Did Hamas just ‘Saddam’ themselves?

Immediately following Israel’s decision of going after Hamas in response to the horrific act of terrorism on October 7, cheerleaders of the pro-China media erupted in unison.

| Updated: 08 November, 2023 1:07 pm IST
There was a time back in the 90s, when Saddam Hussein had announced his intentions of attacking Kuwait, in front of a US diplomat.

NEW DELHI: Immediately following Israel’s decision of going after Hamas in response to the horrific act of terrorism on October 7, cheerleaders of the pro-China media erupted in unison. They buzzed around the world about how Israel was ‘trapped’ by Russia and China. And how by extension this would also lure the USA in and divert its attention from the ongoing war in Ukraine and the one in Taiwan in near future. To some of them, this was Xi’s version of 5D chess, and Gaza was not just about to turn into Israel’s Vietnam, but also pull America all the way down. To a few others, the ‘unprecedented Arab unity’ as a result of Israel’s proposed misadventure would completely destroy whatever ambitions the UAE-KSA-Israel relation nurtured, and with it, take down the Indo-Middle East trade corridor too.

Facts? It has been about a month and a few days now. Israel, after the initial aerial bombardment of anything in Gaza that remotely looked like Hamas (which means most of Gaza), is carefully marching its ground forces inside the strip. According to the NBC, Gaza has already been split into two by the IDF. There is the physical wall down south where Gaza touches Egypt, which remains more or less shut for refugees except allowing a tiny trickle; there is a strong IDF presence along the northern tip of Gaza; and now there are tanks that are cutting through the strip. There are no signs of 5D moves being made by Xi Jinping, or Iran so far.

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UAE, Egypt, or Jordan do not seem to be overtly bothered with the fate of the Palestinians. One cannot blame them for that. Historically, Palestinian refugees and immigrants exhibit an impressive record of biting the hand that fed them; the Middle Eastern countries are painfully aware of that. Every time a state – Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, etc – sheltered them, the Palestinians colluded with the local Islamist radicals to destabilize the host civil societies, carry terror attacks against local population, and in some cases actively conspire to bring down seated governments.

With that kind of baggage, and with the present priorities of Egypt-UAE-KSA clearly aligned with Israel in terms of stabilizing the area for economic growth, it is a small wonder that the heads of the states don’t seem impressed. I have some insights about MBS that I can share here: the man is riding an all-time high as far as his popularity among the KSA youth is concerned. In a country with 76% urban population now, this has everything to do with his recent allowances for young women and men. While there could be a debate about whether this vision of his was inspired by the USA or he was creative enough on his own, there would be no debating the facts that a) MBS is on a roll; b) it would be quite idiotic to upset this run; and c) he is not stupid.

Only synthetic Qatar was trying hard to remain consequential – a midget among men and nothing close to Tyrion Lannister – till the USA slapped its wrist and asked it to behave. Even Iran seems cautious; they are making noises that are absolutely obligatory, choosing to avoid those that aren’t, and so far, restricted to sending some necessary weapon systems and hardware. While there is a fair chance of a future flare-up, there is also a fair chance of Binyamin Netanyahu playing his hands adroitly and preempting the same.

This Middle Eastern indifference has stumped the 5D chess proponents and Sinophiles that were making the Hamas terrorism of 7/10 sound like a boardroom decision of Iran-Russia-China. Reading them during the initial days made it appear like it was a unanimous verdict, that of initiating a destabilization of Israel; Iran being tasked with the responsibility to communicate to Hamas to attack, with an assurance from sources within the different Middle Eastern states that an Israeli retaliation would be exploited to unite the Middle East.

Remember when Justin Trudeau personally orchestrated his own PR disaster a few months ago with the Nijjar drama, I had written that while the USA might have supplied him with the intel, they probably did not instruct him to act in the manner that he did. There is a reason why I wrote that. There was a time back in the 90s, when Saddam Hussein had announced his intentions of attacking Kuwait, in front of a US diplomat. He was categorically told by the US ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie that the Americans had nothing to say or do about his decision; that he was free to act however he saw fit. Saddam – who then was a close US friend because of his role in the Iran-Iraq war – had assumed this response to be a green signal. He attacked Kuwait. We all know what happened afterwards.

There is no saying how much of it repeated itself this October. We would probably never know whether Iran pushed Hamas to attack with an express assurance of active support, or whether Hamas ‘Saddamed’ themselves relying on Iran on their own; however, a few things stand out: strategic or security blocs are relics of the Cold War era. These days, most states are largely on their own (except the ones that have their security imperatives outsourced to the USA/NATO); there is no insulation from the consequences of the decisions that they take.

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Of course, there would be sympathy and support, some of it substantial too. That applies in the case of Hamas as well; like Wagner expressing its desire to dispatch some serious hardware, or Hezbollah providing assistance towards keeping the IDF occupied in northern Israel – but that is rapidly becoming an inconsequential practice. Turkey has been sending weapons to Ukraine as it continues to maintain trade relations with Russia, and even no-ones like Pakistan are trying to make some money by selling weapons to Ukraine.

So, if it is what it is, where does that leave the current state of affairs post 7/10? Putin probably didn’t ask the Hamas terrorists to fly gliders into Israel the same way Xi didn’t nudge Iran to sabotage the Middle Eastern trade corridor. These two are both trying to capitalize on an opportunity here, and unless Netanyahu does something incredibly rash and/or stupid, there would be limited success for them. If and when it happens, the Sinophile media can of course blow that out of proportion and make it sound like a ‘masterstroke’ – of Xi Jinping.

Arindam Mukherjee is a geopolitical analyst and the author of JourneyDog Tales, The Puppeteer, and A Matter of Greed. 


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