Biden Must Choose Between a Ceasefire in Gaza and a Regional War

Yves here. I hate to be a dour realist. Even with Israel’s and the US’ military position in the Middle East weakening, as we discussed long-form yesterday, the US is joined at the hip with Israel. The only possible way the US might throw its muscle behind a ceasefire (say by telling Israel no more UN Security Council vetos of reasonable resolutions), as opposed to mere lip service, is the International Court of Justice finding for most of South Africa’s “provisional measures” and the most Western media outlets backing the ruling.

By Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies, the authors of War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict, published by OR Books in November 2022. Medea Benjamin is the cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace, and the author of several books, including Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nicolas J. S. Davies is an independent journalist, a researcher for CODEPINK and the author of Blood on Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq

In the topsy-turvy world of corporate media reporting on U.S. foreign policy, we have been led to believe that U.S. air strikes on Yemen, Iraq and Syria are legitimate and responsible efforts to contain the expanding war over Israel’s genocide in Gaza, while the actions of the Houthi government in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Iran and its allies in Iraq and Syria are all dangerous escalations.

In fact, it is U.S. and Israeli actions that are driving the expansion of the war, while Iran and others are genuinely trying to find effective ways to counter and end Israel’s genocide in Gaza while avoiding a full-scale regional war.

We are encouraged by Egypt and Qatar’s efforts to mediate a ceasefire and the release of hostages and prisoners-of-war by both sides. But it is important to recognize who are the aggressors, who are the victims, and how regional actors are taking incremental but increasingly forceful action to respond to genocide.

A near-total Israeli communications blackout in Gaza has reduced the flow of images of the ongoing massacre on our TVs and computer screens, but the slaughter has not abated. Israel is bombing and attacking Khan Younis, the largest city in the southern Gaza Strip, as ruthlessly as it did Gaza City in the north. Israeli forces and U.S. weapons have killed an average of 240 Gazans per day for more than three months, and 70% of the dead are still women and children.

Israel has repeatedly claimed it is taking new steps to protect civilians, but that is only a public relations exercise. The Israeli government is still using 2,000 pound and even 5,000 pound “bunker-buster” bombs to dehouse the people of Gaza and herd them toward the Egyptian border, while it debates how to push the survivors over the border into exile, which it euphemistically refers to as “voluntary emigration.”

People throughout the Middle East are horrified by Israel’s slaughter and plans for the ethnic cleansing of Gaza, but most of their governments will only condemn Israel verbally. The Houthi government in Yemen is different. Unable to directly send forces to fight for Gaza, they began enforcing a blockade of the Red Sea against Israeli-owned ships and other ships carrying goods to or from Israel. Since mid-November 2023, the Houthis have conducted about 30 attacks on international vessels transiting the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden but none of the attacks have caused casualties or sunk any ships.

In response,  the Biden administration, without Congressional approval, has launched at least six rounds of bombing, including airstrikes on Sanaa, the capital of Yemen. The United Kingdom has contributed a few warplanes, while Australia, Canada, Holland and Bahrain also act as cheerleaders to provide the U.S. with the cover of leading an “international coalition.”

President Biden has admitted that U.S. bombing will not force Yemen to lift its blockade, but he insists that the U.S. will keep attacking it anyway. Saudi Arabia dropped 70,000 mostly American (and some British) bombs on Yemen in a 7-year war, but utterly failed to defeat the Houthi government and armed forces.

Yemenis naturally identify with the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza, and a million Yemenis took to the street to support their country’s position challenging Israel and the United States. Yemen is no Iranian puppet, but as with Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran’s Iraqi and Syrian allies, Iran has trained the Yemenis to build and deploy increasingly powerful anti-ship, cruise and ballistic missiles.

The Houthis have made it clear that they will stop the attacks once Israel stops its slaughter in Gaza. It beggars belief that instead of pressing for a ceasefire in Gaza, Biden and his clueless advisers are instead choosing to deepen U.S. military involvement in a regional Middle East conflict.

