It doesn’t take an expert to decipher the not-terribly-mysterious question of where Hamas has procured its stock of roughly 10,000 rockets of different types. As Israel and Hamas fight it out, hefty Israeli units – out of sight of TV cameras – are encircling Gaza on all its borders, from the air and the sea, with Egyptian troops to the south forming a barrier between Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula.
They are there to cut off the Hamas and Jihad Islami arms routes from the outside. Yet somehow, truckloads full of rockets are still making their way in and out of the beleaguered Palestinian enclave.
DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources report that the Gaza-Sinai border is far from sealed and nearly all of the convoys destined for Gaza are making their way through.
Most of the rockets originate in Benghazi, eastern Libya, which has been awash with plundered weapons since NATO backed an uprising for toppling Muammar Qaddafi three years ago.
Iranian and Hizballah agents posing as international weapons dealers snapped up a supply of rockets for Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The rockets were – and still are – smuggled by Iranian- Al Qaeda-Bedouin tribal networks through Egypt and Sinai to their destination in the Gaza Strip.
Since the Egyptian and Libyan autocrats, Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Qaddafi, were removed from power in 2011, not a single military or intelligence force in the region, including Israel and Egypt working in harness, have managed to staunch the inflow of contraband weapons, which continues even as the Gaza Strip blazes with combat.
US avoids pulling its weight for staunching Sinai arms smuggling
US, Israeli and Egyptian military and intelligence personnel have spent the last two years hashing out a detailed plan for a joint anti-terror command to supervise security and intelligence operations in Sinai, with a view to sanitizing the peninsula as a primary arms smuggling crossroads for Iran, Hizballah, Al Qaeda, Hamas and dozens of other terrorist groups.
The Obama administration pledged funding and advanced monitoring and surveillance equipment to this enterprise. The paperwork still awaits the president’s signature in a National Security Council desk drawer at the White House.
On July 9, US Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, asked about Hamas’ rocket supplier, said that she “didn’t have any information to share.”
She then said she was “not aware” off any Western plans to raise the issue during the nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 in Vienna: “The focus is on the nuclear issue. There’s plenty to discuss on that particular issue.”
Psaki added: “I think it's clear that our concern and our condemnation of the rocket attacks have been consistent. And of course we'd be concerned about the suppliers, but I don't have any more information to share on that."
Dropping the Sinai Counterterrorism Plan into a bottom drawer does not mean that Obama was acting deliberately to help arm Hamas. It’s just that foot-dragging is part of his administration’s modus operandi. Other equally pressing issues related to the Middle East war on terror get the same treatment.
Iran plus allies, Al Qaeda and IS are the winners
To tackle the situation in Iraq, where Islamist groups are surging through the country with unprecedented speed and ferocity, the administration formed a committee with instructions to draw up a US plan of action by September.
It is hard to see the Islamic Caliphate (IS, formerly ISIS) and its Iraqi Sunni tribal partners hanging around and putting their rampage on hold until Obama gets around to formulating and setting his plans in motion.
In Syria, too, Washington has put on hold US plans to provide Syrian rebels with half a billion dollars in assistance. No one in Washington or Syria seems to know if the aid will ever come through.
A joint US-Israeli-Jordanian military effort to establish a rebel enclave in southern Syria, to reach as far as the southern outskirts of Damascus, has also run out of steam. In Washington, Jerusalem and Amman, it’s anyone’s guess as to when or if the scheme will be rebooted.
In every one of these arenas, the winners from Obama’s dilly-dallying are Iran and its allies, Syria and Hizballah. Their Sunni rivals, including Al Qaeda and IS, are also major beneficiaries.
History is repeating itself in Gaza.
US Secretary of State John Kerry originally planned to arrive in the Mid East Tuesday, July 15. But Obama put his foot down and cancelled the trip – even though intelligence had reached Washington of a directive from Tehran to Hamas and Islamic Jihad to keep on shooting rockets into Israel regardless of any truce.
The US president nonetheless decided not to let Kerry make a contribution to the ceasefire effort that Egyptian President Fattah El Sisi and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu were attempting to push through.