During a Biden summit, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken traveled to Middle East To get the move that last week’s Gaza ceasefire has taken, the first step backwards towards peace talks.
The Biden administration has been criticized for failing to act more aggressively in trying to end pre-agreement backward attacks, as some members of Biden’s party have called for a tough US stance against Israeli actions in response to a series of missile strikes.
Cipher Brief used our expert Normal rolls To see how an intelligence expert views recent events in the Middle East and how they return to US national security.
Norman T. Roll served in the CIA for 34 years and managed many programs related to Iran and the Middle East. From November 2008 to September 2017, he served as the Director of National Intelligence of Iran (NIM-I) in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. As NIM-I, the Information Officer (IC) software was primarily responsible for overseeing all aspects of national intelligence policy and Iran-related activities, including IC interaction on Iran issues with senior policymakers in the National Security Council and the State Department .
We asked Norm to start by sharing his top observations about what has happened to date.
Rolling: A handful come to mind.
First and foremost, the world has recently witnessed another escalation of violence in the Middle East, which has killed hundreds of civilians – including dozens of children -, injured more than a thousand and left thousands homeless, without significantly changing the status quo. The post-war situation practically ensures that similar violence is repeated. Unfortunately, there is no sign that the international community – or the leaders of Israel and Palestine – are ready to devote their diplomatic and political capital to reaching an agreement that addresses the documented suffering of the Palestinian people and the deadly threats to Israeli citizens.
Second, Israeli Arabs and Jews have resorted to violence between society and social entropy to an extent not seen for decades, perhaps not since the founding of Israel. These long-standing internal tensions erupted in the eyes of the world and shattered Israel’s image of peaceful relations among citizens of different faiths. We may see the practical meaning of a one-state solution.
Next, I think we have seen the consequences of years of Iranian support for Hamas to develop its weapons technology. Despite the success in ending arms smuggling from Sudan through Egypt, repeated Israeli strikes in Syria have reduced the ability of Palestinian and Lebanese militants to acquire precision-guided weapons and limit the maximum pressure on Iranian resources by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Enters, Hamas offensive capabilities gradually became one of the unprecedented domains. Hamas certainly does not have the ability to destroy Israel, but it can shape the psychology of conflict and threaten much of Israeli territory. The new nuclear deal with Iran will almost increase the budget, training and weapons that Tehran will provide to these militants.
Fourth, the Biden administration has seen how difficult it is to avoid getting involved in the Middle East crisis. In recent days, the president and senior officials have contacted the leaders of Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar in an effort to end the violence. I do not think this will change the government’s views on the need for the United States to spend less energy on the region, but it may accelerate the creation of an architecture to manage its problems. In this regard, an unprecedented number of Democrats criticized Israel and spoke of blocking US military support for the Israeli military. This change cannot be ignored from the point of view of the government, which must think about how it can maintain democratic control over the House of Representatives in 2022.
Password: How do you see this recent conflict compared to the previous Israeli-Palestinian conflict in recent years?
Rolling: Since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, there have been six Israeli-Palestinian military clashes, almost every 18 months. Every event followed a similar path, but with this recent conflict I can think of a few differences.
First, Hamas fired thousands of rockets at more civilian targets, threatening millions of innocent Israelis, Americans, and other nationals, including Palestinians. About 360,000 Palestinians live in Jerusalem, and the number of Arabs in Israel is about 1.9 million, or about 21% of the population. Of the more than 4,000 rockets fired by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, about 700 landed in Gaza itself.
This conflict has created unprecedented violence in Israel that has taken years to resolve. Finally, Israel demonstrated an intelligence capability that led to air operations targeting the militant military architecture and the people behind it.
Password: Can both sides claim strategic victory at this stage?
Rolling: Each side will claim to have demonstrated its ability to defend its people through the means of resistance, but none of them can claim strategic victory. Perhaps there is no better example than the prominent images of Palestinian missiles and the Iron Dome defenses in the night sky. Each of these images is considered a failure.
Short passwordHow will the conflict affect the political fate of Israeli and Palestinian leaders?
Rolling: In general, the leadership of Hamas and Israel are likely to see a temporary increase in popularity that fades in recent weeks. Right-wing leaders are likely to dominate their respective political spheres in the foreseeable future. If I had to determine a winner in this category, I would say that Benjamin Netanyahu was the Prime Minister of Israel.
Just days before the start of the war, it seemed Netanyahu could lose his office. This probably meant the end of his political career. However, he proved once again that “cats wish to live as long as Netanyahu.” The clash disrupted Israeli politician Yair Lapid’s efforts to form a new coalition, forcing rivals such as Naftali Bennett to support Netanyahu’s administration in the crisis. Israel now faces the possibility of holding a fifth general election in two years, and Netanyahu has another chance to lead.
Hamas, on the other hand, argues that this should bring Palestine back to the world’s attention. It will also be claimed that, unlike the Palestinian Authority, Hamas has the leadership and ability to defend Palestinian rights, especially in Jerusalem. Abbas has been largely irrelevant in recent events, but it is likely that the international community will work diligently to strengthen its standing against Hamas and find a way to restore the dire peace process.
Password: What about tactical successes?
Rolling: Each side can point to important tactical successes, and both have demonstrated the ability to attack enemies using long-range weapons.
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