revolutionaries”.
Temporarily, a ceasefire was agreed upon two years ago
A unity government is set to lead until January 2022, when the second round of presidential elections is completed.
Thus, we are very close to the moment when political strain will rise to high levels, closing the possibility of war in the Middle East today.
More information for a better understanding
In 2011, war erupted for 8 months under Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. Anti-Gaddafi forces sparked it with the 17 February Revolution. It ended with the former leader’s death and international recognition of the National Transitional Council as the official government.
Yemeni Civil War
|Supreme Political Council|| |
|Iran, Hezbollah, North Korea, Syrian Mercs||150000 – 200000|
|Cabinet of Yemen||Saudi Coalition, the US, UK and EU nations, Pakistan, Somalia||Turkey, Eritrea, Iranian Mujahedin, Hamas||287300 – 320100, 145 warplanes|
|Al-Qaeda, Ansar al-Sharia||–||Saudi Arabia, UAE||6300 – 8300|
Another fight over the state government has been going on in Yemen since 2014. The conflict is not yet resolved.
The three principal belligerents are:
- The Supreme Political Council (supported by Houthi).
- The Cabinet of Yemen (supported by the Pro-Hadi Security).
All three have joined allies of a smaller calibre. The Houthi side has been receiving direct support from Saudi Arabia and indirectly have been supported by Iran.
Considering the amount of wealth and arms these supporting allied countries have, there’s a possibility of a grand scale war in the Middle East today.
Consequences visible today:
Over 12000 deaths from the over 100000 total number are attributed to civilians. It also caused what is referred to by the UN as “the worst famine of the last 100 years”.
The US was involved logistically on the Saudi side, mainly by providing intelligence aid. Nonetheless, both the Trump and the Biden administration halted further implications against the initial 2019 Congress vote.
The status of the US intervention has been labelled as unclear as of the latest Biden administration reports.
Potential war in the Middle East by non-states
Military groups with a high tendency towards extremists are a common phenomenon, thus adding to the flame of uncertainty.
CasinoAlpha’s article will take 3 of the most controversial and potentially dangerous ones and quantify if their actions could spark war in the Middle East.
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)
PLO is a central actor of the Gaza Strip crisis, representing Palestinians and their efforts for self-government. They were founded almost 60 years ago and are diplomatically recognised by over 100 territories.
Even with all the support, for decades, it has been deemed as “a terrorist group” by the United States due to the violence used against Israeli civilians, particularly around the late 80s and early 2000s.
Most recent mass violence by the PLO
In July 2000, a Palestinian uprise against Israel conducted by the Organization resulted in 4200 people dead (3200 from Palestine and 950 from Israel).
PLO even lost a lawsuit against the United States for death and injury towards American citizens in several terror attacks between 2001 and 2004.
Hence, there is a strong chance that conflict may worsen given the grim prospects of 2022, particularly regarding the liquidities and resource crisis in Palestine.
This Shia group, controlled by the same leader since 1992, is strongly related to Jihad and has its main centres of operation in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Iraq and controversially, North Korea.
Hezbollah potential increased significantly
According to UN reports, since 2006, the group’s capabilities have been much larger than all the factions of the Lebanese army combined.
It has been often described as a state within a state, considering its implication in politics, especially the legislative branch, and social protests.
Although some of their efforts were and still are concentrated against ISIS, the controversial employment of violence and fights against the democratic process have severely strained the perception of it.
Worldwide views & their ramifications
The European Union and a vast majority of states within the Arab League view Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation. The only notable exception is Russia’s stance.
The clashing views of Western countries versus Russia regarding this organisation may very well be one of the strong reasons for igniting a war in the Middle East.
This fundamentalist military movement gained momentum in 2006 after winning the Palestine parliamentary elections and establishing itself as the leading power in the Strip after the 2007 Battle of Gaza.
Where does the fear of war come from?
5 massive political powers, including the EU, UK and US, deem this group terrorist. Meanwhile, Australia and New Zealand deem just its military side (Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades) this way.
Hamas organised and completed suicide or rocket attack against Israel numerous times during the last 30 years. The Human Rights Watch deemed these aggressions crimes against humanity following civilian deaths.
