Internationally, the focus of the Washington think community has been on the Ukraine and Gaza.
This week’s Monitor Analysis looks at the continued fighting in Gaza. We look at Washington’s weak response and some of the reasons behind it. We also look at the difficulty Israel has had in the recent conflict and exposed weaknesses, including the use of obsolete, vulnerable M-113 Armored Personal Carriers that were built about half a century ago.
Think Tanks Activity Summary
The CSIS sees the futility of the fighting in Gaza. They note, “Israel, however, will not have won except at the tactical level. It will still have to tailor a major part of its security effort to deal with whatever threat emerges after this round of fighting, deal with the challenge of containing more than 1.8 million people, and deal with the risk that it will face much broader hostility from the Palestinians, and the present moderate Palestinian Authority will collapse. It will still have to go on dealing with the broad hostility of the Arab world and Iran, and deal with the fact many countries see its use of force as excessive and Israel as guilty of human rights abuses and blocking the peace process. The end result is that the war will not end in any real sense. The outcome of this round of round of fighting war will leave the strategic realities on the ground more or less where they began, having been seen as necessary by both sides, but having escalated to nowhere. The resulting pause will be a prelude to yet another round of fighting, and more human costs on both sides.”
The Washington Institute looks at how Hamas has improved its asymmetrical warfare capability. They conclude, “To prepare for future asymmetric conflicts, Israel and other countries will need to examine Hamas’s adaptation to Israel’s fighting doctrine. The necessity of such study extends well beyond Hamas. Indeed, other terror organizations across continents — from Hezbollah in Lebanon to Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria to ISIS in Iraq to Boko Haram in Nigeria — all learn quickly, absorbing successful strategies through loose operational networks. They will be eager to draw lessons from Hamas’s experience.”
The Wilson Center also looks at the fighting in Gaza. In terms of what Israel wants, they note, “Let’s be clear: “Demilitarization,” as Netanyahu means it, is on the far end of the outcome spectrum. This would mean a cessation of hostilities far different than in previous rounds of fighting. It would require a fundamental change in Gaza’s political situation brought about either by military or diplomatic means. Given the loss of 13 Israeli soldiers on Sunday, July 20, in a single incident, it’s hard to imagine that Netanyahu is prepared to do this through force of arms — an undertaking that would require the reoccupation of the Gaza Strip for a prolonged period and the extirpation of Hamas’s military and political wings. Indeed, the number of casualties on the Israeli and Palestinian sides would likely make the costs unacceptable.”
The American Enterprise Institute looks at the Shiites in the Middle East and reminds readers that they aren’t necessarily enemies of the US, and can be important allies. They note, “Demonizing Shi’ites as Iranian puppets is not only inaccurate but also counterproductive because it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy by which some Shi’ites—especially those who feel themselves under siege by Sunni sectarian forces—feel they have no other choice but to accept Iranian protection even though they resent the price Iran seeks to extract in exchange… Rather than concede and condemn Shi’ites to Iranian influence or bless injustices they may face at the hands of sectarian governments, it is essential that the United States court and coopt each community to not only ensure religious freedom and liberty but also check Iranian influence, which fundamentally undercuts such values. Here, it is important that the United States recognize the diversity of various Shi’ite communities and calibrate policies geared to the unique features of each one.”
The Carnegie Endowment looks at misconceptions about Hamas. They note, “What concerns Hamas’s leaders is their relevance, their ability to articulate the deep senses of frustration and injustice that most Palestinians feel — and whether their rhetoric will resonate with the public. The current path of the conflict, and its fiery rhetoric, offer Hamas opportunities to present itself as more in line with the times. Yes, Hamas surrendered its cabinet positions to people appointed by Abbas. And yes, Hamas is taking a beating and its activists are being driven underground. But its credentials as the movement that does not bend and dares to take on Israel are being burnished among much of the audience it cares about.
The American Foreign Policy Council looks at the warming relations between Iran and Turkey. Noting that this new relationship has many advantages, the report says, “The newfound political warmth may also indicate a larger reorientation taking place in Turkish policy. In the years since the start of the Syrian civil war, the Turkish government’s support for various opposition forces operating on the Syrian battlefield has come at an increasingly high political and economic cost, as Mr. Erdogan’s government has come under intense criticism both at home and abroad for its purported role as a de facto financier of terrorism. A mending of fences with Syria’s most important strategic partner may, therefore, serve as a signal that the Turkish government is beginning to question the benefits of its Syria policy — and starting to slowly amend it. Since then, other opportunities for synergy have arisen. The current turmoil in Iraq provides another potential point of convergence, given that both countries have a vested interest in defanging the radical Islamic State before it becomes a truly regional threat. At the same time, the two are also grappling with similar policy conundrums stemming from the growing assertiveness of their respective Kurdish minorities.”
