US and Israel: Folie à deux
Will this odd couple pull a geopolitical Thelma and Louise and launch a regional war in the Middle East? Or will fear of history's judgement pull American elites away from the brink?
Arrayed in a conceptual triad of global, regional and local levels of conflict, the confusing rush of events swirling around Israel’s war in Gaza fuse into a coherent narrative of defeat for the Jewish State. These three scales associate well with the military concepts of strategic, operational and tactical levels of conflict.
On the global scale, the conflict in Israel is just one of many key battlegrounds in the larger struggle for global supremacy pitting the Collective West against the revisionist BRICS. The unifying power of the BRICS has an immediate impact on the regional struggle within the Middle East as former enemies Iran and Saudi Arabia are now allies. With Sunnis and Shia no longer at war in the Middle East, there is no Muslim countervailing force to impede anti-Israeli actions by the Shia powers.
Meanwhile on the regional level, Israel must be wary of their northern border as Hezbollah itself conducts a low-intensity conventual war on that front. Yemen is successfully blockading Israel’s Red Sea port and Iraqi resistance groups are attacking Israel’s northern Port of Haifa.
On the tactical level, Israel is waging a conventional war against irregular Hamas forces. Israel has recently withdrawn five brigades due to heavy casualties from Hamas ambushes. At the same time global outrage surges as the heavy civilian death toll flickers across screens around the world. The only path to Israeli victory in Gaza is to rid this territory of its Palestinian population.
On all levels of conflict Israel is currently losing. One Hail Mary option, which is packed with danger and uncertainty, is to provoke a regional war in the hope of creating enough of a distraction in the ensuing chaos to allow Israel to eradicate Palestinians from Gaza, and perhaps even the West Bank. Will the US join Israel in a folie à deux —in a psychotic geopolitical dance which could end for them both like the Thelma and Louise movie? The horns of Israel’s dilemma is whether it loses slowly or suddenly—will it die soon or survive into the mid-term? As such there doesn’t seem to be much of a long-term solution to Israel’s problems.
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The big picture strategic level
The US has reigned as global hegemon for nearly 80 years. America is today in decline, being devoured by the very globalization machine it built and defends. The nation is being economically, militarily, culturally and spiritually hollowed out. Seizing the opportunity globalization has created, a group of revisionist nations, many united around the BRICS trading organization, is rising like a primal horde to slay their tyrannical American father. How much longer the US reigns is impossible to say. It could end next year, it may squeak by for another twenty—but collapse it will.
The US—Israel couple is strange indeed. Israel is dependent on US military power to mould the world into one where Israel can thrive. Why the US would pay the heavy price this entails is hard to say. One psychological explanation is that American elites suffer from a dysfunctional collective co-dependence towards Israel. This is evident in Nikki Haley’s revealing comment that, “it’s not that Israel needs America, America needs Israel.” This mirrors an enabling, high-achieving wife of a loser alcoholic, who believes she needs her drunk husband more than he needs her, and so keeps the whiskey cabinet full. It’s surreal to see the hyperpower America play the submissive partner to puny and ragged Israel. In a case of mind over matter, while Israel is dependent on America’s material and military power—Israel extracts what it wills through psychological domination of US elites. This is why America chooses to spend increasing amounts of scarce international political capital to enable Israel’s failing war in Gaza. But there are early signs of rebellion in the US. Will a self-preservation instinct in America pull back in time to avoid flying over that geopolitical cliff side-by-side with Israel?
Israel understands that America is in decline and one day soon the Jewish State will be deprived of their power-daddy and have to deal with China as the new global boss. Does Israel try to conserve US power to delay this handover for as long as possible? Or does Israel try to throw the declining—but still potent—American war machine against its numerous enemies in the Middle East?
As 2024 dawns, a global-level geopolitical catastrophe is occurring for Israel. Both Saudi Arabia and Iran are now members of the rising global BRICS trading organization. This means the era of Sunni-Shiite division is over. Their future is increasingly bright as the oil-rich and technologically savvy Iran will only grow as a regional power while locked in to its global partnership with China, Russia, India and other BRICS nations. With a BRICS-led peace on its Sunni front, Iran is free to engage in low-intensity conflict with Israel via its proxies. The recent terrorist attack in Tehran which killed over two hundred civilians was no doubt perpetrated by Israeli proxy groups, reminding the Mullahs that two can play that game.
Iran’s military industrial complex is producing low-cost but highly effective drones and missiles. Their Shahed 136 has proven so successful in Ukraine that Russia has now opened a domestic production line. Iran continues to enrich uranium but actually crossing the line to becoming a nuclear power would create tension with Saudi Arabia. It’s plausible to infer an agreement between China, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia either limiting Iran’s nuclear program or providing Saudi Arabia with an equivalent nuclear arsenal to balance whatever Iran develops. Moreover, with Iran embedded into the BRICS, they will become more geopolitically conservative. However, the real threat from Iran comes from their many proxy organizations. Iran does not have complete control over Hezbollah, the Houthis, and the Iraqi Resistance Forces in Iraq, but they do have much influence. At this point Iran is not looking for a regional war in the Middle East but will certainly attempt to fly just under that threshold in assisting their proxies to resist and attrite Israeli power.
Another global aspect to the war in Gaza is the West’s glaring lack of air defense missiles. With Israel as the golden child, Ukraine is suddenly the black sheep and is quickly running out of any means of defending itself against massive Russian missile attacks. There are unconfirmed reports that a warehouse full of air defense missiles was destroyed in the recent Russian attack along with key air defense personnel. Israel’s Iron Dome system is being attrited by Hamas and Hezbollah aerial attacks. US Naval forces in the Red Sea have been restrained in their use of air defense missiles against Houthi attacks on Israeli-bound shipping.
Regional, mid-term perspectives
Given how badly Israel’s war is progressing, American leaders are openly contemplating intervening and possibly launching a regional war in the Middle East.
Biden administration officials are drawing up plans for the U.S. to respond to what they’re increasingly concerned could expand from a war in Gaza to a wider, protracted regional conflict.
Four officials familiar with the matter, including a senior administration official, described internal conversations about scenarios that could potentially draw the U.S. into another Middle East war. All were granted anonymity to speak about sensitive, ongoing national security discussions.
This may be a bluff, after all the short-term economic consequences for the West would be disastrous if the war were to cause oil to skyrocket to $200 a barrel. Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia would in this case be ecstatic and in a show of BRICS solidarity, they may keep China supplied at regular prices. Israel may also be threatening, behind the scenes, to go nuclear if the US refuses to step in. All this is speculation but there is no denying the current regional situation for Israel looks bleak.
On the northern front, up until the end of 2023, Israel and Hezbollah were engaged in a low-intensity tit-for-tat conventional war along Israel’s Galilee border. Hezbollah launched a rough average of seven attacks a day, inflicting a fair number of casualties on the IDF. Israel in turn launched low-energy, token attacks on southern Lebanon, creating a stream of Hezbollah martyrs. There seemed to be unwritten rules of engagement that each side is followed.
But following the Israeli drone attack on Hamas headquarters in Beruit, in recent days the rhythm and intensity of attacks has increased. The Hamas leader killed was Sheikh Saleh Al-Arouri, a member of the political branch of Hamas and not the military wing. The difference is similar to those of Irish nationalists, Sinn Fein is political while the IRA is the military faction. On January 6th, Hezbollah escalated by damaging a key Israeli radar complex at the Meron air surveillance base in northern Israel. This infrastructure is vital to Israeli intelligence gathering and air defense operations. In a response that seems to confirm the radar system’s destruction, Israel deployed the SkyDew observation balloon, an older technology that is easier for Hezbollah to interdict.
Hezbollah doesn’t seem to want a wider war with Israel. It’s happy with the current situation, and is sticking to a gentle escalation ladder. The danger for Hezbollah is that as Israel is pulling out of Gaza, they will redirect their forces northward. In other words instead of a two front war, Hezbollah’s hesitancy to go on an initial attack after October 7th may allow Israel to deal with its adversaries one at a time. On the other hand there are signs of diplomatic efforts to quell a regional war. Israel is short on air defense missiles and in case of a high-intensity war with Hezbollah, Tel Aviv would be hammered. Of course this disaster may give Israel the political cover to expel all Palestinians from the Gaza Strip.