Considering the bloodshed, this may be yet another fueling cause of war in the Middle East to various degrees of intensity.
Other MENA diplomatic tensions
So far, we’ve discussed the sources of clashes where the conflict is “hot”. Diplomatic tensions, particularly between states with nuclear arsenals, are another chapter that contributes to the endless chaos.
Let’s explore the state relationships that matter with the big picture in mind.
Saudi Arabia versus Turkey – ongoing strife
|Country Military Power||Saudi Arabia||Turkey|
|Land Forces||480000 active personnel||260200 active personnel|
|Naval Forces||60000 personnel, +36 ships||45000 personnel, +117 ships|
|Airforce||63000 personnel, 1106 aircrafts||80000 personnel, 2899 aircrafts|
|Main Allies||The US, the Arab League||The US, Azerbaijan, Israel, Russia, Iran|
|Main Opponents||Republic of Iran, Turkey||Saudi Arabia, Greece, Armenia, Kurdish Liberation Parties|
The relationship between the two was always a prickly one. Some reconciliation steps were taken in the past two years but failed soon after.
Saudi Arabia, backed up unofficially by the Trump administration, put an embargo on Turkish commerce products. Consequently, Turkey began moderately reproaching such activities.
Other countries implicated partially in this pressure are Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, and Azerbaijan.
Can we anticipate something more severe than economics?
Most likely, we cannot. The interest of Saudi Arabia and Turkey to maintain peace are bigger than the desire to start a conflict.
The chances of war erupting in the Middle East because of this are low.
Turkey’s closeness to Iran
Marked by both parties as a means of strengthening economic ties and fighting back the effects of the struggling past two years, these ties may mean more than just that.
Iran was one of the first countries to officially position itself against the failed 2016 Turkey Coup, which mainly was a moment of settling in Erdogan’s regime.
In response, Turkey accused Israel and the US of foreign interference in internal affairs pertaining to Iran in 2017 and 2018.
Although tense moments arose in Syrian between the two, their strategic closeness and disdain for other significant forces, like the United States, may prompt them to unleash war in the Middle East.
The chances are quite low, though!
The latest tensions involving Russia, Armenia, and Erdogan’s recital of a controversial poem against Iran interests may have strained this unofficial alliance.
Since the US intervention in all the mentioned territories is, most often than not, the trigger for conflict, here’s an overview of the mistakes of the past decade.
US foreign policy errors & their negative consequences
As stated before, the principal source of conflict was the US intervention in the region.
Let us look at the last two Presidential terms and their negative effects
Trump’s faulty administration
Donald Trump was not efficient in foreign relations, and he knew that well.
Specialists describe his Middle Eastern policy as a self-imposed power vacuum that leaned on talented diplomats and inertia.
Normally, a gap between the US and other countries affairs would be a good thing. But when decades of US policies made certain territories dependent on their help, ignorance is a mistake.
What came out of it?
Incoherence in relations worsened things and provided more gas to the fire of silent tensions.
Spreading damaging stereotypes
Following the typically intimidating Trump fashion, his administration and staff made a statement that negatively affected the image of MENA.
Close to when Trump was leaving Office and Biden was getting ready for his Inauguration, former National Security Advisor close to Donald Trump made a controversial statement.
It boiled down to the fact that the region between Russian and Far East Asia being at war is natural, saying that it is their normal condition to be killing one another.
That statement led to two things:
- Deepening the diplomatic tensions between the White House and the subsequent embassies, positioning them in an untrue role of “savages”.
- Worsened the already prevalent xenophobia towards Muslims.
Biden’s past and current mistakes
We’re in Biden’s second year of his first presidential term, and he seems to rival Trump’s faux pas already.
Efforts to downsize the military and economic measures in Syria were made too poorly to count any visible result.
Intervention in Iraq against ISIS is cooling down to a speed that is problematic for the consensus, especially in the context of Iran concerns.
Post-withdrawal consequences on Afghanistan
Probably one of the most disastrous attempts at solving military conflict started in late 2021 with the overly chaotic troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
After the Doha Agreement, the 20-year war officially ended. Troop withdrawal was to be done progressively after negotiations with the Taliban.
In August of 2021, the Biden administration evacuated diplomatic personnel swiftly out of Kabul, leaving Afghan personnel and other tied staff in danger of Taliban retaliation and giving the Islamic group more power.
