“The firm view of the Islamic Republic is that the governments that are gambling on normalizing relations with the Zionist regime will suffer losses. Defeat awaits them. They are making a mistake,” as delivered by Iran’s great spiritual leader, Ali Khamenei, days before Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel.
I quoted this statement from Suzanne Maloney’s analysis, “The End of America’s Exit Strategy in the Middle East”, on the Foreign Affairs, October 10 2023. As writen by Suzanne, who is known as an expert on Iran and a former Advisor at the United States Department of Foreign Affairs. Both the Hamas attack and Israel’s reaction will be related and will have an impact on the geopolitical realm in the Middle East.
Regardless of whether Ali Khamenei’s statement symbolizes Iran’s direct involvement in the attack or not, what is clear is that Hamas’s decision to carry out a surprise attack would be a decision favored by Iran, both for the attack itself and for the geopolitical impact that followed.
As I wrote in a previous article, Israel’s reaction to the Hamas attack will greatly influence plans to normalize diplomatic relations between Tel Aviv and Riyadh. In fact, it doesn’t have to wait long to see the effects. After Israel carried out retaliation against Hamas in Gaza and announced calls for the evacuation of more than one million Gaza residents, Saudi Arabia froze plans for further talks on normalizing diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
So the assumption that Hamas’s surprise attack was part of Israel’s intelligence strategy to allow Israeli to have the legitimacy to occupy Gaza and completely paralyze Hamas is very difficult to accept. The reason is, both geopolitically and humanitarianly, the costs are too expensive to deliberately allow the Hamas attack to occur.
Geopolitically, Israel’s aggressive reaction will further endanger Israel’s position in the Middle East on the one hand because it will increase anti-Israel sentiment from countries in the Arabian peninsula. On the other hand, controlling Gaza will further increase uncertainty regarding plans for a two-state solution in the future. Both of these will certainly distance the Middle East region from the stability that Israel and other Arab countries really hope for.
Meanwhile, in terms of humanity, the large number of victims from the Israeli side illustrates that Hamas’ surprise attack was not part of the Israeli intelligence agency’s plan. The reason is, after the attack occurred, the legitimacy and professionalism of Israel’s intelligence agencies were increasingly questioned. Moreover, for a world-class Intelligence agency like the Mossad, even one life was extremely valuable. Moreover, hundreds of lives.
So Hamas’ surprise attack not only caused many casualties on the Israeli side, but also damaged Israel’s geopolitical strategic plans, demythologized Israel’s status as a military shield for the United States to protect the United States’ partners in the Middle East, and greatly benefited the country which is one of the ” existential threat” for Israel, namely Iran.
Apart from the various losses experienced by Israel, as Ali Khamenei said above, the Hamas attack will also cause countries that have and will normalize diplomatic relations with Israel to “suffer losses”. Israel’s aggressive reaction in Gaza sparked antipathy among the Arab League countries, some of which already have diplomatic relations with Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and of course Saudi Arabia.
This antipathy is very understandable. This is because Israel’s reaction to bombarding Gaza and forcing the Gaza population to evacuate themselves from the North Gaza area and Gaza City to the southern Gaza area will result in an occupation that cannot be predicted for how long it will last on the one hand and will create a humanitarian disaster on the other hand. Despite the pretext of eradicating Hamas, the occupation will be seen by the world community and Arab countries as a new colonialism and a denial of the “two states solution” agreement.
As a result, there will be massive demonstrations throughout the world, especially in Arab countries, which will force Middle Eastern autocrats to absorb the aspirations of their people to avoid the second volume of the “Arab Spring”. Anti-Israel masses who voice their defense of Palestine could lead to anti-autocratic aspirations in their respective countries if Middle Eastern autocrats fail to absorb these aspirations.
Therefore, a unanimous vote rejecting the occupation of Gaza by Israel emerged from the Arab League. Israel’s reaction has the potential to create an “Existential Threat” for Middle Eastern aristocrats if they do not adjust their aspirations to the growing aspirations of the public. Likewise, Riyadh stated that it had postponed the follow-up plan to normalize diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Meanwhile, Hamas’s surprise attack also has the potential to further damage the geopolitical reputation of the United States in the Middle East. Both because of the attack itself, and because of Israel’s reaction to the sudden attack. In fact, the United States has just made a diplomatic breakthrough with Iran. The United States is willing to cancel the freeze on Iranian assets in US of around $6 billion (frozen after the 1989 Mullah Revolution) as a concession for the release of several United States citizens detained by the Iranian government.
