For more than a week, the Middle East has been the focal point of a “heated conflict” between Hamas rebels and Israel Defense Forces. This war’s brutality is astounding in terms of the number of dead and wounded on both sides, the intensity of the exchange of fire, and the amount of collateral damage. More than 1,500 casualties over the course of nine to ten days of battle is a record for Israel.
War is usually predictable because it is preceded by political inconsistencies that cannot be handled diplomatically, the assembling and preparing of forces, and the use of strategies. At the same time, war frequently begins unexpectedly because whoever is initiating the fight plans to use the element of surprise.
It is not just about the returning to the failure of Israeli intelligence to obtain proactive information about the plans and intentions of Hamas and the external forces behind it to launch the conflict from the Palestinian enclave of the Gaza Strip. Some blame Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, through his domestic policy, particularly the adoption of controversial judicial reform, has disoriented Israeli intelligence community’s efforts. This view, however, is scarcely credible because military and foreign intelligence is principally accountable for the external security of the state. And blaming Bibi is hardly appropriate. Others, such as Alexander Lapshin and Mark Feigin, believe that Israeli intelligence overstated its capabilities, claiming that it is the most powerful intelligence service in the region and the world, capable of completing any assignment, while underestimating the enemy’s capabilities. Third, anti-Semitic platform advocates typically construct casuistic versions and do not rule out that this conflict was reportedly instigated by Israel itself in the hope of resolving the Gaza Strip and the Hamas terrorist organization with a single military operation.
The Israeli Defense Forces are reorganizing their war plans, striking the Gaza Strip with tremendous air power and long-range artillery, and enforcing a strict blockade from land and water. The struggle is unavoidably underway. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized explicitly that Hamas would be completely destroyed. It is not clear how the Israeli army will accomplish this without destroying the entire Gaza Strip, which is home to Hamas militants and commanders. Moreover, if the cause of the conflict is not addressed, eliminating Hamas may result in the emergence of a new Hamas.
In addition to cutting off water and electricity, Israel has also barred any civilian access to medical treatment in the Gaza Strip. Tel Aviv’s acts, which are blatantly against international law and all previously ratified humanitarian treaties, are practically endorsed by its Western friends. Due to this, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan described the Israeli government’s and army’s conduct as a massacre, essentially a genocide against the Palestinian people.
Nevertheless, putting aside the argument based on morality and international humanitarian law, it is also difficult to imagine that Netanyahu’s “Hamas will be destroyed” plan can be carried out solely by land- and sea-based combat aviation and artillery. It is impossible to utterly crush and destroy Hamas without infantry. The IDF ground operation experiences a variety of difficulties, such as:
– availability of two trained mechanized divisions, as noted by Hero of Russia Rustem Klupov
– the need for time to train soldiers for urban combat;
– the Gaza Strip is home to several labyrinths and subterranean communications networks that are connected to Egypt and can be used by Hamas forces as cover and a source of additional supplies;
– conducting expert extra reconnaissance of the terrain and enemy underground hideouts;
– consideration of the knowledge gained during combat operations in the Special Military Operation zone in Ukraine, etc.
In other words, Israel cannot depend on a quick and effective combat ground operation due to objective factors; preparation and resolution of all relevant issues require time. And this is happening as the US and UK rapidly send more naval and air force personnel to the Middle East conflict area and provide their friend Israel with more military and technical support. It is generally known that the US has already sent the Gerald Ford and the Dwight Eisenhower, two formidable aircraft carriers, to the beaches of Israel and the Persian Gulf region, together with F-15, F-16, and F-35 fighter jets. Similar actions have been observed by the Royal Air Force in the UK.
In the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf, Washington plans to work with its NATO allies to maintain maritime navigation, develop a comprehensive maritime power, support IDF ground operations in the Gaza Strip, and dissuade Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement from taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Naturally, the likelihood that the conflict may spread internationally and involve Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen continues to be the key issue for Israel and its main allies, the United States and the United Kingdom. Tel Aviv will struggle to defeat an anti-Israel coalition on five fronts in such a scenario. But the West won’t stand idly by as Israel is obliterated; instead, it is likely to get involved in the battle and risk sparking a world war.
At the conclusion of the first week of combat, Iranian media reported that Tehran had informed Tel Aviv via the UN that it would get involved if the battle involved a ground operation against the Gaza Strip. At the same time, the Palestinian-Israeli issue was a topic of conversation during the targeted business trips that Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian made to Qatar, Syria, and Lebanon. As is well known, Hezbollah has warned Tel Aviv repeatedly through Beirut against intervening in the fight, and now there are sporadic border clashes between them. Doha has threatened to stop exporting gas to Europe, and Damascus has not ruled out joining the conflict in response to ongoing Israeli attacks on airfields in Syria.
