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Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist


Will the conflict in Israel and Gaza escalate to World War III?


Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist


On Oct. 8, Israel officially declared war against Hamas, following a brutal surprise attack by the terrorist group. Since then, the conflict has escalated, with much of the fighting taking place in Gaza. So, how will the war end? Will Israel defeat Hamas? Will there be a cease-fire? Or is this conflict the start of something much bigger?

Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan analyzes the positions of regional players like Lebanon, Syria and Saudi Arabia, and superpowers like the U.S., Russia and China, ultimately surmising that none of these players have the appetite to trigger another world war.

An excerpt from Peter Zeihan’s Oct. 20 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

We’ve all been following the events unfolding in Israel and Gaza, and questions of this triggering a larger conflict are starting to bubble up. To be blunt, this isn’t the start of WWIII, but let me explain why.

Of the countries in this region, there are no powers that (a) have the capacity or (b) have any interest in throwing themselves into the mix of things. The more significant concern for many is the possibility of a bigger player getting drawn into this.

The U.S. has one thing on its mind — get our people out — everything is second to that. China might entertain the idea of involvement, but it simply doesn’t have the military capacity in this region. And Russia, let’s be honest… they have nothing to spare right now.

This region lacks a broad geopolitical significance that may otherwise entice external involvement, which means this conflict will remain an isolated issue for Hamas, Gaza and Israel.

Everyone Peter zine coming to you from

no lucky lucky in Milwaukee, okay. There has been a lot of discussion on social media and immediate word large about what’s going on with the Israelis and the Gaza operation and the term World War Three and concerns of a broader regional conflict are everywhere. No, just No, no, no, there’s not a single third country that is likely to get involved in this much less a real country like China or Russia. So let’s start close to the situation, explain what’s going on and then build out. So when Hamas launched their operation, almost two weeks ago now, we’ll know two weeks ago,

they caught the Israelis with their, with the pants down, looking at Gaza should have been the primary goal of an Israeli intelligence. And our has been for 20 years, the only real security threat that they face in the sheer border with it. And every text message and cell phone call that is made in Gaza goes through an Israeli cell tower. So they should have all the tools that we know of any that people on the ground, we know that they’ve embedded within the system, and they failed utterly. So the only solution they have for rooting out Hamas is to go into the Gaza Strip and go house to house through an area twice the size of the District of Columbia with a population of 2.3 million and physically rebelled everything from the roots. And that is a process that will take weeks or months that will take years. And when they’re done, they will then have to decide if they want to stay in occupied or out of themselves, which they really don’t want to. Or they leave and just let the next generation of whatever the replacement is for Hamas grow up.

It’s an ugly situation. But it is a tempest in a teapot. Scope of a region. The only country aside from Israel, the Gaza borders is Egypt. And people forget that the Egyptians controlled the territory from 1949 to 1973. And, hey, take it. I’d say that the only people that the Palestinians are more disliked by than, say the Israelis are the Egyptians and there is absolutely no love lost. And it took Biden personally interceding to get the Egyptians to agree to allow aid into the southern crossings into Gaza, because the Egyptians would be thrilled if everyone in Gaza just dies. Jordan is a nonfactor Jordan, it doesn’t really have a military up worthy of the name anymore. And anyway, it’s a satellite state of Israel. So no problem there. Syria is in civil war. And most of the fighting is going on in the northwest and the Northeast parts of the country in which leaves the south now the South is primarily populated by Drew’s who don’t really care for the central government at all, but have sat out the war. And then you’ve got the gold on which is unpopulated. So any effort by the central government, or by sea, Iranian proxies in Syria would have to relocate forces from a hot front to open up a new hot front where there’s a buffer zone anyway. And their chances of doing anything are very, very slim. I mean, this is not the Syria of 1972 when it had a military. It’s been ravaged by the war and everything’s locked down still there in nonfactor, then you’ve got Lebanon, Lebanon is a borderline failed state has belies the militant group that is there. And they certainly don’t care for the Israelis at all. But there’s two things that hold them back. Number one, they’re part of the national government. So there are other factions in Lebanon that would politically restrain them if they get too uppity, because they know that in be Israelis current state of mind that the Israelis would not think twice of sending in some assassins and just wiping out the entire government. And that is a very focusing factor for the non Hezbollah factor factions within Lebanon. And then second, while Lebanon could definitely send Hezbollah could definitely set a lot of rockets into northern Israel, that doesn’t change what’s going on in Gaza or honestly overly shift the military disposition of the Israeli army, and Hezbollah doesn’t have an army. If they were to launch a ground invasion, they were massacred. So they are definitely the faction to watch. But the chances of them doing anything meaningful are very, very low. All right, next, live countries up Iran. The Iranians don’t have anything that can really do directly, they could launch some long range missiles, all that would do would be generate a huge amount of international condemnation and get this all the sanctions slam back in in a matter of seconds, might even get the United States do some slow boat trips by all of our oil platforms and just blown the hell. We did that back in the 1980s. The target to watch there’s a place called harg Island, which is their only only oil offloading facility, you take that align, that’s the end of the entire export industry, for Iran. So it’s a question about whether they would risk that in order

Do something symbolic that would have absolutely no impact on the ground. They also have militants in Syria. But again, they’re on the wrong side of the country, and they’re already engaged. And if they were crossed into Drew’s territory, it would not be interesting because the trees are badass. Okay. They have always considered Hamas to be disposable. Hamas is Sunni, and Arab, whereas the Iranians are Persian and Shia. And so the official position of the Iranian government is that Hamas, like all Sunni Arabs, are apostates and therefore should be wiped out. And their alliance with them is purely tactical, and they have played that card, and now it will be destroyed, and they’ll have to find a new card.

