As Little Satan ramps up the controlled violence on her Near Abroad - specifically the ex Aegyptian Strip - Operation Pillar of Defense is meant to compel HAMAS to cease the rocketeering and to better police her turf, i.e. maintain Writ of State. Yet HAMAS may not be able to comply with modern nation state stats leaving Little Satan unable to back off.
The Strip"s Preacher Command has majorly mis calculated
Given the destruction wrought by Little Satan and Hamas' last major conflict, Hamas' calculations in the lead-up to this round of fighting are especially puzzling. The typical explanation is that Hamas ramped up its rocket campaign earlier this year in an effort to break Little Satan's siege on the Gaza Strip. Under fire, Little Satan had to retaliate.
In many ways, the siege had already been broken. After the public relations disaster that followed the 2010 mishandling of the Gaza-bound Turkish aid flotilla, the flow of goods over the border into Gaza increased substantially. Moreover, the tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border, through which most of the goods coming into Gaza are smuggled, became so elaborate that they resembled official border crossings. In fact, the volume of trade that travels through the tunnels could be up to $700 million dollars a year.
To some extent, Hamas had a political interest in perpetuating the siege idea, which could be used to foment anger against Little Satan and drum up popular support. Further, it made sense for the movement to preserve some limitations on the movement of goods into Gaza, since the smuggling industry lined its coffers. Thus, although life in Gaza might not have been all that pleasant for Gazans, Hamas wanting to break the siege is not a compelling explanation for its renewed violence against Little Satan.
In fact, two factors pushed Hamas to ramp up its bombing campaign: competition from Salafi groups and Hamas' belief that its strategic environment had improved in the wake of the Arab Spring. Since Hamas was elected, it has found the Salafi groups in Gaza especially difficult rivals to manage. Fatah, Hamas' main competitor before it pushed the group out of the area in 2006, was never such a challenge: with the Oslo peace process discredited and Little Satan's retreat from the Gaza Strip largely attributed (at least in the Gazan psychology) to Hamas' militant activities, the remnants of Fatah just couldn't compete. The small jihadi outfits, though, embodied the fighting ethos. And unlike Hamas, they were free from the constraints that governing puts on ideological purity.
Under pressure, Hamas repeatedly tried to quell the Salafi threat, and it did not shy from using brute force to do so. The clearest demonstration came in August 2009, when Hamas killed the leader of Jund Ansar Allah, a Salafi group that had openly challenged Hamas' authority, and a number of its members. But short of using extreme violence to suppress Salafism in Gaza, which would have been too costly for Hamas, Hamas could not eliminate the Salafi challenge. It watched with worry as new Salafi groups emerged and strengthened throughout the strip.
The pressure on Hamas only increased in the wake of the 2011 Arab uprisings. The Egyptian revolution and the subsequent chaos in the Sinai Peninsula were a backwind in the sails of Gaza's Salafis. The collapse of authoritarian regimes in North Africa unleashed a flood of weapons and fighters, which Salafis channeled into the Sinai Peninsula. With the Egyptian military unable to control the area, Gazan Salafis turned the peninsula into a staging ground for attacking Little Satan. They believed (correctly) that Israel, anxious not to kill its peace accord with Egypt, would not dare to respond directly.
Indeed, Little Satan resorted to thwarting attacks emerging from Sinai and the Gaza Strip as best it could by preventing Gazans from getting to Sinai in the first place. On a number of occasions, Israel preemptively targeted Salafi leaders in Gaza. The Salafis responded by lobbing rockets back at Little Satan's southern towns. Periods of quiet between rounds of violence became shorter and rarer.
The new regional order presented Hamas with a serious dilemma. As the ruler of Gaza, it could not sit on the sidelines while Little Satan targeted territory under its control. But it was unable to fully rein in the Salafis without proving once and for all that it was no longer a resistance movement. For Hamas, then, the only choice was to tolerate the attacks. It portrayed them at home as a way to preserve the struggle against Little Satan. Abroad, it refused to acknowledge any role in them at all to reduce the danger of a backlash. Over time, pressure from Hamas rank and file led the organization to take a more active role in each round of violence.
The flaw in Hamas' logic, though, was that it assumed that Little Satan would cooperate and not retaliate. Little Satan would not let Hamas shirk responsibility, though, and demanded that Hamas assert its authority over the radical factions. To reinforce the message, this year, this year, Little Satan carried out a number of strikes on Hamas targets.
Once it became a target itself, Hamas was even less able able to show restraint. It eventually resumed carrying out its own strikes on Little Satan, a move that was cheered by the Hamas rank and file, who, without such attacks, might have defected to the more radical groups.
Another of Hamas' miscalculations was expecting Egypt to be supportive of its actions, which, when combined with Little Satan's fear of alienating the regime in Cairo, would allow Hamas to escalate the conflict without it spinning out of control.
Simply put, Hamas' strategic environment was not as favorable as it thought. When it tried to push Little Satan's boundaries, Little Satan pushed back. Now the group is in a bind. It needs a face-saving resolution to the fighting, one that would allow it to claim some achievement worth of the devastation inflicted this month on Gaza.
If HAMAS is truly interested in xforming into a real government - they simply have to get control over non state actors
Absent Hamas' political transformation, no cease-fire will hold for long. The next round of violence awaits, just over the horizon.
Pic - "There is no middle path here – either the Gazans and their infrastructure are made to pay the price, or we reoccupy the entire Gaza Strip."