The United States and Israel have now conducted airstrikes on the capitals of four neighboring countries: Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Iran also suspects U.S. and Israeli spy agencies of a role in two bomb explosions in Kerman in Iran, which killed about 90 people and wounded hundreds more at a commemoration of the fourth anniversary of the U.S. assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in January 2020.

On January 20th, an Israeli bombing killed 10 people in Damascus, including 5 Iranian officials. After repeated Israeli airstrikes on Syria, Russia has now deployed warplanes to patrol the border to deter Israeli attacks, and has reoccupied two previously vacated outposts built to monitor violations of the demilitarized zone between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Iran has responded to the terrorist bombings in Kerman and Israeli assassinations of Iranian officials with missile strikes on targets in Iraq, Syria and Pakistan. Iranian Foreign Minister Amir-Abdohallian has strongly defended Iran’s claim that the strikes on Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan targeted agents of Israel’s Mossad spy agency.

Eleven Iranian ballistic missiles destroyed an Iraqi Kurdish intelligence facility and the home of a senior intelligence officer, and also killed a wealthy real estate developer and businessman, Peshraw Dizayee, who had been accusedof working for the Mossad, as well as of smuggling Iraqi oil from Kurdistan to Israel via Turkey.

The targets of Iran’s missile strikes in northwest Syria were the headquarters of two separate ISIS-linked groups in Idlib province. The strikes precisely hit both buildings and demolished them, at a range of 800 miles, using Iran’s newest ballistic missiles called Kheybar Shakan or Castle Blasters, a name that equates today’s U.S. bases in the Middle East with the 12th and 13th century European crusader castles whose ruins still dot the landscape.

Iran launched its missiles, not from north-west Iran, which would have been closer to Idlib, but from Khuzestan province in south-west Iran, which is closer to Tel Aviv than to Idlib. So these missile strikes were clearly intended as a warning to Israel and the United States that Iran can conduct precise attacks on Israel and U.S. “crusader castles” in the Middle East if they continue their aggression against Palestine, Iran and their allies.

At the same time, the U.S. has escalated its tit-for-tat airstrikes against Iranian-backed Iraqi militias. The Iraqi government has consistently protested U.S. airstrikes against the militias as violations of Iraqi sovereignty. Prime Minister Sudani’s military spokesman called the latest U.S. airstrikes “acts of aggression,” and said, “This unacceptable act undermines years of cooperation… at a time when the region is already grappling with the danger of expanding conflict, the repercussions of the aggression on Gaza.”

After its fiascos in Afghanistan and Iraq killed thousands of U.S. troops, the United States has avoided large numbers of U.S. military casualties for ten years. The last time the U.S. lost more than a hundred troops killed in action in a year was in 2013, when 128 Americans were killed in Afghanistan.

Since then, the United States has relied on bombing and proxy forces to fight its wars. The only lesson U.S. leaders seem to have learned from their lost wars is to avoid putting U.S. “boots on the ground.” The U.S. dropped over 120,000 bombs and missiles on Iraq and Syria in its war on ISIS, while Iraqis, Syrians and Kurds did all the hard fighting on the ground.

In Ukraine, the U.S. and its allies found a willing proxy to fight Russia. But after two years of war, Ukrainian casualties have become unsustainable and new recruits are hard to find. The Ukrainian parliament has rejected a bill to authorize forced conscription, and no amount of U.S. weapons can persuade more Ukrainians to sacrifice their lives for a Ukrainian nationalism that treats large numbers of them, especially Russian speakers, as second class citizens.

 Now, in Gaza, Yemen and Iraq, the United States has waded into what it hoped would be another “US-casualty-free” war. Instead, the U.S.-Israeli genocide in Gaza is unleashing a crisis that is spinning out of control across the region and may soon directly involve U.S. troops in combat. This will shatter the illusion of peace Americans have lived in for the last ten years of U.S. bombing and proxy wars, and bring the reality of U.S. militarism and warmaking home with a vengeance.

