The outbreak of war in the Middle East means the Biden administration has to manage a complex strategic crisis. American objectives must be to ensure Israeli freedom of action for the next six months while deterring any Russian responses in the Middle East and beyond. A burst of U.S. support followed by insistence on “restraint” won’t do. The Eurasian rimland has been set alight. The war begun in Ukraine will spread absent prudent, decisive action.
Hamas is the most virulent and politically savvy of Israel’s terrorist enemies. The complexity of the operation it staged on Saturday and Sunday raises questions about Israeli competence. This isn’t simply an intelligence failure—although intelligence is part of the problem, since warning signs of this confrontation have been apparent for months. The Iran-Saudi deal cleared the way for a direct attack. Hamas and Iran have solidified ties with Russia to ensure some sort of great-power support. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps stepped up activities in the West Bank, and undoubtedly in Gaza, in preparation. Yet the issue here is strategic, rather than operational. Israel, and presumably the U.S., was caught completely by surprise, suggesting that those responsible for strategic forecasting made an error on par with Pearl Harbor, 9/11 or the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Hamas is a full-fledged member of the axis of resistance, the alliance of proxies and terrorist groups constructed by Iran’s foremost strategist, the now-deceased IRGC Gen. Qasem Soleimani, during the late 2000s and 2010s. The axis’ objective is the destruction of Israel. It sees that Israel’s greatest assets are its high-tech military and its alliance with the U.S. By drawing the U.S. into the ill-conceived Iran deal—and, as per recent revelations, cultivating an intelligence and subversion network inside the U.S. government—Tehran has weakened the U.S.-Israel relationship.
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Seth Cropsey is the founder and president of Yorktown Institute.