Israeli Agression Intensifies
Ground War Cannot Solve Problems
As the Israeli aggression intensifies, Israel has ordered up more reservists, warned Gaza residents to evacuate, and made moves to send Israeli troops into Gaza as an occupation force.
Is there any way to avoid this? And, if that happens, will Israel find itself bogged down again as it has in the past when it has tried to invade urban areas? How will the problems caused by an occupation of Gaza impact Israel’s willingness to negotiate?
Currently, there are several attempts being made in the region to craft a truce, the most notable was the truce proposal made by Egypt. However, although a divided Israeli cabinet accepted the terms of the truce, it was rejected by Palestinian resistance forces. Hamas said from the outset it would refuse: “quiet for quiet,” i.e. merely stopping hostilities on both sides. Nor, did it include a clause that Hamas considers essential – international guarantees that Israel will meet its obligations. In addition, Hamas found out about it from the media, and viewed it as an attempt to humiliate the organization, and to undercut its political power.
Besides the mutual cessation of fire, the proposal called for the opening of border crossings to people and goods, but at some undefined time “when the situation on the ground stabilizes.”
Hamas also sees the Egyptian truce as an attempt by the Palestinian Authority to regain political power in Gaza. PA President Abbas had approved the truce. And, after Hamas refused the truce agreement, the Palestinian Authority was reported to propose to Egypt that it open the Rafah border crossing under the supervision of PA security forces, and deploy PA forces along the Philadelphi Corridor between Gaza and Egypt.
Turkey has also tried to step in as it has traditionally had relations with Israel. Turkey has been attempting to mediate a cease-fire between Palestinian groups and Israel, with Foreign Minister Davutoğlu holding talks with his U.S. and Qatari counterparts, along with Hamas leader Mashaal and PA President Abbas. They also warned Israel that relations between the two countries couldn’t be improved if the current hostilities continue.
Turkey is seeking a greater involvement by the international community and has criticized the UN for its inaction. “The United Nations is the number one responsible on this matter. I always ask the U.N: What do you serve for? Why was this U.N. founded? To provide the world peace? If the U.N. can’t fulfill its job, then it should check itself. You look at the U.N. Security Council, everything is between the lips of five countries,” Erdoğan said.
Although there is a strong possibility that Israel and Palestinian resistant can agree to a truce in the next few days, there remains the strong possibility that Israel may invade Gaza. And, for Israeli leaders, the cost of such an invasion is one that must be considered before launching such an attack. Gaza his heavily urbanized and history shows that committed defenders can hold out against offensive forces several times larger. One only has to look at the Battle of Stalingrad in WW II, which broke the back of the German Army to see the results of an offensive war in an urban setting.
Despite the lessons of history, the Israeli cabinet called up an additional 8,000 reservists for a total 56,000 – a major expense and a drag on the Israeli economy. And, Israel’s Foreign Minister Lieberman promised at a press conference this that Israel, “will go all the way,” a plain threat to invade. Other Israeli cabinet ministers favor invasion, including Deputy Defense Minister Danon, who was fired on Tuesday after criticizing Netanyahu.
Looking at an Israeli Invasion
Invading Gaza will be a daunting task. Not only is it costly urban warfare, the Israeli Army has usually focused on highly mechanized forces that exploit technology. House to house warfare doesn’t allow the exploitation of technology as much. In addition, the cost of urban warfare is higher causalities and slow progress, both of which make it harder to keep reservists on active duty and away from their jobs in the economy.
Consequently, any such attack will have limited objectives rather than the total occupation of Gaza.
The first objective is to neutralize the rocket launching sites, especially those that threaten Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and other heavily populated areas to the north of Gaza. Since the Palestinian resistance rockets are not accurate, they pose less of a risk to less populated areas and are subjected to the degree of effectiveness of the infamous Israeli Iron Dome missile system.
