Gaza, Ukraine wars not going according to Biden’s plan - GulfToday

Gaza, Ukraine wars not going according to Biden’s plan

Michael Jansen

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Relatives of Ukrainian military servicemen fighting with Russian troops rally to demand a rotation for their return from the front lines, at Independence Square in Kyiv, on May 18, 2024, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP)

Relatives of Ukrainian military servicemen fighting with Russian troops rally to demand a rotation for their return from the front lines, at Independence Square in Kyiv, on May 18, 2024, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AFP)

Despite US-backing, the wars in Ukraine and Gaza are not going as expected by the Biden administration. Ukraine should never have challenged Russia over NATO while Israel should have been persuaded to conclude its war on Gaza within a couple of weeks rather than months-without-end. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s morale-boosting visit last week to Ukraine and the US injection of a billion dollars worth of weaponry cannot change the course of a war which Ukraine cannot win.

For this trip, Blinken packed his guitar and went to a popular nightclub where joined a local band in Neil Young’s song “Rockin’ in the Free World.” Written during 1989 shortly before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the song has joined “We Shall Overcome” as a promise to conquer oppression and occupation. “We Shall Overcome” was a folk melody originally sung by Black slaves working in tobacco fields in the US south and popularised in the 1960s by Joan Baez and Pete Seeger during the human rights movement.

Blinken lifted the spirits temporarily of those who heard him but could not “overcome” the feeling of helplessness seeping through the false bravado of Ukraine’s leaders and their Western allies. Ahead of Blinken’s visit was a Russian push in the eastern Kharkiv region which borders with Russia. The advance routed Ukrainian troops, drove 11.000 Ukrainians from their homes and devastated towns and villages. Kyiv blamed the army’s retreat its lack of munitions and weapons and air defences. Ukraine cannot match Russia’s manpower, weaponry, and strategic depth.

The US and its allies initially dismissed the ramshackle Russian military due to its poor performance and low morale in the early months of the war and did not credit improvements in discipline and logistics. This was accompanied by ramping up of weapons manufacture by Russian military industries. Russian morale has been boosted by political support from China and the Global South which has been disillusioned by US and Western double dealing. Their Cold War warriors are seen as using Ukraine as a proxy to weaken Russia, the heir of the Soviet Union. Ukraine and Ukrainians are paying a high price for a war which should have been avoided. But today’s leaders rarely listen to good advice.

In 2008, US Ambassador to Russia who is Current Central Intelligence Agency head William Burns wrote to then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: “Ukrainian entry into NATO is the brightest of all redlines for the Russian elite (not just Putin). In more than two and a half years of conversations with key Russian players, from knuckle-draggers in the dark recesses of the Kremlin to Putin’s sharpest liberal critics, I have yet to find anyone who views Ukraine in NATO as anything other than a direct challenge to Russian interests.”

Other commentators have said that Russians see Ukraine as more than an “interest” or asset but as a long-standing marriage partner who shares religion, culture and identity with Russia.

Israel is losing the Gaza war on multiple fronts. On the ground in Gaza, Hamas has announced it is waging a war of attrition in Gaza and is ready to carry on until Israel withdraws. Hamas fighters — with sidearms and home-made rockets — continue to battle Israel’s well-equipped troops backed up by tanks, drones, and aerial bombardment. After the Israelis launched their staged offensive against Rafah in the south of Gaza, Hamas gunmen appeared in Jabaliya and Gaza City in the north and Khan Younis in the south all three of which had been declared “cleared” by the Israeli army. Although Israel has claimed it has killed 13,000 and captured 500 Hamas fighters, the movement remains strong and is said to be attracting volunteers among young males determined to exact revenge on Israel for killing more than 35,000, wounding 78,000 and disappearing 10,000 Gazans beneath the rubble. Even the US has warned that Israel’s war aim of eliminating Hamas is unachievable.

On the home front, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s extreme right-wing government has been accused of putting the war ahead of agreeing to a six-week ceasefire and freeing 90-odd live hostages and more than 30 bodies of captives still held by Hamas. Most Israelis want him to agree to Hamas’ demands for the release of some of the 9,000 Palestinian prisoner Israel holds. Many Israelis are prepared to accept Hamas’ demand for a permanent ceasefire. This number is growing, dividing the country.

On the international front, Israel has been widely condemned by millions of people around the world for slaying and wounding thousands of Palestinian women and children, denying them food, water, fuel and medical care, precipitating famine, and devastating Gaza to the point the strip is uninhabitable. Israel has been accused of genocide of the Palestinian people before the International Court of Justice and war crimes charges against Netanyahu and his commanders have been raised at the International Criminal Court where warrants for their arrest have been demanded.

Israel’s traditional partners, the US, Germany, and Britain, have been criticised for continuing to arm Israel and provide political backing during the Gaza war but other countries have withdrawn support and condemned Israel. They do not see Israel’s war as defensive but as designed to crush the Palestinian people and make them submit to forever occupation. Israel has sacrificed unconditional backing and impunity by waging this cruel seven-month war. Raising the spectre of the World War II Holocaust has always enabled Israel and its backers to fend off criticism of its policies. However, critics are now prepared to risk being accused by Israel of “Holocaust denial” and being “antisemitic” or racist against Jews.

This being the case, Israel should declare “victory” and end the Rafah offensive and the war. Netanyahu refuses to take this step because as long as Israel is fighting, he does not have to account for Israel’s failure to pre-empt the October 7th raid staged by Hamas which killed 1,139 and abducted 250 Israelis and visitors. Deeply unpopular Netanyahu would also have to call for an election which his Likud party would lose, leaving him liable for jail time if he is convicted of fraud, breach of trust, and bribery in his ongoing trial.

 

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