First and foremost, we hope that everyone and their loved ones are safe and secure.
It was only last Friday we discussed intelligence analysts' blind spots and ways to mitigate cognitive bias.
Apologies to all affected
This is going to be a tough topic to address, so we will do our best to maintain objectivity, and we apologize in advance to anyone who may be offended. Some of our members have been directly affected by the recent tragic events in Israel and Gaza, so emotions are running very high. It's important to remember that people may say or post things in moments of anger that shouldn't be taken to heart. The delete button is always an option.
It's wise to avoid social media channels during conflicts of this nature. A century-old conflict cannot be reduced to simple soundbites and 140 (or 280) characters. While it can be frustrating when social media platforms suspend accounts without prior warning and with little information beyond the standard message, this is primarily intended as a way to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control. They usually reinstate the accounts once things calm down. Dehumanization is an easy trap to fall into during times of conflict. 5 minutes of scrolling the telegram channels was enough damage for my mental health to stop.
Best sources to follow and ones to avoid
In general, when it concerns Middle Eastern politics, regional media sources or analysts with local heritage often have inherent biases that are challenging to separate from the facts on the ground. For example, when discussing politics in Iran, Suzanne Maloney at the Brookings Institute is a more reliable source than former CIA analysts from the 1970s and 1980s who may still be haunted by the trauma of the U.S. embassy hostage situation, or exiled Iranian dissidents who are, so to speak, more catholic than the Pope.
Local press gunning for Netanyahu
Likewise, the Israeli local press is replete with opposition to Netanyahu, criticisms, and polarization. To some extent, this plays into the calculations of Hamas (as discussed below). Our primary objective, as always, is to curate and verify the most reliable sources of information, regardless of whether they align with mainstream narratives or our personal perspectives.
4 articles we've curated
Here are four articles we have carefully selected to provide a comprehensive overview of the Israel-Hamas conflict, and the nuances of the current situation:
WSJ NEWS EXCLUSIVE
Iran Helped Plot Attack on Israel Over Several WeeksThe Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps gave the final go-ahead last Monday in Beirut
Summer Said, Benoit Faucon and Stephen Kalin
Updated Oct. 8, 2023 7:32 pm ET
This is a highly dubious story that has dominated the mainstream media narrative. Thus far, neither U.S. nor Israeli intelligence have found evidence to corroborate the story, and there are no credible sources quoted. The idea that a senior Iranian official would speak to a WSJ reporter on the condition of anonymity is quite implausible. While the Iranian regime may engage in many unsavory activities, notably the oppression of its own people, they are not irrational actors. Even a dictatorship resorts to pragmatism in order to maintain grip on power for as long as 11 U.S. presidential terms.
By all measures, this is a terrible intelligence failure.
Why now and what next?
Sir Lawrence Freedman
Probably the most in-depth and thoughtful analysis of the current political situation written by Sir Lawrence Freedman of the Department of War Studies in King College London. A highly recommended substack post which considers the wider implications to the region.
Mohammed Deif is commander of the military wing of the militant group Hamas, which carried out Saturday’s attack
By Mehul Srivastava
Srivastava‘s previous reports on national security and intelligence in the Middle East have been excellent and on point. This is an insightful account of the calculus according to the Hamas leadership. Essentially, once the situation on the ground stabilizes, it becomes a hostage situation designed to exploit political divisions within Israel. For Hamas, it's a waiting game as aired images of hostages increase pressure on the government of Israel to do something.
The article ends:
“This terrorist action has finished this practice forever,” said the Israeli official of Saturday’s assault. “Now there will be no truce, only retaliation.” Which is exactly, it seems, what Deif had always wanted.
October 7, 2023
Another thoughtful piece by a former US ambassador to the Middle East. Here's another Foreign Affairs article we liked:
Netanyahu Has Nothing but Bad Options
By Daniel Byman and Alexander Palmer
October 7, 2023
Finally, there's a lot of going back to connect the dots as to whether Israeli intelligence had prior warnings of the attack. For example, the following tweet from over a month ago:
From where we sit, it is impossible to gauge the significance of the warning issued at the time without having a clear understanding of the baseline threat level. A valid critique directed towards the right-wing factions of the Israeli government is the formulation of Gaza policies without sufficient anticipation of potential consequences. It's not a question of if Netanyahu will be removed from power, but when.