June 05, 2007

The Sliding War

According to professional media organizations and politicians, this is only factional fighting:

Hamas and Fatah forces fought a major gun battle on Tuesday in the Gaza Strip near the Karni commercial crossing, the most serious flare-up in factional fighting in two weeks.

An officer with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Presidential Guard said a "large number" of Hamas fighters attacked a key Presidential Guard position near the crossing, wounding at least one guard member.

The Presidential Guard officer said the Hamas fighters attempted to infiltrate the position but were pushed back by the Presidential Guard, a Fatah-dominated force which receives U.S. backing.

Hamas, which leads a Palestinian unity government with Abbas's Fatah faction, confirmed the nearly three-hour-long gun battle near Karni but said the Presidential Guard initiated the exchange.

According to Global Security, there are five recognized criteria for a civil war:

civil war: A war between factions of the same country; there are five criteria for international recognition of this status: the contestants must control territory, have a functioning government, enjoy some foreign recognition, have identifiable regular armed forces, and engage in major military operations.
  1. Both Hamas and Fatah control territory.
  2. Both Hamas and Fatah have their own political organizations and function (dysfunction) as part of a recognized government.
  3. both enjoy some foreign recognition via support from governments such as ours (Fatah) and Iran (Hamas).
  4. both have identifiable and mostly uniformed armed forces.
  5. both have engaged and continue to engage in major military operations.

By this definition (and others), the Palestinian Civil War in Gaza is clearly underway, and has been for some time.

A supermajority of the world media organizations refuse to recognize this conflict as the civil war that it is.

Instead, we consistently see accounts that the factions in Gaza are almost in, sliding into, on the brink of, and verging on being in a civil war, but they aren't there quite yet... and have been for over a year.

A few examples:

Abbas acts to halt slide into civil war in Gaza. The U.K. Guardian, May 22, 2006.

Political Violence in Gaza Sparks Fears of Civil War. NPR May 24, 2006.

Gaza sliding into civil war. The U.K. Guardian, October 11, 2006.

Fighting in Gaza Sparks Fears of Civil War. NPR December 17, 2006.

Gaza on brink of civil war as cleric is killed. The U.K. Telegraph, January 8, 2007.

Gaza on brink of civil war., January 29, 2007.

The march toward civil war. The Boston Globe via the International Herald Tribune, February 12, 2007.

Gaza on brink of civil war. The (U.K.?) Times via the Australian, May 17, 2007.

A last chance to avert civil war in Palestine. The U.K. Independent, June 5, 2007.

Abbas: Palestinians verging on civil war., June 5, 2007.

The war in Iraq is widely described in the world's professional media organizations as a "civil war," even though it clearly fails to satisfy the five criteria noted for international recognition as cited by Global Security above, having no formal armies, no functioning governments, nor major battles, instead revolving around kidnappings, bombing, and other random violence.

The Gaza Civil War, on the other hand, satisfies all five criteria for a civil war, and has met these criteria for roughly a year.

Why does the media refuse to recognize the conflict between Hamas and Fatah for the civil war that it is?

I have no easy answers for that question, but is a question that deserves an answer.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at June 5, 2007 09:58 AM

Why does the media refuse to recognize the conflict between Hamas and Fatah for the civil war that it is? Because the liberal media wants the two organizations to make kissy-face so everyone is happy.

Posted by: howard_coward at June 5, 2007 12:22 PM

"Hamas, which leads a Palestinian unity government with Abbas's Fatah faction..."

Maybe they ought to look up the definition of "unity" too...

Posted by: Ignorance is Bliss at June 5, 2007 12:35 PM

The meme is at least as old as Viet Nam. Indeed that conflict was a civil war by these criteria but it was not merely that, as it was also, I would say primarily, a proxy war between the US and Chinese/Russian communists. The domestic Left could and did nakedly support the other side. Even our home-baked nutcases have SOME difficulty cheering for jihad, though that reticence is eroding. In any event, simply because a conflict IS definable as a civil war does not mean that one victor is not legitimately preferable to another nor that outside intervention is taboo. After all, our own Revolution was first, a civil war. Viet Nam was a civil war that we COULD have and SHOULD have won, for the sake of the locals, ourselves and the world at large. Likewise Iraq. If Iran collapses into a civil war, I hope we have the courage and intelligence to intervene on the more liberal side, if such appears. But this vapid notion with, apparently, appeal on Left and Right seems to supercede that for the near future. To our detriment.

