How the U.S. is Losing Its Credibility with the Arab World

By showing weakness in its negotiations with Iran, failing to take steps against Bashar Assad, wavering in its commitment to its allies in Egypt and Israel, and not acting to stop the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Sunnis by Syria and Islamic State (IS), the United States has sacrificed its credibility with its Arab allies. Disparaging remarks about Benjamin Netanyahu, writes Elliott Abrams, only give further credence to the view of those allies that “administration officials are callow, undisciplined, and untrustworthy.” Today, both Arab and Israeli leaders have reason to worry that things will only get worse:

For our allies in the region, the sharp drop in oil prices means this is an excellent moment to step up the pressure on Iran, increasing sanctions until [the Iranians] agree to real compromises on their nuclear-weapons program. Instead, the Obama administration, and not Iran, seems desperate for a deal. In my conversations [in the Middle East], I also heard the idea that once the president loses the Senate (if that does happen) he will be left only with foreign policy as a playing field. And he will want to do something fast after November 4 that asserts that he is a not a lame duck and is still in charge. What better than an Iran deal?

Our allies also wonder about our Iraq/Syria policy, for many reasons. For one thing, no one has explained to them how the policy can work, or why American officials think it is working: Jihadis continue to flow into the extremist groups; IS is not notably weaker; and above all the United States has no coherent Syria policy. There isn’t even much of a theory as to who, on the ground, will seriously fight IS, nor is there an explanation of how we will get rid of Assad. Or is he another potential partner, like Iran? More détente?

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: American-Israeli Affairs, Barack Obama, Iran, ISIS, Israel-Arab relations, U.S. Foreign policy

The Possible Death of Mohammad Deif, and What It Means

On Saturday, Israeli jets destroyed a building in southern Gaza, killing a Hamas brigade commander named Rafa Salameh. Salameh is one of the most important figures in the Hamas hierarchy, but he was not the primary target. Rather it was Mohammad Deif, who is Yahya Sinwar’s number-two and is thought to be the architect and planner of numerous terrorist attacks, of Hamas’s tunnel network, and of the October 7 invasion itself. Deif has survived at least five Israeli attempts on his life, and the IDF has consequently been especially reluctant to confirm that he had been killed. Yet it seems that it is possible, and perhaps likely, that he was.

Kobi Michael notes that Deif’s demise would have major symbolic value and, moreover, deprive Hamas of important operational know-how. But he also has some words of caution:

The elimination of Deif becomes even more significant given the current reality of severe damage to Hamas’s military wing and its transition to terrorism and guerrilla warfare. However, it is important to remember that organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah are more than the sum of their components or commanders. Israel has previously eliminated the leaders of these organizations and other very senior military figures, and yet the organizations continued to grow, develop, and become more significant security threats to Israel, while establishing their status as political players in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas.

As for the possibility that Deif’s death will harden Hamas’s position in the hostage negotiations, Tamir Hayman writes:

In my opinion, even if there is a bump in the road now, it is not a strategic one. The reasons that Hamas decided to compromise its demands in the [hostage] deal stem from the operational pressure it is under [and] the fear that the pressure exerted by the IDF will increase.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas