The (Much Extended) Agony of Israel and Gaza

WEBINAR – Peter Zeihan’s Risk List: What Keeps a Geopolitical Strategist Up at Night

Please join Peter Zeihan for a webinar on June 5th at 12:00 PM EST on a topic that is near and dear to the hearts of the Zeihan on Geopolitics team: geopolitical risk. This webinar will feature Peter’s reasonable-fear list, focused on issues that in his opinion have the most potential to impact market outcomes.

I’ve avoided talking about the Israel and Gaza conflict as much a possible (given that there’s no favorable outcomes for anyone involved), but some recent changes have forced my hand.

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is reaching critical levels due to massive destruction and severe shortages of resources. The real kicker is Israel’s renewed offensive in northern Gaza; the presence of Hamas fighters and bodies of hostages in previously “cleared” areas has revealed some MASSIVE shortcomings in Israeli intelligence.

Hamas will continue to recruit new fighters, and do so rather effectively given the harsh conditions in Gaza. Israel will attempt to sort out its intelligence issues and military struggles. And all of this is an unfortunate indication that this conflict has no resolution in sight.

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:

First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

Transcript

Hey, everybody. Peter Zeihan here. Coming to you from the via della Costa, which is the old Roman road that was used to transport everything, through the Ligurian coast of Italy back in the day. today is the 27th of May. You’ll clearly get this tomorrow. Anyway, today we’re going to talk about something that I, as a rule, have been avoiding. 

And that’s the Gaza conflict. this is one of those intractable conflicts where there’s really no version of it that goes well for anyone. And when I first addressed this issue back in November, shortly after the October attacks by Hamas into Israel, if for those of you don’t remember the specifics, basically we had several hundred to a few thousand, two low hanging, Hamas fighters cross into Israel, kill over a thousand people, engage in a pillage of raping and destruction, and ultimately kidnaped, a fair number of hostages and then back to Gaza. 

Israel shortly thereafter launched an invasion of the Gaza Strip, where Hamas is based, launching what has now been a six month conflict that has generated no end of bad press and horrors for everyone involved. there’s no version of this that ends with a settlement. Israel has been deeply wounded and isn’t going to stop. And Hamas has absolutely no problem sheltering behind the civilian population in Gaza. 

And Israel has no problem targeting the civilian populations as part of an effort to get to Hamas. So there’s no there’s no friendly outcome here. and so I’ve been avoiding talking about it because when you have an intractable conflict like this, all you have is the horror. And both sides, based on your point of view, are doing horrible things. 

So, I’ve been avoiding any work because we’ve had a an unfortunate development that makes this situation worse. over the last 2 to 3 months, Israel has been pushing steadily south, basically purging the territories of Hamas fighters as they go. And, the last reasonable estimate that I have seen suggests that somewhere upwards of two thirds of Hamas fighters have been killed. 

So from a certain point of view, you know, if you get that number up to 100%, then the war’s over. Then we can get on to the next stage of reconstruction and figuring out what a post Hamas Gaza looks like. And that is absolutely the Israeli goal. what has most people occupied at the moment is that, the people in Gaza, the civilians who have has little to do with Hamas as they can pull off, have been compressed into an ever smaller territory as the Israelis have gone section by section through the Gaza Strip to cleanse it of the fighters. 

as of about two weeks ago, we were anticipating something called the Rafah offensive. Rafah is the southernmost major city in, the Gaza Strip. And the hope, hope, hope was that we would be approaching the end game of this conflict. The idea is that all of Hamas has now been boxed into that section, and all Israel has to do is go in there and shoot them out. 

Now, the humanitarian side of this, of course, is atrocious because as you’re basically taking the most densely populated chunk of territory in the world and bit by bit, removing the areas that civilians can go to. a humanitarian, crisis has erupted. about 60, 65% of the housing stock in Gaza has been destroyed already. So what’s left of people who were already living in what was basically a prison camp are now living in a compressed zone, raising less than a quarter of the land area. 

So just, you know, a humanitarian tragedy. We are already seeing famine, at least on the scale of what went down in Venezuela two years ago and probably approaching what happened in Ethiopia in the 1980s. keep in mind that Gaza has nothing. they don’t generate their own power. They can’t grow their own food. there’s no value added manufacturing whatsoever. 

They basically subsist on aid. So that’s where we were. And then about ten days ago, Israel announced that they were renewing an eye offensive in the northern part of Gaza, an area that supposedly they cleared months ago. Kabbalah, the refugee camp. I don’t know why they call it a refugee camp. The whole place is a refugee camp. 

was the specific spot. It’s a place that used to be a Hamas stronghold, before the war began. And they have the Israelis have since completed that assault. And so here’s the problem. If this is an area that has already been cleansed, there shouldn’t be any Hamas fighters there at all. But what we’re learning is that Israeli intelligence is not nearly as good under the current government as it should be. 

I mean, if there is any issue that Israel should be obsessed with, it’s what’s going on in the Palestinian territories because they’re hard up against them. And it was a failure of intelligence of the current government, that allowed the attacks of last October to occur. And now there’s been a follow up failure. And that even in areas that have been cleansed, Hamas is operating, suggesting that for the last six months of routine, what was the Israeli effort hasn’t been nearly as effective as they thought. 

And in the last couple of days, we’ve gotten the results of this new Kabbalah offensive, and they found the bodies of some of the hostages. So it’s not just that the Israelis missed these people as they were going through the first time. They missed what was one of the primary worrying was just getting their people back, which means we’re entering into a new phase of the conflict where there is no end game. 