Posted by: megapotamus at June 5, 2007 12:37 PM

The answer is: so as to give Hamas time to gain complete power so they can then turn on the US imperialistic proxy Israel, who in the media's eyes deserves a beating. Then no one will report that Iran has sent troops to the West Bank and Gaza. Once the attack on Israel proper begins and Israeli civilians are massacred after being overrun the world media will wring their hands and cry how did this happen?

Posted by: JCEE at June 5, 2007 12:50 PM

No, they won't.

The reason for the battle of the title--is it a civil war or not--is the presumption that the US cannot win and thus should not be in somebody else's civil war. Therefore, the left wants to win the label fight, since, if it's a civil war in Iraq, we have to come home instantly.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at June 5, 2007 01:11 PM

Three Words: Can't. Blame. Bush.

Posted by: edh at June 5, 2007 01:37 PM

If Iran collapses into a civil war, I hope we have the courage and intelligence to intervene...

I usually try not to characterize comments, but in this case I'll make an exception.


This is one of the most bone-headed things I've read on this or any other blog.

If you want to unify Iranians against the US, that's how you do it. Right now we have a chance that more moderate, pro-west elements in Iran will win power over the mullahs. But if you want to put the boot to that chance, you've outlined the perfect way to do it.

In fact, that's so wrong that I suspect you might actually work for the Bush administration.

Posted by: David Terrenoire at June 5, 2007 02:11 PM

"Right now we have a chance that more moderate, pro-west elements in Iran will win power over the mullahs."

I've been hearing that for nearly 30 years now.

The problem with that statement is that for the past 30 years, its been the Mullahs that have controlled the schools and the textbooks and the media, not the more moderate pro-west elements. And what that means is that on the whole, Iran isn't becoming more moderate, but rather more radical. Sure, there is a wonderful remenent population of educated pro-Western middle class Iranians who are great people and who would make great allies if they are anything like the many exiles living outside of Iran. But if there is anything we have learned over the last 30 years, its that they have no real power. And, they are a vanishing minority, because the Mullahs control the memetic heights so thier children on the whole are slightly more radical than thier parents are each passing year. We see the same thing going on in Palestine. As soon as the terrorists gained control of the school system (with the help of our own dear Clinton), all near term hope of peace was lost.

So, in the exceedingly unlikely event that the pro-Western, rational, democratic, middle class faction finally does crack and fight back against the Mullahs, what do you propose? Letting that one last bastion of moderation in Iran get slaughtered, so Amadinejihad can have his vision of a pure Islamic state to martyr for Allah?

Posted by: celebrim at June 5, 2007 02:25 PM

Because the MSM are Bush deranged anti-semites. They hate America and they hate Jews and they hate Israel.

Posted by: Paul A'Barge at June 5, 2007 02:37 PM


I don't know where you're getting your information, but what I'm reading says that things like satellite TV and the Internet are creating a pro-western faction among the best educated, the ones most likely to oppose the mullahs. The people are getting tired of the iron fist and, I hope, will change this government through politics rather than war and that takes time.

30 years? We're talking about a part of the world that still carries a grudge over things that happened in the Sixth Century.

30 years is a blink in time. We're still feeling the waves kicked off by installing the Shah. We have to start thinking longer term if we're going to prevail in the MidEast.

But if civil war broke out, the most idiotic thing we could do would be to intervene. I'm not saying we couldn't quietly support a group, but if we moved in militarily, it would do nothing but unite Iranians against us.

That's what I'm reading.

Posted by: David Terrenoire at June 5, 2007 02:39 PM

"I usually try not to characterize comments, but in this case I'll make an exception."


David Terrenoire,

Rad your own post, apply it to yourself, and try not to be a condescending, arrogant, holier-(and-more-intelligent-)than-thou, reading-the-lefty-talking-points know-it-all.

celebrim nailed it. "Right now" meaning "about the entire lifetime of the average person, or longer" is not a useful definition for most things, especially not political things.

Posted by: Deoxy at June 5, 2007 02:44 PM

I think the Iran question is quite obviously solving itself,with the inept, corrupt Mullahs driving it into the ground. If Ahamijade-whack-job doesn't manage to trigger an all out war over nukes, a bus strike or a spike in tomato prices will cause its downfall. Unfortunately it will mean a blood bath for the Iranians.

Posted by: gk at June 5, 2007 03:00 PM


The people are getting tired of the iron fist and, I hope, will change this government through politics rather than war and that takes time.

That sentiment, while nice and very politically correct, has nothing to do with how "moderates" will regain power in Iran. The mullahs (and communists, etc., etc.) know that as long as they are willing to imprison/torture/kill dissidents (and their families) that the moderates will cringe/hide/emigrate. Unless the moderates are willing to fight to the death for that political power, they will never achieve it.

