World View: Hamas Is at War with Egypt More Than Israel

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Hamas's war with Israel -- and with Egypt
  • Analysts express alarm at ISIS control of Mosul Dam
  • Can Obama's air strikes save the Kurdish Peshmerga?
  • Obama is dragged kicking and screaming back towards the Truman Doctrine

Hamas's war with Israel -- and with Egypt

The ceasefire in Israel's war with Hamas ended at 8 am local time on Friday morning, and Hamas launched a barrage of rockets at targets in Israel a short time later. Israel walked out of the peace talks in Egypt and re-launched its air attacks on Hamas targets in Gaza. So the Gaza war is back in full force. 

Daniel Nisman, the president of Levantine Group, a Mideast analyst group, gave a very interesting interview on al-Jazeera on Friday morning. Here are some excerpts (my transcription). 

The [peace] talks are ... complicated. First, Israel is not talking to Hamas. Israel talks to Egypt, and Egypt talks to Hamas. [It] looks like the rocket fire that we saw this morning promptly after the ceasefire ended was actually sort of Hamas's negotiating tactics, to leverage their position...

Egypt's been in an open conflict with the regional Muslim Brotherhood movement, which extends also to Turkey and to Qatar. So if you look at Hamas, Hamas is basically the only Muslim Brotherhood branch with its own military, so you can see for yourself how Egypt would relate to that.

There's no question in my mind -- and I don't think any one in Israel -- that as soon as the current government came to power [in Egypt], they sought to weaken Hamas using any means necessary, and even if that means have Israel do its doing work while absorbing the international criticism.

I would say that it was really Egypt that pushed Hamas into a corner by shutting off the [Rafah border crossing] and destroying all those tunnels [under the fence between Gaza and Egypt]. That ... put Hamas into a corner with no choice but to fight its way out, and that's what it's doing right now in the current conflict. This conflict is actually as much of a fight between Hamas and Egypt, as it is a fight between Hamas and Israel.

Which is why you see that some of these negotiations in Cairo broke down even before Israel could even step in to the picture. There's still a lot of bad blood between the Egyptian side and Hamas side. There's a lot of insulting going on, and it's clear to many that Egypt will not let this conflict finish with Hamas in power. Egypt wants to finish this conflict with the Palestinian Authority sitting across from the Rafah border. They've got a very, very big Suez Canal expansion project, and they don't want Hamas to have any demands like expanding a seaport, building a seaport which could allow weapons to flow from Gaza into the Sinai peninsula.

So this policy towards weakening Hamas I think has been a big reason why the conflict has persisted as long as it has, because Egypt and Israel -- Egypt even more than Israel -- has an interest in weakening Hamas, seeing it as an extension of its own Muslim Brotherhood adversary.

Hamas has been increasingly demanding a seaport where supplies can flow in and out of Gaza, without being under control of either Israel and Egypt, as the border crossings would be. And once a seaport were open to international shipping, it would be almost impossible to close it again. However, Nisman makes the point that Egypt, even more than Israel, will prevent any such seaport from being built. 

Analysts express alarm at ISIS control of Mosul Dam

The Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS) apparently has control of the Mosul dam, the largest dam in Iraq. This gives ISIS control of much of Iraq's electrical power. 

However, many analysts are beginning to describe the dam as a "weapon of mass destruction." According to some reports, if ISIS blows the dam, then Mosul will be flooded with water 20-30 meters deep. The water will continue downstream, flooding many other villages. In three days, it will reach Baghdad, and flood it with water 5 meters deep. Millions of people would be killed. 

There are other concerns as well, according to a 2007 report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Mosul dam is not built on solid ground. It's built on porous material that requires constant maintenance. If ISIS does not continue that maintenance, then the dam will collapse anyway. However, that event would be at least six months away, according to one analyst I heard. Gulf News and ABC News

Can Obama's air strikes save the Kurdish Peshmerga?