In Iraq and Syria, local resistance forces, no doubt backed by Iran, have launched numerous drone and missile attacks against US bases. The Iraqi government has began the procedure to evict the US from Iraq, which will mean US troops illegally occupying Syrian territory will also be forced to leave, since the only supply lines for them come from Iraq. On Thursday, January 4th, in response to attacks against US bases, an American drone killed a mid-level operative.
After Hezbollah cleared the way by disabling the Israeli radar complex in Meron, on Sunday, January 7th, the Iraqi Resistance Forces launched a long-range cruise missile from Iraq which struck the Israeli Port of Haifa. There was no apparent air defense response and no air raid alarms were sounded. This attack could lead to shipping companies avoiding this port, which will further strangle Israel’s struggling economy. There are large ammonia tanks located in this port whose explosion of poisonous gas would resemble a small nuclear bomb and trigger Israeli memories of the Holocaust. A nuclear response by Israel on Iraq would be complicated by the presence of US troops and so Iraq may want to drag their feet a bit on kicking out those American soldiers.
One reason for 2003’s Operation Iraqi Freedom was to punish Saddam Hussein for launching Scud missiles at Israel during the First Gulf War in 1991. In what may go down as the stupidest invasion in the history of mankind, the US handed Iraq over to Iran. Now there exists a dangerous Shiite crescent threatening Israel. Together, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Hezbollah in Lebanon make a land bridge that threatens Israel. As the map below shows, Yemen anchors the crescent in the south.
The Houthis in Yemen have so far scored a stunning naval victory, enforcing a blockade of Western (technically Israeli-related) shipping while allowing vessels associated with the BRICS nations to pass through unmolested. This success has come at a very small price. A US-led maritime coalition is threatening airstrikes on the Houthi controlled areas of Yemen but so far has displayed nothing but impotence. The great danger for the West is this blockade triggering an increase in inflation driven by rising shipping costs. Commentators are already complaining that if US naval forces are this helpless in the Red Sea against a rag tag militia group, how will they ever challenge China in the Taiwan straits?
Israel and the US have responded to the Shiite Crescent menace with US troops stationed legally in Iraq, who are able to supply US troops stationed illegally in Syria. Israel has been conducting regular missile strikes on Syria, targeting Iranian logistics. Russia is the great protector of the al-Assad regime in Syria and until recently turned a blind eye towards these Israeli attacks—but not anymore. There are rumours that Israel provided Ukraine with radar units from its Iron Dome air defense system. In response, Russia has not only utterly destroyed Ukrainian air defenses, but has also started to shoot down Israeli missiles as they head towards Syria, something previously the Russians had refused to do. A final irony is that Israel itself has a severe shortage of air defense. Hezbollah barrages now regularly find their targets. Mirroring the Western air defense deficiencies in Ukraine, Israel’s much-vaunted Iron Dome system has deteriorated into a frayed Lace Canopy.
If Russia continues to protect Syrian airspace, and if US boots are eventually booted out of Iraq and Syria, Israel will be even more vulnerable to an increasingly potent Shiite Crescent. This formation owes it existence to the brilliant George W. Bush and the war his neoconservative advisors launched in 2003. Today, the goal of any regional war launched by the US and Israel would be to break this land bridge the Shia’s now own, but it is not clear how this could possibly be achieved. Perhaps a new Saddam Hussein could be installed in Iraq? The best a regional war could do for Israel is create a distraction during which they evict Palestinians en masse from the occupied territories.
Into thin air: Israel chases the spectre of Hamas in Gaza
Israel is on a trajectory of defeat in Gaza. Israel’s grandiose war aims were to eradicate Hamas from the Gaza Strip. A surprisingly assertive US is already shaping a much different endgame scenario that includes Hamas—now admitting what anyone familiar with irregular / insurgency warfare already knew back in October:
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that the Biden administration has estimates for the number of Hamas fighters that remain on the battlefield, but said he is "loathe" to release them.
"Hamas still has a significant force posture inside Gaza," he said.
When asked about Israel's stated aim of eradicating Hamas in Gaza, Kirby deflected, saying "We don't believe that military attacks alone are gonna eradicate an ideology. And it's not likely that you're going to get rid of every single Hamas fighter."
