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Analysis: The approach of the US elections helps push Lebanon and Iraq to the brink

October 4, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi speaks as he meets with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Tensions in Iraq and Lebanon are reaching fever pitch as the US elections draw near and raise the stakes in the Middle East's geopolitical battlegrounds.

Beirut, Lebanon (CNN)Tensions in Iraq and Lebanon are reaching fever pitch as the US elections draw near and raise the stakes in the Middle East's geopolitical battlegrounds.

In Iraq, a slew of rocket attacks suspected to have been launched by Iran-backed armed groups in recent weeks have prompted US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to threaten a diplomatic pull-out from Baghdad.

In Lebanon, a French initiative to broker a political resolution meant to stave off state collapse may have come to a screeching halt as the country's Saudi-backed politicians lock horns with Iran-backed Hezbollah.

To local observers, the new timeframe appeared to confirm what they had long suspected: the political deadlock between the country's rival camps -- which is roughly split between groups backed by Iran and those supported by Tehran's regional foe, Saudi Arabia -- will not end before the outcome of the November elections is known.

The stalemate centers on the future of the Iran-backed political and armed group Hezbollah.

Heiko Wimmen, project director of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon at International Crisis Group, describes it as a "high stakes game" that has intensified in the run-up to the US elections.

When Macron visited Lebanon in the wake of the August 4 explosion that ripped through Beirut, he publicly met with a Hezbollah official -- becoming the first Western leader to do so in years -- and the group then promised to cooperate with the French initiative.

Pompeo openly criticized Macron's engagement with Hezbollah, and US sanctions were imposed on allies of the group for the first time.

The uncertainty in both Lebanon and Iraq may keep these countries in a holding pattern for some time to come, but the danger of the region spiraling into another cycle of violence is a distinct possibility.

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