The German Marshall fund looks at the Western military interventions in Libya and Mali. In the light of America’s unwillingness to act, it recommends, “that French and British militaries maintain or recover a standing full-spectrum capabilities forces able to deal with simultaneous engagements. This would mean putting an end to the current model of force development, which is unsustainable over the long term…A solution would be instead to favor the development of a balanced high/low technology mix of forces. This means, on one hand, keeping a sophisticated force that would be able to dominate a short and high intensity confrontation, and on the other hand developing a less sophisticated but significant force capable to confront numerous but less demanding operations.”
The Washington Institute says Turks living in Europe and Kurds could be the key to Erdogan winning the presidency on August 10. They note, “Erdogan’s electoral strategy envisions strong support among European Turks in the first round of voting, and backing from nationalist Kurds in case of a second round. Together, the Turks in Europe and the Kurds could help Erdogan win the 50% of the vote needed to become president. The Kurdish leg of this strategy could have a number of pitfalls, however. Until recently, Erdogan was not known for embracing Kurdish nationalism, so he could renege on his promises to the Kurds after securing his own victory in August and his party’s victory in next year’s parliamentary elections. For their part, many pro-PKK Kurds do not like Erdogan — socialist and leftist in orientation, they take issue with his social conservatism…For now, though, Kurdish support could greatly facilitate Erdogan’s presidential ambitions and the AKP’s 2015 electoral prospects. And if the party prevails next year, it could open the path for further constitutional amendments that replace Turkey’s parliament-centric system with a presidential system — with Erdogan at the helm.”
نتنياهو يستمر بعدوانه ومحاولات كيري لانقاذه تفشل
Israeli aggression on Gaza Continue
The Israeli Army is proving what the Monitor Analysis pointed out last week – that combat operations in urban areas are costly. As of this writing, 32 to 50 Israeli soldiers have died in the aggression on Gaza. The recent days of combat were the heaviest in terms of Israeli casualties since 1973.
Although the United Nations, the US, Egypt, and even Russia have offered their help, no truce is being considered at this time. Resistant leaders announced they were ready to accept a humanitarian truce, but would not agree to a full ceasefire until the terms had been negotiated.
The political situation in Israel also complicates the issue of a truce. It’s obvious the Israeli leadership has committed to a major war in Gaza and seeks to win it as soon as possible. However, the heavy casualties being suffered by the IDF is creating a strong desire by many Israelis to stop current operations.
Despite this, US officials are downplaying any hopes of a quick truce or settlement. US Secretary of State Kerry arrived in Israel on Wednesday to talk with Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders. He did meet with the UN Secretary General and PA President Abbas.
The reality is that Israel doesn’t want to stop operations if at all possible. They want the time to destroy the tunnels and track down some of resistance leadership. Meanwhile Palestinian fighters seem content to bleed the IDF with costly urban warfare.
Heavy Operations Continue
Little is known about Israeli operations, as the Israeli government has tried to keep much of the war secret. In fact, the major news that has come out has only been released as a result of heavy IDF casualties in certain operations. For instance, the loss of 18 by the Golani Brigade on Sunday was the main reason for identifying that operation. However, there are reportedly larger operations taking place.
There appear to be about five brigade sized combat teams operating in Gaza. In addition to infantry, these combined arms teams include armor and engineering teams to identify and destroy tunnels in the Gaza Strip.
Operations have become more intense this week as the IDF has moved from the more open areas of Gaza and into Gaza City. This, in turn has slowed the advance as engineering units are forced to destroy more buildings in order to allow the advance of the infantry and tanks. The IDF is also facing heavier fire from rocket propelled grenades and anti-tank weapons.
As mentioned in last week’s analysis, armored vehicles are easy targets in urban warfare. This has proven true, especially since the IDF has been using the obsolete American M-113 armored personnel carrier, which was proven to be very vulnerable during the Vietnam War in the 1960s. The M-113 APC has very light aluminum armor that is only effective against small arms fire and unsuitable for urban warfare. It was originally designed to be air mobile and is very vulnerable to RPG or anti-tank weapons.
This was proven to be true this last week as 7 IDF soldiers, including two Americans, were killed when they were engaged in street fighting against Palestinian fighters and the vehicle was hit by an anti-tank weapon. A similar attack in Gaza in 2004 led to the death of 11 Israelis.
