Birth Pangs of a New Middle East? American Delusions about Gaza as a Turkey Shoot…….

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This new Israeli war against the people of Gaza is reminiscent of an earlier Israeli war and of the delusions of the US political classes regarding its outcome.

In July 2006, two Israeli soldiers were captured near the Lebanese border. The Israeli military waged a fierce war on selective parts of Lebanon. It became a major incursion back into a land that the IDF had been forced by Hezbollah to leave six years earlier. The Litani River was crossed and parts of Beirut were bombed, including with Cluster Bombs. Many Arab regimes, from Egypt through to the Saudi princes, not-so-secretly supported the Israeli case against the Lebanese Arabs. Not only that, there have been indications that some Arab regimes shared intelligence with the Mossad and the Israeli military. In fact some Lebanese factions and militias of the pro-Saudi March 14 bloc also sided with the Israelis: public figures among them even gave some advice on how to defeat Hezbollah.

As the attack on Lebanon continued for days and weeks, there were calls for a ceasefire. George W Bush’s Secretary of State Condi Rice responded to those calls with her famous statement that the sounds of bombs and exploding Lebanese buildings were “the birth pangs of the new Middle East”. Rice did not want to “return Lebanon and Israel to the status quo ante“. Well, it did not: that war created what I called ‘a balance of terror’ with both Israel and Hezbollah militarily stronger. We all know what happened: that war was stopped, the IDF withdrew after another failed mission unaccomplished. Hezbollah became politically and militarily even stronger than before. Most Lebanese, if not all of them, looked on that war as their second victory over invading Israelis.

Now this new Gaza assault has similar roots, although it is questionable who was responsible for the three killings near Hebron, an area controlled by the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority. Otherwise it resembles the attack on Lebanon, but with its own set of goals. A similar attack on Lebanon nowadays would be prohibitively costly for the Israeli population centers and with doubtful military and political results, but apparently the assessment is that Gaza is “do-able” and at a much lower cost. Early reports of the casualty ratio seem to support this for now: too many Palestinian deaths and casualties and destroyed buildings but hardly any on the Israeli side. Regardless of some propaganda statements from Hamas and others.

So far it is shaping as what Americans would call “a turkey shoot”. There are again some reports that the Obama administration hesitates to push forcefully for a cease-fire before certain political and/or military goals are achieved. That can only be done with a ground invasion, a new quagmire. Even if the Al Sisi regime in Cairo and the Saudi princes cooperate more closely, and perhaps more openly, with the invaders of Gaza, the results would still be in doubt.


Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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