“Voice of Israel” states that the US Department of State has allowed the evacuation of some of its Embassy and Consulate General staff in Israel due to a security contingency. Citizens of Argentina, Australia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Mexico, Poland, France, Germany, Uruguay, and other nations (including members of diplomatic missions) were evacuated from Israel by transport and military aircraft.
On October 16, due to being under pressure from outside factors and because of the weather, Israel imposed a 5-hour ceasefire in the southern Gaza Strip. According to some reports, Egypt will provide Gaza with humanitarian aid. Turkey, in particular, has already dispatched three planes to Egypt with humanitarian supplies for the Palestinians, and foreigners should leave the enclave.
It should be mentioned that the abrupt outbreak of the Gaza Strip conflict between the Palestinians and Israel prompted harsh criticism of Hamas from the majority of the globe. The actions of Hamas are classified as terrorism. At the same time, many countries, including Russia, believe that this conflict did not begin out of nothing; we need to see its history. It concerns the founding of the State of Palestine and Israel’s acceptance of it under the boundaries of 1967. This stance is shared by countries including Russia, China, Iran, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iraq.
The attempts to pin the new war in the Gaza Strip on Iran are unfounded and unsupported, as rightly noted by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Despite the fact that Tehran has “long-standing contacts with the Palestinian Hamas movement,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken likewise thinks the accusations against Iran are groundless. According to him, “Washington had not yet seen evidence that Iran was behind this attack.”
As of October 16, 2023, the US had ‘not yet seen’ evidence of Iran’s complicity in the Hamas attack on Israel. But nobody can predict what will happen in the future. This indicates that, for the time being, Washington wants to talk to Tehran about taking a position of non-interference in exchange for a post-conflict reward.
The Iranian Permanent Mission to the UN reportedly informed Reuters that Iran has no plans to wage war against Israel unless the Jewish state strikes the IRI, according to Azerbaijani media (such as minval.az). Tehran is rumored to be optimistic that the resistance forces—Hamas, of course—will be able to defend themselves.
In other words, the US is exerting considerable diplomatic and intelligence pressure on Iran to refrain from formally interfering in the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Furthermore, according to Reuters, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority President, stated that the policies and deeds of the extreme Islamic movement Hamas do not represent the interests of the Palestinian people.
Tehran observes that Riyadh has already reduced communications with the Iranian side and briefly halted talks on establishing ties with Israel due to the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians. This indicates that the “Indian transit” project along the route of Arab East nations (UAE, KSA) – Israel – Europe is currently halted and may have an alternative route via Iraq and Turkey to the EU or via Iran, Armenia, and Georgia to the EU.
It is difficult to imagine India choosing Turkey, which caters to Pakistan, over Iran in its multimodal project. And why would Tehran, which controls the Persian Gulf zone, abandon “Indian transit” in favor of NATO’s Turkey…? It is obvious that the US supports the Indian project as a counterbalance to China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative. But because it lacks omnipotence, the US will have to take into account Iran’s interests.
When the Armenian corridor in Zangezur is realized in the Turan-Chinese and Iranian-Indian projections, it significantly enhances the instability of regional processes surrounding another freshly “extinguished” Karabakh conflict. The near future will reveal whether this indicates that the South Caucasus will become the focal point of the next major world conflict. Of course, the greatest alternative is to make Russian-controlled Zangezur in Armenia into an entry point for international convoy routes.
In the meantime, there are an increasing number of actual and potential mediators in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Turkey, Russia, France, the USA. For the foreseeable future, Israel must establish solid authority over the Gaza Strip and bring it back to order. Naturally, there will be no Hamas, but a new signboard with the same content will be found if the issue of a Palestinian state remains obscure. The Gaza Strip is already virtually ruined and will be uninhabitable shortly unless massive repair is undertaken.
It turns out that the US and Iran may now set the boundaries of the region’s post-conflict development and new international communications. Turkey’s stance on giving humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza and backing the formation of a Palestinian state under the 1967 boundaries may be commendable. Erdoğan, on the other hand, has no other leverage in this conflict. Ankara’s desire not only to “sit in different chairs at once” but also to “pull all the chairs” onto its territory will most likely not lead to the expected results. The best option is a balance of interests.
Aleksandr SVARANTS, Doctor in Political Science, professor, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.