Israel and US Military Operations in the Middle East Going Wobbly Under Multi-Front Pressure

Simplicius the Thinker has an important post up giving evidence that the Israel war against the Palestinians and the US operations in the Middle East are buckling, to the degree that US-friendly sources and even officials are acknowledging setbacks and stresses. Early on, Simplicius describes how the ne plus ultra of neocon strategy, the Institute for Study of War, is reporting that Israel has lost ground to Hamas in North Gaza, an area it maintained it had so firmly under its control that it could pull out ground forces.

The Cradle confirms Simplicius’ overall assessment in Israel loses control of its borders:

For the first time in its 76-year history, Israel’s entire security calculations have been turned upside down: the occupation state is today grappling with buffer zones inside Israel. In past wars, it was Tel Aviv that established these “security zones” inside enemy territory — advancing Israel’s strategic geography, evacuating Arab populations near their state border areas, and fortifying its own borders….

Today, Israel is horrified to find itself retreating from direct confrontation lines with its arch-enemies in Gaza and Lebanon. The formidable capabilities of the resistance now include drones, rockets, targeted projectiles, tunnels, and spanking new shock tactics, casting doubt on the feasibility of Israeli settlers remaining safe in any of Israel’s border perimeters.

There is a big sour note in Simplicius’ otherwise informative piece, in that he follows the US official trope that “Iran” is driving the multi-front military operations against Israel. As others on Simplicius’ beat have pointed out, he is very good on military analysis but weak on politics. Hamas launched October 7 without giving Iran a head’s up. The Houthis and Hezbollah get support from Iran and no doubt share intel, but they are independent actors.

The Axis of Resistance, as some like to call it, has been increasing the intensity of its pressure on Israel as the slaughter in Gaza continues, and importantly, they have likely already detected plenty of evidence of Israeli poor performance, which Simplicius describes in detail as it is becoming more visible and widespread. Experts abroad were inferring poor Israel performance merely from knowledge and press coverage. Very early on after the Hamas attack, Scott Ritter, who had considerable experience in Israel in the 1990s, depicted the IDF as a third-rate army, proficient at ops like breaking the arms of Palestinian teenagers. He also called out the bombing of Gaza as a major mistake, assuming the objective was to get Hamas, as opposed to exterminating Gazans. All that rubble, in combination with the vast Hamas tunnel network, results in a much more defender-favorable environment. John Mearsheimer and Alastair Crooke pointed out the inability of Israel to point to any successes, such as freeing hostages or more than isolated kills of the Hamas leadership. Crooke also said the Hebrew press would report on a high (by Israeli standards) IDF death count in Gaza, only to have those stories quickly yanked by the censors.

Israel, or at least the rabid right wingers running its show, may be running up against the conflict between how they have presented the war to the world and their citizens versus what, based on a cold look at their actions, is the real intent. The scale and sheer destructiveness of the Gaza assault make clear that Israel wanted to clear Gaza, not of Hamas but of Gazans (and the persistent demonization of all Gazans as in cahoots with Hamas is part of a deeply offensive rationalization).

Israel, clearly naively, assumed it could push the Gazans into Egypt. When Egypt resisted fiercely, the next Israel move was to increase the punishment of the Gaza population, based at best the idea that it would increase pressure on Arab states to relent and accept Palestinians, and at worse, regarding extermination as a perfectly acceptable way to get rid of the Gazans. So a plan for ethnic cleansing on a massive scale has become genocide. In case you harbor any doubts about the real war aims:

But the cost to Israel and now the US is spiraling out of control. In Israel, citizens have a good sense that the IDF losses are high, yet an end to the war is nowhere in sight. Families with hostages are successfully creating an uproar over priorities, demanding a cease-fire to secure their return, while Netanyahu and the hardliners insist that Hamas must be defeated first, and the release of the hostages will follow. 1

Another source of political and economic pressure is that Israel is now housing nearly 90,000 citizens evacuated from the Lebanon border. Those settlers insist that there must be no Lebanese visible from their homes for them to be willing to return. That would require taken Southern Lebanon up to the Litani River, as in dispossessing Lebanese families for the psychological comfort of these border dwellers. Netanyahu has promised to take that territory if Lebanon won’t surrender it, which is clearly not in the cards. But quite a few experts opine that if Israel were to try to seize southern Lebanon, that the odds favor Hezbollah occupying Israel up to Galilee.

The Cradle describes how the northern Israel border situation is worse than generally depicted in Western media:

The Israeli Defense Ministry, which pledged a swift and decisive war to safeguard its settlers over 100 days ago, is now actively devising plans to shelter approximately 100,000 people along the northern border, deeper inside its territory. This measure could involve evacuating settlements that may come under fire during any future military escalation with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

This situation implies three critical outcomes: any immediate return of settlers remains unlikely, additional evacuations are anticipated, and numerous Israeli families – in the interim – may establish permanent settlements in other, more secure locations at a much further distance from the borders with southern Lebanon and the Gaza envelope.

Preliminary reports from settler councils in the north assessed settler “displacement” to be around 70,000 in the initial weeks of the conflict. Subsequent reports, however, suggest a vastly higher figure of approximately 230,000.

Recall we already have the US’ supposedly vaunted Navy being unable to provide for the safety of seaborne commerce, and the US now in an attempt to restore its manhood, making illegal and ineffective missile strikes on Yemen. And recall the US is supposed to be a sea and air power!

In the meantime, most non-Chinese and Russian cargo ships are avoiding the Red Sea. While the rise in shipping costs is not all that bad by historical standards, the US looks and is powerless. And the Houthis are succeeding in their main aim, of choking sea transport in and out of Israel.

Indicators of the state of play:

But bear in mind one reason the US can faff around is that we don’t much bear the cost of longer transit times and supply chain uncertainty. It’s Europe. And the fallout has started:

Now to Simplicius’ on-the-ground sightings, first from Gaza:

As we now know, Israel has withdrawn many of its brigades from the north, citing ‘rest and rotation’ when in reality it appears to be ‘reconstitution’, as the brigades took major attritional losses. Now in the wake of that, the latest bombshell reports state that resistance fighters have re-infiltrated the entire north, leaving the map looking like that of below:

I myself was skeptical—could Israel really have abandoned the entire north after “claiming” to have captured it?

But here’s the double bombshell: even ISW admitted it:

After more examples of Israel doing badly in Gaza, Simplicius adds:

Recall that just last month Kirby admitted that Hamas had not been attrited at all, and an Israeli reserve colonel gave a tearful account of piled up IDF bodies which seemed to imply that they are taking far heavier losses than they’re admitting to.

Later in the piece, Simplicius turns to how US bases in Syria and Iraq are under attack. Oddly he does not mention that the US is in Syria illegally, stealing Syrian oil on a big scale and the Iraqis told us to leave but we refused. Suddenly our position is looking tenuous just when Israel (or at least Netanyahu) is acting like escalating is a great idea to make sure we having to get deeply involved and come to their aid. Again from his post:

And quelle surprise, Simplicius found a story in Al-Monitor that suddenly had the US wanting our buddies the Kurds to “partner” with our former super enemy Assad….which looked like a plan to cut and run, which was confirmed by Foreign Policy headlining that he Pentagon is planning to exit Syria. From its account:

And with such a complex regional crisis playing out, it should not come as a surprise that the Biden administration is reconsidering its military priorities in the region.

It should be cause for significant concern, however, that this could involve a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. While no definitive decision has been made to leave, four sources within the Defense and State departments said the White House is no longer invested in sustaining a mission that it perceives as unnecessary. Active internal discussions are now underway to determine how and when a withdrawal may take place.

The Daily Sabah reports Türkiye is somewhat skeptical of the story, which it depicts as a rumor, but also lays out some implications if true.

And to round out this remarkable picture, Simplicius includes two stories, one from Reuters, the other from CNN, that the US is negotiating its departure from Iraq.

Simplicius points out:

The US claims these are long-planned talks and have nothing to do with the recent attacks, but that is clearly not the case. The Reuters article above provides one key line:

In doing so, the U.S. had dropped preconditions that attacks against it by Iran-backed Iraqi militant groups in Iraq first stop, three of the sources said.

You see, the US previously had preconditions for talks of ending its occupation; one of the conditions being that Iran-backed Iraqi groups first had to stop bombing US bases. But now, the US has apparently dropped this significant precondition, as per the Reuters report. That tells us that US is making concessions out of desperation.

So the US looks to be engaging in a full bore retreat. We don’t begin to have enough weapons, particularly after having depleted our and our allies’ stocks in Ukraine, to wage much of a war, even before getting to that we also can’t land or protect anywhere near enough ground forces and keep them supplied given how the Houthis, and if needed, Hezbollah, have plenty of cheap drones, and the Hezbollah and the Iranians have higher tech, more powerful, longer range precision missiles too.

Given that this is utterly embarrassing, and in an election year to boot, the last thing the US needs is further attention being drawn to its debilities by Israel escalating in a way that necessitates our trying to come to its rescue.

So a nefarious thought: Norman Finkelstein, Ray McGovern, Larry Johnson, and no doubt others, have assumed that the US would join Israel in providing as much pressure as could be mustered on the International Court of Justice judges, and their home countries, to secure a ruling against “provisional measures” to stop what sure looks like genocide. But what if the US has come to realize that both it and Israel are hopelessly overextended, and the best way to limit the fallout is to get Israel that it is risking losing even the US, and not just over time? What if the US has only been going through the motions, recognizing that the press coverage of a South Africa win on some provision measures (South Africa is extremely unlikely to get the court to call for Israel to stop military operations unilaterally) might be loud enough to finally penetrate Israel’s self-delusion and force it to start figuring out how to back out of its Gaza/West Bank overreach?

Now as we all know in reality, no one in the Biden Administration has the sense or even the self preservation instincts that it needs to create some daylight between the US and Israel. In keeping, the only idea for a way out from both the US and UN isabsolute non-starter of a two-state solution (please see our recent post for details). If someone had a more realistic de-escalatory path, perhaps the horrible hostilities could go from a full boil to a simmer. But as a friend saids, if you want a happy ending, watch a Disney movie.


1 Alastair Crooke recounted that a row in the cabinet the weekend before last included that 80 aid trucks a day were getting in, a level deemed to be too high to stave out Hamas. By way of contrast, before October 7, about 500 trucks of supplies went into Gaza daily. And in a remarkable show of chutzpah, one of the lawyers presenting for Israel at the International Court of Justice on January 12 claimed that supplies had increased over the last two weeks to 109 trucks…as if that were a good number.

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  1. Bill R

    I wonder why Arab oil exporting states have not tried a cut back on oil exports to countries supporting or not criticizing Israel. The whole of Europe has damaged itself with its sanctions on Russian fuels and has nowhere to buy alternatives unless it will stop the war in Ukraine that was started by American and British actions.

    1. nippersdad

      I have heard that it is because they worry that were they to do an embargo their foreign reserves would be sanctioned like Russia’s were. From their perspective, I can see why it would be better to outsource your activism to people like the Houthis rather than do it yourself. They have quite a bit more exposure than do the militias, and the militias ultimately might be more effective than state action anyway.

      1. Tommy

        Perhaps their covert message is

        “Too dangerous to ship oil or LNG until the Houthis stop attacking ships,
        which happens when Israel, soon to be called “Isreal?”,
        stops attacking Gazans.”

    2. DJ Forestree

      Regarding Bill R comment at 11:10 am.

      Could it be that the people making decisions in these Arab countries don’t want to confront Israel and the USA? Perhaps, for a number of reasons, they are afraid of doing anything with actual, real detrimental effects for the USA, EU, or Israeli economies?

      The people in charge in these countries have produced critical statements about the war in Gaza, and have been at the center of a number of performative gestures that can be easily captured and amplified by the media. But what have they done, in practical terms, to offer real, tangible support to the Palestinians?

      Maybe some (at least partial) answers to these questions can be found in the following article:

      1. Polar Socialist

        With the caveat that this is not my area of knowledge in any way or form, one explanation I have in mind for the perceived inactivity of the Arab World is that pretty much every state is actually a network of families, clans and tribal elites.

        While apparently very persistent form of government, such a construct in general is bad at forming a foreign policy and even more so when one needs to take a clear stand regarding an external event with possible long term, serious consequences.

        Not surprisingly, both Houthi and Taleban (also ISIS) were originally religious movements outside the “rule of the sheiks”, which has led them to popularity among the masses and able to form some sort of foreign policies.

        1. Eclair

          ” …. pretty much every state (in the Arab World ) is actually a network of families, clans and tribal elites. ”

          Not contradicting your statement, Polar Socialist, but have you been reading frequent commenter, Colonel Smithers’, trenchant observations on the ‘tribal’ system of ‘clans’ and families that run the UK? The US ‘tribal’ system is a few centuries behind, but the ‘deep state’ and its appendages are a maze of intermarriages and family connections and Ivy League tribal elites. And the Chinese have guanxi.

      2. GF

        DJ Forestree

        “But what have they done, in practical terms, to offer real, tangible support to the Palestinians?”

        Some entities are supplying and trying to supply the humanitarian aid required to save the Palestinians from starvation. I would call that tangible support.

    3. Dessa

      Because the oil sales are profitable, and people will buy their oil either way. Cutting sales to Israel is just cutting sales. A nice moral gesture, but not good business.

    4. elissa3

      MBS of Saudi Arabia, in particular, may have some apprehension that he could end up like King Faisal did, one year after ending the oil embargo of 1973-74.

    5. hecatompylos

      The US is a substantial oil producer nowadays thanks to fracking and only 12% of US imported oil comes from the Middle East. The effect would be minimal and the US oil industry benefits from higher prices anyway due to the relatively high production cost of fracked oil.

  2. Altandmain

    It’s becoming clear that the IDF and entire Western military have been mostly paper tigers.

    The Western industrial base is simply not capable of producing munitions and weapons in the quantities needed to match Russia nor to even win a war against Hamas, Hezbollah or Ansari Allah (the Houthis).

    Even worse, the human capital is not good. Less than one quarter of the US military age population is unfit to serve and I suspect that the majority of these are kids of the upper-middle class that will be reluctant to join the military.

    The US also isn’t competitive on education and is rapidly losing ground to China, for which the US is insanely provoking another fight over Taiwan

    There’s also the matter that the US is used to fighting insurgents and not even effective at that. The Israeli troops have been unable to defeat Hamas and frankly, have suffered a major strategic loss. Armies that are focused on oppressing civilians aren’t so good for real war.

    US weapons systems have proven to be mostly ineffective. The Patriot air defense system for example was unable to replace Ukrainian S300s that they inherited from the USSR. It hasn’t even been able to stop the much smaller strikes in the Middle East. The US has no counters for hypersonic missiles, large amounts of cheap drones, and Russian electronic warfare.

    I think that Biden will easily go down as one of the worst Presidents in history. He will join Bush 2 and Clinton in that regard. However its not just Biden. The rich that made these neoliberal decisions and the neoconservatives and their greed, their hunger for world domination all contributed to this. The whole (mis) leadership class is evil and incompetent. These didn’t happen in a vaccum nor overnight but due to decades of bad decisions.

    This is an empire in rapid decline. Definitely getting late Roman Empire or Late Han Dynasty vibes here.

    1. ISL

      Also, war has changed – drones and tunnels for the low-developed / effective Electronic warfare systems and supersonic/hypersonic missiles for the highly developed have rendered archaic most of the West’s main military investments (in uber-expensive systems) to project (impose) power. The world is noticing.

      Also (As Scott Ritter is fond of repeating), the US reconfigured its military for non-peer conflicts (expeditionary actions, outsource the industrial base), while the peers remained ready for an inevitable peer conflict as the economic balance shifted from the West to the Global South (China is now the dominant trading partner with most of the world – used to be the West) by maintaining its industrial base.

      In this regard, the US sabotage of the European industrial base (e.g., Nordstream and thetanking ofGerman industrial production) further reduces the West’s industrial base.

    2. Max Regor

      Even worse, the human capital is not good. Less than one quarter of the US military age population is unfit to serve … .
      Should be
      Even worse, the human capital is not good. Less than one quarter of the US military age population is fit to serve … .

    3. Es s Ce tera

      “I think Biden will easily go down as one of the worst Presidents in history.”

      Biden with his capacity to f**k things up is precisely what is needed at this pivotal moment in world history.