Hillary Clinton predicted the crisis in May of 2021
As reported by the BBC, Clinton warned Biden against withdrawing from Afghanistan, signalling “huge consequences”.
Her statement pointed out that Taliban control would be inevitable once US control weakens. That in itself would trigger another wave of refugees.
Clinton’s worst-case scenario
In her CNN reply statement that we’ve collected from the BBC, Hillary Clinton approached the idea that a destabilising withdrawal could trigger a new war in the Middle East, starting at a civil level with several layers of outpour.
Our data and methodology
Again, we want to reiterate that this is an analysis focused on the chances of certain events expanding in a complex and volatile social, economic, and military context.
We do not take these issues lightly by any means!
We would like to see steps for truce, peace, and reconciliation, particularly when it comes to attacks on civilians but not resumed to that.
Writing this article involved several resources:
- Political coverage from mainstream media outlets.
- We have relied on political coverage of articles, reports, and roundtable discussions available in writing.
- Academic studies, crafted by local academia, first-generation and second-generation refugees.
- Official statements from state sources, like the EU, the UN, US Congress, etc.
- Opinions of domain specialists (and those beyond).
Using the information gathered from these 5 sources, we conducted our own analysis using our event prediction skills.
We took a completely different route when it came to our conclusions regarding potential conflicts. We took our theme seriously and did not consider it an entertainment factor like we would a sporting event or card game strategy. We first and foremost tried to empathise with the tragedies of human lives caught in these terrible conditions.
We relied on legislation experts in our team and beyond for certain bits used in this article, knowing our previous positive experience when creating our legal guide hub.
- “30 years after our ‘endless wars’ in the Middle East began, still no end in sight” (Bruce Riedel)
- 1958 Lebanon Crisis
- The Middle East is Violence: On the Limits of Comparative Approaches to the Study of Armed Conflict (Jacob Mundy), published on Taylor & Francis
- “When will the next war erupt in the Middle East?” (Mohammed Ayoob), published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute
- Whither the Middle East: New Peace or More Conflict? – The Wilson Center
- Syria’s war explained from the beginning – Al Jazeera
- Live Map of the Syrian Conflict
- Mediation in Syria: Initiatives, strategies, and obstacles, 2011-2016 (Magnus Lundgren), published on Research Gate
- Libya’s Second Civil War: How did it come to this? (Michael Cruickshank), initially published on Conflict News, accessed by us on the Way Back Machine
- Warring Libya rivals sign truce but tough political talks ahead – Reuters
- Yemen’s president flees Aden as rebels close in (Ahmed Al-Haj) – Toronto Star
- Congress Sought Details About Biden’s Pledge to End US Support for Yemen War. They Got a Non-answer (Alex Emmons) – The Intercept
- Isolated states: a comparative analysis – Deon Geldenhuys, Cambridge University Press.
- Palestinian Factions (Aaron D. Pina) – CRS Report for Congress
- Who are Hezbollah? – BBC News
- European Union Adds Military Wings of Hezbollah to List of Terrorist Organizations (James Kanter and Jodi Rudoren) – New York Times
- US Foreign Aid to the Palestinians – CRS Report for Congress, accessed by us on the Way Back Machine
- Gaza Takeover – USA Today
- Biden Presidency, Economic Realities Spur Turkey-Saudi Rapprochement – Voice of America
- Iran, Turkey explore avenues for enhancing economic relations – Mehr News Agency
- Iran, Russia, Turkey team up to hold sway in Syria (Raziye Akkoc) – The Times of Israel
- Iran, Turkey slam UAE over agreement with Israel – Deutsche Welle
- Iran summons Turkish ambassador over Erdogan’s poem on territorial integrity – Tehran Times
- US power vacuum in the Middle East: What next? – Global Risk Insights
- History Shows What’s Wrong With the Idea That War Is ‘Normal’ in the Middle East (Stephennie Mulder) – Time Magazine
- Policy Roundtable: Biden’s Chance to Avoid Old Wars and New Pitfalls in the Middle East – The Century Foundation
- Hillary Clinton warns of ‘huge consequences’ in Afghan US troop withdrawal – BBC