Israel under the current government seems to be incapable of fighting this war to what the Israelis would consider a reasonable conclusion, and instead they’re getting dragged into a Afghan style semi urban campaign of just guerrilla suppression in an area that’s roughly one eighth, one ninth the size of Rhode Island and has a population of about 3 million. 

This doesn’t end without something very seriously cracking and breaking, and it is not clear to me at the moment what that might be. on the Palestinian side, Hamas has now the perfect recruitment system. They are in a land war of occupation on their home turf. There are 3 million people living in poverty and starvation. That is the perfect recruiting tool. 

And Hamas has been using it very aggressively and very successfully, would take a degree of PR incompetence to not be able to recruit in that environment. And on the Israeli side, the only way that this goes well for them is if they can break through this intelligence logjam and actually destroy Hamas faster than I can recruit. I don’t think that’s possible anymore unless you just kill everyone. 

and so that’s very unfortunately the situation at the moment. And I don’t see it improving any time soon. I would love, love to end this one on a little bit of a positive note, but what little hope that I had that this conflict was about to wrap up is now gone, and we’re looking at something far more intractable. 

Sorry. 

Israel and Iran Avoid War…For Now

Tensions between Israel and Iran have been escalating since the Hamas attacks in October, but are we going to see a full blown war between these two adversaries?

Between multiple bombings by Israel and a larger scale attack carried out by Iran, things were touch and go for a bit there. However, it appears that both sides are de-escalating the situation and will let off the gas for the time being.

Although the situation appears to be stabilizing, there could be some third party interference by a country who wouldn’t mind having a broader conflict break out…

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First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

TranscripT

Hey everybody. Peter Zeihan here, coming to you from Colorado. We’re gonna close the loop on what’s going on with Israel and Iran. in the aftermath of the Hamas attacks in October, the Iranians were needling at Israel, in order to just get some good PR in the Arab world in back home. of course, the Israelis were a little sensitive about that.

how about everything at the moment? and so when the, Iranians got a little bit too punchy, the Israeli slapped them down by bombing the Iranian consulate in Damascus and killing a large number of high ranking, leadership, for the IRGC. That’s their, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, which carries out a lot of the military operations in Syria and Lebanon and Interface’s Hezbollah.

I basically, Israel took out the entire leadership, in Iran. Couldn’t believe they went after diplomatic grounds to do it. So, you know, anyway, Iran was like, wow, wow. Okay, they’re a little sensitive right now. We need to dial this back because we were just having some fun. And clearly they’re treating this a lot more serious than we are.

So they sent all these, missiles and drones and artillery rockets into Israel as retaliation. But they telegraphed, their attack days ahead and actually provided the technical specs to the Swiss embassy, which passed it on to the United States so that the U.S. and the Brits and the Jordanians and the Israelis could basically just light it all up and, shoot them down one after the other.

And no one was hurt and no meaningful damage was done. the question then was, what’s next? Because the Americans were like, all right, hey, yeah, this is great. This is a great climbdown. You get to claim face, we get to say coalition is working, and the Israelis get to say that their Iron Dome missile defense works great.

Everybody wins. The only potential, for the ointment is looking at Israel. Are you okay? and Israel decided mostly was. So what happened this last Friday is Israel did a counter strike, on Iran. But the only thing that they took out was the air defense at a very specific military facility in Israel. Had just happens that military facility in Michigan was right next to the primary Iranian nuclear research facility.

so basically, the Iranians, the Israelis are like, yes, we’re not bro’s, but we’re cool for now. But just to underline the fact that we could have done so much more, even without any help from the United States. So at the moment, everyone is backing off, and at the moment it seems that no one in the Middle East is interested in a broader conflict, with the exception, of course, of the Russians, who would love it as a distraction.

Iran Attacks Israel, Sort Of…

In the early hours of April 14, Iran – both directly and through its many proxies – launched the largest missile and drone assault on the Israeli state since at least the 1973 Yom Kippur war. It was quite a show.

The keyword here is “show”. I have never seen a military assault more telegraphed, choreographed, or bristling with advanced specific notice to ensure that the script does not result in escalation.

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:

First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

A WTF Moment in the Middle East

In President Biden’s State of the Union address a few days ago, he announced plans to build a floating dock to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza. This dock would help provide significant food supplies to this area, but at what cost?

You can probably imagine how the Israelis feel about this floating dock, but is that really the worst thing? This move by the US will carry significant diplomatic and strategic repercussions, but a shift away from Israel and some other Middle Eastern powers might be exactly what President Biden is going for.

With the potential for a reshuffling of Middle Eastern alliances and relationships, the opportunity to buddy up with a much more powerful country – like ahem, Turkey – is on the table. There’s no telling how all of this will shake out, but its likely that US policy in the Middle East is shifting.

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:

First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

TranscripT

Hey everybody. Peter Zeihan here coming to you from Colorado. Have kind of a weird one for you today because I’m not sure if I’m really no idea where it’s going, but this event has the potential for remaking a lot of things with U.S. policy in the Middle East in general. If you guys watched the State of the Union address a couple of days ago, almost a throwaway line that people like blurbed about for 5 minutes and then immediately forgot.

Was the Biden administration is committed publicly to building a floating dock that services the Gaza territory in order to get humanitarian aid in. The idea is that the throughput will be enough for at least 2 million meals a day, which would be roughly one third of the food demands for the territory. Now, remember, Gaza is basically a walled, open air prison camp, and so they grow no food themselves.

They’re completely dependent upon aid. And in the aftermath of the October Hamas attacks on Israel that killed some 1600 people, just horrific attack. The Israeli counter effort to try to root out Hamas has destroyed probably two thirds of the housing stock within Gaza. Probably more than that of their infrastructure. And they’re gearing up for another assault in the southern part of the strip to go after what they think are the remnants of Hamas, which is where now most of the population has been huddled because the rest of the strip has been destroyed.

Already, we’ve seen about 35,000 deaths among the Gaza population, which is over 1% of the pre-war civilian population. And if the Rafah attack happens over at least half of that number of casualties again. So this has already become the single most high casualty conflict in recent years that is not in sub-Saharan Africa. And it’s only going to get worse before it gets better.

And there is no version of a future where Gaza is self-sustaining. They don’t generate their own energy. They can’t grow their own food. Everything comes in from aid from somewhere else. And because of the war, the Israelis have basically blockaded the entrances, except for some very, very specific circumstances. Anyway. The Biden administration let me rephrase that. Biden personally, when he was vice president, if you remember, Obama hated everybody, didn’t want to have conversations with anyone.

And so he basically sent Biden to do all the talking, especially in the Middle East, because there was a region. Obama wasn’t interested in anything, but he was really not interested in the Middle East. So Biden has a first name, a relationship with most of the leaders across the region, and he and the Israelis did not get along at all, especially Netanyahu.

And I mean, let’s be perfectly blunt here in Kenya, who is an asshole and no one likes him, but he’s an effective political leader when it comes to managing a coalition. And his attitude hasn’t changed at all during the conflict. If anything, it’s hardened. And so he’s basically ignored what everyone has said about the conflict pursuing Israeli national interests.

I don’t mean that in a bad way. There is no way that Israel will be secure so long as Hamas exists. And I don’t see a way to destroy Hamas without destroying Gaza. But between that immovable rock and that irresistible force, the United States is attempting to find a third way. It won’t work, but it’s attempting to find a way to allow the Palestinians to at least live from.

So you have to have a degree of respect for at least that. Here’s the thing. There is no version of what the Biden administration has now pledged itself to do that meshes with any version of Israeli national security, regardless of who is in charge in Jerusalem. Even if the left wing peaceniks took over in Israel, tomorrow, they would still be opposed to this.

This this cuts to the core of Israeli survivability. And there is broad support for the military operation in Gaza across the political spectrum despite the civilian casualties. So there is no way there’s no way that the Biden administration is unaware of this and there is no way that the Joint Chiefs didn’t explain to the cabinet of the Biden administration that if we do this, we then also have to bring in a logistics team in order to deliver aid by small boat to this dock.

And then we have to put boots on the ground in Gaza to set up a truck distribution system to get the aid to the people. Remember, 2 million meals a day. This is on a much larger scale than what went down with the Berlin airlift. And with the Berlin airlift. You could just drop it and fly away. Here you’re talking about having to deliver it.

The U.N. can’t operate in Gaza in war. Only the U.S. military could. So we’re now talking about having a larger U.S. military presence in and around Gaza than it has in the rest of the Middle East put together. There is no version of that that the Israelis are okay with. And it begs the question, what happens the next day?

So let me give you the caveat first. It’s a floating dock. The military could just leave. This isn’t like the Afghan evacuation in Afghanistan. The Kabul airport was an air bridge. Moving things by air is incredibly expensive and is a hell of a bottleneck. And you can only fit a few hundred people on each individual craft when you’re dealing with a naval operation.

This is the sort of thing the U.S. excels at. And if the decision was made to pull the plug, every U.S. military personnel could be out of there in a few hours. So we’re not setting up for a repeat of that. But we are setting up for a military footprint that is significant in a place that has absolutely no strategic value to the United States.

Also, Hamas is still very active in this region. Israel’s not done. So there will be attacks on U.S. forces. Biden knows this. Biden knows all of this. And so what happens the next day? It feels like the United States is preparing to breach the Israeli relationship. And if you do that, there are a number of secondary decisions that have to be made in a very short period of time.

Now, remember, the Biden administration is the administration that ended the American involvement in Afghanistan and has slimmed down our involvement everywhere else in the region to very, very thin bones. Going from here to a full pullout through the entire region. That is very possible. But think of the alliances that are forming up within this region right now. The Israelis have succeeded in building up diplomatic relationships, not just with Jordan and Egypt, but with Morocco and with Tunisia and with the UAE.

And they’re inches away from having a normalized relationship with Saudi Arabia. If the United States decides to cut and run from Israel, that means all of these countries are on their own. Now, there’s any number of ways that the U.S. can disengage. One of them is to induce other powers like the Arabs and the Israelis, to work together out of a sense of desperation.

This could do that. But that would also mean that the United States is preparing to cut its connection with the slave states of the Persian Gulf. That would be gutter the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, three countries that important vast quantities of labor abuse them horribly and then send them home when they’re no longer useful to them.

This would mean an end to that, too. Now, if if, if if this is the Biden administration’s plan and if if if the Biden administration wants to have influence in the region after this, it would have to make a partnership with another player. The only option is Turkey. And we have seen renewed diplomatic connections between the Biden administration and the other white administration of Turkey over the course of the last couple of months.

Now, the Turks in the current government don’t like the Israelis very much at all, but they by far the Turks have the most powerful military in the region, arguably more powerful than everyone else has put together. If there is to be a post Israel post Saudi American position in the region, it has to be with Turkey. And so there’s already been multiple meetings at the assistant defense secretary level to figure out how we can get along again, because those relations have been poor ever since the Iraq war started back in 2003.

So this has the potential to be game changing for the region. And as for someone who has kind of been sick of dealing with this region for the last 20 years, I got to admit it’s a kind of an attractive approach. The Israelis are carrying out a military operation that is making everybody squeamish, even countries that don’t much care for the Palestinians, and using this as a way to not just reduce relations with the Israelis who are apoplectic about this dog, but the Saudis and the Emiratis as well.

