Who’s in Charge of Hamas?

Yesterday, Israeli negotiators arrived in Cairo to discuss another exchange of Israeli hostages for imprisoned Palestinian terrorists. But who exactly speaks for Hamas in its conversations with Egyptian intermediaries? Is it Yahya Sinwar, the architect of the October 7 attacks who has ruled Gaza since 2017? Or is it Ismail Haniyeh, the chairman of the Qatar-based Hamas politburo? Although Haniyeh and Sinwar share a commitment to terrorism, the destruction of Israel, and the slaughter of Jews, they have not always seen eye-to-eye about tactics. Matthew Levitt, in conversation with Dan Senor, explains the opaque governance structure of the jihadist group, its personalities, its present internal divisions, and its relations with its various patrons. (Audio, 45 minutes.)


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More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, Jihadism, Yahya Sinwar


Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy