Chaotic War: Norms, conventions and laws of conduct are being erased

11:44 16.04.2024 •

We stand on the cusp of what might be termed Chaotic War. Not the formula used by Israel often in the past to intimidate adversaries; this is different, notes Alastair Crooke, a former British diplomat, founder and director of the Beirut-based Conflicts Forum.

Israeli reporter Eddie Cohen said, in the wake of the attack on the Iranian Consulate: “We are very clear that we want to start a war with Iran and Hezbollah. Do you still not understand?”

“Israel wants to drag Iran into a full-scale war in order to be able to strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities”, though these facilities are beyond American and Israeli reach, buried beneath mountains.

Cohen, and of course, Israel’s military leadership, will know that; but Israel nonetheless is locking itself into a logic that can only lead to defeat. Iran’s nuclear facilities are safe from Israeli assault. The destruction of civilian Iranian infrastructure, which is out in the open, may kill many, but will not, per se, collapse the Iranian state.

Trita Parsi places Israel’s objective in attacking the Iranian Consulate in Damascus in a different context:

“An important aspect of Israel’s conduct – and Biden’s acquiescence to it – is that Israel is engaged in a deliberate and systematic effort to destroy existing laws and norms around warfare.

Even during wartime, embassies are off-limits [yet] Israel just bombed an Iranian diplomatic compound in Damascus.

Bombing hospitals is a war crime, [yet] Israel has bombed EVERY hospital in Gaza. It has even assassinated doctors and patients inside hospitals.

The ICJ obligated Israel to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza. Israel actively prevents aid from coming in.

Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited under international humanitarian law. Israel has deliberately created a famine in Gaza.

Indiscriminate bombings are illegal under international humanitarian law. Biden himself admits that Israel is bombing Gaza indiscriminately”.

The list goes on and on… However, Israel’s breach of Vienna Convention immunity accorded to diplomatic premises – plus the stature of those killed – is highly significant. It is a major signal: Israel wants war – but with U.S. support, of course.

This Israeli chaotic ‘Biblical’ nihilism, however, bears no relationship in purely rational terms to Netanyahu’s aspiration for a ‘Great Victory’. The reality is that Israel has lost its deterrence. It won’t return; the deep anger across the Islamic world generated by Israel through its massacres in Gaza during the last six months precludes it.

Israel wants to be feared, believing this will restore its deterrence. Amira Hass writes that regardless of any revulsion for this government and its members: “The vast majority [of Israelis] still believe that war is the solution”. And Mairav Zonszein writing in Foreign Policy, notes that “The Problem Isn’t Just Netanyahu, It’s Israeli Society”:

“The focus on Netanyahu is a convenient distraction from the fact that the war in Gaza is not Netanyahu’s war, it is Israel’s war—and the problem isn’t only Netanyahu; it’s the Israeli electorate… A large majority — 88 percent — of Jewish Israelis polled in January believe the astounding number of Palestinian deaths, which had surpassed 25,000 at the time, is justified. A large majority of the Jewish public also thinks that the [IDF] is using adequate or even too little force in Gaza… Putting all the blame on the prime minister misses the point. It disregards the fact that Israelis have long advanced, enabled, or come to terms with their country’s system of military occupation and dehumanization of Palestinians”.

The U.S. ‘vision’ is also tactical (and far removed from reality) – Imagining the transformation of Gaza into a ‘Vichy collaborator’ statelet; imagining that political pressure by the French in Lebanon will force Hizbullah’s retreat from its ancestral lands in south Lebanon; and imagining that the Biden White House is able to achieve politically through pressure what Israel cannot do militarily.

The paradox is that, with Israel and the U.S. being dependent on an ‘image’ that has been confused with reality, this too works to Iran’s and the Resistance Front’s advantage. (As the old adage goes, ‘do not disturb an adversary who is making mistakes’).


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