From Hamas-Israel War to Regional Escalation with Iran

The Hamas-Israel War is inflaming tensions within and around Israel. It could escalate across the region. Or is escalation the actual objective?

On October 8, 2023, after the first one day into the Hamas−Israel War, Prime Minister Netanyahu appointed ex-military commander Gal Hirsch to coordinate the cross-governmental response to missing Israeli citizen; that is, civilians and soldiers abducted as hostages by Hamas into Gaza.

Internationally, it was portrayed as the Israeli PM’s proactive move to ensure the safety timely release of Hamas’s Israeli hostages. Little did they know.

In Israel, Hirsch’s name is tarnished. As Brigadier General, he commanded the 91st Division of the Defense Forces during the 2006 Lebanon War. He was responsible for the blunder of an abduction affair by Hezbollah militants and the battles of Bint Jbeil and Ayta ash-Sha’b, which the IDF failed to occupy, despite heavy casualties. After a barrage of criticism, he was forced to resign.

After years of rehabilitation, Hirsch joined Likud, Israel’s dominant conservative party, at the behest of Prime Minister Netanyah

Only two years later, the commander, who had been the Likud favorite for the role of police chief, was indicted for tax evasion totaling $1.9 million involving arms sales to Georgia.

So, when Netanyahu appointed Hirsch as his hostage tsar, critics asked why on earth a corrupt general who had already blundered one abduction affair and failed to protect his soldiers should have such a vital mandate. Worse, right after his appointment, Hirsch reportedly yelled at a group of European ambassadors during a meeting, due to their governments’ support for the Oslo peace process. Unsurprisingly, NGOs and many Israelis have called for the resignation of Hirsch, Netanyahu’s “political” hire.

To the Netanyahu government, the fate of the hostages seems secondary to the ground assault it promotes.

Regional escalation, old new Iran war plans

Regionally, the war has led Biden’s hawks to refocus attention to Iran. It’s an old project. Since 2003, U.S. Army has conducted analysis called TIRANNT (Theater Iran Near-Term) for a full-scale war with Iran.

Reportedly, this contingency plan would be activated in the case of a “Second 9/11,” on the presumption that Iran would be behind it. After the Hamas offensive, the phrase “Israel’s 9/11” was repeated by most representatives of the Netanyahu government.

Expectedly, the war has inflamed tensions with Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon, which many in the Congress and the White House would like to link with Iran, in order to legitimize a major regional confrontation.

Tellingly, after the Hamas attack, Republican senator Lindsay Graham was asked whether he wanted the US and Israel to “bomb Iran even in the absence of direct evidence of their involvement,” the responded: “Yeah.” The answer stunned even the CNN interviewer, so she asked the question twice and got the same response.

Recently, Rep. Michael McCaul, the Republican chair of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, said his panel is drafting legislation to authorize the use of military force in Iran, although U.S. intelligence has said there is no evidence to support the claim of Iran’s direct involvement. McCaul’s comments came on the 21st anniversary of the enactment of a measure that authorized the 2003 misguided U.S. invasion of Iraq.

To leave no doubts about his intentions, Graham then flew to Tel Aviv where he joined a delegation of 10 senators on a trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia. “We’re here today to tell Iran: ‘We’re watching you. If this war grows, it’s coming to your backyard,’” Graham said adding: “There won’t be two fronts, there’ll be three.”

Netanyahu’s decade-long efforts of war against Iran

To Netanyahu’s government, an Iran conflict would divert attention from Gaza and the West Bank. It’s a long dream.

In 2011 Netanyahu ordered the Mossad and IDF to prepare for an attack on Iran within 15 days, until Pardo and then-Chief of Staff Benny Gantz – now in opposition but a key member in Netanyahu’s not-so-united war cabinet – questioned the Prime Minister’s legal authority to give such an order without cabinet approval. So, Netanyahu backed off.

But Iran remains on the government’s agenda. And some critics argue that it is part of the Gaza War agenda. A month ago, in parallel with the domestic Supreme Court turmoil, Netanyahu’s Mossad chief David Barnea vowed to target Iran’s “highest echelon,” if Israeli Jews would be hurt in terror.

“Ironclad” arms sales

Nor has the Biden administration avoided the temptation to use the war and its “solidarity with Israel” as a demonstration effect for other hotspots. When Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Netanyahu and members of the Israeli war cabinet, he conveyed the U.S.’s “ironclad support” for Israel.

It is the liturgical term that the White House has used in the context of Japan, Taiwan, Ukraine the Philippines, and other major U.S. non-NATO allies that have committed to common defense objectives, military bases and arms purchases from U.S. Big Defense, such as Raytheon, Austin’s former employer.

As Biden made his primetime case for “wartime aid to Israel and Ukraine,” he expanded U.S. involvement into two major fronts; multiplied the need for tens of billions of dollars in military aid in addition to the past hundreds of billions of dollars; and accelerated the probability of a looming U.S. debt crisis that could have global repercussions.

Global reverberations

Furthermore, the outbreak and possible escalation of the Israeli-Hamas War is threatening to inject new volatility back into energy markets, harking back to last year’s commodity chaos after the proxy war in Ukraine.

Today, the worst global economic risks stem from unwarranted geopolitical tensions.

After $8 trillion in the misguided post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. war theaters have not disappeared. It’s only their arenas that are shifting.

Dr. Dan Steinbock is the founder of Difference Group and has served at the India, China and America Institute (US), Shanghai Institute for International Studies (China) and the EU Center (Singapore). For more, see   

The original 6,400-word analysis was published by The World Financial Review on Oct. 19, 2023, see