Friday , 1 March 2024

Israel’s Long War for the West

gatestoneinstitute.org – The common thread weaving Hamas, Hezbollah and the Shia militias together is the significant funding and support each receives from Iran, which has in turn received it from the Obama and Biden administrations. When the Biden administration came in, Iran had $6 billion of reserves; it now has, according to former US Army Gen. Jack Keane, more than $100 billion– which is presumably what it used to finance its proxies and its nuclear program.

The Biden administration now appears about to compound the problem with another catastrophic retreat: there are reported to be discussions about the US pulling its troops out of oil-rich Iraq – just as the Iranian regime has been trying to force the US to do since Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979.

“Israel didn’t start this war. Israel didn’t want this war…. In fighting Hamas and the Iranian axis of terror, Israel is fighting the enemies of civilization itself…. While Israel is doing everything to get Palestinian civilians out of harm’s way, Hamas is doing everything to keep Palestinian civilians in harm’s way. Israel urges Palestinian civilians to leave the areas of armed conflict, while Hamas prevents those civilians from leaving those areas at gunpoint.” — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Wall Street Journal.

Iran’s former Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi recently confirmed that the “the confrontation between Iran and Israel will continue as long as [Israel] exists… even if a Palestinian state is established.”

Israel is actually well on its way to winning. The least we can do is to enable it to have whatever it needs to complete its mission, and the time in which to do it.

[P]rotecting our borders and protecting our allies is not an either-or choice…. America’s outstanding troops are fighting abroad not because the US is irresponsibly gallant, and not recklessly to fund the military-industrial complex, but to defend us here at home better.

If you have a strong military, you will not have to use it: no one will test you.

In 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain thought that a “deal” with Hitler would bring peace and stability. It brought the opposite. Hitler, not surprisingly, used the opportunity of the illusion of peace to enlarge his invasions. By the time they became intolerable, it was clear to everyone that it would have been far less costly in life and treasure to have stopped Hitler before his army crossed the Rhine.

[A]s the journalist Daniel Greenfield pointed out, did anyone ever ask during World War II if there were too many German casualties, and if there were, that the fighting should stop?

The Biden administration would probably prefer to work with an Israeli prime minister, who was more compliant, one who would be happy to see a Palestinian state next to Israel, and not worry so much if it was genocidal; a prime minister who would be happy to see an Iran armed with nuclear weapons, and not get all squeamish every time the mullahs called for “Death to Israel” and said Israel is a “one-bomb” nation. The Biden administration might even be wondering, “Why can’t there be a reasonable Israeli prime minister who would just sign off on these plans without giving everyone such a hard time?”

“Iran wants to erase the Jewish state from the map, but the main obstacle Mr. Blinken sees to his plan is Israel.” — Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal, January 24, 2024.

Others have mentioned that if this is what Iran is doing without a nuclear weapon, just think of what it will do with one.

Not all wars are “forever” or “pointless,” or the United States would not be here. Regrettably, there seems to be… a commitment to losing.

The Biden administration has so far been immensely supportive of Israel in many ways, which is most welcome. It is sincerely hoped that its wholehearted support will stay the distance.

Iran itself has been exempt from paying any price for all the devastation it is causing, not to mention the devastation it could cause if it is allowed to have nuclear weapons. Diplomacy will not stop it, and a “deal” will not stop it.

It is time to confront the Iran challenge seriously, eliminate Iran’s ability to fund and provide weapons to its proxies that pose multiple threats in this fight, and bring an end to its nuclear program before it is too late.

(Image source: iStock/Getty Images)

On January 17, 2024, the Council for a Secure America (CSA) released the latest update to its “Israel-Hamas War” report, marking 100 days since the start of the war. The update is the third in a series following CSA’s 50- and 70-day war reports. From the outset of these reports, the real question was how long they would need to be issued.

