François Baird is a founder and chairman of Baird’s CMC Ltd, Baird’s US LLC and Calbridge Investments (Pty) Ltd. Baird’s CMC is an international communications management consultancy with 47 partners across the world.
As Israel takes the war against Iran proxy Hamas, to northern Gaza, warning its civilian population to evacuate to the South, the potential for this war to be drawn out far longer than the expected weeks, month or even a year, becomes obvious.
Hamas has an ecosystem of support as proven by pro-Hamas rallies worldwide and Hezbollah firing rockets into Northern Israel from Lebanon. Hamas sponsor Iran has likely also calculated that a drawn-out war would irrevocably weaken Israel economically and drain the resolve of its people and allies.
The signs of a long war being planned are numerous. (RELATED: TERENCE P. JEFFREY: This Weekend’s Iran Intelligence Failure Can Never Happen Again)
First, consider the hostage taking. Hostages are held for barter over time, not for a quick profit, as seen with Americans and British hostages in Iran and Russia lingering for years. Last month America released $6 billion in funds to Iran in exchange for hostages. These funds have now been frozen, but the prospect of innocent children and mothers held hostage in various countries friendly to Iran and Hamas, like Yemen, Syria and elsewhere is likely why Israel attacked Gaza vowing to only let up the bombardment if the hostages held by Hamas are released.
Second, the foundation was laid by the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign to reduce support for Israel, isolate it politically and damage its moral authority by equating it to an apartheid state, like South Africa. Now, Hamas have called for a “day of rage” protests against Israel. The aim of the “day of rage” is to draw a veil over Hamas atrocities or at least create moral equivalence.
The longer the conflict lasts, the more time will be available for this narrative to take hold in the West and drain support from Israel.
Third, as witnessed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the very nature of a terrorist war is that it is not won by tanks and planes but requires rooting out terrorists over time and at the cost of great resources and pain. Apartheid South Africa was economically and morally exhausted after fighting an extended terrorist war with a well-trained and equipped army for about twenty years.
There is little pressure on terrorists to end wars, but the pressure on Israel to end this conflict will be immense, either through declaring an early pyrrhic victory or a negotiated hiatus until the next attack. Suffering is the currency of terrorists and time is its friend, as long as terrorists have a source of funds, training and equipment to prolong the torture of war.
Iran is therefore vital to Hamas’ survival.
Iran is also used to long conflicts, as witnessed in its 8-year war with Iraq in the 1980s. A long war on two fronts in Israel — Gaza in the south, and Lebanon and Syria in the north — will also distract from Iran’s own internal conflicts and nuclear program, allowing Iran to go about refining its nuclear capability less constrained by Israeli and American attention. Involving America in a second conflict apart from the war in Ukraine suits Iran and Hamas.
On the other hand, Americans are tired of extended conflicts, evidenced by the sudden withdrawal from Afghanistan. After spending $2.3 trillion, America evacuated, leaving behind over $7 billion in equipment in Taliban hands. The rapid exit from Afghanistan, and the dithering over Ukraine, may have contributed to calculations that America may not support Israel for long.
All these factors point to the war against Hamas terrorism possibly lasting for a decade or longer. Israel and America will need huge resolve and resources to keep the fight going.
Hamas can depend on Iran to do so, but for how long Israel can depend on America is a real question after Afghanistan.
Francois Baird was a commissioned officer in the South African Air Force and is the founder of international consultancy Baird’s CMC
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