Biden can continue to give Israel carte-blanche to wipe out the people of Gaza, and watch as the region becomes further engulfed in flames, or he can listen to his own campaign staff, who warn that it’s a “moral and electoral imperative” to insist on a ceasefire. The choice could not be more stark.

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  1. Yaiyen

    If they can pick it’s a regional war. I can never understood why people think Neocons are intrested in peace.With Neocons you have three option do what you are told, coup or war. There is never win win situation .

    1. Feral Finster

      For sociopaths in general, everything is a zero-sum no-holds barred winner-takes -all game.

      The foreign policy establishment is no different.

  2. The Rev Kev

    Biden would also be listening to the voices of the Neocons of which he is one himself. For decades now the standard US solution to problems was to promiscuously drop bombs on a country whether it be Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, etc. Under Obama, the US dropped so many bombs that the US literally ran out of bombs to drop. So of course this was what old Joe grew was use to throughout his political career but something has changed. He finds himself in a situation where he cannot bomb his way out of it anymore as Ansar Allah have made it clear that they do not give a stuff about bombings but will keep on attacking western shipping. Maybe through his addled mind he has realized that if he cannot defeat Yemen, then how can he defeat Iran like some other Neocons are demanding? If he tries to widen the war and the US faces defeat piecemeal throughout this region, then that will reveal the US to be a paper tiger and cripple its efforts to enforce its will on other countries.

    If he goes for a ceasefire. then the Israeli Lobby will go after him. But if I was old Joe. I would tell Israel to have a ceasefire or else no more ammo and no more defeating votes at the UN. Spin it as being an international statesman or some such bs in the media. When AIPAC threatens to go after me, go live on TV and inform the American people that as they have threatened the American government, that they now have to register as an agent of a foreign power. And that the government stands ready to prove this in a court of law with tens of thousands of files going back to the USS Liberty. But old Joe won’t do any of this. And now not only does he have to have the Ukraine wrapped up before the election but the middle east as well. Unless of course he starts a new forever war somewhere else. There is always South America, Africa and Asia to go yet. Is this what the Democrats were thinking back in 2020 when they said that the adults are back in charge again?

    1. JonnyJames

      No, you are right, ol’ Genocide Joe won’t do any of it, I agree. Besides, Joe’s senility, Alzheimer’s, dementia or whatever he has, is clearly getting worse. He can’t even find his way out of a room without Jill leading him by the arm. It is bizarre how everyone just ignores it. He just does what his handlers tell him.

      The “neocons” (followers of Leo Strauss, PNAC etc.) are just a different flavor of imperialist warmonger. So-called Realists ( The Realist School of International Relations, e.g. Henry K.) and others in the old-school foreign policy establishment also supported mass slaughter, carpet bombing innocent people (SE Asia), regime change operations, death squads, (Indonesia, Chile etc.)

      I view the current crop as a different flavor of war criminals. Maybe ol’ Blinkie will get a Nobel Peace Prize like Henry K. ;-)

      1. Phenix

        They are not an outgrowth of the realist school of thought. Neo-cons trace their roots to Trosty. Strauss believed in philosopher Kings and accepted the use of propaganda to allow wise men and women to run the government. Neo-cons are his proteges but they include the revolutionary fervor of a Trosty follower…instead of communism they are spreading democracy and capitalism. It’s a terrifying combination.

        I forgot to add that most are rabid Zionists.

        1. JonnyJames

          I never said that “Neocons” were an outgrowth of the Realist School. You put words in my mouth. I think you mean “Trotsy” (as in Trotsky) not Trosty?

          What is the difference if you get bombed into the Stone Age by adherents of the Realist School or a bunch of Zionist Neocons?

        2. JonnyJames

          I never said that, you put words in my mouth, read my post carefully.

          What difference does it make if you are bombed into the Stone Age by adherents of the Realist School, or by adherents of Strauss/PNAC?

    2. Feral Finster

      “Unless of course he starts a new forever war somewhere else.”

      I suspect that the forever war that the Administration is seeking is against Iran.

