The West is about to hand victory to Hamas

“The obvious place for refugees to go temporarily is across the border into Egypt, where there are vast empty spaces and infrastructure for the United Nations and Egyptian authorities to provide shelter, aid and medical assistance. But the US draft resolution seems to exclude this possibility altogether.
Egypt is understandably fearful of Hamas terrorists and their supporters entering its territory; it already has enough of a threat from like-minded Muslim Brotherhood extremists and the plethora of terrorist gangs that share Hamas’s jihadist ideology.

But the terrain in northern Sinai should allow for measures to mitigate dangers such as these, especially given Egypt’s powerful security forces. Surely, if it were truly standing behind Israel, the US would have found a way to encourage Cairo to play a role here?

It is hard to escape the conclusion that, instead, Joe Biden is no longer committed to Israel finishing Hamas off, largely because of domestic political considerations. And the danger is that what he really wants is not a “temporary” cessation to the fighting, but to impose a “peace” deal that would leave Hamas’s terrorist organisation partially intact and end up solving nothing.

What President Biden and his ilk seem incapable of recognising is that the Israeli people can accept no “solution” to the current conflict that leaves the country in a weaker position to the one that it occupied on October 6.

Indeed, the wider West appears to be forgetting how this war started. Israel did not want the conflict. It was the necessary response to the shocking crimes of October 7, the slaughter of civilians, and the taking of hostages – evil terrorist acts that Israel rightly wants to ensure can never happen again.

If the IDF does not move forward with its plans, Israel knows that it will only be a matter of time before we see another conflict in Gaza, as well as emboldened terrorists in the West Bank and on its northern border. Worse, the terrorists would know that the United States would never allow Israel to truly defeat them.”

https://www.yahoo.com/news/west-hand-victory-hamas-200535008.html

Russia apparently got control of the skies before seizing victory in a front-line fight, and it could be ‘devastating’ for Ukraine if it continues, war experts say

“As Russia’s ground forces pushed to capture Avdiivka, its air force appeared to establish air superiority over the war-torn town, clearing the way for critical close-air-support missions, conflict analysts assessed.
Although only temporary and localized, it appears to be the first time Russia has taken control of the skies in a front-line area since their full-scale invasion began almost two years ago. And if it continues or expands, a real possibility as Ukrainian air defenses are under significant stress, it could be “devastating,” war experts said.

On Saturday, Russia claimed victory in Avdiivka, a Ukrainian town northeast of occupied Donetsk. Despite it being hailed as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s biggest victory since the fall of Bakhmut in May 2023 — and a timely one given the upcoming Russian presidential elections next month — it came at a high cost. Moscow has suffered severe losses of both troops and equipment since focusing its forces on Avdiivka last fall.

Confirming its retreat from the area, Ukraine said it was saving troops from being fully surrounded by Russian troops. Over the past few months, geolocated footage of the area had shown Russia slowly and painstakingly advancing to encircle Ukrainian defenders fighting to hold the town.

Upon Russia’s capture of the town, reports said its air forces had been operating in the skies above Avdiivka, supporting ground troops in the last days of the offensive operations and eventually allowing them to overwhelm Ukrainian defenses.

According to The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington DC-based think tank, this was likely the first time Russian forces had been able to do so in Ukraine. Air defenses, particularly ground-based surface-to-air missile systems, have prevented either side from achieving this key element of offensive operations, even locally.

Over the final days of fighting, the Ukrainians reported an increase in the number of Russian glide bombs dropped by fixed-wing aircraft, George Barros, the geospatial-intelligence team lead and a Russia analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, told Business Insider. This activity appears to indicate the employment of a combined arms tactic involving having air forces support maneuver elements on the ground.”

“Ukraine’s air defenses have largely denied Russia air superiority, preventing its jets and aircraft from conducting significant air campaigns since the beginning of the war.