In the meantime, how long does the civilized world have to put up with acts of war by this regime? Another 30 years? 60 years?

And no, we are not feeling waves resulting from installation of the Shah--we are feeling waves resulting from abandoning him in favor of these dark ages fanatics currently running the country. Shall we wait long enough for them to get their nukes built and on their way to Israel? Europe? Russia? USA?

Posted by: iconoclast at June 5, 2007 03:01 PM

...condescending, arrogant, holier-(and-more-intelligent-)than-thou, reading-the-lefty-talking-points know-it-all.

Anything specific you'd like me to address, Deoxy, or is calling me names the best all you want to do? Because I don't lose sleep over anonymous commenters on a blog not liking me.

Really, I'm OK with that.

(Now that was a condescending, arrogant post and I can do that all day if that's what you want. But if you'd rather talk about our policy in the MidEast, I'd much rather do that. Your call.)

Posted by: David Terrenoire at June 5, 2007 03:03 PM


When I was in college I knew Iranian students here who lived in fear of Savak, the Shah's secret police.

The Shah sowed the seeds of the revolution by brutally ruling Iran. The troubles in Iran did not begin in 1979.

But are you really proposing we go to war with Iran right now? Because the military has its hands full with a much smaller country. I don't think it's wise to make threats we can't back up.

Posted by: David Terrenoire at June 5, 2007 03:08 PM

"30 years is a blink in time. We're still feeling the waves kicked off by installing the Shah. We have to start thinking longer term if we're going to prevail in the MidEast."

I would suggest we think in terms of Half Lifes...

Posted by: Joel Mackey at June 5, 2007 03:53 PM

I would suggest we think in terms of Half Lifes...


I love humor, the darker the better.

And that was mighty dark.


Posted by: David Terrenoire at June 5, 2007 04:00 PM

megapotomus, I have to register a slight clarification. A "revolution", while similar, is a distinctly different sort of animal from a "civil war". A civil war is fought between recognized factions of an existing government, each trying to achieve supremacy. A revolution is fought by an insurgency that has created its own opposition government.

Posted by: submandave at June 5, 2007 04:24 PM


But are you really proposing we go to war with Iran right now? Because the military has its hands full with a much smaller country. I don't think it's wise to make threats we can't back up.

As far as I see it, we are at war with them right now. Or at least they are at war with us while we are trying very hard to ignore that fact and have been doing so for a number of years.

I think the military has its hands full doing nation-building--opposed violently by Iran, of course. War is another matter. I am just an arm-chair general and, of course, my opinion is highly relevant (yeah, right). But as you pointed out on another thread, either we fight this entire war or we bail. Fighting the entire war means ending the war being waged against us by Iran.

But the USA won't wage that war until after another attack on our country. Maybe we are just hoping for a mutual assured destruction between Iran and Israel...

Posted by: iconoclast at June 5, 2007 04:42 PM

It doesn't matter what all these real smart people think, those three Carrier Battle Groups are not in the Persian Gulf for suntans.
We can cry all we want to about not being able to go to war against Iran. Iran is at war with us. Iran has been at war with us, Iran will be at war with us. The quicker everyone becomes aware of this, the quicker the war will end.
The plan seems to be for the Democrats to get in the way all they can, let George Bush handle it and then screech loudly about what an awful guy he is.

Posted by: Peter at June 6, 2007 02:48 AM

iconoclast and Peter,

I don't know how old either of you are, or if you've ever been in the service, but if either of you are under 30 I expect you to sign up and help relieve these guys in Iraq. Because those on their third and fourth tours are getting a little tired fighting these neocon wars for the rest of us.

No, this isn't a sarcastic chickenhawk taunt. I'm dead serious. If you think we're at war with Iran, go find the nearest recruiter because your country needs you.

And God help us if you're right.

Posted by: David Terrenoire at June 6, 2007 06:01 AM

Mr. Darkearth, one derives by logic that you are proposing universal military service for the U.S. As a citizen, you want to insist certain people serve, specifically, it seems, people under 30 who speak in favor of responding militarily to the verbal and indirect war Iran is waging on us and on Israel. These persons to be drafted would be replacements for those who have volunteered for war fighting and who you say are getting a little tired fighting for the rest of us (your use of the word us here is strange here). Have I successfully expressed your idea? So one group of conservatives could rest while a non-volunteer force of other conservatives takes over the fighting for a while. As you say, you are dead serious that you want conservatives to involuntarily serve as war fighters because this is our war. The Iranian Islamists only wish to kill conservatives? But there are liberals in Israel as well as here, are there not? As a liberal, you derive nothing at all from the efforts of our military?

Posted by: Fred Beloit at June 6, 2007 09:22 AM


No where will you find the words liberal or conservative in what I wrote.

No, what I was suggesting is simple: If we decide to engage Iran militarily, we'll need many more troops than we have right now.

This is serious business. If you think we're in a mess in Iraq, that will look like a picnic compared to Iran. Iraq has 27 million people. Iran has 67 million people.

Right now we don't have enough soldiers. This is from the Weekly Standard:

"Analysts outside the government are increasingly in agreement: Researchers at conservative think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation call for larger ground forces, as do thinkers at centrist and liberal organizations ... We would urge an immediate expansion toward a 750,000-person [from 500,000] Army. In any case, the consensus for a larger Army is about as complete as it could be. Except within the administration."

This is without fighting in Iran. So, what I'm saying is that if you believe we're at war with Iran, and this is only a prelude to ground combat then as an American, left or right, if you're of sound body and capable of service, now would be a very good time to enlist.

I don't happen to think war with Iran is the right thing or inevitable, and I pray I'm right about this.

So no, this has nothing to do with liberal or conservative, left or right. You are completely misreading my call to service.

For me, this is a policy issue, not a partisan one. My original position, and one I still hold, is that change can happen within Iran without our intervention but if we do intervene it will accomplish nothing except unify the Iranians against us. War is a last resort and I don't think we're there yet.

If you believe differently, I can respect that, but if you're right many more men will be called than we have now. And that's inevitable.

Posted by: David Terrenoire at June 6, 2007 10:53 AM

David, I think you completely misunderstand the essential nature of what I fear is a pending war with Iran. You seem to be operating on the premise that the conflict in Iran would necessarily mirror the conflict in Iraq, and nothing could be further from the truth.

While their support for JAM is certainly a thorn in our sides in Iraq, our primary beef with them is over their nuclear program. We have no intention, nor plans (to the best I can determine), nor need to involve the U.S. Army or Marine ground forces in any way whatsoever in confronting Iran.

Iran's nuclear targets (with the possible exception of personnel) are rigid, fixed targets. Iran's Air Force and air defenses are second if not third-rate.

If you've been watching our military deployments in the region, you'll note we have been slowly and significantly building up our air assets, and if our targetting is accurate, we should be able to destroy significant portions of their nuclear program, both above and below ground.

There are only two ways our ground-pounders will be involved as a result of an attack on Iran.

The first is if the Iranian's direct the JAM to attack American and British forces in Iraq. You may note the historical fact that while those battles can be quite intense, the are also typically very lopsided.

The conflict would not doubt create U.S. casualties, but it would also severely deplete the number of militia fighters available to al Sadr and other would be militia leaders.

There are some suggesting that Iran would launch an invasion of Iraq with their uniformed Army in retaliation for an attack on their nuclear facilities. Again, total U.S. air superiority would shred Iranian forces that have only the most basic of air defense systems, resulting in a huge loss of Iranian lives. The first Gulf War taught us what happens when a modern air force encounters mechanized infantry and armor without air defense. "Does the "Highway of Death" ring a bell?

I just happen to have posted in this here. There are going to be no winners in a war with Iran, the only question is who is going to be the biggest loser. I would prefer it to be Iran instead of us and our allies.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at June 6, 2007 11:36 AM


I read your latest post and I don't have any reason to doubt your analysis except I think you've drastically underestimated US casualties if this thing goes to boil. But overall, I agree with what you've said.

It's what happens afterward that gives me pause. I have the same pain in my gut that I had in the run-up to Iraq. Not that we wouldn't win a military conflict but that the aftermath would be unmanageable (or mismanaged). I wish I had been wrong about that, but I wasn't.

Maybe my hesitation comes from my not trusting Bush. I'll be the first to admit that if he told me the sky was blue I'd have to go outside to check. Maybe that's where this feeling comes from, I don't know.

But I do know that if we unify a nation of 67 million people against us, things are going to get really bad really fast.

I know some who read this blog doubt my sincerity or maybe even my patriotism, and that's their right. But believe me when I say that I hope I'm wrong about this.

Still, there's that twist in my gut that tells me things will spin out of control a lot faster here than they did in Iraq and that both of us may be horribly mistaken. Because there's always that possibility, too.

Posted by: David Terrenoire at June 6, 2007 12:02 PM