Israel’s Intelligence Failures and Its Geopolitical Risks in the Middle East

In her analysis on the Foreign Affairs on October 11 2023, intelligence expert from the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Amy Zegart, wrote that one of the fatal causes of Hamas’s surprise attack on Israeli territory was the failure of Israeli intelligence to detect Hamas’ plans.

So, in an analysis entitled “Israel’s Intelligence Disaster”, Amy wrote that failure to prevent a surprise attack would be an intelligence disaster, if Israel does not immediately introspect on the preventive capacity of its intelligence agencies.

According to the author of the book “Spying Blind (2007) which reviews several of the CIA and FBI’s negligence during the Nine Eleven incident, Hamas succeeded in exploiting the routine information gathering activities carried out by Israeli intelligence, just like the WTC bombers who also exploited the usual routines of the CIA and FBI

The preoccupation, even dependence, of Israeli intelligence with super-sophisticated tools makes them tend to consider Hamas “undercontrolled”, then underestimate the capacity of surprise attacks that Hamas is capable of carrying out in the future.

This complacency makes Israeli intelligence work based on daily routines, because it assumes that Hamas is still in the status quo position, without opening a new discourse about Hamas’ opportunities to carry out a sudden breakthrough attack outside Israel’s control.

This failure and complacency also stemmed from the negligence of Israeli intelligence in finding new legitimacy for Hamas to carry out attacks, namely geopolitics. Inevitably, this situation puts Israeli intelligence in the same position as the CIA and FBI before the Nine Eleven incident.

At that time, United States was enjoying its ten years as a Hyper Power, after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. This geopolitical situation dispelled the assumption of external threats to America, because it was a Hyper Power country, with the best military power in the world which was also supported by first-class technological sophistication.

However, in fact the Al Qaeda network had not made many technological breakthrough efforts. They entered US in the normal way, some of them even used real names which had long been on the list of people worthy of suspicion. Even the attack attempt that was carried out did not use sophisticated techniques, only in the form of plane hijacking which is commonly carried out by terrorists.

United States learned a lot from the events of Nine Eleven. The CIA and the National Security Agency (NSA) immediately carried out comprehensive improvements after that. One proof of their success is that they knew about Russia’s invasion plans for Ukraine long before Putin gave the order.

The first step taken by the CIA was of course prevention. The CIA director together with members of the National Security Council (NSC) tried to approach one of Putin’s confidants and convey that US was aware of their plans. Then he warned that US and the West would impose heavy sanctions on Russia if the plan was implemented

At the same time, the CIA also informed the Ukrainian side, which Zelenski initially did not believe. However, after seeing data from the CIA, Zelenski finally believed and agreed to make the best possible preparations to make it difficult to realize Putin’s plan.

Thanks to the CIA’s efforts, Putin’s plan to conquer Ukraine within a few weeks failed miserably. Today the war is still continuing, which means it has been almost two years, and that plan has not yet been realized.

When Zelenski chose not to believe the initial information from the CIA, he departed from the assumed status quo of Kiev’s relations with Moscow in which Putin’s invasion plans were not included. If only Zelenski had insisted on sticking with this assumption and denied information from the CIA, then it is very likely that Ukraine today would already be under the rule of a Russian-made puppet president.

So, Hamas’ success in building construction thinking that Israeli intelligence assumes a status quo relationship with Hamas where a massive surprise attack is impossible, actually gives Hamas the opportunity to prepare itself secretly, perhaps with various deceptive tricks in the field that it seems there were no suspicious movements in the Hamas camp, then they carried out “surprise attacks” from various sides

The failure of Israeli intelligence, both in terms of sensitivity in collecting field data and in terms of geopolitical analysis, means that Israel will not only suffer quite a lot of casualties, but will also immediately be trapped in regional geopolitical confusion on the one hand and Israel will begin to be doubted as a “military shield” for American alliances in the Middle East by many parties in the Middle East on the other hand.

As predicted, Israel will certainly carry out assessments for “Intelligent Failure” on the one hand and will carry out equivalent military retaliation on the other hand. Israel will certainly invade the Gaza Strip, destroy many buildings and structures, drag many people from Gaza to be detained and interrogated, and so on.

This step will trap Israel in geopolitical diffculties. Taking over the Gaza Strip would put Israel in a corner in the Middle East geopolitically and would complicate US’s position there, which has gone awry since the 2003 invasion of Iraq on the other hand.

What is clear is that Israel’s efforts to normalize diplomatic relations with Saudi will become increasingly difficult and take longer. Antipathy will be very high among autocratic elites and Saudi society, which will make it increasingly difficult for Muhamad Bin Salman to get close to Tel Aviv.

And whether admitted or not, this situation will certainly be very liked and expected by Iran. Netanyahu’s efforts so far to normalize diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia will be hit by domestic political antipathy in Saudi Arabia

Meanwhile, on the other hand, Israel will begin to be doubted by many parties as US’s shield in the Middle East. So far, US has provided the only “military’s edge” to Israel in the Middle East, as the first shield that will protect American partner countries such as Saudi Arabia, if Iran carries out an attack.

Therefore, only Israel is allowed to have advanced F35 fighter aircraft in the Middle East, just like Singapore in Southeast Asia. Us has never questioned the nuclear weapons that Israel has, while US and Israel will be confused if Iran succeeds in possessing them. All of this is due to the “military’s edge” position that US attaches to Israel

Well, the Hamas attack, apart from proving the weakness of Israeli intelligence, also aims to break the special status that US has given to Israel.

The breaking of the myth of America’s shield in the Middle East will certainly have an impact back into the geopolitical realm where countries that plan to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel will think again about doing so, considering that today Israel is no longer able to carry out its mandate as America’s shield, because It turns out that Israel’s defense itself can be penetrated by Hamas.

The potential for doubts regarding the status of America’s shield to Israel will become potential doubts for US in the end, thus strengthening hopes of bringing other “great powers” to the Middle East, namely China and Russia.

This trend has been going on for a long time, especially since Joe Biden came to power and Saudi Arabia began looking for a new model of geopolitical relations to guarantee stability in the Middle East. The new relationship model takes the form of an effort to re-engage Iran and Syria, under the facilitation of China and Russia, and together with Iran to enter as a BRiCS plus member country.

So the failure of Israeli intelligence which has the potential to lead to geopolitical problems between Israel and US in the Middle East will be America’s main concern in providing support to Israel. US will certainly condemn Hamas, assist Israel militarily and intelligently in suppressing Hamas, but will give Israel clear limits on its actions.

As stated recently by Joe Biden, he asked Israel to continue to respect the laws of war. It is very likely that US will try to prevent Israel from expanding its territory into Gaza with a brutal occupation, because it will arouse antipathy from the Arab League countries, and will then force China and Russia to openly side with the Arab League and Iran.

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