Hamas’s Lebanese War Room

During the 2021 war between Israel and Hamas, the Gaza-based terrorist group reportedly maintained an operations center in Beirut, primarily for intelligence sharing with Hizballah and with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Jonathan Schanzer examines what is known about this war room, and the implications of its discovery:

Based on available information, the primary purpose of the nerve center appears to be intelligence-sharing. Specifically, the nerve center provides Hamas with aerial intelligence derived by Hizballah and the IRGC, perhaps through reconnaissance drones dispatched from Lebanon and Syria. Several have been targeted by Israeli air defenses in recent years, according to news reports. One focus of this reconnaissance effort appears to be mapping the movement of Israeli forces. This may have helped Hamas avoid an Israel Defense Forces ambush on the group’s tunnel network in the 2021 war. Reports also suggest that the nerve center provided Hamas with better capabilities to conduct “sensitive hacking operations” against Israel.

The very fact that Hamas is actively cooperating with Iran and Hizballah is significant. A decade ago, Hamas leaders left Syria in protest after years of close cooperation, owing to the Iran-backed military campaign against Sunni and Palestinian fighters in the Syrian civil war. Rapprochement reportedly began in 2017, when Hizballah officials held talks with senior Hamas officials amid reports of a resumption of Iranian funding for the group. Hamas’s leader Saleh al-Arouri led several Hamas delegations to Iran and Lebanon in 2017. By 2018, the Israeli mission to the United Nations charged that Arouri was collaborating with Iran and Hizballah to establish rocket-launching facilities in Lebanon with the goal of drawing Israel into a two-front conflict, with attacks from Gaza and Lebanon in the future.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Hamas, Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon

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