As Israel and Hamas entered the ninth day of the war, concerns over horizontal and vertical escalation have increased.
At the apogee of escalation would be an all out Iran and Israel/United States War which hopefully will not be reached as all sides presently appear to be engaged in rhetoric but watching activities on the ground would be important.
Iran cannot be silent toward the Israel regime's onslaught on Gaza, Iran’s Foreign Minister said, warning that if the scope of the war expands, the United States will face heavy losses.
"We announced to the Zionist regime, via its supporters, that if it does not stop its crimes in Gaza, tomorrow will be too late," Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said in an interview with Aljazeera while on a Qatar visit.
For Iran the attack by Hamas could be the first stage in an escalatory plan in Tehran to bring down Israel the stated objective of the Islamic Republic which had been chafing at the edges ever since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been facing dissent at home including from several reservists who threatened not to turn up when called out. Iran has also been upset to state mildly Gulf Arabs normalizing relations with Israel.
Suffice to say there were no shortfalls when that call up was made for 300,000 reservists to active duty. But there was surprisingly shortage of basic equipment including bullet proof jackets with ceramic plates and helmets. Israel has deployed these reservists on the Northern Border with Lebanon to curb any adventure by another Iranian acolyte Hezbollah.
Hezbollah has been active from day one of the Hamas Israel war but has been relatively restrained, that restraint could go away in case Tehran gives the signal for an all out escalation, whatever be the consequences for the larger Lebanese population. The United Nations peacekeeping force in Southern Lebanon UNIFIL is however a safety valve to keep Hezbollah and Israel under some degree of check.
But a rocket attack from an untraced source so far has hit UNIFIL HQs Nakoura in Southern Lebanon.
This comes even as the United States Department of Defence has ordered a second aircraft carrier strike group to the eastern Mediterranean near Israel.
The purpose of the move is to deter Iran and Hezbollah from joining the Israel-Hamas conflict. The US is also sending Air Force fighter jets to the region.
It is estimated that US is not intending to join the fighting in Gaza or take part in Israel's operations. The presence of two of the Navy's most powerful vessels is designed to send a message of deterrence to Iran and Iranian proxies in the region, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The message could also be to Israel to scale down operations in Gaza so that civilians are not greatly impacted in terms of numbers as well as casualties. Already thousands have been rendered homeless.
Iran is also working on engaging with global and regional leaders, indicating that Tehran may not be looking at escalating but is seeking to emerge as a voice of the Islamic world in defence of the people of Palestine.
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raiesi had a phone conversation with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, with both leaders discussing the situation and escalation in Palestine. Macron is the first and only Western leader with which Iranian President has spoken so far in a possible attempt to deny involvement of Tehran in the support to Hamas and to attempt to stop Israel from launching the ground offensive in Gaza. France also has considerable influence or had so in Lebanon. Possibly France may have sought Iran to contain Hezbollah.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raeisi has also held telephone conversations with several heads of regional states to weigh plans to compel Israel to stop the ground offensive. The Iranian president held telephone conversations with the Iraqi, Oman and Qatar counterparts and also Saudi Crown Mohammad Bin Salman.
For Israel taking out Iran’s nuclear facilities could be a war aim which has been rehearsed many times before. But this may not be as easy as Iraq and Syria earlier given that Iran’s facilities are well dug in. So far this option has not been openly flaunted by Mr Netanyahu in the present escalatory cycle.
Presently the escalation appears to be under control but with rapid change in the developments on the war front on an hourly basis what may emerge remains to be seen.