      1. juno mas

        I can assure you that Iran/Russia have all three of the US Carrier groups in the vicinity sighted for Kinzhal missile strikes. Biden the blowhard will sink as fast as those ships.

    3. Pavel

      Recent USA history is littered (or polluted) with warmonger Presidents but I seriously wonder if Biden has more blood on his hands than any POTUS in living memory. Given his length of “service” (self-service, it seems) in the Senate, then as VP, and now as POTUS, he has not only supported but enabled at least every war since Iraq 2.0. No doubt he went along with Clinton & Albright’s genocide by starvation and medical sanctions in Iran — that’s 500,000 kids right there. Along with G W Bush’s and then Obama’s various “humanitarian interventions” and other war crimes, Genocide Joe now has Ukraine, Gaza, and Yemen to add to his collection.

      Duplicitous, dishonest, corrupt, and bloodstained.

      Worst. President. Ever.

  3. Froghole

    Given that the Administration is torn between the neocon fanatics and its electoral strategists who are concerned about the fracturing of the Democratic party base, I wonder whether a preliminary finding by the ICJ against Israel may actually be advantageous to the US, insofar as it would give the US political cover to force Israel to suspend its operations and for there to be a general de-escalation.

    Of course, I appreciate that this comment might date very badly over the course of today.

  4. w

    Biden doesn’t need to “insist” on a ceasefire, just order to stop shipping of any military hardware to Israel.
    It should do the trick in let’s say … 2 weeks no more.

    1. adrena

      Does he still have that power? Who controls the purse in the US? The Jewish tentacles are everywhere. Think about that.

  5. furnace

    Given the current constitutional crisis in the US (“Texas Standoff”), is it even going to be capable of dedicating proper attention to the matter? The fact is that the Zionist Entity has free rein to do whatever it wants. The thing is, they can start large kinetic wars against Hezbollah, Iraq, and whomever else they see fit (few days ago there was a shootout in the Egypt border, which seems to me to indicate soldiery getting pissed off from nothing being done). Can they win, though? If they can’t beat guerrillas with RPGs, what makes them think they can beat the battle-hardened, experienced and supremely well-armed Non-State Actors?

    The Entity’s enemies know pretty well its capabilities, which yes, does include reducing Beirut to rubble. But the Entity seems to know very little of its enemies’ capabilities, which indicates a very poor mismatch. At the start I thought this war was going to weaken but not destroy the Entity; by now it might well just entirely collapse the Entity’s civil society.

  6. ilsm

    US will suffer as much war as possible without endangering the status quo inside the beltway.

    Huge money to be made doing war!

    Profitable US weapons are costly, not effective, and suited mainly to paying dividends.

    Wonder weapons all as “good” if not “better” than [the generations of shiny junk] they replace, designed under cost plus, good profit and no test ever failed, if the equipment is ever tested.

    They are manufactured at best managerial rate despite never passing a stress test. Privatized arsenals!

    Big money in US method of war!

    1. Giordano Bruno

      Thank you for bringing the conversation back to the primary motivation, money. It’s the only explanation for US behavior that consistently makes sense. No analysis matters until we first remove the corrupting influence of money in our political system.

      1. JonnyJames

        I agree. And the rampant institutional corruption that the money brings. Unlimited political bribery is now perfectly legal, money is legally equated with “free speech” That’s Democracy Inc.

  7. PDB

    Another dour realist here, but sans YS’s vast skill set, who thinks the only solution is for the USA USA to suffer a truly large, significant, military defeat. We have gotta get. over. ourselves.

    1. Lefty Godot

      A significant military defeat before Trump gets back in the White House would be the best option, although I don’t see how it could happen in that timeframe. Trump’s inability to acknowledge any reality that diverges from his opinions could lead to nukes flying otherwise. Biden is disconnected from reality too, but I think the puppet masters pulling his strings have some selfish survival instinct that might keep them from blowing the world up, knowing that they would not exist afterwards.

