Escalation in Gaza Threatens to Undo Biden's European and Asia-Pacific Strategy
11:52 01.11.2023 (Updated: 11:54 01.11.2023)
The White House has made it clear again that it does not support the call for a ceasefire in Gaza amid the war between Israel and Hamas. What is the US seeking in the Middle East and is it poised for a multifaceted conflict?
Washington does not believe that a ceasefire is the "right answer" to the Palestinian-Israeli crisis "right now," as National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby was quoted as saying on Tuesday. Kirby insisted on the necessity to provide humanitarian aid to Palestinians and said that Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu was trying to "minimize" civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, the number of killed in the region by Israeli strikes has already mounted over 8,500 people.
Previously, both the US and the UK have vetoed Russia's resolutions calling for an immediate ceasefire in the region, further heightening the mounting frustration within the Muslim world regarding the new Palestinian crisis. Meanwhile, Team Biden is clumsily attempting to convince Netanyahu to refrain from initiating a full-scale ground operation in the Gaza Strip. What are the true intentions of the White House?
"I think the number one is what Biden himself has said, and that is they want to leave it up to Netanyahu. He's in the driver's seat. Even if they disagreed with Netanyahu, there's nothing they can do about it because Netanyahu's going to do his own thing, and he's driven by his ministers who want to actually not just destroy Hamas, but to begin bombing Iran," Michael Maloof, former senior security policy analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, told Sputnik.
According to Maloof, Netanyahu's political survival is now dependent on whether he will succeed in destroying Hamas. Even though Washington is also seemingly willing to get rid of Hamas, the US establishment is aware that it's a very difficult task, according to the security expert. "So we're seeing a lot of efforts here by the [US] administration to try to figure out what their position actually is," he said.
In the meantime, the Pentagon is strengthening its military presence in the region. On October 10, the USS Gerald R. Ford
carrier strike group arrived in the Eastern Mediterranean, followed by the deployment of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower
carrier strike group. The US Navy subsequently announced that the USS Mount Whitney
, a Blue Ridge-class command and control ship from the US 6th Fleet, had been dispatched to the conflict zone
Maloof is inclined to see this as an attempt to take the unfolding crisis under control, rather than preparations for a direct conflict with Middle Eastern powers on the part of the US.
"The United States does not favor war," Maloof insisted. "And it's always tried to, this administration at least has tried to work things out with Iran. It's not in the US interest to have this blow up because what Israel is doing now in Gaza, killing thousands of people in response to the Hamas attack on 7th of October, is regarded as just overwhelming and an overkill. And the US is looked upon as pushing Netanyahu in doing this and being relentless about it. And the fact that the United States refuses to call for a ceasefire reinforces that. So I think that these elements brought together clearly put the United States squarely in the bull's eye of the Muslim world."
Gaza War Thwarted Team Biden's Geopolitical Design
It appears that the Gaza crisis came like a bolt from the blue for Washington. Team Biden has been known for bellicose statements aimed at Russia and China over Ukraine and Taiwan, respectively. However, the Biden administration considered the Middle East to be relatively pacified.
"The Middle East region is quieter today than it has been in two decades," US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan claimed at the Atlantic Festival on September 29, less than 10 days before Hamas' surprise attack on adjacent Israeli communities.
Maloof asserts that the Gaza war by no means fitted into Team Biden's foreign policy scenario: Washington was de facto forced to hastily adjust its Mideast strategy to the reality on the ground, urgently allocating funds for Israel while putting Ukraine and Taiwan on the back burner.
The security analyst believes that given the bipartisan nature of congressional support for the Jewish state, Israel will be a priority for American lawmakers' immediate legislative initiatives.
"I think it's because they're [the Biden administration is] operating by the seat of the pants right now," Maloof said. "There's no policy for this. Right now they're trying to temper things, show deterrence, show commitment to Israel on the one hand. But on the other hand, they consider that this could absolutely rupture even US relations with the other Arab countries for years to come, maybe for decades to come. So I think they're really walking a very tight line. I thought it was intriguing that Jake Sullivan's peace informs was recently scrapped, in which he was talking about how peaceful things have become in the Middle East. So, that's ominous. But clearly, US policy in the Middle East in terms of its relationship with all sides, Israeli and including with the Arab countries and for that matter, with the entire Muslim world, is now at stake."
Meanwhile, there are no signs that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict may calm down in the near future, according to the security analyst. Quite the contrary: Hezbollah appears to be inching closer to opening a potential second front; Yemen's Houthi rebels announced they had launched ballistic missiles and drones at Israel and threatened Tel Aviv with more attacks.
Turkey, a Sunni stronghold, has lashed out at Israel
, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warning about a new "Cross-and-the Crescent conflict" during a massive pro-Palestinian rally in Istanbul last Saturday.
"I would add that if this goes on and [the] Israelis as of this morning appear to have actually launched a full offensive, you're going to have a rare development here of uniting the Shia and the Sunnis," Maloof noted. "And you're talking more than a million fighters ultimately that could descend upon Israel if that's the decision. And already Yemen is talking about sending ballistic missiles into Israel this morning. There's a lot of threats going on. And we'll have to see if they're going to be carried out. But if that happens, it's a whole new turn, the whole region will just go up in flames at that point."
According to Maloof, the US risks getting entangled in a large-scale, multi-faceted conflict it is not ready for.
"Because there isn't a war the United States doesn't like these days. And it looks like we could be engaged in a 3 to 5 front war if everything coincides and the planets line up just right, we could have multi-fronts going here. And we're not ready for it. We're just not ready for it," the security expert maintained.