Jannus TH Siahaan

How Hamas Exploits the Geopolitical Gap in Middle East

The Middle East is heating up again following the sudden attack by the Palestinian armed group Hamas on Israel near the Gaza border on Saturday (7/10/2023). The attack was claimed by Hamas as an aggressive and strategic step in an effort to reclaim the Palestinian homeland from Israeli occupation.

Hamas started a sudden and massive attack on Israel since Saturday, October 7 2023, early in the morning. No less than 5,000 rockets were launched within 20 minutes at several main cities in Israel, especially Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, as claimed by Hamas.

This was followed by several dozen Hamas troops who began to successfully break through into Israeli territory on the border of the Gaza Strip. Reportedly, the Hamas armed group attacked 22 locations outside the Gaza Strip, including towns and other communities as far as 24 kilometers from the Gaza border.

Because the number of rockets launched was quite large, it was inevitable that some of them would eventually succeed in penetrating Israel’s defense system, the Iron Dome, then destroying several buildings and targeting several residential areas.

The situation became increasingly chaotic because many civilians were involved in direct firefights with Hamas members who managed to enter Israeli territory. Hamas even previously released images of several Israeli citizens being held hostage. Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari confirmed that “soldiers and civilians were kidnapped”.

Hamas named the operation Operation Storm al-Aqsa. As of Monday morning, October 9 203, the operation launched by Hamas has killed more than 700 people in Israel. Total casualties were around 1100 for both sides. More than 100 other people were also reportedly kidnapped, as reported by the Times of Israel, Monday (9/10/2023), citing sources from several local government officials.

Meanwhile, in response to the attack, the Israeli government officially declared war on Sunday and gave the green light for massive and significant military steps to respond to Hamas’ sudden attack. Moreover, Israel also immediately cut off the supply of electricity, water and goods to the Gaza Strip, which made the area completely dark at night.

As Israel’s strategic alliance, United States has not remained silent. President Joe Biden has reportedly ordered military ships and warplanes to be sent immediately to Israel. The fleet is deployed to help Israel deal with a sudden attack by Palestinian Hamas.

As reported by AFP, Monday (9/10/2023), the Pentagon sent an aircraft carrier, which is usually called an aircraft carrier, namely the USS Gerald R Ford, along with its fighter planes. At the same time, the US is also strengthening its fighter jet squadrons in the eastern Mediterranean region.

The Hamas attack this time really shocked Israel. The style and strategy of the attack is similar to the 1973 Yom Kippur War, where Egypt and Syria succeeded in orchestrating a surprise attack on Israel on one of Israel’s holiest days, Yom Kippur.

Luckily for Israel, the Yom Kippur War was finally won, despite being invaded by Egypt in the Sinai Peninsula and continued pressure by Syria from the Golan Heights. As the winner of the Yom Kippur War, Israel was able to retake the Golan Heights and a ceasefire came into effect on October 25, 1973, even though it had to return the Sinai area to Egypt.

The Yom Kippur War could not be separated from the Soviet Union’s support for Egypt. Egypt was armed with anti-aircraft guns, which prevented Israeli warplanes from approaching the Egyptian troops’ positions on one side and enabled Egyptian tanks to successfully cross the Suez Canal smoothly into the Sinai desert. Similar proxy wars were common in the Cold War era.

Meanwhile, Hamas, like Hezbollah, cannot be denied, also receives support from Iran. The rockets launched by Hamas and Hezbollah are usually made in Iran. The difference is that Iran certainly cannot be compared to the Soviet Union in 1973.

However, one thing that is certain is that Iran is on a different, even opposite, geopolitical pendulum to US and the West. Moreover, Iran has just become a member of the BRICS plus organization, along with Saudi Arabia and several other countries. In other words, Iran is on a geopolitical wing that cannot be underestimated by US and the West.

So, with such geopolitical landscape, it is very clear that Hamas is indeed taking advantage of the geopolitical gaps that are currently available. Since the Mullah revolution in Iran, there have not been many moments where Iran and Saudi have united. One of them is today.

Muhamad Bin Salman’s tension and disharmony with the White House have occurred since Biden was first elected as president. Biden’s election changed the pendulum of US foreign policy towards Saudi Arabia. In fact, when Donald Trump came to power, relations between US and Saudi were very close. The two characters look very close and understand each other

But when Biden entered the White House, the situation changed completely. The Biden administration is very clearly seen reducing its commitment to Saudi Arabia and continues to find fault with MBS, especially in the case of the murder of Jamal Kashogi.

Inevitably, the White House’s stance requires MBS and Saudi Arabia to carry out new geopolitical calculations. The result is that Saudi must begin to learn to coexist with Iran, then move closer to Moscow and embrace China as tightly as possible.

This change in Saudi geopolitical chess was welcomed by China and Russia. As a result, thanks to China’s facilitation and active role, Iranian and Saudi representatives succeeded in shaking hands in Beijing recently. Thanks to Putin’s encouragement, Syria finally succeeded in finding a way to meet again with the Saudi rulers and plan to normalize diplomatic relations

With such developments, the Arab world is indirectly starting to show quite prospective solidity. The problem is, this solidity is now sponsored by major non-Western powers, namely China and Russia. Inevitably, as US’s strategic alliance in the Middle East, Israel’s geopolitical position has become very unstable (vulnerable).

Israel had tried to continue to approach MBS and Saudi Arabia, so that Saudi’s plan to normalize diplomatic relations with Iran and Syria did not alienate Israel’s position. It seems that Israel succeeded in getting this commitment from Saudi, but was unable to cancel Saudi’s plans to normalize relations with Iran and Syria and failed to prevent the shift of the Saudi geopolitical pendulum to China and Russia.

This is coupled with US’s current condition which is not very good, both economically, militarily and geopolitically. Economically, Uncle Sam’s country is struggling to emerge from the pressure of recession. And militarily and geopolitically, US is focusing and concentrating on helping Ukraine in Eastern Europe.

In other words, Hamas attack is certainly substantively expected by Moscow, because it will distract US’s attention from Ukraine. Because of this, there were language differences between US and Russia after Hamas launched its surprise attack.

US strongly condemns the Hamas attack and is ready to send military assistance to help Israel. Meanwhile, Russia only said that there would be an immediate ceasefire between the two parties. And it seems that China and the BRICS plus member countries will take the same tricks as Russia, while trying not to show a negative attitude towards Iran.

And I believe that Hamas is very aware of the shift in the geopolitical pendulum in the Middle East. As a result, whether Iran knows it or not, what is clear is that the surprise attack taken by Hamas represents Iran’s geopolitical interests and aspirations on the one hand and is in accordance with Middle East geopolitical tendencies which are increasingly siding with Iran on the other hand.

A major war will burn the Middle East if US does not immediately take a meaningful geopolitical approach. Military support should be provided only to strengthen Israel’s defense, not to make Israel further expand its territory, which would attract the antipathy of many other Arab countries.

In other words, the strategic step that US needs now is a geopolitical approach, so that mainstream Arab countries, such as Saudi and UEA, reject the legitimacy of Hamas attacks on the one hand and give China and Russia a greater role in creating peace between Israel and Palestine on the other hand

The long term goal is of course to create a new balance in the Middle East that does not endanger Israel, where other large countries, including Saudi Arabia, the UEA and Iran, also China and Russia, also have a big role in maintaining stability in the Middle East. And the technical aim is for Hamas to immediately lose the geopolitical gap and legitimacy to continue its attacks on Israel

About the Author
Doctor of Sociology from Padjadjaran University, Indonesia. Defense and Environment Observer.