Levelling Gaza is No ‘End-Game’ For Biden
Taking on the US’ aircraft carriers (even without going into detail) is symbolically tantamount to the Axis challenging US hegemony at its very root. ‘Challenge Accepted’.
US and Israeli interests — set against the horrific sight of massive civilian deaths in Gaza –are diverging in both the short and long term. For “Israel”, the Israeli Security Minister says that anything short of “ending Hamas’ existence is failure.”
The US is wholly invested in helping “Israel” defeat Hamas, yet by setting the bar so ‘messianically high’, Netanyahu sets a trap for Biden: Should the IOF fail to annihilate Hamas, “Israel” cannot ‘win’. And, at the end, if “Israel” simply withdraws — and Hamas and its revolutionary ethos remains — it will be understood across the Islamic sphere as a Hamas ‘victory’. Put bluntly, levelling Gaza is no solution for Biden.
Worse, in the latter scenario, Biden is stripped of being able to point to a clear US ‘end game’ in Gaza to mollify growing criticism at home of his ‘no limits’ support for “Israel’s” war on Hamas — an endorsement that increasingly is being called ethnic cleansing, or even genocide by US protestors.
Put bluntly, the US Administration’s policy risks capsizing quickly into becoming a major political liability. The existing stance therefore clearly has an early ‘expiry timeline’. Biden wants to ‘move on’.
The Israeli government, however (with massive public support), has gone ‘all in’ on eradicating Hamas – and regards civilian deaths as the ‘price of war’, not least because such a degree of intensity is considered necessary to placate the Israeli electorate after the utter shock of 7 October. Israeli Cabinet discourse speaks of a long war, rather than an early ‘end game’.
For the US Administration in an election year, Biden wants to go beyond Hamas. He does not want Gaza to taint the 2024 election, but rather, he wants to swing the US public attention ‘back’ to the claimed ‘threat’ from Russia, China and Iran.
Both the US and “Israel” want to avoid a larger regional war; but “Israel”, in the White House view, is taking huge risks of escalation through its pursuit of a “total eradication” of Hamas — whose destructive means to this end is radicalising the world.
In Sunday’s speech by Seyed Nasrallah, he effectively made Hezbollah the guarantor of Hamas’ survival (specifically, identifying Hamas by name). Hezbollah, he said, will restrict itself to (undefined) and limited operations on the border, to the point, ‘if and when’, Hamas is in danger. This is a ‘red line’ that will worry the White House.
Put plainly, the US will (if it can) try — as Blinken has been doing — to pull “Israel” back from its Gaza assault, leaving the IOF with the complete collapse of deterrence; because, by letting “Israel” persevere, it risks horizontal regional escalation. Unsurprisingly, the mainstream media in the US are speculating on the possibilities of regime-change for Netanyahu. The latter is unpopular for sure, but his departure would not change the settled opinion in “Israel” that Gaza must be ‘expunged from the map’.
The more essential point from Seyed Nasrallah’s address was his switching of focus, reflecting perhaps not just the movement’s own narrow view, but that of the collective ‘Axis’. Thus, in his address, “Israel” was downgraded from being an independent actor, to that of being one noxious US military protectorate among others.
Seyed Nasrallah directly challenged not just Israel’s occupation, but the US in its entirety, as responsible for what has befallen the region — from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq to Palestine. In some respects, these words echoed Putin’s 2007 Munich warning to the West, which was then massing NATO forces on Russia’s borders. ‘Challenge accepted’.
So too, the US has massed massive forces around the region, in the expectation that this would force the Lebanese Resistance to back down from any major intervention into “Israel”.
However, the sub text to Seyed Nasrallah’s speech was the hint at a united front ‘slow-boiling’ of the US ‘deterrence frog’, rather than any headlong dive into regional war.
In recent weeks, US military bases around the region have come under repeated attack from regional militia forces, and there is no sign the attacks will abate anytime soon. Their drones and rockets were all being shot down, CENTCOM insisted. Now, CENTCOM has ceased issuing updates. How many Americans have been wounded and killed thus far? How many more are at risk of death and serious injury? For the moment, we don’t know.
“All of this points to an ominous development”, Malcom Kyeyune writes; “the decline of deterrence”:
Over the past several weeks, US officials have pleaded [with militia] … for a stop to drones and rockets – and threatened severe consequences should they fail to comply. Washington has followed through on these threats by retaliating with airstrikes, all the while stressing the defensive nature of these strikes and promising to back away the moment the attacks on US bases stop. But after every airstrike, armed groups in the region have ‘dialled up’ their anti-US activities. Reports are now circulating of several large armed groups in Iraq declaring a de facto state of war against America [for the liberation of Iraq].
The core of the problem here, is that US forces are spread out across more than a dozen bases in the region. None of these bases is strong enough to defend itself from a concerted attack. What they have relied on, instead, was the perception that if you attacked even a weak American outpost, you were asking for trouble: It would only be a matter of time before the entire US war machine descended upon you to neutralize the threat.
Kyeyune suggests that whereas:
Deterrence was at first a helpful side effect of real American economic and military might. But over time, it became a crutch — and then, a Potemkin village: a façade put up as a cost-saving measure, to cover up the fact that the military was shrinking, political dysfunction growing, and fiscal stability eroding. Now, as drones and rockets rain down on US service members across Syria and Iraq … it is becoming clear that the Middle East has decided that American threats aren’t all that credible anymore.
Will Iraq be the next ‘front’ to open in this expanding conflict?
Seyed Nasrallah said of the US warships: “We have prepared for them something”. Taking on the US’ aircraft carriers (even without going into detail) is symbolically tantamount to the Axis challenging US hegemony at its very root. ‘Challenge Accepted’.
Conflicts, in short, have become geopolitically diverse and technologically more complex and multidimensional — particularly with the inclusion of military-adept non-state actors. This is why an incremental tightening of the noose across several fronts can be an effective strategy: “It is doubtful whether the US military would find success fighting a three- or four-front war – the effort might easily devolve into yet another quagmire.”