  3. CA

    What is distressingly distinctive about the terrible wars being waged about the Middle East, is that America, which is directly involved in all, has made no decisive diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflicts. When Ronald Reagan wanted a diplomatic resolution to war in Lebanon, Israeli Prime Minister Begin was told in determined tones to negotiate. America is now unable to even negotiate with rather than bomb Yemen.

    August 13, 1982

    By Bernard Weinraub

    Chronology of Crisis

    About 6 A.M. (midnight Wednesday, New York time) – Israelis begin bombing west Beirut. As raids continue, Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Shafik al-Wazzan, tells Philip C. Habib, the special American envoy, that the talks cannot continue.

    2 P.M. (8 A.M., New York time) – The Israeli Cabinet meets. A message from President Reagan arrives, expressing ”outrage” and, reportedly threatening to halt the Habib mission. The Cabinet decides to end the raids and order new ones only if they are ”essential.” …

  4. IMOR

    Haven’t read much better or more hopeful news recently than report here that we’re finally preparing to actually, truly, leave Iraq. Hope it pans out. Average Americans have confirmed being out of Afghanistan makes no difference to their lives at all. Do the same with Iraq, and if the trend continues, we’ll be able to hold our heads up a bit.

    1. The Rev Kev

      It is not a massive force. There are supposed to be about 2,500 US troops in Iraq so pulling them out would not be like the Afghanistan operation.

  5. ISL

    Excellent summary.

    Perhaps a mid-path between Iran controlling everything (delusional) and all non-western actors are completely independent is that actors opposed to the US/Israel Middle East activities (which includes BRICS members, Saudi Arabia, and Russia, which jumped off the fence against the forces supplying Ukraine) are (at least loosely) coordinating. I think Helmer has reported Russian ISR is being fed to Yemen (good for the goose, good for the gander). My reading of Simplicus puts Simplicus in this “greyzone.”

    I read or heard somewhere that the first week of the US-Yemen war used ~2% of the US tomahawk stock*, which can be replaced at a rate of a few dozen per year or so. The point is that in a few months, cruise missile attrition will seriously crimp US Taiwan/Iran war goals.

    *google led me to a quora quote of Wikipedia of around 3000 Tomahawks in the arsenal; however, the arsenal size now is scrubbed from Wikipedia.

    confirms the number (same quora answer). Many were “destined” for retirement. I presume half are too old to be reliable (as per NATO-armor donated to Ukraine). A US vessel’s AEGIS system accommodates 250 missiles, or 10-15% of the arsenal (can’t load it with duds – resupply is too clumsy). Four more resupplies (every two weeks) will render the Tomahawk arsenal too small to be a significant contributor to future wars.

  6. nippersdad

    Further to the withdrawal from Iraq, the face saving measure that I have been seeing for staying was that the Prime Minister had privately asked us to. From Politico today:

    In early January, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani privately told American officials that he wants to negotiate retaining U.S. forces in the country despite previously saying that he would begin the process of removing them, POLITICO reported.

    Senior advisers to the prime minister told U.S. officials that his declaration was “an attempt to satisfy domestic political audiences” and that Sudani himself “remained committed” to negotiating the coalition’s future presence in Iraq, according to a State Department cable obtained by POLITICO.

    So our retention of troops and bases in country amounted to us just doing Sudani a favor. That is sure to go over well with those “domestic political audiences”.

    1. elkern

      Having US (and “Coalition”) troops in Iraq is undoubtedly quite profitable for some Iraqis, so there would be some quiet pressure on Sudani (from local elites) to slow-walk the exit. And we presumably pay (/bribe) the Iraqi Government handsomely for the privilege of basing our troops there, so pushing us out will be unhealthy for the National Treasury as well as lotsa private wallets.

      Also, from an “Axis of Resistance” point of view, having US troops stuck in Iraq is a big strategic plus: occasional – *cheap* – attacks on those troops lead to expensive retaliatory strikes (which create more enemies than they eliminate) and force us into spending more on defending those indefensible bases.

      If we had any sense, we’d get out of Iraq as fast as possible.

      1. Polar Socialist

        If US wants to keep troops in Syria, US has to have airfields in Iraq. Iraq is the price of keeping Syria weak and down for Israel, I guess.

        If US leaves Syria, Syria can recover from the civil war carnage much faster and maybe even help Lebanon to stabilize it’s failing economy with the cheap energy.

  7. JonnyJames

    I agree, this highly informative piece does offer some relatively good news, thank you Yves.
    The US/UK/Israel axis are overextended militarily, their credibility is overextended or nonexistent, their political influence overextended and backfiring even. If there were any time for Iran/Hezbollah/Houthis/Hamas/ and allies to fight back, it would be now.

    But given the reckless and irrational mindset of the US/Israel/UK axis, this could spiral out of control and a desperate empire may well escalate, using tactical nukes or other WMD dirty tricks. (perhaps even clandestine bio or chem attacks?) I hope I am just being paranoid though.

    Given the fact that Israel targets journalists, apparently murdering anyone with a camera, cut electricity, fuel etc. it is amazing that information is still getting out. Also, given the horrific carnage and despair in Palestine, the people still have the will to resist

      1. ChrisPacific

        General Sir Patrick Sanders said that his forces, including all reserves, would not be large enough to defend the country if there was a war…

        Defend the country from what? Is he imagining that Russia would invade? Why the UK, in particular?

      2. Jams O'Donnell

        Conscription in today’s UK is a non-starter. It was hugely unpopular when continued after WWII, and it would be even more unpopular and ineffective now with the ‘woke’, and physically unfit youth. And to give them their due, they are much better informed and much less patriotic and deferential than was the case 80 years ago.

  8. Carolinian

    Thanks and go Simplicius. No wonder there is some pressure by TPTB to defund that site.

    As for the ICJ, guess we will know tomorrow.

    Interestingly Moon linked up an article that says even Trump didn’t like or trust Netanyahu. To Trump the whole situation was a sideshow and his pro Israel boosting may have been more to please his funders and the evangelicals than some Bidenesque lifelong commitment. This is why some of us think Trump might be a lot more pacific. He has a brand to protect whereas Biden is more like a Mafia chief with the family business taking place out of sight.

    1. Es s Ce Tera

      Remember, Trump declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel and moved the US embassy there.

      That move right there tells you he really wants to f**k up the Palestinians. On this matter, both Biden and Trump are in agreement, they’re pro-genocide.

  9. nippersdad

    Other than denying the Assad government access to both its’ bread basket and oil fields, the only rationale I have ever heard for those bases in Iraq and Syria was to provide loci for causing instability/provocative actions in the region and to use them as trip wires for an excuse to attack Iran. So now that the trip wires have been tripped it is time to put up or shut up. If the answer is to shut up and flee, then that is a reflection on how our neocons power has waned. That is really big news.

    If the US leaves Syria and tries to get the Kurds to take over, I wonder how long it will take for Russia to deny them access? The Kurds are no friends of Turkey, Iraq or Iran, so that might be viewed as an opportunity for Russia to extend its’ influence in the region even as we lose the war in Ukraine. Lavrov et al are having a good day, it would appear.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Without those US troops in Syria, those ISIS forces would have been wiped out years ago and that is the cold hard truth. The US forces in Syria like in al-Tanf train, arm & equip former Jihadists to attack Syrian forces and infrastructure. If those US forces leave Syria, those ISIS forces would be left to hang out and dry with no support. But of course the US says that they have to stay in Syria and Ira to fight ISIS.

  10. NN Cassandra

    So the settlers CAN be moved out, with the right incentive. It’s one thing to colonize land when the natives have only bare hands and you are backed by powerful (at least against bare handed natives) war machine, and quite another when it looks like the natives finally learned how to shoot back and kill you. Perhaps there is hope for West Bank?

  11. John k

    Multi-polarity isn’t coming, it’s here.
    Cheap drones/missiles mean even the poorest country can resist and defeat gunboat diplomacy. Even the Monroe doctrine is suspect now, certainly South America can resist us threats. Next step is to ignore odious debts.
    I appreciate the facts on the ground that makes a 2-state solution difficult, but the ME is learning rapidly just how ineffective and even helpless are the idf and us, even combined; they are learning together that each is far less capable than expected. Arab neighbors have long been bought off, and the street has been mostly quiet thinking the west is all-powerful… but now they’re learning, too.
    The 700k settlers are surrounded by nearly 10x that number of Palestinians. Certainly the settlers are armed, but that means every house is a source of armaments. The idf previously forced settlers out of Gaza because they couldn’t protect them, imo West Bank would be even more difficult. Idf can hardly bomb the settlers. Guerrilla warfare is far easier here than Ukraine because the area is so small and populations are so intimately mixed. Imagine two lovers armed with knives in an intimate embrace.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Please do the math. Conventional warfare says it would take a force 3x as big as the settlers, as in 2.4 million (the settlers in the West Bank >800,000) to defeat them. By all accounts they are well armed, rabid, and have IDF support. You are smoking something very very strong if you think they will be turfed out.

      1. Dissident Dreamer

        As soon as I saw “2-state solution difficult” I knew poor old John k would be in for a telling off. Wrong think.

        The settlers aren’t an army, many will be armed but only with small arms. Many are there for the good life, subsidised by the state,and would leave if encouraged or paid to do so.

        It’s the settlements that are the Bantustans, connected by roads which are only viable with army protection.

        If it came to it and a Palestinian state was declared under international law and they refused to leave, the Palestinians with Hesbollah, the Houthis and the rest of the Axis of Resistance would jump at the chance to persuade them.

        The key is to get the US and Israel to agree to a state. Not easy but not impossible.

      2. Michaelmas

        Yves S: Conventional warfare says it would take a force 3x as big as the settlers, as in 2.4 million (the settlers in the West Bank >800,000) to defeat them. By all accounts they are well armed, rabid ….

        Thank you. This can’t be stressed enough, and any notions that NC commentators have that the US can get Tel Aviv (as if) to rein in the settlers — and by extension Israel — are fantasy. This Alastair Crooke piece tells it as it is ——–peace-requires-us-confrontation-wit

        ‘Many years ago, when I was seconded as ‘link’ between President Arafat and the Israeli government, I received an unexpected invitation: I was asked to tour the most radical West Bank settlements as a ‘guest of Ariel Sharon’, the then-PM.

        I was taken by one of the Prime Minister’s closest friends on ‘my’ settlement tour. The latter said to the settler leaders — on each occasion and very explicitly — to treat me as Sharon’s personal guest. They were to speak openly, and to hold nothing back in terms of feelings and opinions.

        That, they did not. Out it all poured; ‘radical’ would be to understate matters. They were ‘crazy’; fanatics in fact. The neighbouring Palestinian villages, towards whom a pure stream of contempt and hatred was evinced, were in their sights; it was to be a matter of time until they would be swept away and their land appropriated.

        On return to Jerusalem [Al-Quds], my guide looked at me sternly, and said simply, “Do you understand? Do you understand why you were sent on this mission?”

