Warinfo-icon clouds in the Middle Eastinfo-icon are thickening. A worrisome conjunction of circumstances is leading towards a possible showdown between the Axis of Resistance (Iraninfo-icon, Syriainfo-icon, Hezbollahinfo-icon and powerful Iraqi forces) and Arab Nato (the USinfo-icon, Israelinfo-icon and some Arab countries). 

The first element is the US flexing its muscles against Iran by withdrawing from the nuclear deal, reinforcing sanctions and ceasing to grant oilinfo-icon waivers - moves aimed at triggering the collapse of Iran's economyinfo-icon, and, hopefully, its regime. 

Washington has unprecedentedly designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist entity - a move that was promptly reciprocated. Sanctions have enriched the organisation, which profits from oil smuggling. 

Request for capitulation

Although US President Donald Trumpinfo-icon, contrary to his advisers, does not want another conflictinfo-icon, he is looking to succeed where all his predecessors have failed: to halt Iran's opposition to US policies in the region, to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

US policy against Iran is not - as initially hoped - the implementation of Trump's "artinfo-icon of the deal", which, through calculated brinksmanship, aims to get more leverage for a better agreement. The US administration is not looking for a better deal; if it was, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would have not laid out 12 preconditions for Tehraninfo-icon that resemble a request more for capitulation than for negotiation. 

The demands include halting uranium enrichment and the development of ballistic missiles, withdrawing from Syria, ending support for Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemeninfo-icon, disarming pro-Iran militias in Iraqinfo-icon, and dropping all threats against Israel. 

Despite the intentions of the two countries' leaders, the situation may be approaching a point of no return

This objective has been systematically and relentlessly promoted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose re-election is another piece of this worrisome puzzle. If he is not jailed, Netanyahu will continue reinforcing this strategy. His dream is to ultimately eliminate threats anywhere in the region, and to fulfill this, he is ready to alter the democratic nature of his own country.

Syria and Hezbollah

Syria is the next piece of the puzzle, where Trump's correct instinct for withdrawal has been downgraded by Washington's beltway, on the assumption that maintaining a US military presence in the country can prevent the consolidation of the Shiainfo-icon crescent from Tehran to Beirut, deriving from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's full victory. 

In such a framework, coherent with previous designs attributed to US-Israeli policy in the region, the survival of an Islamic Stateinfo-icon enclave in eastern Syria could be paradoxically useful. The US would likely withhold giving the crucial green light to major international financial institutions to support the country's reconstructioninfo-icon, as the increased sanctions against Iran are also heavily biting Syria.

Another piece of the puzzle concerns Hezbollah. While Washington reinforces political and financial pressure on the group, and Lebanoninfo-icon borders on an economic catastrophe, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallahinfo-icon has made worrisome declarations hinting at a possible renewed conflict with Israel this summer.

The last component of the mosaic is the elusive Israeli-Palestinian "deal of the century", expected after Ramadan. It is expected to bury the two-state solution and formalise US decisions on Jerusaleminfo-icon and the Golan Heights.

Jordaninfo-icon could be the major casualty of this settlement, after the Palestinians, as a deal biased towards Israel could fuel a new wave of violence in the occupied territories and elsewhere.

Hybrid warfare

This summer could see the culmination of all of these components, which could push the Sunni Gulf alliance known as  "Arab Natio" to escalate matters before it becomes too late or too costly to roll back the shifting regional power balance that has been in motion since 2003. 

More time could allow Iran to find new schemes to evade sanctions; Hezbollah could strengthen itself after the losses of the Syrian conflict; Assad's power could slowly consolidate and extend its geographic reach; and pro-Iran Shia groups in Iraq could hijack the country. 

Any violent reaction to the "deal of the century" could be managed militarily by Israel more easily now, after its recent election, than next year, when the US election is scheduled to take place. The same rule goes for a possible spike in oil prices related to increased tensions in the region.

In addition, if Trump is not reelected, most Democratic candidates appear keen to reversethe withdrawal from the nuclear deal.

Of course, it is not certain that Saudi Arabiainfo-icon and the UAEinfo-icon can assuage energy markets by replacing Iranian oil production; chaos in Venezuelainfo-icon and Libyainfo-icon could complicate their task. The ongoing Arab Spring 2.0 in Algeriainfo-icon and Sudaninfo-icon could also drag on. 

A cornered Iran could fatally drop its strategic patience policy, waiting for the uncertainty of Trump's exit in 2020, and increase its hybrid warfare in different theatres, or even resort to its real nuclear options: a blockade of the Strait of Hormuzinfo-icon, or withdrawal from the nuclear agreement. 

Messianic drive

All these reasons for cautiousness notwithstanding, there is an increasing sense of an irrational and messianic drive in Arab Nato's policy, which paints a gloomy picture for the future. 

In an echo of what occurred two centuries ago, when European nations convened in Vienna to restore the violated order after having defeated revolutionary Franceinfo-icon, today's B-team - US National Security Adviser John Bolton, Netanyahu, and the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabiinfo-icon - could find the need to emulate such a historical precedent irresistible, and seek to forever crush revolutionary Iran. 

Who will blink first? And would Russiainfo-icon and Chinainfo-icon consent to such a Vienna-style restoration, aimed also at foiling their own search for a new multipolar worldinfo-icon order, unbridled from Western hegemony?