And to get along with a country that is much more democratic, which is much more strategically viable, that is much more capable. That’s a good trade. But there’s a lot of water that has to flow under this bridge as it’s being built before we get there. And we’re not going to have a good idea of just how committed the Biden administration is to whatever plan until such time as the stock is operational and or we see a significant shift in American relations with the Turks.

But we should get some good data points on all of that in the next two or three months.

Israel and Russia Fall Out + Kindle Deal of the Day

KINDLE DEAL OF THE DAY

On March 10, you can get The Accidental Superpower: Ten Years On eBook for only $3.99!

If you haven’t purchased the The Accidental Superpower: Ten Years On yet, March 10 is the time to buy! Kindle has selected the eBook version as the Deal of the Day for March 10! We’ll be sending out another email as we get closer to the date.

Back to Israel and Russia Falling Out…

In a marked shift away from the historical relationship between Israel and Moscow, Israel plans to send early warning radar to Ukraine. The details of this plan are still unconfirmed, but let’s break it down.

Israel has developed some of the most advanced missile and drone detection and defense systems, known as the Iron Dome System. What’s being sent to Ukraine will likely be a much more basic version; regardless, it will be an invaluable piece of tech for the Ukrainian’s defense capabilities.

This move by Israel could also signify the beginning of increased cooperation with Western allies – most notably the US. Once the flood gates open, intelligence sharing, some Western funding, and enhancements to military capabilities shouldn’t be too far behind.

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:

First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

Israel, After America

It's release day!

The Accidental Superpower: Ten Years On

With a new “10 years later” epilogue for every chapter, comes an eye-opening assessment of American power and deglobalization in the bestselling tradition of The World is Flat and The Next 100 Years.

We’re diving a little deeper into Israel for the next video in our ‘Post-American’ series. We’ll discuss their transition into a world without the US around and what domestic and international challenges they might face.

Israel’s major domestic problem stems from the social support network offered to a chunk of their population; instead of working or serving in the military, they study the Torah and pop out kids. And as this group grows in size, it will drag the economy further down and limit the power that a future Israel ‘could’ have obtained. (The rising political power of this less-than-engaged portion of the Israeli population is a big piece of how Israel was so surprised by the Hamas assault in October 2023.)

Israel’s international problems are no cakewalk either. As the US pulls out, Israel must beef up their security or find another guarantor. The most viable candidates are Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The Turks could be a bit of a wild card, but the Saudis are already tightening relations. These new partnerships are a top priority as tensions rise between Iran and Israel.

As all this unfolds, the fight over the Persian Gulf is brewing in the background. The stage is set for this region of the world to get quite chaotic. The partnerships Israel is curating could prove critical in determining which of the major regional powers will emerge on top.

FOR MORE ON THE The future of israel, SEE DISUNITED NATIONS

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:

First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

Shipping and the Red Sea

The Accidental Superpower: Ten Years On

With a new “10 years later” epilogue for every chapter, comes an eye-opening assessment of American power and deglobalization in the bestselling tradition of The World is Flat and The Next 100 Years.

If any of the gifts you ordered have to go through the Red Sea, it might be time to buy a backup. If you haven’t heard, there has been a series of attacks carried out by Yemeni militants on commercial shipping.

Most of the major shipping companies have suspended operations in the region; no surprise there. However, if you’re not a shipping savant, these attacks in the Red Sea could disrupt nearly 30% of all global container traffic.

Some countries will feel the heat a bit more than the rest of us. Chinese exports to Europe will require longer routes, crude shipments from the Persian Gulf could be disrupted, and don’t get me started on Russian crude exports. This is a complex issue that, if left unattended, could have major consequences down the road.

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:

First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

TranscripT

Hey everybody. Peter Zeihan here. Coming to you from chilly Colorado. And the news we have in the last few days is that militants within the militants in Yemen are launching a combination of low grade ballistic missiles and drones, commercial shipping in the Red Sea. And that’s led the ten major shipping companies of the world to basically suspend operations in that area and either tell their ships to wait at the openings to the Red Sea until the threat passes or simply sail around the Red Sea completely, which means going all the way around Africa for the Asia Europe run.

Now, first, let’s get the caveats out of the way. This is not a state making a determined effort to shut down shipping in the area. That is something that has happened before in the aftermath of the 1973 war between the Arab states and Israel, the Israelis found themselves occupying the eastern side of the Suez Canal. And so they did just that in order to destroy one of Egypt’s main sources of foreign currency and force them to the negotiating table.

That’s what it’s play here. We have basically a bunch of drug addled militants, some of the world’s least competent ones, operating from some of the world’s least valuable land in Yemen, probably at the instigation of the Iranians who are their primary supporter, because this is a little conflict that is a needle on the side of Saudi Arabia, cost them very little to do it.

They’re using some of the same weapons systems that they’re selling to the Russians. And it’s plausible deniability just causes a lot of heartburn. So this is not a formal shutting down of trade. This is more of a heavy annoyance that has the opportunity maybe get worse. But at the moment, the warheads in play here are, you know, no more than a few pounds to a few dozen pounds each.

Nothing that can take out a tanker, nothing that can take out a container ship. The reason everyone’s so touchy about it is the way insurance law works on the seas is if you sail into a zone where someone is shooting the commercial shipping, your insurance policy is null and void. And so if anything happens like you need a tow, you’re on your own, or God forbid, that you actually get a leak either from the attack or from something else, you’re on your own.