        “I do”. No way will those zealots be removed. Even if it were attempted by the Israeli military, it would be a bloodbath, I replied. They have their claws sunk deep into the settlement earth.

        “Yes”. That was all that was said.’

        So, when you write in your OP: But what if the US has come to realize that it …(is) … hopelessly overextended, and the best way to limit the fallout is to get Israel (to realize) that it is risking losing even the US …? … (and) finally penetrate Israel’s self-delusion and force it to start figuring out how to back out of its Gaza/West Bank overreach?

        None of that is going to happen. If the US and the Biden administration did belatedly come to those realizations, they’d just be the next stage of self-delusion in Washington, because it ultimately has no control over Israel.

        If it weren’t ‘politically impossible’, the US should have been backing away as fast as it could. As you say. Since the US hasn’t been backing away, between the widening escalation in the ME region and the Ukraine debacle, we’ll be lucky if 2024 is only notable for the death of millions of people in that region and as a significant inflection point in the collapse of US power.

        1. NN Cassandra

          It’s easy to be zealot and talk big about fighting to death when it doesn’t look like you will be required to do so. But if the impunity shield disappears and it will be either death followed by Palestinians taking over the colony outpost, or retreat followed by Palestinians taking over the colony outpost? Even the Azov guys in Mariuopol folded, despite promising to go to Valhala thousands times before ever surrendering to Putin.

          Not saying it will happen, just pointing out much of this zealotry is build upon assumption that the Israel colonial project is backed by overwhelming force and when you take that out, the calculus changes.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            That is not what Alastair Crooke says and he has met these people (the Israelis in the West Bank). He says they are rabid.

            The ones at the Lebanon border have been there much longer and so are not recent (as in practicing routine violence) occupiers.

        2. Skip Intro

          Conventional wisdom applies to organized armies with defensive positions, not isolated pockets of, at best, citizen militias. Will ‘settlers’ fall back to defend the next settlement, or just flee when their homes are overrun?

        3. Dissident Dreamer

          Washington may not have control over Israel but it has massive power. It could end the massacre in Gaza simply by stopping supplying arms. Israel would still have its nukes but using them would be the end of it. Without the US Israel would be alone.

          AIPAC isn’t the only lobby. It’s only powerful because its interests don’t yet really conflict with the others. Money rules and if support for Israel starts costing the US real money then the Israel lobby will be overwhelmed.

          The inflection point has already arrived. US power is waning. China and Russia are rising and looking to cement their rise. The RoW is mostly with them. Most of the “jungle” would be better off if the US didn’t exist. Patience with the US UNSC veto is running out. Allowing genocide and refusing a Palestinian state could be the catalyst for a revolt. The US may soon have to decide whether it wants its influence to decline precipitously or gradually.

          I’m not saying all this is going to happen, just that it could. Predicting the future has never been more difficult. Anything could happen even a Palestinian state.

          1. Michaelmas

            DD: The inflection point has already arrived.

            Obviously. However ….

            Washington may not have control over Israel but it has massive power. It could end the massacre in Gaza simply by stopping supplying arms.

            Starvation and cholera will be slower in achieving the genocide that Israel is carrying out in Gaza, but just as effective as genocide done with the assistance of US bombs. In which case, the US cannot end the massacres by simply halting the supply of its weapons and it has already lost power over Israel.

            I mean, you were talking about the US losing power, right?

            DD: The US may soon have to decide whether it wants its influence to decline precipitously or gradually

            Do you seriously imagine the US will even get that choice? Who in Washington has enough brains and the power to alter course now? (Well, maybe a Trump administration will, but I wouldn’t bet on it.)

            Given that, US decline will be precipitous over the next 18-48 months, and is locked in.

            DD: China and Russia are rising and looking to cement their rise. The RoW is mostly with them. Most of the “jungle” would be better off if the US didn’t exist. Patience with the US UNSC veto is running out. Allowing genocide and refusing a Palestinian state could be the catalyst for a revolt.

            A revolt? That sounds really dramatic, like this is all about Hollywood-style good guys and bad guys. What will happen instead will be: –
            [a] the rest of the world doing what it’s already doing, which is increasingly ignoring US policy edicts ;
            [b] the US doubling down on its disastrous policies because “we mustn’t look weak.” (See for reference, accounts of the Suez and Aden crises for how much that was on British governments’ minds in the final days of empire).

            And as [b] occurs and the US doubles down by trying to throw its weight around, it will pick fights and try to smash competitors by stirring up wars, and hundreds of thousands of people — maybe million — will be collateral.

            Nothing a dramatic as a ‘revolt.’ On the other hand, WWI had its own kind of drama.

      3. John k

        Yes, I’m an optimist often wrong, eg the Greeks and brexit.
        Imo a West Bank Palestinian insurrection would have enormous problems; idf, well armed settlers, and not least their own leadership. Can they even change out the latter?
        But 700k settlers are likely 100k men, 100k women, and 500k fairly young kids given the huge families the religious far right have. And the far right settlers have mostly refused military service, so while they’re armed they’re not trained to any degree. I don’t have any knowledge of how well their homes are protected, but if not concrete with heavily barred windows in walled compounds they are vulnerable. Imagine if resistance could fly them some drones across the Jordan.
        Plus the north of israel has emptied out, as many as a quarter million in a few months, granted hezbollah is more formidable a threat. But I wonder how much staying power the settler families would have if a real insurrection took place.
        I would add the religious far right is a low productive burden on Israel in general, and a bigger burden in the West Bank. This will be more apparent if and when the productive seculars continue voting with their feet. How long can israel survive as it is today if and when the weakening empire is forced to retreat from the ME?