The M-113 had been hit in the rear and on the side, which indicates that Hamas fighters are able to surround many of the Israeli units entering the urban areas.
Since the destruction of the M-113, 30 Israeli reservists have refused to ride the M-113 if they have to fight in Gaza. It was only after that that the IDF ordered all M-113s out of Gaza. In response to the attack, Sami Turgeman, the commander of the IDF Southern Command, said that the army was aware of the M-113′s faults but did not have the means to provide full protection to every soldier entering Gaza. Then, in a show of opportunism, the Ministry of Defense immediately asked for more money to buy newer APCs.
This successful attack against the M-113 highlights the fact that the destruction of buildings by IDF engineering teams, Israeli artillery, and Israeli aircraft have actually bogged down the pace of the IDF advance as Palestinians have been able to use the rubble for defensive positions. The IDF is also finding that the tunnel complex in Gaza is much more extensive and harder to defeat than planned.
“It’s like a metro, an underground” connecting weapons-manufacturing and storage sites to passageways beneath the Israeli border about 2 miles away,” Lt. Col. Lerner told the Wall Street Journal. “I would describe it as a lower Gaza City.” He said the army found openings in Shajaiyeh to 10 tunnel shafts leading to the underground network. The army entered the area with infantry, artillery and armored units, he said, expecting strong resistance.
These tunnels are forcing Israel to reconsider their current anti-tunnel capability. Britain’s newspaper The Telegraph reports, “the IDF’s elite Talpiot unit has been working on developing a tunnel detection system which was tested in Tel Aviv. Its costs are estimated to be $59 million. “The high-tech system, which uses special sensors and transmitters, is still in its R&D phase, and if all goes well, should be operational within a year”, notes a report on Israel’s I-24 news.”
“Another Israeli company, Magna, already provides defense systems for the Israel-Egypt border, as well as for the nuclear reactor sites in Japan. It proposes digging a 70-km tunnel along the Israel-Gaza border, equipped with a sensitive alert system.
This “will provide real-time alerts of any tunnel digging that crosses our tunnel, whether above or below it. The IDF will know exactly where the attack tunnel is and how many people are in it, and can monitor the progress of digging it in real time, and decide how to respond to the threat,” the company’s founder and CEO Haim Siboni told Israel’s Globes publication.”
Although pro-Israeli critics have lambasted the Obama Administration for what they perceived as a timid and distant from the Israeli government, there is little evidence to prove it.
Obama’s Federal Aviation Administration was criticized for telling US flagged airlines to stop flying into Tel Aviv’s airport after a rocket had landed nearby. However, many airlines were already stopping their Tel Aviv flights before the FAA had made their request.
There is another reason why the US government will be reticent to criticize Israel. Much of what Israel is doing in terms of air operations closely mirror what the Obama Administration is doing in its drone war. Last Saturday an American drone strike killed 11 people in Pakistan. Two days before, a drone strike had killed 15.
Ironically, the US follows the same rules that Israel follows but occasionally warned them of using excessive force. The Pakistanis didn’t pose an immediate threat to the US, civilians weren’t warned, and the US has shown no interest in a truce. Even worse, the US and Israeli drone war has a reputation of “double tapping” targets – hitting the target twice in order to kill people who rush to aid those injured in the first strike.
This leaves the US in an uncomfortable situation. Should they attack Israel’s tactics, they leave themselves open to criticism of their own tactics.
The US is also boosting military assistance to Israel. Israel has requested an additional $225 million in United States funding for the production of Iron Dome components and missiles. In a letter to the leaders of both houses of Congress on Wednesday, U. S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hegel wrote that the Department of Defense “has reviewed and supports this urgent request.” This will increase Iron Dome funding by the US to more than half-a-billion dollars this year.
Despite the heavy losses by the IDF, it appears that Israel has enough support in the US to continue the war.
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.
The Shi’ites of the Middle East: An Iranian fifth column?
By Michael Rubinabnd Ahmad K. Majidyar
American Enterprise Institute
July 18, 2014
As sectarian violence rages in Iraq and Syria and simmers across the broader region, the role of the Middle East’s diverse Shi’ite communities has become increasingly important for regional stability. Growing sectarian divisions present dilemmas to Shi’ite communities, regional Sunni rulers, and the United States, including how to preserve communal security and religious freedom while rebuffing outside forces — be they Sunni or Shi’ite — that might try to destabilize or undercut the independence of Shi‘ite religious communities. Iran’s apparent intervention in the ongoing crisis in Iraq highlights another quandary for American policymakers: how can America rebuff Iranian ambitions to speak on behalf of the diverse array of Shi’ite communities beyond Iran?