  8. JonnyJames

    In addition to telling Israel no more UNSC vetoes for them, the US could start to enforce laws already on the books like the AECA and cease all weapons giveaways, Israel will be cut off. Also, the US could cut Israel off from the billions it gets. Funding a state engaged in war crimes and genocide is apparently not legal.

    If Israel didn’t get the arms and munitions shipments from the US/UK their military would be crippled very quickly.

  9. Feral Finster

    “Biden can continue to give Israel carte-blanche to wipe out the people of Gaza, and watch as the region becomes further engulfed in flames, or he can listen to his own campaign staff, who warn that it’s a “moral and electoral imperative” to insist on a ceasefire. The choice could not be more stark.”

    Three guesses what Biden will do.

    1. JonnyJames

      Dementia Joe just follows the direction of his “advisors” the NSC, CFR, Atlantic Council, State Dept CIA, DIA etc foreign policy establishment. Some members of the State Dept. resigned over Israel policy, but they are easily replaced with more hardcore Zionists and sycophants.

      The foreign policy establishment (oligarchy) very likely know that JBs days are numbered for more than one reason. When DT becomes POTUS again, nothing will change. DT is also a rabid, racist Zionist that supports Israel unconditionally.

    2. JonnyJames

      Dementia Joe will do whatever the CIA, NSC, CFR, Atlantic Council, State Dept., DNC “advisors” tell him.

  10. Phenix

    I am on the side of a ceasefire and an eventual one state solution.

    But I’ll take the side of expansion.

    The US does not benefit from globalization. America is attempting to reindustrialize. US is luring German manufacturing to the US with it’s plentiful and cheap Natural Gas and cheaper electricity rates.

    China and Russia are able to freely move goods through the Red Sea. Expanding the war will stop this route. Unless I missed something China’s attempts to reach Iran via the BRI has not worked due to Afgani and Pakistani internal politics.

    Iran may shut the Strait of Hormuz. The US exports petroleum….and can cut off exports if needed. The US can acquire all of it’s energy needs with out using Middle East oil….China can not….Russia can not make up this short fall.

    If Russia enters then NATO should close the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas.

    The US does not have to win…they have to shut down China and Russia.

    Ukraine continues to attack Russian refineries and oil infrastructure. Degrading infrastructure and keeping Russian crude from exiting the Black Sea…if Russia joins the wars on the side of Iran then closing the black sea to their oil exports is a win.

    I am on the side of a ceasefire and an eventual one state solution.

    This is just a wish list for the American empire. US leaders hide their intentions behind climate change and humanitarian rhetoric.

    1. Kouros

      On the medium term, Russia can link with China energiwise via land pipes and the northern route, and can keep the Baltic and Mediteranean Sea etc. close for enemy’s commercial shipping as well. But it will be harder for the US to threaten the Northern route or the land routes.

    2. SocalJimObjects

      “The US does not benefit from globalization”. Members of the US elite do benefit, just look at the number of US billionaires since globalization started. Jobs coming home means unions which the elites simply despise. Analysis has also shown that housing, etc will have to drop by a lot in order for manufacturing to have a renaissance in the US. Guess what the elites hate? Dropping asset prices.

      Energy independence does not matter if you don’t have factories and the workforce to exploit it. Factories can be built and workers can be trained, but they will lead to inflation, and more skillful workers will demand higher wages, which means less profits, again something the elites hate.

      Energy is also only one part of the equation, there are critical minerals that the US still imports from overseas for example rare earths required for semiconductors. Those TSMC factories in Arizona will be idling without those minerals.

  11. Not Moses

    Thank you for the chronological walk through time.

    As has been noted, Joe Biden is the 1970s President. He is a neocon, and with a $2B reelection bill due that he’ll raise from AIPAC and its followers, who’ll continue to dictate US domestic and foreign policy: fulfillment of the Netanyahu Doctrine.

    Nowhere is that more clear than the State Department under (“I’m Jewish”) Anthony Blinken. He failed in Ukraine and is sinking the country into a debacle in the Middle East. The Biden Administration looks like an Affirmative
    Action for the blind ambition of God’s Chosen.

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