Hamas and Israel Agree to Cease-Fire, Clinton Says

Hamas and Israel Agree to Cease-Fire, Clinton Says by David Kirkpatrick, Ethan Bronner, and Rick Gladstone, New York Times.

Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire on Wednesday after eight days of lethal fighting over the Gaza Strip, the United States and Egypt said after intensive negotiations in Cairo.

The cease-fire, which is to take effect at 9 p.m. local time (2 p.m. E.S.T.), was formally announced by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr of Egypt at a news conference here. It appeared to avert an escalating battle between Palestinians and Israelis that had threatened to turn into wider war...

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What we are witnessing in the Middle East may be a stroke of strategic brilliance on the part of President Obama and Secretary Clinton on one hand and Netanyahu and Ehud Barak on the other with the “strategic losers Iran and the radical stance of Hamas.

Netanyahu and Barak come out of the IDF’s Sayeret Matkal (their SOG force) and believe in and practice an indirect form of warfare. Neither is interested in pursuing the conventional goal of invasion and land conquest unless absolutely necessary. Their goal was to end or drastically minimize the number of rockets / missiles fired from Gaza and to end other recently increased conventional firing into Israel. Their objective is to maneuver Gaza into a peaceful Palestinian area with which they can eventually return to the previous open borders between the countries. Few remember that when the Israeli Army initially pulled out of Gaza the border was wide open and tens of thousands of Gazan Arabs worked in Israel with commerce routinely flowing between the areas. The borders were not closed until after the rocket attacks commenced. Israel’s other objective is to cut the arms supply from Iran into the area.

Iran’s goals are essentially the opposite. They have been smuggling longer range missiles into Gaza via Egypt knowing that under current conditions radical groups in Gaza would attempt to use them to attack Israel, thus giving Iran a de facto base of operations in the area. In recent weeks the attacks from Gaza into Israel have been on a steady increase. Hamas believing they had the unquestioned support of Morsi of Egypt refused to stop the attacks, many of which are probably originating from Islamic Jihad.

Israel took out the military head of Hamas as a warning and evoked a not unexpected reaction from Hamas and the rocket / missile conflict commenced. Israel called up tens of thousands of its reserves and began massing forces on the Gazan border, but using those forces would have been a last resort, and they probably would only have been used to both cut the flow of arms from Rafa in Egypt by driving into that part of Gaza and to destroy other areas. That, however, was truly a last resort as Israel has zero interest in re-occupying Gaza.

Instead Israel employed its Iron Dome System which performed incredibly well. This Israeli-American weapons systems is designed to pick up and track an incoming short range rocket, to then determine its course and project place of landing and explosion, to ascertain whether that point of impact is in open land or an area where casualties and property damage could result – and only if the latter to respond by locking on to the incoming rocket and launching an interceptor missile to shoot it down. Having developed a weapons system with the speed of computing and missile speed from launch to succeed in such a short range environment is for those who do not practice or develop weapons technology a true electronic leap forward. Iron Dome’s kill ratio against truly threatening rockets for the minimum number of systems the Israeli currently possess was incredibly high. Barak has announced that Israel will be obtaining more Iron Dome launchers to beef up their defenses even more. Clearly America and Israel remain world class leaders when it comes to developing high tech weapons systems. Israel used primarily aircraft to take out the launchers for the longer range Iranian supplied missile systems and for good measure was in the process of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and command and control systems such as they were.

Even more important was the incredibly brilliant diplomatic maneuvering by Obama and Clinton. Obama has demonstrated that he has come of age and learned a lot over his past term. Originally Morsi appeared to take a posture of supporting Hamas and condemning Israel, but then it was announced President Obama had not only dispatched Secretary Clinton to the region. Simultaneously with that it was briefly noted that he had called and spoke to Morsi and apparently advised him that if he continued to support Hamas (in its de facto aggression) that the US Congress would cut all aid to that country and could stand in the way of his country receiving the other aid they desperately need. Egypt’s economy is worsening and it was their terrible economic strait that brought out crowds to take down Mubarak. A short time after that conversation and after his speaking to Secretary Clinton, Morsi apparently met with the leader of Hamas and a ceasefire resulted.

