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Hezbollah’s tactics not overly applicable for Hamas 7, January 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
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Here is an excellent article discussing the vastly different situation facing Hamas in Gaza as opposed to Hezbollah in Lebanon. They explain that not only is the lay of the land crucially different, but Israel appear to have learned from their defeat against Hezbollah. (Thanks to Arabic Media Shack for the initial link).

1. Gaza, only 360 square kilometres in size, lacks the strategic depth that Hizbollah had in Lebanon. So Hamas guerrillas have much smaller and narrower areas of operations than Hizbollah guerrillas had in Lebanon, which gives Israel an advantage.

2. Hizbollah fighters are not members of government, civilian and military institutions such as the police and ministries, so Israeli jets had a limited list of targets. In Gaza they have a large number of easy targets that were hit in the first minutes of the attack, killing at least 200 Hamas members in public buildings.

3. Israel besieged Lebanon from air and sea but could never seal off land routes in and out of the country, so Hizbollah had a good supply of arms and supplies. Gaza was completely sealed off from all sides with the exception of a few tunnels that were mostly destroyed in the first two days of the attack. Now Israeli tanks have cut off Gaza City and the northern part of the Strip from its southern part and completely sealed off all entry points, so Hamas has no access to military supplies.

4. Hamas is much less able than Hizbollah to threaten the Israeli rear. While Hizbollah missile strikes hit dozens of Israeli settlements, towns and cities all over northern and central Israel and can now reach southern Israel, Hamas’s missiles can reach only up to 45km and are mostly ineffective. Missiles fired from Gaza in 2008 killed ten Israelis, while Hizbollah missile attacks on Israel in the 33-day war killed more than 100 and inflicted serious damage to property. So Hamas missile strikes will not be enough to force Israel into new ceasefire talks. Moreover, Hamas’s anti-armour capabilities seem to be ineffective against Israeli tanks and armoured personnel carriers.

5. Hizbollah had much better information, intelligence and counter-intelligence than Hamas. This has been made clear by Israel’s ability to hit many sensitive targets and to dominate the battlespace from the air. Hamas has failed to spring any surprises on the battlefield in the way that Hizbollah did in 2006, confusing the Israeli military command.

The Arab ideological straightjacket 1, March 2008

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Lebanon, Middle East.
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Professor Barry Rubin at the Global Research Center for International Affairs (GLORIA), the people who manage, edit and produce the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA), wrote an interesting and insightful argument about the blanket ideological straightjacket that pervades the Middle East. He, somewhat unfortunately, dubs this the Arab Ideological Doctrine Syndrome: AIDS. This is used to describe a general state of mind and policy whereby fighting Israel or America is the ultimate way to gain acceptance and righteousness. It doesn’t matter how you pursue this; if you are successful, what the repercussions of this are, or how badly this affects your country, people or friends – to fight Israel and America is to be immune to criticism and to be a saint. As Rubin eloquently puts it:

 You can lose the war (like Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser), wreck your own country (like Iraq’s Saddam Hussein), be a dictator (like Syria’s Hafiz and Bashar al-Asad), lead your people into catastrophe (like Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat), and be extraordinarily corrupt (like…everybody) but it doesn’t matter as long as you fight Israel and the West.

Obviously, there are people who do not abide by such an ideology, who do not fight Israel or America. They are, therefore, by default and definition, pejoratively described as pro-US, appeasers, spies for the West, or moderates – and in this case, to be called a moderate is certainly a bad thing. Rubin uses the example of Lebanese cabinet minister Marwan Hamada. He was interviewed by Press TV, the Iranian news channel, where he defended himself from being accused of being a Western spy, the default position for anyone in the Lebanese government who is not out rightly supporting Hezbollah and castigating America or Israel as the devil incumbent.

He refuted the claim that he was a Western spy and simply maintained that he was a Lebanese patriot. Usually, as Rubin points out, such a line would be a sure-fire popular vote winner of a line. To be a patriot, to put your country’s interests first and foremost, to do all you can to ensure its viability, strength and security against all enemies is ordinarily the simple way to acquire legitimacy and respect. But not in the Middle East. Because Hamada puts his country first and above all else (unlike many of the actors in Lebanon) this means that he does not want to pitch Lebanon into the control of either Iran or Syria, allow Lebanon to be changed into an authoritarian Islamist state, or be “dragged into an unnecessary, damaging, unwinnable war with Israel.” All of which helps to explain why he was nearly assassinated a couple of years ago – he has no shortage of enemies.

Whilst Hamada may well be no saint himself, it is surely clear that he is one of many actors around the Middle East who try to eschew the typically damaging, retrograde but populist policies of attacking the common enemy. Rubin concludes by saying that this broad ideological outlook which makes enemies of moderates is the very reason why “peace, moderation, and pragmatism still cannot win there.” This is an unfortunately plausible and seemingly just conclusion. Perhaps the only hope is that the average ‘Arab on the street’ is able to distinguish between the seductive and the pragmatic policies as offered by politicians and people with power. 


Ahmadinejad severely criticised by ex-Presidential advisor and Parliamentary spokesman 26, January 2008

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran.
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Mohammad Shari’ati, advisor to former Iranian President Khatami, savaged Ahmadinejad on Al Jazeera. His criticism were wide ranging and severe. He began by prefacing his criticisms by saying that considering that Ahmadinejad had little international experience when he started, he changed far too many policies. With their neighbours, he believes that Iran ought to have continued along with their ‘friendlier’ policies of the last regime. He is also critical of the Ahmadinejad’s dealings on nuclear issues. The policies of Khatami, Rafsanjani, and al Rouhami were all “more realistic.” The fallout of this is that the former Iranian UN nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani had to resign – he seemed to be inferring – because of the dichotomy between the old and new policies and the difficulties of negotiating across the change.

Regarding Hamas and Hezbollah, Shari’ati maintained that they could not be cut off, but that they must be dealt with in some kind of framework. It was unclear what he was specifically referring to, but he went on to maintain that Iran ought not to meddle in the internal affairs of other countries, be it Iraq, by supporting militias about whom they really know quite little, or Lebanon where Iran “has ties everywhere.”

Domestically, he complained that there is, overall, less work and less money for Iranians and he castigated the government for signing fake contracts, to look as if they are doing something productive. Ahmadinejad’s excuse that this “is the result of out steadfastness” cut no ice whatsoever. Also on domestic issues, Hadad’Adel the Iranian Parliamentary spokesman, angrily reacted to Ahmadinejad’s attempts to abolish certain Majlis (parliamentary laws) by saying that only the Guardian Council had the right to do so.