According to military analysts, this can best be accomplished by invading the northern part of Gaza (specifically Bet Lathia), which has been the major launching area for the rockets. The calculation is that the further away the rockets are from their targets,, the more inaccurate they will be. Consequently they assert that, even if the resistance does manage to continue to launch rockets from unoccupied Gaza, they will be less effective. As a result, Southern Gaza will be generally ignored in a land invasion.
The second objective is to destroy as much of the rocket inventory and rocket manufacturing capability as possible. According to the IDF, Israel has already destroyed about one third of the resistance rocket inventory of 9,000 rockets. In addition, many of the long and medium range rockets have already been fired at Israel. This leaves the destruction of rocket factories as a critical goal of any invasion.
However, unlike rocket launch sites, manufacturing sites can be anywhere in Gaza, which leaves Israel with a corundum: do they risk more by actually launching a larger invasion in order to destroy resistance’ rocket manufacturing capability totally, or do they leave that responsibility to the Israeli Air Force and hope that air attacks will sufficiently neutralize the resistance’ ability to rebuild their inventory?
Israeli security sources have stated that they have destroyed 60% of the resistance rocket manufacturing ability with air attacks. The source also said that Palestinian rocket production was only 30 rockets a month, which means that without the ability to smuggle any completed rockets into Gaza, the resistance can only produce about 10 rockets a month – a small number to merit a major invasion of southern Gaza. Any other rocket production facilities in southern Gaza will probably be left to the IAF.
The reason for a probably limited excursion into Gaza by the IDF is the expected high intensity of combat that Israeli commanders will face.
Cities are notorious defensive positions. Building-to-building combat has historically been slow and costly and attacking Gaza would be no different for the IDF.
One problem is that as the fighting gets hotter and the buildings collapse, they make even better positions for the defenders. An excellent example can be ascertained from previous Israeli aggressions in Lebanon and Palestine and going back to WW II from the Battle for Monte Casino. The Italian monastery, overlooking the road to Rome, was bombed by the Allies, which provided excellent defensive positions for the Germans, who were then able to hold off the Allied attacks for several months.
Similar destruction by the IDF in Gaza would give Palestinian resistance the same advantages.
The resistance forces have also had the time to build a complex structure of bunkers and tunnels in the region that will show the IDF and be costly in causalities. Like the tunnels the Viet Cong used against the Americans in the Vietnam War, these tunnels can be used to hide soldiers, gather intelligence on IDF units, carry out surprise attacks from behind Israeli front lines, and plant explosives. And, as the Americans learned in Vietnam, clearing out tunnels is slow and costly in lives.
Finally, a land invasion of Gaza forces Israel to fight more on resistance’ terms. Such an attack can’t rely on the air superiority of the IAF or the famous technological advantages of Iron Dome. Nor will the overwhelming advantage of Israeli armor be helpful because tanks and armored vehicles are very vulnerable to anti-tank rockets in close house to house combat. The combat will depend more on small arms, anti-tank rockets and light artillery like mortars, all things that resistance has in quantity. The close in combat will also deny the IAF the ability to strike the front lines as much.
This leaves the Israeli cabinet with a difficult decision – more war or a truce. Although the current IDF actions have hurt the Palestinians, Israeli commanders know that launching a ground attack in a highly urbanized area like Gaza poses problems – problems that have a high price that Israel’s political leadership many not want to pay. That’s one reason why they readily accepted the Egyptian offer.
Israel’s call up of reserves is not a total bluff. Israel has shown in the past that they have the will to invade Gaza. However, they know full well that the cost in lives, defense spending, and the economy are high prices. Israel may make belligerent noises and even carry out limited Special Forces attacks into Gaza, but are leery of committing themselves to a costly major invasion.
Although events are moving quickly – faster than it often takes to write an analysis, the cost of a ground war makes Israel eager to seek a truce that stops the war. But, since they have the edge in the air and are able to intercept some threatening incoming rockets, they are willing to continue the current state of war for additional but limited time.