It is unclear if Ukraine can continue to do that, especially considering delays in further Western security aid. Ukraine has said its air defenses and missile stockpiles are running critically low, forcing them to ration and make tough choices on which front-line areas should be prioritized and protected.”

https://www.yahoo.com/news/russias-air-force-took-control-195949807.html

How Israel’s war went wrong

“At least 28,000 Palestinians are already confirmed dead, with more likely lying in the rubble. Around 70 percent of Gaza’s homes have been damaged or destroyed; at least 85 percent of Gaza’s population has been displaced. The indirect death toll from starvation and disease will likely be higher. One academic estimate suggested that nearly 500,000 Palestinians will die within a year unless the war is brought to a halt, reflecting both the physical damage to Gaza’s infrastructure and the consequences of Israel’s decision to besiege Gaza on day three of the war. (While the siege has been relaxed somewhat, limitations on aid flow remain strict.)

“There’s no doubt that the IDF has done significant damage to Hamas’s infrastructure. Israel has killed or captured somewhere around one-third of Hamas’s fighting force, destroyed at least half of its rocket stockpile, and demolished somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of its tunnel network under Gaza. The more the war goes on, the higher those numbers will become.
But as significant as these achievements are, “none of them come close to eliminating Hamas””

“When I surveyed over a dozen experts about the war back in October, they warned that Israel had a dangerously loose understanding of what the war was about. The stated aim of “destroying Hamas” was at once maximalist and open-ended: It wasn’t clear how it could be accomplished or what limit there might be on the means used in its pursuit.

Israel’s conduct in the war so far has vindicated these fears. The embrace of an objective at once so massive and vague has dragged Israel down the moral nadir documented in Abraham’s reporting, with unclear and perhaps even self-defeating ends. It is a situation that Matt Duss, the executive vice president at the Center for International Policy, terms “an era-defining catastrophe.”

Things did not have to be this way. After the horrific events of October 7, Israel had an obviously just claim to wage a defensive war against Hamas — and the tactical and strategic capabilities to execute a smarter, more limited, and more humane war plan.

The blame for this failure lies with Israel’s terrible wartime leadership: an extremist government headed by Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, a venal prime minister currently on trial for corruption who has placed his personal interests over his country’s even during wartime.”

“For Walzer, Israel cannot wage war justly when Gazan civilians truly cannot escape.”

“In previous wars with Hamas, Israel’s primary objective had been degrading Hamas’s military capabilities and deterring it from attacking Israel in the near future. These are relatively limited aims that can be accomplished through more discriminate military means. Israel didn’t need to destroy every Hamas rocket launcher or kill every commander — but rather do just enough damage to buy itself some safety.”

“A significant level of civilian death is inevitable in urban warfare, and especially in Gaza given Hamas’s despicable tactic of stationing military assets in and around schools and hospitals. The IDF is facing a profoundly challenging operating environment with few true historical parallels.

Yet this does not absolve Israel of its decision to adopt a maximalist war aim or the unusually brutal tactics that followed from it. These were choices Israeli leaders made”

“In the outlines offered by Israeli leadership early in the war, “destroying Hamas” could only be accomplished by replacing its regime in Gaza with something new and durable. In October, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said this explicitly — that the war must end with the “creation of a new security regime in the Gaza Strip [and] the removal of Israel’s responsibility for day-to-day life in the Gaza Strip.”

Regime change is the only conceivable way Israel could deliver on its long-shot objective of destroying Hamas. Yet, shockingly, Israel has no clear plan for what comes next. Every source I spoke to with knowledge of Israeli planning confirmed this; so does a volume of publicly available reporting and some recent comments from Netanyahu spokesperson Avi Hyman.

“All discussions about the day after Hamas will be had the day after Hamas,” Hyman said during a press briefing.”

“In the long run, making Israel look like the depraved side serves two strategic goals for Hamas. First, it puts the Palestinian issue back at the top of the Arab and international political agenda. Second, it convinces Palestinians that Israel must be fought with arms — and that Hamas, rather than the more peace-oriented Fatah, should be leading their struggle. Polling data both in Palestine and elsewhere suggest that they have made inroads on both fronts since October 7.