While it is true that in historic Arab fashion the Head of Hamas declared victory, there is nothing wrong with that face saving valuable deception. Remember, after his army almost being eliminated in 1973, Sadat declared victory because his forces had been able to cross the canal, and it was that (albeit fictional) portrayal of victory that provided him the needed status to make peace with the non-commenting then Israeli government of Menachem Begin. It also appears that Clinton has explained to Morsi that in the negotiations that follow the Egyptians must find a way to keep Iranian weapons from entering Gaza, even if he needs help from the US in achieving that result. Do not forget that US troops are currently in the Sinai quietly securing the 1973 peace between Israel and Egypt. One of my neighbors was part of that teams just a couple of years ago. Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood has been maneuvered by the Obama / Clinton team into the representative in the area. If a successful way can be found to stop the Iranian weapons flow, the US will successfully pressure Israel to allow more and more trade goods and commerce to flow across the Gaza-Israel border and give Morsi credit for that move. He will appear to have improved the economic lot of the people of Gaza.

Israel hopefully will understand that it will benefit from a less weaponized Hamas and open borders – with obvious security, and a return to having people from Gaza once again being able to work and travel in Israel. They will see firsthand a vibrant (secular) economy and booming country and that vision and their paychecks will intellectually separate more and more of them from the economically and intellectually destructive course of Islamic radical movements. Netanyahu and Barak are intelligent enough to know that pressure is coming from the country that pays for their Iron Dome Systems.

Of course, the problem is that there are members of Islamic Jihad and other radical organization s that also are aware of what is occurring and they will use every means at their disposal to interfere with the change could be occurring in the area. Israel must be convinced to hold their fire while sufficient pressure is brought by Egypt onto Hamas to stop the radicals in their mist from derailing this process. Hamas is capable of achieving that result. A few years ago they promptly located the radical group which assassinated an Italian activist supporting the people of Gaza and promptly executed them.

Also missed by many is the announcement on Wednesday that US Naval forces will be returning and stationed in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea area off the Middle East. This will include Cruisers or Destroyers with Aegis anti-missile systems and an Amphibious Task Group carrying Marines and supporting aircraft. Iran’s movement of weapons into the area, Hamas’s use of those weapons and more aggressive posture, and the actions of terrorist groups in that area have brought about a reaction from President Obama they in all likelihood did not expect. The US Navy ships that will arrive after January 1rst will also provide President Obama substantial leverage with Israel. Add to that, if the Assad government of Syria falls or finds itself maneuvered into minimal sized geographical area, Iran’s influence in that and the surrounding area will be furthered weakened and Hezbollah may find itself beginning to be isolated.

Obviously something can always go wrong, but let us hope this course of action continues along its now positive track for both the US and Israel.

I forgot to add to the previous that the Obama Administration also made it clear to Erdogan of Turkey in rather blunt "diplomatic" language that he was not being helpful. He did so after Erdogan in an another of his attempts to spread (verbally) his Ottoman Empire (dreamed of) recreated influence in the Arab World and referred to the Israeli's (I believe) as terrorists. The Obama administration publicly let it be known to Erdogan that his harsh statements were not helpful. Translated into ordinary English that would be the same as telling him to zip his mouth.

Considering that Erdogan and the once (self believed) strong Turkish military is asking the US to provide it with Patriot Missile batteries, it would be best for Erdogan to follow President Obama's suggestion. Patriot Missile can be provided, but the US does not under any circumstances supply those weapons to other countries, only stations / positions them there under the total control of the US soldiers manning them.

Again, President Obama through this diplomatic speak has made it clear to Turkey that the US is remaining in the Middle East and that this country is the dominant power in that region. However, unlike President Bush, under the current administration our presence will be with more powerful weapons systems rather than unnecessary and very costly large scale ground forces. President Obama is cleverly withdrawing this country from unnecessary costly and non-productive COIN / Nation Building efforts. From a ground prospective making use of Army's highly competent Special Forces, US Special Operations Groups, and CIA operatives which are being committed where needed in support of countries the governments of which are defending themselves against terrorist groups. The result will be to tie the terrorists down fighting against local forces aided by US advisers and some supporting air attacks -- where attrition can take its toil on them at little cost to the US.