That’s Iran. That’s Iran’s entire position here. The only country that really matters, and it’s not literate when you hear is Saudi Arabia, because the Saudi Arabians were carrying out talks with the Israelis on normalization. The idea would be that if you can get a major Arab states who recognize the existence of Israel, then eventually you’ll have this Arab wall versus the Iranians. And it doesn’t matter what the Americans think anymore, is it’s all taken care of the debate here is whether to continue with those talks. There’s a generational split in Saudi Arabia, the older generation, the king, king, Salman, likes the idea of championing the Palestinian cause, and would think that if we’re going to normalize, we should get something of real substance. For the Palestinians, maybe it’s more control of the West Bank, maybe it’s more self governance, maybe it’s more money. Maybe it’s official statehood, they’re flexible, and what that thing is as long as it’s real. And then you’ve got the younger generation of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Solon, he’s the guy who likes to just member and barbecue journalists, who couldn’t care less about the Palestinians, he just wants them to all go away so we can get on with reshaping the region under his leadership. Think of King Salman as the CEO who spends a lot of time fishing, and Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince, as the CEO, oh, who actually runs the shop. And we’re going to find out in the next month, who actually is the major decision maker, based on how this decision visa vie Israel goes, but no one in Saudi Arabia is talking about resurrecting the sort of policies that Saudi Arabia enacted back in the 1970s, when they created OPEC, and basically shut down global oil markets until Israel was punished. That’s not even on the docket right now. So their discussion is relevant, but not from a war point of view. Okay, and that’s everybody in the region, let’s go out again, start with the United States, we are not not not going to be putting boots on the ground in Gaza, or Israel in order to fight this conflict or help the Israelis with the cleansing operation. So there’s never been something that us has ever considered in any agent, any war in this region, or anywhere involves Israel in this region. Sorry, very important detail.

What we will do is help them with intelligence and equipment and munitions. And what we will do is attempt to locate our own people, the Israelis have at least 100 of their citizens have been kidnapped and taken back into Gaza, there’s at least a dozen Americans, and the Israelis and the Americans have very, very different views. When it comes to hostages. The Israelis treated as a non factor because they don’t have they have limited resources. And if they allow their citizens to be kidnapped, allow that to dictate policy, they’re always going to be on the backfoot. But the United States number one has a lot more resources to throw at this if it wants to. And number two, there’s a social contract between the American citizenry and its population, whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you’ve done, whoever has you, we will come for you. But first, we have to find you. And so the reason that we’ve got a an amphibious assault group, and meu streaming to the area so that the Marines of the Special Forces have a platform to operate from and there’s already very credible information that some special forces are already on the ground and Israel liaised with the Israelis on intelligence issues. Hopefully there’ll be found getting them out will be hideous because they have undoubtedly been split up and relocated to places of military significant stuff, my boss, which means you have to go in on the ground with small forces and physically retrieve them and that will not be pretty.

I right. What else? Okay, so that’s gonna state let’s talk China. China can’t deploy ground forces past Singapore right there maybe just doesn’t change. And in a question of Gaza, it’s just a political issue of what makes the United States look bad. And what we’re seeing here is an outcome of the catastrophic decisions the Chinese have made over the last 510 years in managing their own political system. Sherman G is executed the messenger so many times that no one will

Bring him information and he’s making decisions in the dark. And the bureaucracy has kind of run wild trying to make the cult of personality happy. So they’ve sided firmly with the Palestinians so far, which is making a lot of people take note.

Under normal circumstances, I would say that the Chinese have no interest in partnering with Iran, because they’re the world’s largest oil importer, and the Saudis are the world’s largest oil exporter. And so they would sell out the the Iranians in a heartbeat if it meant they could get a better deal with the Saudis over the long ride. The concern with saying that firmly today is that decision making in the Forbidden City has collapsed so completely, that it’s not even clear what degree to which she is personally aware of what’s going on in the Middle East at all. I’m guessing he knows more than normally would because Putin was just in town as part of the Belt and Road Summit. And he probably got an earful and probably requested some more information for himself. But the capacity of China to play in this field is ridiculous. And I’m siding with the Palestinians when they’re more dependent upon the Arab states for their energy security is something that has been noted in Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi. And in Kuwait City and all the others, the Chinese are dramatically out of touch. But regardless, they don’t have the capacity to put boots on the ground in this region. And then finally, you’ve got Russia.

I don’t know if you guys noticed this. But the Russians are in a war in Ukraine that is using all of their military bandwidth and are having a hard time operating in the Black Sea and it can’t get forces out of the Black Sea at war time under a treaty called the treaty Montreux so they can’t they could like fly them commercially.

Wherever you fly it to can’t go to Jordan can’t go to Israel can’t go to Egypt. Okay, yeah, there’s absolutely you’d have to fly a commercial jet over the area and like parachute out the emergency, I mean, just acid. Okay. So there is no one no one, no one, no one who is going to be sending troops or in into any sort of meaningful military operation in stereo. This is between Hamas and the Gazans and Israel. And that’s it. Economically there is nothing in play here. This region, Israel, Palestine, produces nothing transits nothing and consumes very little. There’s not an oil story here. There’s not a lithium story or there’s an agricultural story your there’s a horrible cleansing operation that’s about to begin. And that’s enough. But that doesn’t mean escalation is going to happen at all.


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