So out of an abundance of caution, everyone’s just avoiding the area altogether. Now, who gets affected by this? Three big things to keep an eye on. First of all, this is roughly 30% of all global containerized traffic. And the biggest single chunk of that is Chinese exports to the European Union. These routes now need to go around the bulk of the African continent, which, based on where this stuff is being sold to, increases the sailing distance by one third to two thirds.

And that means you need one third to two thirds more container ships to maintain the same flows. So we’re going to see a lot of pinches in the supply chains for finished goods. These aren’t intermediate products for the most part. These are finished goods coming from the Chinese, which is obviously going to hit their bottom line in an environment where consumption is basically seized up in China and all they have left are exports.

It’s also going to make it a little bit easier for the Europeans to put trade sanctions on the Chinese for product dumping, for example, on the eve space. The Europeans are always looking for protectionist methods to apply. And if the Chinese are proving unreliable in their deliveries, that’ll make that case that much easier. The second thing is crude oil coming from the Persian Gulf, mostly Saudi crude that is going the north through the Red Sea and Suez.

There are a couple of bypass pipelines for Suez that go through Egypt as well, which go into the Mediterranean basin and of course, Europe in the aftermath of the Ukraine war. This route has gotten a lot more traffic because the Europeans are no longer taking Russian crude. So the Persian Gulf has stepped in. This is about 12% of global energy shipments.

Now, if this proves to be any more than a momentary problem, what the Europeans are going to be forced to do, what the Saudis are going to be forced to do is to do what happened the last time this was closed down in 1973, the supertanker was developed. The traditional oil tanker only carries about 500,000 barrels, whereas a supertanker can carry a little bit over 2 million.

It takes a larger tanker to make the trip all the way around Africa economically viable. And of course, the Saudis know a few people who have supertankers. So expect to see larger and larger vessels plying this route, which is going to put pressure on anyone else who is trying to bring in crude from a longer distance. Which brings us to the third problem and where we’re probably going to see the most pain in the market, and that’s Russian crude exports.

Now, when the Ukraine war started, the Europeans basically stopped using Russian crude and then they gobbled up all of the crude that was available within arm’s reach. Some from the United States shale fields, some from North Africa, some from West Africa, and the rest from the Persian Gulf. That meant that because of a lack of infrastructure, Russian crude had to be exported through the same port points on the black and the Baltic Sea.

But it had to be then shipped through the Mediterranean, through Suez, through the Red Sea, across the Arabian Sea, to India, Southeast Asia and China. Well, that is barely an economically viable route now, which is one of the reasons why the Russians are typically selling their crude at a 20 to a $30 a barrel discount. But if Suez is closed, then they can no longer send these small tankers through it.

And these small tankers don’t have the reach to go all the way around Africa, in addition to all the way around Asia. So you’re looking at something like 1.5 to 2 million barrels a day of Russian crude that might finally actually be stranded if this isn’t solved pretty quickly. Now, the Russians do have one thing going for them here.

The insurance rules that I kind of laid out there are how insurance has been working since the 1980s. But since the Ukraine was started and Western insurers have been bypassing Russian ships completely. You have some Russian players, some Indian players and some Chinese players who have started to offer indemnification insurance. So we might get this really colorful situation where the real shipping companies would stop using Suez and the Red Sea.

But these shadow companies that have never had to pay out start using it. And then we get to find out what happens if an Iranian backed militant force hits a Chinese, Indian or Russian ship and goes down there. So this is an interesting little story. This is not the panic in shipping that I’m anticipating because there’s no real sovereign behind it.

No one’s actually trying to break the shipping routes, but it does raise some interesting mixes of motivations that are probably going to shake out in the next week or two. So stay tuned. I know I’ll be watching, but.

No Regional Powers Will Provide Aid to Hamas

As the situation unfolds in Gaza, many of you have asked who we might see getting involved in the conflict. So, let’s break down the key regional players and how this is playing out.

One of the few countries who could make a real difference in the conflict is Egypt – and given the dodgy history – I doubt that will happen. Hezbollah in Lebanon will likely keep their hands out as well. And despite Iran’s vocal support of the Palestinian cause, they have no interest in a confrontation with the US military.

Since none of the major players plan to intervene, this conflict will likely remain an isolated fight for Hamas. The Saudis are in a complex situation, so we’ll have to touch on that another time.

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:

First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

TranscripT

Hey everybody. Peter Zeihan here, come to you from Lost Canyon in Colorado. Today we’re going to talk about what’s going on with this situation in the very, very, very short version is that this is a has moss is really a fight and no one else is going to get involved. The big players have all now kind of made their announcements either by action or inaction.

Let’s start with the most important one and the only one who could really change the direction of the conflict, and that’s Egypt. The Israelis had been hopeful that they could convince the United States, you know, nations, you know, anyone with a pulse, that the solution to this problem is just to move all of the Gazans out of the strip and into the camps or into tent camps in the Sinai.

The Israelis have been trying to move the Palestinians for since its 1948, to be completely honest about it. But certainly since 1973, I will say there was no acceptance of that. The Egyptians were the ones who gave the most vociferous objection. In fact, the Egyptians really are broadly against even sending aid into the Gaza. People forget that the Egyptians used to control Gaza between 1948 and 1973 and no one had a good time.

And the only way that the Egyptians would like to see the Palestinians crossing the Egyptian territories in coffins, or preferably by trucks full of bodies. So there’s going to be no assistance there. The second one, the country or the faction that a lot of people were worried about is Hezbollah. Hezbollah is a Shiite Arab militia that operates out of southern Lebanon in particular, and they have had a number of scrapes with the Israelis in the past.

And they have the very powerful paramilitary force and a lot of rockets that every once in a while they rain down on Israeli cities and their leader, Nasrallah, gave this really fiery speech where he’s like, go, go, go, resistance fight the Jews. You know, And we we we’re just going to stay here and everyone have a great day.