Historically, wars involving Israel have been relatively short. The “Six Day War” in 1967 derived its name from the length of the war that saw Israel defeat the combined forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria in that time. The Yom Kippur War of 1973, which started with a surprise attack on Israel led by Syria and Egypt, lasted just short of three weeks before an Israeli victory. In between, there have been continual attacks, to which Israel has responded by “cleaning up” the immediate sources of the attacks, which the Israelis dryly called “mowing the lawn.”

The current Gaza War, unfortunately, is different. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has compared Hamas’s terrorist attacks on it from Gaza on October 7, 2023, as the equivalent of “twenty 9/11s.”

The problem seems to be that the source is not essentially Hamas, but Iran, organizing, funding and supplying its proxies: Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza and Israel’s West Bank, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Houthis in Yemen. In addition, the current regime in Iran fields its own militia, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which trains the proxies’ militias, and smaller ones in Syria and Iraq.

Since the Gaza war began, Iran-backed, Shia militias in Iraq have been stepping up attacks against U.S. forces in Syria and Iraq, adding yet another destabilizing military and economic factor in the region. The common thread weaving Hamas, Hezbollah and the Shia militias together is the significant funding and support each receives from Iran, which has in turn received it from the Obama and Biden administrations. When the Biden administration came in, Iran had $6 billion of reserves; it now has, according to former US Army Gen. Jack Keane, more than $100 billion– which is presumably what it used to finance its proxies and its nuclear program. Also, thanks to the Biden administration, Iran was able to continue funding Hamas at an estimated $100 million a year, as well as provide weapons and training.

More problematic is that, in gratitude for the Biden administration’s generosity , Iran and its proxies have so far launched more than 244 attacks (here, plus 161 according to Gen. Jack Keane) on US assets in Syria and Iraq since Biden took office. Biden’s misguided philanthropy is the same as on his first day in office, when, after effectively hobbling America’s energy supply, the US then bought oil from Russia (why not Canada?). Russian President Vladimir Putin presumably used those suddenly-doubled (and for a time tripled) oil prices to prosecute his war on Ukraine. Similarly, Iran, used its windfall to accelerate enriching uranium to 84%, just short of the 90% needed for nuclear weapons-capability. The regime then not only funded and masterminded its proxy Hamas to attack Israel; another of its proxies, Yemen’s Houthis, attacked the US and its allies in the region.

The problem with a ceasefire in the Gaza war now, before Israel has disabled Hamas’s terrorist capabilities, is that Israel is fighting not just to defend itself, but on behalf of all of us in the free world who have been attacked by terrorism and those who sponsor it, and who may well be attacked by them in the future. The current war in Gaza actually has less to do with Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah or the Houthis, and far more to do with their funder and protector, Iran.

At present, Iran has been expanding its war while the Biden administration appears to be doing everything in its power not to. These two goals seem poorly aligned: Iran and its proxies slaughter Israelis and now American; and the US says for the umpteenth time that it will respond when and how it wishes at a time “of our choosing.” That should certainly strike terror into them!

Early on in the war, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu framed the conflict:

“Israel didn’t start this war. Israel didn’t want this war…. In fighting Hamas and the Iranian axis of terror, Israel is fighting the enemies of civilization itself…. Victory over these enemies begins with moral clarity….making a moral distinction between the deliberate murder of the innocent and the unintentional casualties that are the inevitable result of even the most just war.

“It means holding Hamas accountable for the double war crime it commits every day by deliberately targeting Israeli civilians and deliberately using Palestinian civilians as human shields. It means not only making clear that the use of human shields is an immoral tactic of war, but making certain it is an ineffective one.

“As long as the international community blames Israel for Hamas’s use of Palestinian human shields, Hamas will continue to employ this tool of terror….

“While Israel is doing everything to get Palestinian civilians out of harm’s way, Hamas is doing everything to keep Palestinian civilians in harm’s way. Israel urges Palestinian civilians to leave the areas of armed conflict, while Hamas prevents those civilians from leaving those areas at gunpoint

“Most despicably, Hamas is holding more than [136] Israeli hostages…including… children. Every civilized nation should stand with Israel in demanding that these hostages be freed immediately and unconditionally.

