After Hamas launched its horrific attack on Israel on October 7, many observers initially expected the war to remain a limited conflict between Israel and Hamas. Israel, Iran, and the United States each have reasons to avoid an expanded war. Israel has its hands full with its military response in Gaza, Iran likely wants to avert a potential clash with the United States, and Washington is not interested in a destabilizing regional conflict that would disrupt oil markets, fuel extremism, and draw attention from the war in Ukraine. Iran’s most important regional ally, Hezbollah, faces its own challenges in Lebanon, where a new war with Israel could deepen the country’s political and economic crises. (...) The magnitude of Hamas’s attacks and the realities on the ground as war unfolded in Gaza were already changing key actors’ strategic calculations. Those shifts are making regional escalation more likely—and the risk of confrontation between Iran and Israel is particularly acute.
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