AUSTIN (KXAN) — The United States has vowed to stand with Israel as the war with Hamas carries on, however, foreign affairs experts say the Biden Administration does not want a larger international conflict.
The risk of expanding the war primarily comes from Iran, a U.S. adversary. On Monday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran and Hezbollah not to “test us” in the north.
In Gaza, constant attacks from the air have displaced more than a million people. Many have fled to the Rafah Crossing at the southern border with Egypt to try and escape the fighting.
With an expected ground invasion of Gaza City still expected, KXAN talked with University of Texas Professor and Former Senior CIA Officer Paul Pope about key questions related to America’s role in the war.
What message is the U.S. trying to send by sending diplomats and aircraft carriers to the Middle East?
I think the Secretary of State has visited seven capitals, and he’s now circling back on others trying to contain this war. I think the movement of the aircraft carriers is trying to send the same message to Iran, and to reassure Israel, that we don’t want the war to expand.
What is the risk if Iran or another foreign adversary looks to enter the war?
I think the Iranians, although they have bad intentions, have been very careful about managing escalation in the past. They tend to use proxies like Hezbollah, and Hamas, and the Houthis in Yemen. They’ve been very successful doing that, and sort of having plausible deniability about their involvement. So I don’t think the Iranians are irrational, and I do think that they would be very careful and that they themselves wouldn’t want the war to expand beyond a certain point. So they want to send messages to Israel. They want to show their strength in Hamas and Hezbollah’s strength in the north. But I think they too would probably not welcome a broader war.
Would another country or group entering the war change how likely it is for the US to get involved?
It could get very ugly in the northern part of Israel if Hezbollah got involved. They have a lot of rockets. The Israelis are on full alert right now with their reserves mobilized. I think they can handle most of the issues that might arise. I think our job, and what we’re trying to do, is to reassure them. We’re really focused on trying to come up with a humanitarian solution in southern Gaza. If we can do that, I think the situation will be less complicated.
What’s happening behind the scenes that we aren’t seeing?
There’s the diplomatic part. There’s a lot of different straws in the wind. I heard Secretary Blinken mention four separate objectives that we have with regard to things like reassuring the Israelis, getting our hostages back, solving the humanitarian crisis. He is working a lot of different threads with a lot of different actors. And there are other actors in the region that can help a lot. Egypt is a key player because they control that crossing. The Qataris have been very active with Hamas, and with the Palestinians in Gaza. The Saudis and the Israelis were actually having peace talks just before this. So I think a lot of these actors would like to be of assistance and try to defuse the situation.
Is defusing the situation and avoiding a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip possible?
I think avoiding the ground incursion into Gaza is unlikely. I think the Israelis are going to have to go in there. I’ve been watching Israeli media and Israeli spokesmen from across the political spectrum and they are committed to removing Hamas from controlling Gaza and eliminating that threat. I don’t think they believe, and I don’t believe, that they can do that just in a few short weeks or something. So whether they go and stay or not, and the nature and the concept of the operation is something I’m watching, but I think they’re going in.
Is a two-state solution with Israel and Palestine still possible?
Israeli and Palestinian peace talks and a two-state solution, that kind of thing, they just seemed like they were dead issues for a number of years. My greatest hope, the greatest opportunity for the United States, would be some way people recognize the danger of war, and all these other interests that we have in solving this problem, could lead to an initiative coming on the far end of this. I can’t see what’s in between here and there. But I do think there’s a great deal of interest in progress on the Palestinian issue, and that would be my greatest hope.