Automatically, the Hamas attack delegitimized the United States’ move, because it seemed as if the cancellation of the freeze on Iran’s assets had the impact of adding military “leverage” to the military proxies of the Iranian National Guard Army, starting from Hamas, Hezbollah, and several Shia militias in Syria.
The impression that emerges is that the United States is indirectly providing additional capital to Iran to increase its rocket production to then supply to Hamas, Hezbollah, and even Russia. This means that the concessions made by the United States with Iran do not increase the threat from Iran itself, but rather from the proxies that Iran uses as its military shield against Israel and the United States.
However, unfortunately, the United States’ reaction to the surprise attack also worsened the geopolitical image of Uncle Sam. It turns out that Israel used United States military assistance not only to cripple Hamas, but also to occupy Gaza.
As reported by various media, US increases the aid budget for Israel, which make Israel the largest recipient of US aid since the second world war, then sent aircraft carrier support and several types of supporting fighter aircraft, as well as ammunition aid, all of which will increasing Israel’s confidence in venting its anger in Gaza.
As written by Suzanne Maloney in her analysis, the United States’ move also canceled the United States’ “exit strategy” from the Middle East, because what happened is the opposite, the United States become increasingly active there in the name of defending Israel.
In other words, the “Pivot to Asia” policy launched by the Barack Obama administration, then continued by Donald Trump and Joe Biden, will be increasingly difficult to realize, because Uncle Sam’s energy which should be used for the Asia Pacific is instead being absorbed again by Ukraine and Israel. China and Russia will certainly be the main beneficiaries of the United States’ new aggressive steps.
Massive military aid to Israel would divert some of the United States’ power and capabilities in supporting Ukraine, which of course is something Russia had hoped for so far.
It is no longer a secret that the assistances of the United States and its allies in Europe are an important factor in making Ukraine stand tall against Russia to this day. If the United States’ capacity to provide assistance to Ukraine is reduced, because the United States has to share its concentration with Israeli affairs, then Russia will be the first party to benefit the most.
Also, the increasing focus of the United States, from Ukraine to Israel, will make the United States’ grip in the Asia Pacific increasingly weakened and have the opportunity to be slowly diverted. Of course, this condition is good news for China, which has been increasingly aggressive in building military power in the Asia Pacific region for the past decade.
The strength that supports United States dominance in the Asia Pacific will also be increasingly drained by Israeli affairs. Moreover, on the other hand, China is not only becoming more aggressive militarily, but also economically in Asia. China’s Silk Road projects in Asia are increasingly putting pressure on US’s economic influence in the Asia Pacific region.
More than that, in the Middle East itself, the United States’ reputation will increasingly suffer, as that experienced by Israel, because all the military and financial assistance provided by the United States is actually used by Israel to occupy Gaza, which is actually rejected by the members of Arab League.
On the other hand, Iran will increasingly be looked at by Arab countries as a key factor in bringing stability to the Middle East. As mentioned above, due to Israel’s military action in Gaza, Saudi Arabia ultimately prioritizes improving diplomatic relations with Iran and Syria rather than with Israel.
And it is no longer a secret that the “peace broker” between the three countries is China and Russia, not the United States. This means that in the future, the stability of the Middle East will depend much more on China and Russia, rather than the United States and the European Union.
It is no different from Asia Pacific, China’s economic grip is also getting stronger in the Middle East. China is pouring billions of dollars to support the strategic projects of Middle Eastern autocrats to ensure certainty of oil and gas supplies to China.
This is where the paradox comes in. On the one hand, the reactivation of the United States’ involvement in the Middle East via Israel actually moves in the opposite direction to the delegitimization and decline of the United States’ influence there because an increase in anti-Israel sentiment will be directly proportional to an increase in anti-American sentiment.
Meanwhile, on the other hand, the stability of the Middle East will be further from expectations on the one hand and the threat of terror throughout the world will increase on the other hand, because the occupation of Gaza by Israel will reactivate many terrorist factions and cells throughout the world, which at any time will exploding in increasingly unpredictable places and times.
As with previous experience, most of the terrorist cells in Asia are in Indonesia and Malaysia. This means that the level of Indonesia national vulnerability to terrorism will increase. Even before this conflict began, the Indonesian police had often arrested terrorist cells, some of which were located not far from Jakarta or other Indonesia big cities.
And finally, again the situations above will be a geopolitical defeat for Israel, the United States, the G7, and the democratic political economic system, along with the increasingly mature reputation of China, Russia, and BRICS Plus as alternative political economic systems for countries who are looking for ideological and geopolitical support.