Hezbollah has a lot to lose. This is clearly a Hamas operation. They’ve been clearly preparing for it for some time and Hezbollah has not. There was no coordination whatsoever. And so they’re certainly not ready to move. And even if they were, I really doubt they would. They’ve got different backers. They’ve got a different religion. They’ve got different approaches.

And at the end of the day, Hezbollah has got a lot of what it sought over the last 50 years. They are part of the government in Beirut now, and that gives them a seat at the table in a way that they’ve never had before, no Palestinians have ever had before. And they don’t want to give that up, especially since they’re not the ones who lit the fuze on this particular conflict.

Now, Hezbollah does have a sponsor slash ally in Iran, and that’s kind of the third country in question here. And kind of like Nasrallah, the supreme leader of the excuse me, of Iran, recently gave a speech and again, rah, rah, rah rah, fight the occupation, kill the Jews, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But, you know, Jews, if you don’t attack us right now, we’re going to reciprocate.

We hate you and you should all die, but not by our hand. And not today. So they’re going to be kicking off some low risk things. They’re taking some pot shots via their proxies in places like Syria, at American bases. So far, CENTCOM, which is in charge of American operations, that area has said that nothing has happened that has generated noticeable meaningful casualties or damage.

So the need to respond in the United States is relatively limited from a military point of view. And the Iranians certainly aren’t going to risk a broader confrontation with the American navy in the Gulf, which is like their sole source of economic income. Now, in order to defend a group that they have publicly denounced as apostates and animals and are worthy of only destruction.

So they found it useful maybe to nudge Hamas into this on a timing issue. But at the end of the day, they’re certainly going to bleed fallen. Okay. That’s it from me.

Gaza and Israel: The Start of WWIII or an Isolated Conflict?

We’ve all been following the events unfolding in Israel and Gaza, and questions of this triggering a larger conflict are starting to bubble up. To be blunt, this isn’t the start of WWIII, but let me explain why.

Of the countries in this region, there are no powers that (a) have the capacity or (b) have any interest in throwing themselves into the mix of things. The more significant concern for many is the possibility of a bigger player getting drawn into this.

The US has one thing on its mind – get our people out – everything is second to that. China might entertain the idea of involvement, but it simply doesn’t have the military capacity in this region. And Russia, let’s be honest…they have nothing to spare right now.

This region lacks a broad geopolitical significance that may otherwise entice external involvement, which means this conflict will remain an isolated issue for Hamas, Gaza and Israel.

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:

First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

Transcript

Hey everyone. Peter Zeihan here coming to you from No Lucky Milwaukee. Milwaukee. Okay. There has been a lot of discussion on social media in the media writ large about what’s going on with the Israelis in the Gaza operation and the term World War Three. And concerns of a broader regional conflict are everywhere. No. Just. No, no, no. There’s not a single third country that is likely to get involved in this, much less a real country like China or Russia.

So let’s start close to the situation. Explain what’s going on and then build out. So when Hamas launched their operation almost two weeks ago now. Well, no. Two weeks ago. Yeah. They caught the Israelis with their with the pants down. Looking at Gaza should have been be primary goal of an Israeli intelligence and it has been for 20 years.

The only real security threat that they face and they share a border with it and every text message and cell phone call that is made in Gaza goes through an Israeli cell tower. So they should have all the tools that we know about the people on the ground. We know that they’ve embedded within the system and they failed utterly.

So the only solution they have for rooting out Hamas is to go into the Gaza Strip and go house to house through an area twice the size of the District of Columbia with a population of 2.3 million and physically rebuilt everything from the roots. And that is a process that won’t take weeks or months. That will take years.

And when they’re done, they will then have to decide if they want to stay in occupy it or right of themselves, which they really don’t want to, or they leave and just let the next generation of whatever the replacement is for Hamas grow up. It’s an ugly situation, but it is a tempest in a teapot. It’s good for the region.

The only country aside from Israel that Gaza borders is Egypt. And people forget that the Egyptians control all the territory from 1949 to 1973 and hated it. I’d say that the only people that the Palestinians are more disliked by than, say, the Israelis are the Egyptians. And there’s absolutely no love lost. And it took Biden personally interceding to get the Egyptians to agree to allow aid into the southern crossings into Gaza.

The Egyptians would be thrilled if everyone in Gaza just dies. Jordan is a non-factor. Jordan It doesn’t really have a military worthy of the name anymore. Anyway, it’s a satellite state of Israel, so no problem there. Syria is in civil war and most of the fighting is going on in the northwest, in the northeast, parts of the country, which leaves the south.

Now, the south is primarily populated by Druze who don’t really care for the central government at all, but have sat out the war. And then you’ve got the Golan, which is unpopulated. So any effort by the central government or by the Iranian proxies in Syria would have to relocate forces from a hot front to open up a new hot front where there’s a buffer zone anyway.

And their chances of doing anything are very, very slim. I mean, this is not the Syria of 1972 when it had a military that’s been ravaged by the war and everything’s locked down. So they’re a non-factor. Then you’ve got Lebanon. Lebanon is a borderline failed state. Hezbollah is the militant group that is there. And they certainly don’t care for the Israelis at all.

But there’s two things that hold them back. Number one, they’re part of the national government. So there are other factions in Lebanon that would politically restrain them if they get too uppity, because they know that in the Israelis current state of mind, the Israelis would not think twice of sending in some assassins and just wiping out the entire government.

