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The War Thus Far


I have a brief summary at 1945 of where we are (or were as of yesterday) on the war between Israel and Hamas:

Why now?

The Palestinian position has decayed in gradual but nonetheless substantive ways over the past two decades. Developing world solidarity around support for Palestine no longer exists, in large part because of Israeli commercial and military trade commitments. As news of the attacks broke, India did not hesitate to offer sympathy for Israel, and both Russia and China have remained studiously quiet about events thus far. 

The most alarming development for Hamas precisely and for Palestinians has been the prospect of rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. An agreement on formalizing Saudi-Israeli ties, whatever cut-outs it might include for continued Palestinian advocacy, would effectively mean that the Palestinians have no useful sponsors in the Arab world. A Wall Street Journal report claims that Iran was deeply involved in the planning and preparation of the attack, which would suggest that regional political dynamics provided much of the motivation for the campaign. 

With respect to that last point… I find it pretty interesting that the WSJ has been willing to climb out on a limb on the Iran connection. A lot of knowledgeable folks have been pushing back on this, sometimes in ways that usefully incorporate evidence and sometimes in ways that could best be described as “vibe-y.” I’m not inclined to fall on either side at this point; Iran was obviously involved from a material and political standpoint but it’s not yet clear to me that the evidence is conclusive that Iran took an active operational role. I tend to reject arguments that run “you can’t trust anything that the front page of the WSJ says because Rupert Murdoch,” but if additional support for this particular claim fails to emerge, it will obviously affect my willingness to take even the news operation at the WSJ seriously.

That said, I would caution against some of the knee jerk rejection of the potential of an Iranian role that I’ve seen thus far in comments. Iran certainly has its own reasons to create roadblocks on the path to Saudi-Israeli normalization, and the Iranians security services do not hesitate to invest in operations that will kill a lot of civilians. I’ll have more on this later, but I am reminded of the strenuous efforts that many in the progressive blogosphere went to back during the Iraq War to deny that any evidence existed of Iranian support for Iraqi insurgents, at a point when it was glaringly obvious that Iran was courting a wide array of Iraqi insurgents with weapons, cash, training, and other support. “WMD” broke our ability to talk about the policy-intelligence nexus; not every claim about Iranian support is really an excuse for going to war with Iran, just as not every claim about Syrian chemical weapons is really an excuse to bomb Damascus.

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