The Six-Day War Was No Accident

According to many if not most history books, the 1967 war between Israel and its Arab neighbors was the product of circumstances and miscalculations, and thus entirely preventable. The two sides, in this view, stumbled into conflict—neither one acting out of a strategic plan that involved war with the other. But, writes Efraim Karsh, the evidence suggests that Gamal Abdel Nasser, then president of Egypt, took a series of deliberate steps—sending two divisions into the demilitarized Sinai Peninsula, expelling UN peacekeepers from the area, and then closing the Straits of Tiran—fully aware that his actions were likely to provoke a war and likewise aware that reports of an Israeli troop build-up on the Syrian border were false. Karsh explains:

[T]he Arab-Israeli conflict’s general cause—rejection of Israel’s very existence—combined with the particular causes to make war inevitable. . . . [Afterward], Nasser would doggedly shrug off responsibility for the defeat by feigning victimhood and emphatically denying any intention to attack Israel. This claim was quickly endorsed by numerous Western apologists eager to absolve him of any culpability for the war, in what was to become the standard Arab and Western historiography of the conflict. Some went so far in the effort to exculpate Nasser as to portray him as a mindless creature thriving on hollow rhetoric and malleable in the extreme. . . .

Aside from doing a great injustice to Nasser—the charismatic dictator who had ruled Egypt with a heavy hand for over a decade and mesmerized tens of millions throughout the Arabic-speaking world—this description has little basis in reality. As evidenced both by Nasser’s escalatory behavior during the crisis and by captured military documents revealing elaborate plans for an invasion of Israel, the Egyptian president did not stumble into war but orchestrated it with open eyes. He steadily raised his sights in accordance with the vicissitudes of the crisis until he set them on the ultimate pan-Arab objective: the decisive defeat of Israel and, if possible, its destruction.

The June 1967 war was a direct corollary of pan-Arabism’s delusions of grandeur, triggered by the foremost champion of this ideology and directed against its foremost nemesis.

Read more at Middle East Quarterly

More about: Gamal Abdel Nasser, History & Ideas, Israeli history, Six-Day War

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy