Fragile Middle East | Editorial

It’s not just the Israel-Palestine conflict that makes the Middle East (ME) volatile. Many other countries in the region are involved in proxy fights against each other. The latest attack on a Singapore-flagged tanker by an explosive-laden boat off Saudi Arabia’s port of Jeddah resulted in an explosion and subsequent fire. Thankfully, the crew, with assistance from the shore fire brigade, succeeded in averting a possible catastrophe should the fire get out of control.

Unsurprisingly, after Saudi Arabia chose to lead the fight in Yemen against Houthi rebels, Riyadh and oil tankers near the Saudi shore come under constant attacks. The first suspicions in the present case would fall on the Houthi rebels, as the incident happened weeks after what Riyadh previously alleged attacks by the Houthi movement. But jumping to a conclusion without concrete evidence is not a prudent option either.

Last October, an attack on an Iranian oil tanker days ahead of Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan’s visit to Iran suggested that the inimical forces wanted to keep ME a region where any incident could cause an all-out fight between countries. Perhaps, the way forward before the opposing sides is to sit together and find out the culprits who wish to see an unstable ME.

Similarly, the international community also needs to keep a close eye on affairs in the ME, lest the violence reach unprecedented levels. The ground situation in Yemen because of the ongoing conflict has caused the worst humanitarian crisis post the Second World War. The global powers must play their role in ensuring that the opposing parties do not choose the usual divisive narrative. We are already seeing the reverberation of the Yemen conflict in the ME. Such encounters come with spillover effects, especially when non-state actors are involved. It is about time that the parties to the conflict give a chance to mediation.


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