"So in that sense you still have to reconcile yourself with the fact that there may still be some Hamas around even when your military operation is over. That said, what they absolutely can do is eradicate the threat that Hamas poses to the Israeli people. And you can do that by going after leadership. You can do that by going after their infrastructure. You can do that by going after their resources," he said.
Surviving the Israeli onslaught has only increased Hamas’ esteem in the Middle East and with the Global South. In reality, Israel’s stated war aim of “eliminating” Hamas is only possible by completely emptying the Gaza Strip of Palestinians. But creating a blank slate in Gaza by ethnically cleansing it of its indigenous people has been blocked by a defiant United States as well as neighbouring nations such as Egypt. The only other option is defeat. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant bluntly states:
We must emerge victorious for two reasons — first in order to exact a price, and to ensure that anyone living near the Gaza strip may do so safely. In addition – a scenario in which 1,500 people are killed or taken hostage, must end with clear-cut deterrence and victory, otherwise we cannot live in the Middle East.
Politicians friendly to Israel, such as the Green Party in Germany and Nikki Haley in the US, alluded to the possibility that the US and Europe could import refugees from the Gaza Strip. But these trial balloons were shot down and now Israel is negotiating with African nations on accepting “humanitarian emigration:”
The Times of Israel’s Hebrew sister-site Zman Yisrael reports that Israeli officials have held clandestine talks with the African nation of Congo and several others for the potential acceptance of Gaza emigrants.
“Congo will be willing to take in migrants, and we’re in talks with others,” a senior source in the security cabinet tells Shalom Yerushalmi.
Much as a childhood victim of sexual assault can turn into a paedophile rapist as an adult, Israeli cabinet members seem to think suffering the Holocaust in the past, gives them today carte blanche to openly discuss genociding the Palestinians out of Gaza:
One of the senior figures in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition called for Palestinian residents of Gaza to leave the besieged enclave, making way for Israelis who could “make the desert bloom”.
The comments by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who has been excluded from the war cabinet and discussions of day-after arrangements in Gaza, appear to underscore fears in much of the Arab world that Israel wants to drive Palestinians out of land where they want to build a future state, repeating the mass dispossession of Palestinians when Israel was created in 1948.
“What needs to be done in the Gaza Strip is to encourage emigration,” Smotrich told Army Radio on Sunday. “If there are 100,000 or 200,000 Arabs in Gaza and not 2 million Arabs, the entire discussion on the day after will be totally different.”
Future history books written under a BRICS global regime a generation from now may not be kind. In response the US diplomatic corps reacted with refreshing bluntness in slapping down the Israeli public comments:
The United States rejects recent statements from Israeli Ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir advocating for the resettlement of Palestinians outside of Gaza. This rhetoric is inflammatory and irresponsible. We have been told repeatedly and consistently by the Government of Israel, including by the Prime Minister, that such statements do not reflect the policy of the Israeli government. They should stop immediately.
We have been clear, consistent, and unequivocal that Gaza is Palestinian land and will remain Palestinian land, with Hamas no longer in control of its future and with no terror groups able to threaten Israel. That is the future we seek, in the interests of Israelis and Palestinians, the surrounding region, and the world.
In a symbolic move, the US withdrew its aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, which had been rushed to the Eastern Mediterranean in response to Hamas’s October 7th attack. At the same time, Israel withdrew five brigades from Gaza:
Hagari said the military would be carrying out “smart” management of the forces in Gaza, allowing reservists to return home to help bounce back the economy, and for standing army troops to train to become commanders.
The 460th Armored Brigade, responsible for the Armored Corps training base; the 261st Brigade, the Bahad 1 officers’ school in wartime; the 828th Brigade, the School for Infantry Corps Professions and Squad Commanders; the 14th Reserve Armored Brigade; and 551st Reserve Paratroopers Brigade, are all being released.
The five brigades are made up of thousands of soldiers.
The brigades tasked with training soldiers will return to carrying out their usual activity, while the reservists are being released to help bounce back Israel’s economy.