By inflicting mass suffering on Palestinians without a long-term plan for addressing the political consequences of their misery, Israel is playing right into Hamas’s hands. The current Israeli approach is less likely to destroy the militant group than to strengthen it.”

https://www.vox.com/24055522/israel-hamas-gaza-war-strategy-netanyahu-strategy-morality

Pro-Palestinian Speech Is Still Free Speech

“One need not agree with those students’ slogans, their tactics, or their goals to recognize that provocative political speech is protected by the First Amendment. Republican political figures who have spent years railing against censorship and cancel culture would do well to remember that.”

https://reason.com/2024/01/11/pro-palestinian-speech-is-still-free-speech/

The Killing of 3 American Troops Was an Avoidable Tragedy

“U.S. Special Forces had first set up shop in al-Tanf during the war against the Islamic State. Their plan was to support the Revolutionary Commando Army, a friendly Syrian rebel group. That project failed embarrassingly. The Revolutionary Commando Army suffered a major defeat at the hands of the Islamic State in 2016, and one of its leaders ran off with American-made guns after he was accused of drug trafficking in 2020. Kurdish-led forces elsewhere in Syria became a much more reliable partner for the U.S. military.
Meanwhile, Russia—which is allied with the Iranian and Syrian governments—agreed to enforce a 55 kilometer “deconfliction zone” around al-Tanf. The zone also included Rukban, an unofficial refugee camp built by Syrians fleeing government persecution. (The Syrian government reportedly tortured two former Rukban residents to death in October 2022.) No country wanted to take responsibility for the camp, and it took almost a decade for the U.S. military to begin providing food aid to Rukban.

Washington, however, had a different purpose for al-Tanf in mind: countering Iran and its allies. The base’s location near the Iraqi-Syrian border made it valuable real estate, especially for anyone intent on breaking up the “land bridge” between Iranian allies. It also allowed the U.S. military and Israeli intelligence to listen in on Iranian communications, according to Al-Monitor, a Washington-based magazine focused on the Middle East. So the Americans stayed.

“Control of [al-Tanf] neutralized a key border crossing point on the road between Baghdad and Damascus, which forced Iran and others to cross from Iraq into Syria at a more distant border crossing to the north,” former Trump administration official John Bolton declared in his 2020 memoir, The Room Where It Happened. “Besides, why give away territory for nothing?”

More provocatively, Israeli forces began using al-Tanf’s airspace to bomb Iranian and pro-Iranian forces in Syria. (Since American aircraft often fly the same route, Syrian “air defenses can’t tell the difference until it’s too late,” a U.S. official told Al-Monitor.) The Israeli air campaign, known as “the war between the wars,” was designed to prevent Iran from moving weapons into the region in anticipation of a future war. Israel dropped more than 2,000 bombs on Syria in 2018, through “near-daily” air raids, with the direct involvement of U.S. leaders.

“The Israeli strike plans were submitted through the U.S. military chain and reviewed at CENTCOM [U.S. Central Command], usually days in advance of the strike; the strike plans outlined the purpose of the mission, the number of warplanes that would carry out the attack, and when it would occur,” wrote Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Gordon in his 2022 book, Degrade and Destroy: The Inside Story of the War Against the Islamic State. “They also spelled out the routes the Israeli planes would take and the coordinates of the target that would be struck. CENTCOM would examine the request, which would also be shared with the U.S. defense secretary, who would have the final say.”

It seemed like a win-win arrangement. Israel had a safe route for its bombing runs, and the United States could weaken a foreign rival without getting directly involved. But there was a problem: Iran was not stupid, and it could see that the American troops were facilitating the raids on its own troops. In retaliation for a series of Israeli attacks in October 2021, the Iranian military bombed al-Tanf the following month. No Americans were harmed at the time, but it was an ominous sign of the dangers involved.”

“Other officials and experts continued to worry that al-Tanf could become a liability. Former U.S. Air Force colonel Daniel L. Magruder Jr. called al-Tanf “strategic baggage” in an article published by the Brookings Institute a few weeks after Biden was elected. He recommended withdrawing U.S. forces in exchange for a deal to allow the refugee safe passage. The colonel warned that Russia and Iran had “acted provocatively” against al-Tanf in the past. “Would the U.S. be able to control escalation if an American were killed?” he wondered.

Three years later, Magruder’s question is sadly relevant. It remains to be seen how Biden will react to the killing of the three American troops, and whether that reaction deters further violence or escalates the situation even more. But Washington can’t say it wasn’t warned.”

https://reason.com/2024/01/29/the-killing-of-3-american-troops-was-an-avoidable-tragedy/