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Tensions rise in Middle East after Trump withdraws U.S. from Iran deal

As if things needed to get any worse.

President Donald Trump holds up a memorandum that reinstates sanctions on Iran after he announced his decision to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in the Diplomatic Room at the White House May 8, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump holds up a memorandum that reinstates sanctions on Iran after he announced his decision to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in the Diplomatic Room at the White House May 8, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In a region that is already a powder keg of two civil wars (Syria and Yemen), another embroiled in fights with internal factions (Iraq), one dealing with local and foreign insurgency (Egypt), and another on the cusp of straight-up imploding (Libya), President Donald Trump’s unilateral decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal has increased tensions even more.

On Tuesday, after the president announced that the United States would be leaving the 2015 multilateral deal with Iran — also signed by France, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, and Germany — reports emerged about an Israeli strike in Syria.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the missile strikes struck and killed 15 people, including eight Iranians. Targeting Iran’s forces in Syria, there to aid troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is becoming the norm for Israel, which has launched several of these strikes in recent weeks.

Israeli media is carrying reports of the country’s military “bracing” for a “barrage of missiles” fired by Shia forces in Syria. These troops, they say, will involve Iranian-backed Hezbollah groups doing Iran’s “dirty work” in Syria.

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As Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Trump’s move to pull out of the nuclear deal — much as he did the president’s other unilateral move (to relocate the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem), the country’s military signaled that it is on high alert.

According to the Associated Press, “the military said it is prepared for “various scenarios” and warned ‘any aggression against Israel will be met with a severe response.'”

Meanwhile Houthi rebels in Yemen launched missiles at the Saudi capital of Riyadh, a move that some see as the anti-government rebels signalling support for Iran.

It is worth noting that the Houthis have launched missiles at Saudi Arabia prior to Trump’s decision on the Iran nuclear deal and that the Saudi airstrikes have killed over 10,000 people in Yemen, many of them civilians. The strikes have targeted everything from wedding halls to schools and markets, and have triggered a U.N. investigation into human rights violations committed by Saudi Arabia.

The strikes have also triggered a deadly outbreak of cholera and horrendous malnutrition among children in Yemen.

The United States, which supports the Saudi-led airstrikes pummeling Yemen, has repeatedly accused Iran of providing arms to the Houthis, although the United Nations has yet to come to that conclusion, despite having several missile shells to examine.

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In Iran, Trump’s announcement has caused some instability: It triggered protests and a drop the country’s currency, the Riyal, to its lowest level in years, plunging 15 percent in three days. And the parliament, which is against renegotiating the deal, is now positioned in direct opposition to President Hassan Rouhani, who said he’d be open to renegotiating the deal with the European signatories to the deal.