Israel has a fragile economy. Such a small state having a large proportion of their workforce getting ambushed in Gaza instead of creating wealth in their cubicles is not sustainable. Israel is dependent on Palestinian labour to fill working class jobs. Given the state of war, access to Israel is blocked, and so construction sites sit silently as Israel itself is not flush with a domestic working class. With Israel’s Red Sea Port of Eilat blocked, and now their Mediterranean Port of Haifa under attack, the Israeli economy is on the brink.
Israel is losing in Gaza because they are unable to defeat Hamas’ irregular style of warfare. TE Lawrence (of Arabia) in his book Seven Pillars of Wisdom gives a poetic description of the type of irregular warfare Arabs allied with Britain used to defeat their Turkish occupiers in World War 1, during the dying days of the Ottoman Empire. After describing the great Arab landmass occupied by the Turks, Lawrence describes the irregular Arab approach to taking it back:
How would the Turks defend all that—no doubt by a trench line across the bottom, if the Arabs were an army attacking with banners displayed…but suppose they were an influence, a thing invulnerable, intangible, without front or back, drifting about like a gas? Armies were like plants, immobile as a whole, firm-rooted, nourished through long stems to the head. The Arabs might be a vapour, blowing where they listed. It seemed that a regular soldier might be helpless without a target. He would own the ground he sat on, and what he could poke his rifle at.
Those familiar with the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, can see he owes a debt to Lawrence here for his molar / molecular and trhyzomatic / arboresque conceptual dyads. Lawrence perfectly captures the quandary in which Israeli soldiers occupying Gaza find themselves today. They and their tanks certainly own the ground they stand upon but drifting underground like a gas (or in Deleuzian terms, a rhizomatic system of tunnels) the molecular Hamas fighters, free of fighting over any frontline, are ready to pop out of a tunnel and ambush Israeli soldiers at any moment.
The arc of history is bending towards an Israeli defeat
In the north, Israel has evacuated settlements which fall within range of Hezbollah rockets. If the war escalates, it is not out of the question for Hezbollah to launch a ground invasion of northern Israel and turn the Galilee into a Levant Donbass. Israel’s air defense system seems at least temporarily to be depleted. On the international scene, Israel has never been more isolated. Hamas has successfully catapulted the long-dormant Palestinian self-determination issue to the top of the global agenda.
The BRICS position on the Palestinian question is a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. In this scenario, where Palestine becomes a sovereign state, Russia, China or even Iran could in theory have naval bases on the Gaza coast. South Africa is playing the role of a moral superpower by suing Israel for genocide at the UN’s International Court of Justice.
Israel’s one steadfast ally is the United States, but here a deep generational rift is opening. While elderly boomers remain ardent Zionists, younger adults tend to be strongly pro-Palestinian. The divide is racial as well. Even within the white community, badwhites for some inexplicable reason remain pro-Israel, while bourgeois goodwhites are increasingly embracing the Palestinian cause. Non-whites in the US strongly support the Palestinians, seeing Israel as so many pale, apartheid-imposing colonizers. The vast amount of non-white immigration over the past decades foretells an anti-Zionist American future as the “browning” of America accelerates and casts a shadow over Israel’s future.
The Democratic "high-low" coalition of wealthy urban donors sheep herding poor urban blacks to the ballot box is crumbling due to the war on Gaza. The recent firing of Harvard President Claudine Gay will only exasperate tensions as some of the blame for her dismissal will be aimed at Jewish oligarchs such as US hedge fund manager Bill Ackman. The black bourgeoisie may try to pull black proles away from exuberantly Zionist Democrats such as President Biden and urge them to vote for the progressive and anti-Zionist Cornell West.
Will the fear of losing the black vote help the Biden Administration steer away from the edge of a regional war cliff in the Middle East? Or will it be fear of the future history books assigning them responsibility for the massive civilian deaths in Gaza? Do current elites want to be thrown into the same basket of historical evildoers as those who supported the Confederacy or Apartheid in South Africa? Weakened US is already in the process of abandoning Ukraine, will it take a new generation of American elites, free from co-dependency, to throw Israel under the bus? Or will necessity force the current elites to stop waltzing with genocide and assert their own American interests? We do see some signs of this now occurring.
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