The Kurdish Peshmerga militias have a reputation for being fierce fighters, but they've performed poorly against ISIS in the past few weeks. Peter Galbraith, a Washington analyst, was interviewed on the BBC on Friday, and gave four reasons why the Peshmerga have done poorly: 

  • The Kurds have a 650 mile border with ISIS. They need to defend the whole border, while ISIS can choose any point of attack.
  • The Peshmerga are simply outgunned by ISIS. ISIS has huge advanced weapons, thanks to capturing American weapons stores in Mosul. The Humvees have been particularly effective for ISIS.
  • When ISIS comes to an area, they terrify the population so they panic and flee, so the Peshmerga defenders have to cope with an enemy that is attacking a panicked population.
  • Kurdish fighters want to win, but they don't want to die. ISIS fighters are not afraid to die, which gives them a big advantage.

Other analysts have said that the days of the fierce Peshmerga fighters are over. All the fierce fighters from the 1990s are now in politics or the oil business. 

Reports indicate that the Obama administration has authorized airstrikes to help the Peshmerga, but some analysts are saying that won't be enough without at least supplying the Peshmerga with weapons. Newsweek

Obama is dragged kicking and screaming back towards the Truman Doctrine

As I've written many times, President Obama has been the first president since the end of World War II to repudiate the Truman Doctrine. As I wrote in 2006, President Harry Truman's Truman Doctrine of 1947 made America "policeman of the world," because the cost of a small military action was always better than a repeat of something as enormous as World War II. 

President Obama's policy, as I understand it, has always been no military action at all if it can be avoided in any way. As problems have mounted in the Mideast, Obama has been forced to revise his doctrine. In recent weeks, I've heard analysts describe his doctrine as permitting military action if two conditions are satisfied: 

  • Something like genocide is threatened.
  • The military action must be essential for U.S. security.

This is already closer to the Truman Doctrine than Obama has been in the past, but it's still not there. The New York City police force has to fight crime every day all the time. A police action is taken if its important to the entire city, not just important to the police force. 

The Truman Doctrine is not limited to military actions that directly benefit the United States. The criterion is whether it's important to the world. 

Of course, the two are sometimes hard to distinguish. Obama supposedly rejected military action in 2011 to stop the genocide of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad because it was not essential for American security. However, that failure may have led to the rise of ISIS, which is a threat to America's security. 

On Thursday evening, Obama announced limited military action in Iraq, which he justified as follows: 

I’ve said before, the United States cannot and should not intervene every time there’s a crisis in the world. So let me be clear about why we must act, and act now. When we face a situation like we do on that mountain -- with innocent people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale, when we have a mandate to help -- in this case, a request from the Iraqi government -- and when we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye. We can act, carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of genocide. That’s what we’re doing on that mountain.

So there are three criteria: 

  • Genocide is involved.
  • The Iraq government has asked us for help.
  • We have unique capabilities to help.

Once again, this isn't exactly the set of criteria that the NYPD would use. 

Obama added the following in his speech: 

I know that many of you are rightly concerned about any American military action in Iraq, even limited strikes like these. I understand that. I ran for this office in part to end our war in Iraq and welcome our troops home, and that’s what we’ve done. As Commander-in-Chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq. And so even as we support Iraqis as they take the fight to these terrorists, American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq. The only lasting solution is reconciliation among Iraqi communities and stronger Iraqi security forces.

So having stated three criteria for military action, Obama quickly rushes to back away from them. 

Analysts repeatedly describe ISIS as: extremely wealthy, extremely well organized, and extremely well-armed -- because they've captured huge troves of weapons including armored vehicles that can roll over Iraqi army troops. 

Obama continues to learn bitter lessons that have repeatedly shown that his naïve view of the world is wrong. His last paragraph indicates that he still has little idea what's going on in the world, and that he still has a lot to learn. Sooner or later, however, events will force him (and us) to regret that he repudiated the Truman Doctrine in the first place. White House

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Israel, Hamas, Daniel Nisman, Egypt, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Iraq, Mosul, Mosul Dam, US Army Corps of Engineers, Kurds, Pesmerga, Peter Galbraith, Truman Doctrine 

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