The US is deploying B-52 Stratofortress bombers to the Gulf in response to an alleged plan by Iran to attack American forces in the region. File photo from 2003: AFP

The entire region between the Mediterranean Sea and India is a seething cauldron of threats, counter-threats, plots, conspiracies, economic sanctions and military movements. At any moment an incident, misunderstanding or accident could cause the cauldron to boil over into open interstate war.

The neuralgic points are India and Pakistan; Iran and the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, Israel; plus Turkey and Syria, Iran. Intervening to one degree or another are Russia, China and the US.

The immediate focus of concern is Iran. Economic sanctions are having a major effect on the Iranian economy, resulting in strikes and demonstrations.

Drought followed by floods were so poorly dealt with by the Iranian authorities that further demonstrations have resulted. Ethnic unrest has boiled over into acts of terrorism and sabotage, particularly in the Baluchi, Arab and Kurdish regions. Traditionalist mullahs are confronting their activist colleagues in the government.

Iran’s religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks at a gathering with Iranian Air Force personnel in Tehran on February 8. Photo: AFP / Anadolu / Religious Leader’s Press Office

Rumors abound concerning tension between the armed forces and the Revolutionary Guard. The infamous “deal” involving Iran, Russia, China, the US, Great Britain and France is on life support following the US withdrawal. Threats of further sanctions have resulted in counter-threats to close the Straits of Hormuz.

In response, a significant increase in American air and naval power has been dispatched to the Gulf.

Iran is ramping up its involvement in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and activating its proxy Hamas while continuing to arm its other proxy Hezbollah. Israel continues its air strikes against Hamas as well as Iranian military supply convoys to Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon.

Should this confluence of negative factors cause the governing mullahs to order Hamas and Hezbollah to attack Israel simultaneously, it is likely that Israel will retaliate directly against Iran, aided by the US, as well as by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

In the north, Turkey is becoming more unstable by the week, due to economic, social and political decline and conflict.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) shakes hands with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) as they pose for a photo ahead of their meeting at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, Turkey on January 04, 2019. Turkish Presidency / Kayhan Ozer / Handout / Anadolu Agency
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Presidential Complex in Ankara in January 2019. Turkish Presidency / Kayhan Ozer / Anadolu

The Erdogan regime is reacting aggressively in Syria and trying to form alliances with Russia and Iran, directly contrary to its obligations as a member of NATO. Turkish involvement in an open military confrontation cannot be ruled out, as the regime may try to divert the attention of the public from its internal problems.

Pakistan and India are at daggers-drawn and it cannot be sufficiently emphasized that both are nuclear powers, although that fact might militate against open warfare. Pakistan favors Iran regionally, due to a common Baluchi threat, religious affinity and antagonism towards Israel, which is becoming ever-closer to India.

Should open interstate warfare break out, most likely in the Gulf, the effects on the world economy would be significant and highly negative.

Oil prices would soar and markets would plunge. Investors should make sure they are hedged against such a development because its likelihood is becoming greater by the day.

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