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          No one is going to engage in anti-Jewish ethnic cleansing INSIDE the borders of a hostile state. Honestly, do you not understand that this is NUTS?

          The only way Israel leaves the West Bank is if Israel ceases to exist. Israel has nukes so this won’t happen without them destroying the region.

  12. HH

    If the Democratic party cannot remove Biden from the White House, he will suffer a crushing defeat in the next election. I have never witnessed such a scene of presidential incompetence as military and diplomatic errors compound and foreign governments become increasingly alarmed. What does it take to restore sane leadership to the USA?

    1. JonnyJames

      Don’t like the D candidate? Whadda we gonna do? Vote R? the joke is on us. Just because we have Elections Inc, does not mean we have meaningful choice.

      DT will be POTUS again and he’s gonna “save our country” and make ‘merka great and all that. Don’t like that? whadda we gonna do? Vote D?

    2. Tom Doak

      I fear the opposite, that Biden (like George W) is about to position himself as a “war President” in an election year. But the public are not as thirsty for war this time around.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        He’s been trying this. He’s already made it personal with his televised address.

        HIs whole schtick is he’s a tough guy on the world stage. What if they held a war and no one came? He’s had Blinken running around trying to form anti-alliance this and anti-bloc that. He can’t get anything going because the US has fallen so far. His problem is an 18 year old on 9/11 is 40. Team Blue literally calls Trump a traitor every day.

      2. Not Qualified to Comment

        It’s hard to sell yourself as a ‘War President’ when no-one’s attacking you, and the wars you are involved in are someone else’s that you’ve chosen to stick your nose in.

  13. ciroc

    When the war began, everyone expected that one of the most modern and powerful armies in the world would easily defeat the poor Muslim separatists. And it did not happen. Armored vehicles and tanks marching in without adequate support were one by one neutralized by rocket launchers fired by guerrillas creeping from the shadows of buildings. Unexperienced recruits suffered heavy casualties in ambushes that forced humiliating retreats. Large-scale airstrikes disguised as guerrilla sweeps caused many civilian casualties and drew criticism at home and abroad. Victory was not in sight.

    Is this a reference to the Gaza War? No, it is a reference to the First Chechen War.

    In the Second Chechen War, Russia did much better. Soldiers were well trained and morale was high. Public opinion was fed up with Islamic extremist terrorism and supported the cause of the war. And the international community was on Russia’s side, for it was indeed the post-9/11 war on terror. The intelligence services succeeded in cutting off domestic and foreign financial aid to Chechnya. This gradually weakened the separatists. Instead of relinquishing direct rule over Chechnya, Russia decided to empower pro-Russian Chechens and let them crack down on the separatists. This succeeded in changing the composition of the conflict from Chechnya versus Russia to separatist terrorists versus Chechnya and Russia. And Russia won.

    If Israel learns from Russia’s experience, it may one day be able to turn the tide. Remember that it took Russia 15 years to achieve its final victory over Chechnya.

    (Let me be clear: I have no desire to see Israel win.)

    1. zach

      Tremendous job weaving the two conflicts.

      Although I have to ask, what is a win for Israel? And what does it matter who wins, if it stays the fighting and the dying generally? A Palestinian autonomous region like Tibet, federal republic like Chechnya, or… Texas? I’m not Palestinian but that doesn’t sound all that bad really, considering the Arab “brother” countries treat them like the red-headed stepchild whenever there’s a conflict.

      No offense to any red heads, stepchildren, or red-headed stepchildren. Or Palestinians.

      1. ciroc

        As long as Israel wants to maintain its apartheid regime, the war will never end. Of course, the death toll must stop, but what Palestine needs is not a temporary cease-fire, but eternal peace. Palestine remaining in Israel is not necessarily a bad option. But it must be shown that remaining in Israel is more beneficial than independence. This would require the withdrawal of settlers, the granting of a high degree of autonomy and a higher standard of living for the population, rather than oppression through fear. This may have been an unacceptable concession to Israel in the past, but it is now the only way to end a sterile war and still prevent future uprisings.

  14. Clwydshire

    This is a little off the central topic, but if you read Simplicius’ article referenced in Yves’ article here, please take note of his continuing de-platforming/defunding saga at the very end. I wonder how it has happened that the faith of all the “virtuous” elites in lies and the suppression of reasoned discussion came to be so incredibly powerful. I wonder if in the wreckage of the vast defeat to which this all points, they will just be thinking “we could have lied better.”

  15. Not Moses

    Hamas won the skirmish on day one, and now Israelis are defendants in the ICJ for genocidal crimes. The fact that it was able to inflict serious loses on Israel revealed the IDF’s real strength as a military power and intelligence service. It failed on both counts. The brutal genocide that followed doesn’t have global public support, nor in the US. It will continue to decline, notwithstanding US media propaganda – the purported rapes of Israeli women by Hamas; the purported wish by Arab nations to push Israel to the sea, etc.; the wheeling of Holocaust survivors to the press, etc. – none have made a difference, not have merit to offset Israeli nefarious naked ambition – again, Israel is defendant in the ICJ.

    Clearly, the Red Sea “ Operation Prosperity Guardian ” has also failed incredibly badly for the US. Countries are not yet registering vocal protests against the Houthis, which says a lot. After Afghanistan and Iraq, this new initiative is embarrassing. The rest of the world must be scratching their heads, and Russia, China and North Korea must high five -ing each other. What a mess, thanks to our most trusted ally, the little democracy that was, Israel.

