Reflections from the River

Prospects for peace in the Middle East and Ukraine

January 26, 2024 Bill Enyart
Reflections from the River
Prospects for peace in the Middle East and Ukraine

Peace prospects in Ukraine and the Middle East

1.    Peace chances in Middle East?

Dim, so long as Iran views conflict as in its best interests. The three major disruptors of peace at this point are all armed, trained and financed by Iran, Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Houthis in Yemen. Were Iran to stop arming and financing these militias, whether voluntarily or by outside action, their military capabilities would shrivel, as none have any significant domestic arms production absent Iranian assistance.


Israel has offered a sixty-day pause in Gaza in exchange for release of the hostages. Hamas rejects that offer and demands a permanent cease-fire. Israel views the terrorist attack of October 7 as a violation of what was in essence a cease fire and that no cease fire can take place as long as Hamas who perpetrated the terrorist attack is in control of Gaza.

None of the Iranian-backed militias have the capability to conquer Israel but they each have the capability, especially acting in concert to make life miserable for Israelis.

Let’s remember that Iran and Iraq fought a two-decade war at the end of the twentieth century, with Iraq supported by the US. Iran wants the focus of the Muslim world on Israel because should Israel and the dominant Sunni Muslim countries make peace, Shia dominated Iran fears it would become once again subject to attack. 

Iran has done nothing to endear itself to its Sunni neighbors with its missile and drone attacks on Pakistan, Iraq and prominent role in the Syrian civil war.

Peace in the Middle East is also not in Russia’s best interests as it distracts US and Britain from Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. It diverts US military aid to Israel that otherwise would go to Ukraine.


The ongoing squabbles in the US Congress, with House Republicans refusing to agree to provide arms and economic assistance to Israel and Ukraine likewise do nothing to aid Middle East and Eastern Europe peace. Were the US to present a unified approach the US would be more effective in dealing with the perpetrators of violence, Iran and Russia.

2.    Are the rumors of peace negotiations being floated by Putin real?

No. These rumors are a gambit by Putin to divide the West, especially the US, and to give him time to reconstitute his ground forces. They are also a delaying tactic to see what happens in the US elections. Putin’s greatest hope is that Trump receives the Republican nomination and is re-elected. Second -best hope for him is that the Republicans keep control of the House or retake control of the Senate or both, any one of which bode ill for continued US assistance to Ukraine. 

    What Putin may be miscalculating here is that Europe by and large is unified against him. The Europeans are vastly stepping up their contributions to Ukraine and rebuilding their military capacity. 

          Russia has suffered devastating losses to its army, which will likely take decades to recover. However, Russia has suffered devastating military losses in previous wars-Napoleonic Wars, Crimean War, Russo-Japanese War, WW I and WW II, often using these wars as learning experiences to rejuvenate its military. The Russian Empire has ebbed and flowed over the centuries. The current war is just the latest iteration of this centuries old pattern. European leaders and Putin understand this. The US does not, with the US divided between internationalists and isolationists. We learned the danger of isolationism in WW II, but the intervening years and loss of the Greatest Generation have caused many in the US to forget those lessons.

          Both of these conflicts are generational conflicts, not conflicts that fit into short-term news cycles nor US fiscal years nor US election cycles. Like it or not we are not Switzerland, where we can remain neutral and sell Rolexes to anyone with the money. We are an international power with international responsibilities.


Reflections from the River

William L. Enyart, Major General (retired), US Army

Audio production by Tom Calhoun,