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The Middle East is teetering on the edge of chaos, just like a dormant volcano ready to erupt at any time, threatening to wipe out entire nations and governments. International powers, especially Washington, are working tirelessly to quell the unrest, fearing the worst. Nonetheless, and despite Israel’s practices against the Palestinians, the flow of US arms and aid to Tel Aviv persists, with the latest being a $26 billion package approved by the House of Representatives just two days ago.

The “theatrical” Iranian response and the faint and “precise” Israeli retaliation indicate that Washington still holds sway in the region. Both responses were within the so-called rules of engagement defined by the United States and aligned with the timing and the confines of the political game that it has set. This has prompted Israel to adopt a new tactic to prevent a war.

In this prevailing context, and as long as there is no agreement on a ceasefire in Gaza, and no consensus on the principles and foundations of a settlement, the situation in the region will remain in a heated, though non-explosive, state. Consequently, the actions of the key players will remain within the framework of American guidelines.

However, the international (Western) community is still highly concerned about the volatility of Lebanon’s southern border. Amidst the escalating tensions between Israel and Iran, which are being carefully managed to align with the American tempo, there is a fear that Israel might intensify its operations in the South to neutralize Hezbollah’s military capabilities, similar to its actions against Hamas in Gaza. Well-informed sources confirm that, based on the American-French consensus within the Quintet countries, there is a firm insistence on the precise and thorough implementation of Resolution 1701. In other words, it should be adhered to without any modifications or amendments.

In anticipation, the region is witnessing a series of visits by officials aimed at facilitating a solution before next July, when President Joe Biden’s administration shifts its focus to the election battle. In well-informed circles, there are talks of a potential visit to Beirut by the French president’s special envoy, Jean-Yves Le Drian, and by US envoy Amos Hochstein, aimed at setting the stage for the next phase, notably, the presidential election and de-escalation of tensions on the southern front. The two objectives, as well as starting the land demarcation process (following the resolution of the dispute over the contested points) are expected to be done in coordination with Speaker of the House Nabih Berri.

Meanwhile, the pace of contacts and concertation between Washington and Tel Aviv over security and political issues is accelerating. The aim is to keep the pace of tit-for-tat retaliations under control and prevent the region from sliding into a war Washington is keen to avoid on the eve of its presidential elections, a sentiment shared by all parties involved in the current conflict.

Western circles acknowledge that Iran has become a key player in the region and is responsible for destabilizing regimes through its military proxies. “There must be an effective deterrent against Iran,” says a former US official. He adds, “Iran’s central role is all about disruption, and it must realize that any such escalation will be met with retaliation against valuable assets of the Revolutionary Guard and its members worldwide.” Washington, along with European countries, will resort to sanctions against institutions and individuals accused of undermining stability and obstructing progress towards a solution.

American sources rule out the prospect of a war in the region, despite the heightened tensions between Iran and Israel. In fact, none of the parties involved is currently willing or able to take on this military option and bear its disastrous consequences. With this in mind, Washington and Paris are now convinced of the need to resolve the issues pertaining to the volatile region, including Lebanon, and pave the way for an international conference dedicated to solidifying a potential regional settlement.

Regarding Lebanon, it is imperative to elect a president with the adequate personality and characteristics that would enable him to pave the way for an upcoming settlement. Rather than being the result of a settlement, he would contribute to its making.