“Calls for a cease-fire are calls for Israel to surrender to Hamas, to surrender to terrorism, to surrender to barbarism. That will not happen.

“Israel’s fight is your fight. If Hamas and Iran’s axis of evil win, you will be their next target. That’s why Israel’s victory will be your victory.”

Iran’s former Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi recently confirmed that the “the confrontation between Iran and Israel will continue as long as [Israel] exists… even if a Palestinian state is established.”

The Biden administration now appears about to compound the problem with another catastrophic retreat: there are reported to be discussions about the US pulling its troops out of oil-rich Iraq – just as the Iranian regime has been trying to force the US to do since Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979. As The New York Times reported :

“Since the 1979 takeover of Iran by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the country’s Islamic revolutionary government has had one overriding ambition: to be the lead player shaping the future of the Middle East. Seen another way, it wants Israel weaker and the United States gone from the region after decades of primacy.”

So, after surrendering to the Taliban in Afghanistan, the United States of America, the world’s great defender of freedom, will be cutting and running once again, surrendering to terrorists and their terror master, Iran, and leaving a vacuum in the Middle East to be filled by US adversaries?

Leaders of US allies in Israel, Taiwan, Ukraine and the Persian Gulf can only be wondering which of them will be next.

Israel, despite an agonizing loss of life and a devastating blow to its economy, is not cutting-and-running. It is “a battle of civilization against barbarism,” Netanyahu said. “We will win.”

There seem to be those, however, who would prefer that Israel not win. Voices of defeatist propaganda (such as here and here) are already trying to claim that “Israel cannot win.” On the contrary, as laid out by the military reporter Yaakov Lappin, Israel is actually well on its way to winning. The least we can do is to enable it to have whatever it needs to complete its mission, and the time in which to do it.

Other voices, meanwhile, protest that before the US addresses foreign borders, we should first address our own, primarily our southern one. More than 8.6 million illegal immigrants have entered the US since Biden began his term, including nearly 1.6 million “gotaways” that we know about, but about whom we know nothing. It is a security crisis and it does need to be addressed. Nevertheless, protecting our borders and protecting our allies is not an either-or choice.

What is missing from such an assessment is that US troops stationed abroad in fact are protecting a larger, virtual border, for the US and the Free World. Those sites are forward bases, not just to defend allies such Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan , the Middle East, the Indo-Pacific, but to make sure that we will not have to be battling on the streets of Boston, San Francisco and New York. If that sounds far-fetched, there is no need even to look back as far as the attacks of 9/11. CIA Director Christopher Ray, referring to signs that were missed before 9/11, recently warned US senators, “I see blinking lights everywhere I turn.”

America’s outstanding troops are fighting abroad not because the US is irresponsibly gallant, and not recklessly to fund the military-industrial complex, but to defend us here at home better. In fact, if we are to keep pace with foreign armies that are rapidly modernizing, and if we wish to maintain a credible deterrence, we need more funding for the military in addition to a serious study of the best updated ways to use it. That is not being a hawk; in reality, it is pure dove: If you have a strong military you will not have to use it: no one will test you. President Ronald Reagan called it “Peace through strength.” It worked.

US isolationism, a pleasant fantasy, is, as the US found the hard way during World War II, immensely dangerous. As our adversaries pour in to fill each vacuum from which the US retreats, the desire to displace America will not be overlooked. As expensive, and often even wasteful (a problem of management and accountability that should be investigated), as these engagements may seem, they are a bargain compared to what the expense could be later on in a full-fledged war.

In 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain thought that a “deal” with Hitler would bring peace and stability. It brought the opposite. Hitler, not surprisingly, used the opportunity of the illusion of peace to enlarge his invasions. By the time they became intolerable, it was clear to everyone that it would have been far less costly in life and treasure to have stopped Hitler before his army crossed the Rhine.

If civilian casualties seem to be the problem, the CSA report, finds that even though they are significant – ideally even one death is too many – they are no different than in previous wars – and, according to The New York Times, are even dramatically decreasing.

