Gaza: Will new cease-fire hold for any meaningful duration? War with ISIS imminent?
The Middle-East is once again at the forefront of the news. As predicted here, a new cease-fire between Hamas and Israel has been agreed upon. This one has no deadline, which is hopeful. The terms were the same that Israel offered and Hamas rejected several weeks ago. Humanitarian and similar goods and workers will be allowed through the border checking points, the fishing rights of Gazan’s will be expanded, and Hamas will stop the rocket attacks. Significantly, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas went on television to give his approval of the cease-fire and its terms.
Can this cease-fire hold? It has a better chance than the previous ones. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, while applauding the truce, still warned that “any peace effort that does not tackle the root causes of the crisis will do little more than set the stage for the next cycle of violence.” But Hamas has been significantly hurt by the fighting. Previous cease-fire’s have held for some while, until Hamas was sufficiently re-armed, and it likely will be the same this time, unless The Palestinian Authority wins the next elections and somehow manage to exercise control in Gaza over a weakened Hamas. In the latter event, hopes for a lasting peace, based upon a two-state foundation, would likely provide the basis for a negotiated settlement. That’s the best case scenario. A long-shot, but much less so than would have been predicted by most observers just a week earlier.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is stepping up it’s propaganda campaign against ISIS. The thrust of the campaign is to elevate ISIS to a threat to the United States proper, as well as to Iraq and Syria. We are now conducting reconnaissance flights over ISIS held territory in the North of Syria and it would seem that targeted strikes can’t be far off. The existence of hostages in that territory compounds the timing. The conventional wisdom is that while air-strikes can hurt ISIS, to win a war against them would require boots on the ground– something President Obama has promised would not occur. The Iraqi National Government’s army has shown it’s significant deficiencies in the loss of Mosul and the other cities to ISIS. The Kurdish Peshmerga forces are both more loyal to the United States and more reliable fighters. But they are limited in number and it’s difficult to see them playing a major role in any action in Syria. The Syrian non-sectarian opposition is largely in a different part of Syria than ISIS and are of limited capacity. Hence the conundrum. Perhaps Obama will loosen his definition of “boots on the ground.” He already has to some extent as at least one thousand special forces are said to be in Iraq, and no doubt some in Syria. I would not be surprised if President Obama seeks congressional approval before launching his all-out air-strikes in Syria. Such a resolution could authorize some ground action for a limited duration. Yet the administration talks about the fight against ISIS as long-term. It would be ironic if President Obama, nearing the end of his term in office, should get us mired down in a sectarian war. It’s a difficult tight-rope Obama has to walk because, as they proved in their take-over of so much of Northern Iraq, ISIS is a formidable and dangerous force.
In the background, and very much concerned, is Israel, who likely is the only country with intelligence gathering on the ground in ISIS territory. Israel has a border with Syria, and while ISIS isn’t yet in that part of Syria, some al Queda affiliates are, which makes for potentially an explosive situation.