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US Fault Lines Over War in Israel

The changing shape of international pressure.

As military responses unfold across Israel in efforts to retake territory seized by Hamas on October 6, political responses are also revealing themselves, and with them, fault lines that could derail the elusive peace that so many have sought. The posturing and handwringing taking place in the halls of power from Europe to the Americas herald a whole lot of recrimination and blame on the horizon – and perhaps internecine fractures that can never be healed.

Is the Iran Deal Finally Dead?

By no means the first political casualty, but certainly one that will be heading to ICU is the infamous Iran Deal. First signed by a coalition of Western nations headed by former President Barack Obama with the Iranian leadership in 2015, the deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) was called an historic “landmark” accord – and sold as the agreement that would bring Iran in from the cold. And yet, Iran failed to live up to any of its obligations, and former President Trump withdrew US support, putting the regime on notice with a series of sanctions.

Under President Joe Biden, efforts have been made to bring that deal back, including the release of billions of dollars that were held under sanction courtesy of 45. And while US regulators insist that not a single cent of the $6 billion has been used to fund the deadly raid on Israel, the defensive tone with which Secretary of State Antony Blinken has so far pooh-poohed Iranian involvement, suggests the blame mitigation game is afoot.

“We have not yet seen evidence that Iran directed or was behind this particular attack, but there is certainly a long relationship,” Blinken said Sunday on CNN. However, reporting by the Wall Street Journal indicates that this is not quite an accurate position.

New banner Viewpoint with eye“Iranian security officials helped plan Hamas’s Saturday surprise attack on Israel and gave the green light for the assault at a meeting in Beirut last Monday, according to senior members of Hamas and Hezbollah, another Iran-backed militant group,” the outlet reports.

“An attack of such scope could only have happened after months of planning and would not have happened without coordination with Iran,” said Lina Khatib, of the SOAS Middle East Institute at the University of London, insisted. “Hamas, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, does not single-handedly make decisions to engage in war without prior explicit agreement from Iran.”

On American Shores

On Sunday, October 8, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) held a rally in New York’s Times Square in which pro-Palestinian protesters stamped on and burned Israeli flags. Notably, this event was organized by the New York chapter of DSA of which a number of prominent politicians happen to be members, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Cori Bush, and Jamaal Bowman, among many others.*

Rep. Tlaib – the first Palestinian-American elected to Congress, voiced her opinions on Sunday. She said:

“I grieve the Palestinian and Israeli lives lost yesterday, today, and every day. I am determined as ever to fight for a just future where everyone can live in peace, without fear and with true freedom, equal rights, and human dignity.

“The path to that future must include lifting the blockade, ending the occupation, and dismantling the apartheid system that creates the suffocating, dehumanizing conditions that can lead to resistance.

“As long as our country provides billions in unconditional funding to support the apartheid government, this heartbreaking cycle of violence will continue.”

Other Squad members were less vociferous in their statements, with AOC calling for an immediate ceasefire, and Rep. Ilhan Omar calling out Hamas by name. And while many will see the lawmakers’ words as enough to show solidarity without condemnation, the Biden administration and other Democrats are opting for a more robust position.

Death toll rise to 493 in Gaza as Israeli airstrikes continue

(Photo by Mohammed Majed/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Democrat Rep. Ritchie Torres said that those who question Israeli policy are “reprehensible and repulsive.” In an official statement, the president wrote, “Israel has a right to defend itself and its people. The United States warns against any other party hostile to Israel seeking advantage in this situation.  My Administration’s support for Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering.” But unless, the president and his top-tier officials acknowledge that the coordinated land, air, and sea attack on Israel could not have happened without outside assistance, the tragic loss of more than 700 lives will eventually be written off as – to use the words of Rep. Omar describing 9.11 – “some people did something.”

An International Scale

With Hamas holding more than 100 hostages – some of whom are believed to be American – the blitz attack that saw packets of land lost (and eventually reclaimed) will become a drawn-out debacle with attempts at negotiation and bluffs happening on all sides. The Biden administration will undoubtedly – and rightly so – make the return of hostages a priority, but there is little that the US government can directly offer Hamas, other than airtime, publicity, and international attention for as long as the terrorists can draw it out.

In November 1979, Iranian terrorists held 52 American diplomats and civilians hostage for 444 days. President Carter oversaw a failed rescue attempt that ended in the deaths of servicemen, and his administration was crippled by a lack of diplomatic solutions and the adoption of the Rose Garden Strategy – a tactic already familiar to President Biden that involves staying in the White House and not hitting the main streets of the United States.

A top aid to Carter, Stu Eizenstat, wrote in his book on the president, that the Rose Garden Strategy “had another unintended and deeply pervasive effect. It totally personalized the crisis in the American media by focusing the responsibility on the Oval Office and showing the terrorists they could put the American presidency itself into dysfunction.”

The huge and tragic loss of life aside for a moment, the implications of this abrupt and brutal war could be as significant an episode in world history as the Iran Hostage Crisis – the reverberations of which are still being felt today.

*As of July 2023, the organization claims more than 50 state lawmakers as members.

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