The Gaza Health Ministry – run of course by Hamas, whose statistics are flamboyantly unreliable — has reported more than 23,000 people have been killed in Gaza. The ministry, however, does not differentiate between terrorists and civilians. Unfortunately, Hamas appears to believe that it is in its interest to publish statistics as high as possible, most likely in the hope that Israel will be blamed for the deaths and not themselves for using their own citizens as human shields.

In addition, as the journalist Daniel Greenfield pointed out, did anyone ever ask during World War II if there were too many German casualties, and if there were, that the fighting should stop? As Netanyahu said, Israel did not want this war and did not ask for this war; it should be allowed to finish this war before the Iranian regime’s plan to “export the Revolution” spreads even further. Iran controls four capitals in addition to its own, in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and Iraq. Iran has been strengthening its terror proxies; is close to constructing its nuclear bomb, and for more than a decade, it has been expanding its operations in South America (hereherehere and here).

There have been concerns about the length of time Israel might need if there is no defined end in sight. Netanyahu, however, has clearly stated his “three war aims,” according to the Wall Street Journal:

“These aims are achievable,” but the war “will take many months.” He lists the aims in his distinctive baritone. “One, destroy Hamas. Two, free the hostages”—of whom about 136 remain in Hamas’s tunnels, some of whom are presumed dead. “Three, ensure that Gaza never again poses a threat to Israel.”

Is that not what the US would want in a similar confrontation with al-Qaeda or ISIS?

The Biden administration would probably prefer to work with an Israeli prime minister, who was more compliant, one who would be happy to see a Palestinian state (here and here) next to Israel, and not worry so much if it was genocidal; a prime minister who would be happy to see an Iran armed with nuclear weapons, and not get all squeamish every time the mullahs called for “Death to Israel” and said Israel is a “one-bomb” nation. The Biden administration might even be wondering, “Why can’t there be a reasonable Israeli prime minister who would just sign off on these plans without giving everyone such a hard time?”

There seems to be a mindset deep within the US that believes, “If only Israel were not there, we would not be having all these problems.” These may even be the same people who think that if you just keep on bribing your adversaries, they will, as the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini falsely promised , not be “opposed to American interests in Iran.” There is no evidence to indicate that anything has changed. Why should it when the US keeps demonstrating that being an adversary is Big Business? Our adversaries can see that US allies, such as Israel, receive threats (for example here and here ); are ordered around; have their internal affairs, such as judicial reformsinterfered with, and their free and fair elections compromised (here and here). Our adversaries can also see US allies being told when, where, how they may or may not defend themselves – even after a genocidal attack (here and here). Which team would you rather be on?

The Wall Street Journal observed:

“Iran wants to erase the Jewish state from the map, but the main obstacle Mr. Blinken sees to his plan is Israel…

“Apparently, political concessions to terrorism are the only way forward…..

“Take it from Israeli President Isaac Herzog, a Netanyahu opponent and former Labor Party leader. ‘If you ask an average Israeli now,’ he said Thursday, ‘nobody in his right mind is willing now to think about what will be the solution of the peace agreements…’

In the Biden Administration’s eagerness for a foreign policy success, it shouldn’t forget that the more thorough the Hamas defeat, the more room Israel will have to compromise. Victory would do the most to pave the way to Peace.”

Biden, in all probability, sees the cessation of violence and the creation of a Palestinian state as a ticket to reelection, or at the very least, a Nobel Peace Prize. He still, mystifyingly, appears determined to secure some kind of “deal” with Iran, even though Iran has not honored any of its deals in the past and does not seem likely to honor one in the future.

“Iran threatens the world,” said Israel’s Economy Minister Nir Barkat. “They want to create a bomb in order to use it. “

Others have mentioned that if this is what Iran is doing without a nuclear weapon, just think of what it will do with one.

Not all wars are “forever” or “pointless,” or the United States would not be here. Regrettably, there seems to be in the Biden administration a commitment to losing. Of course, it probably appears easiest — in the short term — to surrender, as in Afghanistan, and pull US troops out of Syria and Iraq, and abandon Israel in favor of a malignant terrorist regime. It is far better to deter, and better yet to win.