Gaza Crisis Illuminates a Grave New World
By James Phillips
July 17, 2014
The eruption of the third Gaza war since 2008 is yet another manifestation of the growing threat posed by Islamist militants within an increasingly unstable Middle East. In recent years, Al-Qaeda and other Islamist revolutionary groups have made major gains in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia, Bahrain and Yemen. They have exploited the chaos of the “Arab Spring” uprisings, which have undermined many authoritarian regimes and created ungoverned territories that they seek to dominate. Nature may abhor vacuums, but Islamist militants love them.
Why the Rand Paul-Rick Perry Feud over Iraq Is Good for U.S. Policy
By Gene Healy
July 14, 2014
Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican”—that’s the “11th Commandment” coined by California’s GOP chairman in 1965 and popularized by President Ronald Reagan. It’s been suspended for the duration, judging by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s ongoing dust-up over the future of the GOP’s foreign policy—even while the two combined for an impressive 19 invocations of Saint Ronnie in three dueling op-eds. In a recent Wall Street Journal oped Paul argued that “America Shouldn’t Choose Sides in Iraq’s Civil War.” On Saturday, Perry entered the lists with a Washington Post piece titled “Why Rand Paul Is Wrong on Iraq” (print edition). In his Politico surrebuttal yesterday, Paul took a swipe at Perry’s trendy new glasses, which apparently “haven’t … allowed him to see [the world] any more clearly.” Zing!
Hamas and the New Round of Fighting in Gaza: Both Sides are Escalating to Nowhere
By Anthony H. Cordesman
Center for Strategic and International Studies
July 17, 2014
The key question in any war – in starting it and throughout the conflict – is how will this war end? Ever since 1967, the answer in the case of Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been by pausing and then resuming in a different form with the same result. In the case of the fighting in Gaza, changes in tactics and technology have simply escalated to nowhere. The best outcome has been an unstable ceasefire. The worst has been violence too low in intensity to be labeled another round of conflict. The initial cause in 2006, 2012, and now in 2014, has been a new attempt by Hamas to change the strategic facts on the ground – increasingly relying on rockets and missiles rather than irregular warfare in the form of ground or naval attacks on Israel. In each case, Israel’s decisive military edge has left Hamas (and the more extreme Palestinian Islamic Jihad) weaker than before, killed and wounded far more Palestinians than Israelis, prolonged the economic isolation that has crippled Gaza and reduced living standards and social mobility, and failed to have any meaningful political impact that benefited Hamas in making even limited strategic gains.
Iraq: The Enemy of My Enemy is Not My Friend
By Anthony H. Cordesman
Center for Strategic and International Studies
July 16, 2014
The proverb that the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” is not an Arab proverb, it is a Sanskrit proverb that predates the Prophet Muhammad by roughly 1,000 years. It is also a proverb with a dismal history in practice. In case after case, the “enemy of my enemy” has actually proven to have been an enemy at the time or turned into one in the future. The Mongols did not save Europe from the Turks, and the Soviet Union was scarcely an ally after the end of World War II. ISIS/ISIL and the “Islamic State” are Vital Threats to Our National Security, But, the United States needs to remember this as it considers military action in Iraq and reshaping its military role in Syria. It needs to remember this as it reshapes its security partnerships with proven friends like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. There is no question that the rise of ISIS/ISIL and the creation of an “Islamic State” that overlaps Eastern Syria and much of Western Iraq poses a major security threat in the Middle East.
Hamas vs Israel: Truce? No truce. Here’s why
By Danielle Pletka
American Enterprise Institute
July 16, 2014
The press is reporting that Israel accepted the terms of an Egyptian offered ceasefire on Tuesday morning, and that Hamas rejected it. The terms of the truce required rocket fire to cease at 9 am Israeli time; Hamas launched several dozen rockets over the course of the morning, though fewer than in recent days. Israel did not retaliate for much of the day, clearly in the hope that Hamas would come to its senses and recognize that its actions were doing more to harm the Palestinian people than Israel. The truce terms were just that — truce — with no concessions by either side, though it required border crossing openings into Egypt and other humanitarian gestures. (Note, the borders have only been closed to human traffic and general trade; food and other necessities have continued to flow into Gaza from Israel.) It also contemplated both sides meeting to hammer out an agreement within short order.