And that is a very focusing factor for the non Hezbollah faction factions within Lebanon. And then second, while Lebanon could definitely send Hezbollah could definitely set a lot of rockets into northern Israel, that doesn’t change what’s going on in Gaza. We’re honestly overtly shift the military disposition of the Israeli army. And Hezbollah doesn’t have an army. If they were to launch a ground invasion, they would be massacred.

So they are definitely the faction to watch, but the chances of them doing anything meaningful are very, very low. All right. Next, let the countries of Iran. The Iranians don’t have anything they can really do directly. They could launch some long range missiles. All that would do would be generates a huge amount of international condemnation. And get this, all the sanctions slammed back in in a matter of seconds might even get the United States through some slow boat trips by all of the oil platforms.

It just blow them to hell. We did that back in the 1980s. The target to watch there was a place called Kharg Island, which is their only, only oil offloading facility. You take that alone, that’s the end of the entire export industry for Iran. So it’s a question about whether they would risk that in order to do something symbolic that would have absolutely no impact on the ground.

They also have militants in Syria, but again, they’re on the wrong side of the country and they’re already engaged and if they crossed into Druse territory. The interesting because the truth about us look, they have always considered Hamas to be disposable. Hamas is Sunni and Arab, whereas the Iranians are Persian and Shia. And so it would be official position of the Iranian government is that Hamas, like all Sunni Arabs, are apostates and therefore should be wiped out and their alliance with them is purely tactical and they have played that card and now it will be destroyed and we’ll have to find a new card.

That’s Iran. That’s Iran’s entire position here. The only country that really matters. And it’s not military when it is Saudi Arabia, because the Saudi Arabians were carrying out talks with the Israelis on normalization. The idea would be that if you can get the major Arab states to recognize the existence of Israel, then eventually you’ll have this Arab wall versus the Iranians.

And it doesn’t matter what the Americans think anymore is, it’s all taken care of. The debate here is whether to continue those talks. There’s a generational split in Saudi Arabia. The older generation, the King. King Solomon likes the idea of China being the Palestinian cause and would think that if we’re going to normalize, we should get something of real substance for the Palestinians.

Maybe it’s more control of the West Bank, maybe it’s more self-governance, maybe it’s more money, maybe it’s official statehood. They’re flexible in what that thing is as long as it’s real. And then you’ve got the younger generation. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Sultan, he’s the guy who likes to dismember and barbecue journalists who couldn’t care less about the Palestinians.

He just wants them to all go away so he can get on with reshaping the region under his leadership. But think of King Solomon as the CEO who spends a lot of time fishing, and Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, as the CEO who actually runs the shop and we’re going to find out in the next month who actually is the major decision maker based on how this decision base of Israel goes.

But no one in Saudi Arabia is talking about resurrecting the sort of policies that Saudi Arabia enacted back in the 1970s when they created OPEC and basically shut down global oil markets until Israel was punished. That’s not even on the docket right now. So their discussion is relevant, but not from a war point of view. And that’s everybody in the region.

Let’s go out again. Start with the United States. We are not not not going to be putting boots on the ground in Gaza or Israel in order to fight this conflict or help the Israelis with the cleansing operation. So there’s never been something the U.S. has ever considered in any age, at any war in this region or anywhere else.

Israel in this region, sorry. Very important detail. What we will do is help them with intelligence and equipment and munition and what we will do is attempt to locate our own people. The Israelis have at least a hundred of their citizens have been kidnaped and take back into Gaza. There’s at least a dozen American Jews and the Israelis and the Americans have very, very different views when it comes to hostages.

The Israelis treat it as a non-factor because they don’t have they have limited resources. And if they allow their citizens to be kidnaped, allow that to dictate policy, they’re always going to be on the back foot. But the United States, number one, has a lot more resources to throw at this if it wants to. And number two, there’s a social contract between the American citizenry and its population.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you’ve done, whoever has you, we will come for you. But first we have to find you. And so the reason that we’ve got an amphibious assault group and MCU streaming to the area so that the Marines and the Special Forces have a platform to operate from. And there’s already very credible information that some special forces are already on the ground in Israel, liaising with the Israelis intelligence issues.

Hopefully, they’ll be found. Getting them out will be hideous because they’ve undoubtedly been split up and relocated to places of military significance to a loss, which means you have to go in on the ground with small forces and physically retrieve them. And that will not be pretty. All right. What else? Okay. So that’s the United States. Let’s talk China.

China can’t deploy forces past Singapore. I mean, there may be just doesn’t have a range. And in a question of Gaza, it’s just a political issue of what makes the United States look bad. And what we’re seeing here is an outcome of the catastrophic decisions that the Chinese have made over the last five, ten years in managing their own political system.

Chairman Ji is executed the messenger so many times that no one will bring him information and he’s making decisions in the dark and the bureaucracy is kind of run wild, trying to make the cult of personality happy. So they’ve sided firmly with the Palestinians so far, which is making a lot of people take note. Under normal circumstances, I would say that the Chinese have no interest in partnering with Iran because they’re the world’s largest oil importer and the Saudis are the world’s largest oil exporter.

And so they would sell out the Iranians in a heartbeat if it meant they could get a better deal with the Saudis over the long run. The concern with saying that firmly today is the decision making. The Forbidden City has collapsed so completely that it’s not even clear what degree to which JI is personally aware of what’s going on in the Middle East at all.

I’m guessing he knows more they normally would because Putin was just in town as part of the Belt and Road Summit and he probably got an earful and probably requested some more information for himself. But the capacity of China to play in this field is ridiculous. And I’m siding with the Palestinians when they’re more dependent upon the Arab states for their energy.

