A great and terrible darkness has descended upon the Middle East. The Islamic Republic of Iran has decided to make its bold move for regional supremacy now, when the Western powers that have long held back this regional threat are weak, disunited, and distracted.
China, along with Russia and Turkey, are all backing Iran’s play. The predominantly Jewish democracy in the Middle East, Israel, finds itself in their crosshairs. Iran-backed Hamas fighters conducted what most refer to as “Israel’s 9/11” just a few weeks ago.
Yet, despite having tactical superiority over the Gaza-based Hamas terrorist organization, Israel has stayed its hand—all while the Western powers hector their ally to restrain itself.
Despite the insincere pleas for mercy from quislings in the West, Israel has restrained itself for far longer than most would have assumed.
Indeed, Jerusalem has been so reserved in its immediate response that this author fears the Israelis may be making the same mistake that the Austro-Hungarian Empire made, and which led to the First World War.
Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were brutally murdered by terrorists while visiting Austro-Hungarian troops garrisoned in Serbia. Rather than decisively retaliate with military force, though, Vienna vacillated between issuing military threats against tiny Serbia and courting its more powerful allies, such as Germany. What they should have done was simply attack Serbia for the assassination.
The longer they waited to retaliate, the less inclined to tolerate military action in Serbia the other great powers of the era were. The greater the calls for restraint were. And, by the time Austro-Hungarian forces finally did retaliate, the other great powers had lost any sympathy for Vienna. They viewed Austro-Hungary’s response as a thinly veiled attempt to undermine whatever balance of power existed.
Thus, the moment Austro-Hungarian forces attacked Serbia, Russia and France opposed it, fearing this was part of a larger German ploy to undermine the precarious balance of power in Europe.
Meanwhile, the British attempted to play both sides against the middle. Ultimately, what should have been a short, sharp punitive expedition—a tiny, short-lived regional conflict between the Austro-Hungarian behemoth and Serbia—transmogrified into what was at that time the most destructive conflict in human history.
Repeating World War One Today
The First World War saw all the great powers of the era destroy themselves in the killing fields of Europe, thereby destabilizing the world system, setting the table for another, even deadlier world war, and creating an entirely new world order in which Europe was subordinate to powers outside of its realm.
Israeli reluctance to strike hard and fast against Hamas risks replicating the First World War in ways most observers appear unable to recognize.
At the same time, though, Israel’s leaders find themselves in an unenviable position. Because they know that Hamas is not acting alone. They understand that Hezbollah to the north and whatever Iranian forces are operating next door in Syria are waiting for their most opportune moment to strike against an Israel still reeling from the Hamas terror attacks.
Israel is stuck.
Jerusalem must strike back against Hamas. But the moment they commit more than 100,000 troops, as it appears they are readying to do, and start going house-to-house in Gaza, that will be when Hezbollah opens their second front against the Israelis.
For all President Joe Biden’s ra-ra about supporting Israel, the forty-sixth president has spent at least as much time sending limited amounts of aid to Israel as he has spent publicly chiding Israel’s leaders against responding too viciously to the recent terrorist attacks.
Biden fears that Israel hitting Hamas too hard for too long would evoke a negative response both from the Arab world — and obviously from Iran.
Israel could end up facing a five-front war in which victory would be unlikely.
The Path Forward Lies Through the Abraham Accords
Rather than try to restrain Israel, the United States should build a coalition of fellow Western states to pool support for Israel in its hour of need.
Using its massive diplomatic and economic leverage over the Arab states—notably Saudi Arabia—Washington should force Riyadh to remain committed to the new regional security architecture that the former President Donald Trump was attempting to build with his Abraham Accords (and that looked to be nearly built until the dastardly Hamas attacks put that budding alliance on ice).
The only way to prevent a wider war from erupting in the region, though, is to get back to that paradigm that the Abraham Accords created.
Israel’s Window to Strike is Quickly Closing
Israel must strike Gaza hard-and-fast. Otherwise, they will lose the initiative to the Iranian alliance. While Israel strikes to the south, the U.S. and its partners must deploy air assets to the region and be prepared to level any supply chains coming from Iran and going through Iraq and Syria to get to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
If the Hamas-Israel War remains isolated to the Gaza Strip, a third world war can be avoided.
If, however, Hezbollah does decide to strike Israel—and the U.S. and its partners do nothing to stop the war supplies from Iran to Hezbollah—then a wider war will be precisely what the United States gets.
Israel can handle its own against these terrorists so long as it is not facing a multi-sided war alone. A clear commitment of U.S. airpower directed against Iranian supply chains propping up the Hezbollah war machine will likely deter Hezbollah (and Iran) from expanding their war against Israel. If clear red lines are not delineated, though, the very war we seek to avoid will be waged.
At no point should the Biden calculus for the region include restraining Israel in its righteous retaliation against the evil Hamas in Gaza.
If anything, the Biden administration should be encouraging Israel to strike sooner rather than later, lest the mistakes of the now defunct Austro-Hungarian Empire in failing to respond quickly enough to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife by Serbian terrorists be repeated on a grander scale today.
A 19FortyFive Senior Editor and an energy analyst at the The-Pipeline, Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life (Encounter Books), and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (July 23). Weichert occasionally serves as a Subject Matter Expert for various organizations, including the Department of Defense. He can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.
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