By Jessica Tuchman Mathews
July 10, 2014
The story most media accounts tell of the recent burst of violence in Iraq seems clear-cut and straightforward. In reality, what is happening is anything but. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), so the narrative goes, a barbaric, jihadi militia, honed in combat in Syria, has swept aside vastly larger but feckless Iraqi army forces in a seemingly unstoppable tide of conquest across northern and western Iraq, almost to the outskirts of Baghdad. The country, riven by ineluctable sectarian conflict, stands on the brink of civil war. The United States, which left Iraq too soon, now has to act fast, choosing among an array of ugly options, among them renewed military involvement and making common cause with Iran. Alternatives include watching Iraq splinter and the creation of an Islamist caliphate spanning eastern Syria and western Iraq.
A Stalled War On Terror Finance
By Avi Jorisch
American Foreign Policy Council
July 15, 2014
The Journal of International Security Affairs
Only two weeks after the attacks of September 11th, President George W. Bush addressed the media in the White House Rose Garden and declared “war” on terrorism financing. “Money is the lifeblood of terrorist operations,” he told reporters. “Today, we are asking the world to stop payment.” A few weeks later, the Treasury Department—the agency that would become the weapon of choice of the White House in this new economic conflict—boasted in a press release, “The same talent pool and expertise that brought down Al Capone will now be dedicated to investigating Usama bin Laden and his terrorist network.” Unfortunately, more than a decade after these pronouncements, it is obvious that the war on terror financing and money laundering has stalled. This is clear even through the lens of the government’s own bottom-line metrics: assets seized and forfeited, successful investigations and prosecutions, and effective sanctions. In fact, the situation has gotten considerably worse of late, as political considerations have progressively displaced or rolled back serious work that has been done to date on draining the financial “swamp” in which terrorists and terror-supporting regimes operate.
An Islamic Awakening?
By Hillel Fradkin and Lewis Libby
July 10, 2014
More than three years ago, revolts broke out in several Arab countries against their authoritarian regimes. The revolts were often dubbed variously as either the “Arab Spring” or the “Arab Awakening.” Both phrases anticipated the establishment of democratic regimes in those countries. But almost immediately the leaders of the radical Shiite regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran rejected this terminology. It was to be sure an awakening but an “Islamic Awakening.” It was an awakening that represented the triumphant culmination of the 20th-century movement known as Islamism, often known as political Islam for its ambition to bring religion into a leading political role in the Muslim world and thereby revive Muslim political fortunes.
What it will take to stop the Gaza carnage
By Aaron David Miller and Josh Nason
July 15, 2014
Want to try for a cease-fire to end the burgeoning conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza? Mix a cocktail of three ingredients: urgency, the desire of both sides to climb down; an agreement that allows them to do so; and a mediator to bring it all together. Egypt’s latest cease-fire proposal, clearly coordinated with (and accepted by Israel), can’t get us there — at least not yet. Hamas, weak and desperate for a victory, isn’t ready to stand down.
Assessing the Three Scenarios for the Iran Nuclear Negotiations
By Michael Singh and Robert Satloff
July 16, 2014
With less than a week remaining until expiration of the six-month negotiating period that began with the signing of the “Joint Plan of Action” (JPOA) in January, significant gaps reportedly remain between Iran and the P5+1 (Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States, and Germany). Foremost among these is the uranium enrichment capacity Iran would be permitted to retain under a deal. Yet gaps also reportedly persist on matters such as inspector access to military sites (as opposed to declared, ostensibly civilian nuclear facilities) and the duration of any constraints to which Tehran is subject. As a result, an agreement by the July 20 deadline appears unlikely. Yet it is one of the three possible scenarios that could unfold in the coming days — in order of likelihood, these include an extension of the talks, collapse of the talks, and a last-minute deal.
Mounzer A. Sleiman Ph.D.
Center for American and Arab Studies
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