Five Myths About Hamas
By Nathan J. Brown
July 18, 2014
When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks about Israel’s ground offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, he says that “without action, the price that we would pay would be much greater.” But predicting how Hamas is likely to act and react requires probing what the organization can do, what it wants, and how it sees itself. From Hamas’s angle, the current fighting offers just as many opportunities as threats. Let’s examine five myths about the militant Islamist organization.
An Iranian-Turkish Reset
By Ilan Berman
American Foreign Policy Council
July 22, 2014
Earlier this summer, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani paid a very public two-day visit to a surprising locale: Ankara, Turkey. The June trip — the first of its kind in nearly 20 years — represented a significant evolution of the political ties between Iran and Turkey. In recent times, relations between Ankara and Tehran have been troubled on a number of fronts (from energy to Turkey’s role in NATO’s emerging missile shield). However, no issue has roiled ties between the two countries more than Syria. Iran, a longtime backer of the Assad regime in Damascus, has aided the Syrian government extensively since the start of the civil war there some 3 years ago. Turkey, meanwhile, has become a key source of political support (not to mention logistics and financial assistance) for the disparate opposition factions now arrayed against Mr. Assad — including extreme Islamist ones. These conflicting positions have deeply affected the health of ties between Tehran and Ankara over the past three-plus years.
Libya and Mali Operations: Transatlantic Lessons Learned
By Philippe Gros
German Marshall Fund
July 18, 2014
The Libya and Mali engagements were very different in nature and scope, but were bothequally rich in providing insightful lessons on the state of transatlantic and European defense cooperation. The operation in Libya was an implicit support to an insurrection and for regime change, while the objective of the operation in Mali was to liberate part of a country occupied by jihadists and to destroy their capabilities. Operationally speaking, the former was a typical air and naval operation and the latter air-land campaign, moresimilar in nature to the Iraq war in 2003 than to any other recent conflicts. However, these campaigns did share many characteristics regarding the configuration of Western coalitions, particularly in the Mediterranean and in Africa, with the backdrop of a decisive change in the nature of the transatlantic relationship marked by a relative U.S. fallback. This paper offers an analysis of some of the major lessons of each engagement regarding these partnerships, and draws a few key lessons and perspectives of this new strategic construct.
The Endgame in Gaza
By Aaron David Miller
July 22, 2014
Until I heard CNN’s weekend interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and watched Bloody Sunday unfold with scores of Palestinian civilian deaths and 13 Israeli soldiers killed, I thought I had the Gaza thing pretty much figured out. It would end — more or less — the way the two previous movies had concluded. In both 2008-2009 and 2012, Israel degraded Hamas’s high-trajectory weapons; but Hamas survived and restocked its arsenal with weapons of greater range, precision, and lethality. Hamas maintained control over Gaza and even derived a few political benefits in the process. Meanwhile, the people of Gaza continued to suffer — from both Israel’s unrelenting economic blockade and Hamas’s catastrophic mismanagement and fixation with its armed struggle against Israel. With the advent of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government in Cairo, intensified Egyptian pressure on the Muslim Brotherhood also pinched Gazans.
Turks in Europe and Kurds in Turkey Could Elect Erdogan
By Soner Cagaptay and Ege Cansu Sacikara
July 23, 2014
On August 10, Turks will go to the polls to choose a new president for the first time in the country’s history, an electoral change ushered in by a 2010 constitutional amendment. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the longtime prime minister and leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), is on the ballot, as is Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, joint candidate for the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Action Party (MHP). In the March 30 local government elections, the CHP-MHP bloc and the AKP each received 43% of the vote. This leaves two voter blocs as potential kingmakers in next month’s polls: Kurdish nationalists, whose Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) received 6.5% of the March vote, and Turks residing overseas, who will be allowed to vote abroad for the first time following a 2012 change to the electoral system.
Operational Wisdom amid Strategic Distress
By Alon Paz and Nadav Pollak
July 22, 2014
The current confrontation between Israel and Hamas could look at first glance like merely another military round between the two sides. However, a number of major differences, especially regarding Hamas’s regional isolation, its decade-long force buildup, and its development of military strategy and tactics, distinguish Israel’s Operation Protective Edge from past operations. Although it might be too early to derive strategic conclusions from the current operation, certain key points can already be noted as lessons for the future. Moreover, as other regional terror organizations seek to learn from this conflict, the task of analyzing Hamas’s actions from day one becomes even more crucial.
Mounzer A. Sleiman Ph.D.
Center for American and Arab Studies
Think Tanks Monitor
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