    Given the failed high drama, will Israel drop the “bomb” as a last resort? Biden is in a corner. To run his re-election in this “democracy,” he needs to raise $2B that will come from the financial oligarchical crowd that, in a quid-pro-quo, will demand support for Israel, no matter what. Anthony Blinken and Victoria-Nuland-Kagan should’ve been removed from the Administration long ago. The public is also realizing that with God’s Chosen in key Administration positions and taking charge of WS, for decades, has translated into a declining country, but riches for them. It’s unsustainable.

    Wall Street is brimming with joy. American working families, not so much. Neither Ukraine nor Israel are kitchen table issues.

  16. Susan the other

    How does anybody decipher anything? When Biden and Blinkie simultaneously announced that they themselves, separately, were “Zionist” I was stunned. I couldn’t believe it but there it was as clear as misinformation warfare. Biden? A proud Irishman who hates the British imperialists? OK. Whatever. At least Blinkie proclaimed gratuitously, “I am Jewish.” Something is displaced. I don’t believe either proclamation means they want anything except a giant gas field. What I believe is that Gaza is a mystery within a crime. The crime of genocide is the result of the crime of energy imperialism and the desperation of stranded profits and failed capitalism. The mystery is the narrative of denial. Which is all over the board. The only clear clue to the truth is that it is never mentioned. The USA is very insecure over the end of oil-based economics. Because we have built a global military to insure our energy supply and the greater part of that supply goes to the military to protect it. And Gaza is so ill fated as to sit right on shore of the whole treasure. We must take note by comparison that we and the zealot Israelis have not attempted to hold a genocidal pogrom against Iran.

  17. Anon

    Simplicius being ‘weak on politics’ is a good way to put it, seeing as how he thinks the Deep State is trying to sabotage his blog and he thinks the answer is to paywall things. Could have come up with a better advertisement than that imo.

  18. The Rev Kev

    You begin to wonder just how many IDF forces have been killed in this war so far. And I am not including the 400 or so killed on Day One. In the 1973 Yom Kippur war about 2,800 were reckoned to have been killed in return for a decisive victory. This time around Israel finds itself in a quagmire and the death toll seems to be under tight wraps. I sure as hell do not believe that it is about 100 as some people try to maintain and even Wikipedia states it to be 1.436 killed which means that about 1,000 have been killed after Day One. If this war ends and Israel does not have their Total Victory like they have been demanding and lots of killed, wounded and crippled, what then? What do they do as a nation? Could there be a civil war between the settlers and the secular as this war is being fought for the benefit of the former while it is the later that will reap most of the benefits?

  19. VietnamVet

    My Black Democrat Congressman is completely silent. He won the redrawn district because of AIPAC attack ads on the former progressive black Congresswoman. There are so many bought marionette strings pulling the US government here and there that it cannot see reality or act in the best interest of the people. It is utterly corrupt. The only accomplishments are increasing corporate profits at the expense of human lives and perpetuating the deep state.

    On PBS NewsHour discussions there is no peace side; no mention of withdrawal, armistices or new strong DMZs/borders; nor that WW3 has started with the regional wars in the Balkans and the Arabian Peninsula that are out of the USA’s control. The media simply broadcasts staying the current course or shilling for a war with Iran by reincarnated John McCains saying “Bomb Bomb Iran”.

    The Western Empire divided and conquered the peoples of North American and Europe in the last 40 years. Even if a nuclear apocalypse is avoided in the war against the Axis of Resistance, the traumatic withdrawals from Iraq and Syria, the Biden Trump Presidential election replay, the re-partition of Eastern Europe, the isolation of Israel — the end of the US dollar economic hegemon will tear the West apart. Only restoration of secular constitutional republics and repudiation of free trade institutions like the EU so that sovereign nations can live within their means will avoid the fall — the forgetting of everything that worked in the past in a New Dark Age.

    1. CA

      On PBS NewsHour discussions there is no peace side…

      [ Very, very important and distressing observation. The absence of a peace side on pubic media undermines those who would strengthen American diplomacy, while American diplomacy is stunningly limited. ]

  20. Willow

    It would seem US/Israel desparately need a war with Iran to justify deploying US forces to Israel.

    1. NotThePilot

      Just one man’s take, but I always take any reporting on Iran from Reuters as immediately sus. As in, assume it’s what connections in the US/UK governments wish was reality.

      I think it all goes back to the Reuter concession and the influence of the Reuter family on the news agency even after selling it off formally. Nothing conspiratorial, just that they probably retained some pull and that shaped the agency’s outlook over time.

      It’s interesting too that it’s a smell I’ve noticed not even independent media seems to talk about much. I think it’s just that people in the West tend to read about Iran less, even if they’re less biased against the country than most.

  21. Max Z

    I recall seeing somewhere how France and Jordan dropped some containers with aid into Gaza from air. And then it was like it never happened. I wonder what’s stopping other countries doing just that, dropping aid into Gaza from air? Apart from Israeli and US threatening to shoot the planes down, of course.

      1. Max Z

        Yeah, what I meant was why nobody does that, Gazans are desperate for any aid. Humanitarian air drops seem like the best practical idea if you’re willing to risk Israeli wrath.

  22. Boshko

    SMH at that placement of “Czech Republic” on the map of Italian LNG infrastructure!

    C’mon guys!

  23. Jorge

    Henry Kissinger — ‘It may be dangerous to be America’s enemy, but to be America’s friend is fatal.’ Israel may be learning this lesson.

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