On Israel’s northern border lies Lebanon, now under the rule of another of Iran’s proxy-militias, Hezbollah. For years, it has been expanding Iran’s effort by deploying an estimated 150,000 missiles pointed at Israel, a country smaller than New Jersey Hezbollah openly admits to conducting more than 670 attacks against Israel — in addition to those form Hamas on Israel’s south – just since October 7, 2023. In response, Israeli War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz has told senior U.S. officials the increasing Hezbollah strikes on northern Israel, “demand of Israel to remove such a threat.”

Iran, of course is delighted to have its proxies fight and die to destroy Israel, so long as the war does not expand to them – the reason, in all likelihood, that Iran has proxies in the first place. The Biden administration, to its enormous credit, has, stationed several warships in the region to deter expansion, which would extend the length of the war even further. The Biden administration has so far been immensely supportive of Israel in many ways, which is most welcome, and it is sincerely hoped that its wholehearted support will stay the distance.

Any deterrence, however, will need to be far more powerful and addressed directly to Iran, an invoice for Iranian assets, to distract Iran from its hegemonic goals. A different situation in this war would require a much stronger response from the US than what we have witnessed currently. Gen. Keane has suggested striking the leaders and military capabilities of the IRGC and its leaders who are initiating the aggression, to prevent them from causing more harm.

As in all wars, both sides are being affected by hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians, both Palestinians and Israelis.

From reading the CSA report, it is possible to walk away with some significant conclusions.

First, if Iran and its proxies get further involved in the conflict, the US must respond to Iran, which President Biden has agreed to do, although it is not yet clear when, where or how. So far, at least, the Biden administration has appeared reluctant to respond Iran and its provocations in a way that might actually deter it. US personnel have died and scores of troops have been wounded, some with serious traumatic brain injury — but Iran itself has been exempt from paying any price for all the devastation it is causing, not to mention the devastation it could cause if it is allowed to have nuclear weapons. Diplomacy will not stop it, and a “deal” will not stop it.

Iran has not been struck at all: not the IRGC bases, not the training centers, not its spy ship in the Red Sea. There have not even been any financial sanctions restored. Iran can only read this response as a bonanza opportunity to step up aggression, and at least until the US presidential election in November, do anything it wants.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi told reporters that “both safety and a sense of security” for northern Israel may require IDF forces to make a “very clear change.” He did not say to what.

There are also signs the war is becoming an expanded regional conflict, although the Biden administration, in appearing to be doing its best to avoid one, might find, as Chamberlain did, that such a stance is exactly what brings it on.

In a half-move, the Biden administration recently added the Yemen-based Houthis to a list of groups designated as terrorist organizations. Sadly, the list turned out to be a relatively toothless, far below the level of Foreign Terrorist Organizations to which the group had previously been assigned.

So far, the Biden administration has not been addressing threats as the significant global challenges they are. The administration is supporting Israel’s military needs, which is a positive, but still refuses to deal with the real core problem — Iran. Supplying Israelis with the resources to win the war and building a coalition to confront the Houthis terrorist attacks against global shipping are concrete steps. What is ignored is that Iran is the puppet master behind the curtain pulling the strings. To contain the threat, the Biden administration needs to reinstate a much more vigorous strategy to deal with Iran. Iran must be sanctioned again, ostracized in the global community and its source of revenue — oil — used to fund Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis and Shia militias — must be cut off.

If Iran is not stopped from acquiring nuclear weapons, the world will be in a different place, subject to countless arms races or even a nuclear war.

As the CSA report highlights, the ongoing Israel-Hamas war carries significant risks to Israel, the region, and the world. It is time to confront the Iran challenge seriously, eliminate Iran’s ability to fund and provide weapons to its proxies that pose multiple threats in this fight, and bring an end its nuclear program before it is too late.

Peter Hoekstra is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute. He was US Ambassador to the Netherlands during the Trump administration. He also served 18 years in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the Second District of Michigan and served as Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee.

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