Security is something that has been noted in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi and in Kuwait City and all the others. The Chinese are dramatically out of touch, but regardless, they don’t have the capacity to put boots on the ground in this region. And then finally, you’ve got Russia. I don’t know if he has noticed that the Russians are in a war in Ukraine that is using all of their military bandwidth and are having a hard time operating in the Black Sea.

And they can’t get forces out of the Black Sea at wartime under a treaty called the Treaty of Montreal. So they can’t be could fly them commercially. Where would you fly into. Can’t go to Jordan. Can’t go to Israel. Can’t go to Egypt. Okay. Yeah, there’s absolutely you’d have to fly a commercial jet over the area and a parachute out the emergency exit.

I mean, just ask. Okay. So there is no one not no one. No one who is going to be sending troops or in into any sort of meaningful military operations. This is between Hamas and the Gazans and Israel, and that’s it. Economically, there’s nothing in play here. This region, Israel, Palestine, produces nothing, transits, nothing and consumes very little.

There’s not an oil story here. There’s not a lithium story or agricultural story here. There’s a horrible cleansing operation that’s about to begin, and that’s enough. But that doesn’t mean escalation is going to happen at all.

Israel, Hamas and Gaza: Q&A w/ Peter Zeihan

In the early hours of October 13, Israeli military officials issued an evacuation order for the residents of Gaza City, a sprawling metropolis with over 1 million people. This evacuation order has warranted an early release of our Q&A video, initially scheduled for Monday.

Within this video, I’ll break down what’s going on with Israel and Hamas, what this means for the Gaza Strip and the implications for relations in the region and wider world.

As this continues to develop and you have more questions, feel free to drop them at this link.

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:

First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

Transcript

Hey everybody. Peter Zeihan here coming to you from Colorado the morning of October 13th. We just had our first very light snowfall. The news is that last night, my time and early in the morning on the 13th, the Israeli government ordered all the citizens, the Palestinians of Gaza City, to evacuate to the south because their assault is imminent. The Israelis are going to be rolling in with a significant ground force with the intent of rooting out the entirety of Hamas leadership.

And maybe they even have some indication as to where their hostages are evacuating a million people, plus, which is what lives in Gaza. Two other places within the Gaza Strip, which is the most densely populated spot of humanity on the planet, is a practical impossibility. Of course, people on the other side of the argument are going to say it would have been really nice if Hamas had given the Israelis 24 hours to evacuate before their assault problems on all sides.

Anyway, we had recorded a lengthy video answering to as many of your questions as possible on what’s going on with Israel and Hamas and the Gaza Strip and what it means for wider relations in the region and beyond. The intent was for that to publish on Monday. But in light of this development, we decided to go ahead and release it.

Now, everybody, Peter Zine here coming to you from fall in Colorado. Lots and lots and lots and lots of you who had questions about what’s going on in Israel with the Gaza assaults. I’ll do my best to kind of rapid fire through these. So many questions. Okay. Question number one, how did the Israelis not know? Israel supposedly is the gold standard for intelligence and there aren’t a lot of things in the area that honestly they need to worry about all that much.

If you look at the big picture, Lebanon is a known quantity. Yes, Hezbollah, there is a problem, but Hezbollah is a political party in Beirut. And so there are lines of communications. There’s phones you can tap. And while they’re always worried about fighters in the hills of southern Lebanon launching attacks, whether rockets or missiles or artillery across the border, it’s kind of a known quantity and there are avenues to gather information.

So it’s an issue, but it’s not a critical war series. And civil war hasn’t been a problem on the Syrian border in over a decade. Actually, honestly, it’s been a problem on the Syrian border in three decades, especially since the Israelis literally control the high ground in the Golan Heights. So that’s not an issue. Jordan’s a satellite state that is dependent upon Israel for economic support.

So that goes away. Egypt is functionally an ally and the bulk of the Egyptian population is on the other side of the Suez Peninsula. So there’s just not people there that can theoretically cause problems. That just leaves the Palestinians and there is no one thing for the Palestinians. It’s Palestinian territories are broken into two chunks. The first one is on the West Bank of the Jordan River and kind of a crescent around Jerusalem.

And here you’ve got the PLO who is basically calling the shots. And while the relations between the Israelis and the PLO are Palestinian Liberation Organization, for those of you who don’t drink the Kool-Aid, while relations aren’t ever good, it is a semi functional local government and there are relations and that means there’s ways to monitor what’s going on.

And so that area has been relatively quiet. And then there’s Gaza where Hamas took over what’s been about 15 years now. Gaza is basically an open air prison that houses 3 million people. It’s about twice the size of  the District of Columbia. So it’s one of the most densely populated places on Earth, heavily industrialized lifestyle, but no industrial inputs.

All the food from 90% of the food, 90% of the energy is imported along with all the liquid fuels. So to think that this zone could create a industrial power that controls Israel is of course laughable. But to think that people living in a prison camp, knowing that the height that they could aspire to be mayor of the prison, that’s as good as it gets.

You can understand why some less than savory ideologies might bubble up and why people might think that the situation is hopeless. Or when I go kill a bunch of people, I don’t mean that as justification and just as explanation. Anyway, this is the 1b1 the one thing that the Israelis have always been obsessed about. That’s where all of their microphones appointed.

And so the fact that they missed this is just mind boggling, because there were hundreds of fighters involved, dozens of vehicles using six different transport options. And the Israelis missed it all. Which leads into the second point. In Israel, there will be political connotations here and it will lead to the fall of the Israeli government. Now, the Israeli government was never particularly popular.

And so they’re enjoying at the moment a bit of a rally around the flag moment. And Netanyahu was smart and reached out to all the opposition parties to create a national war council to prosecute the conflict. He really needed to do that. He did do that. But the civilian government underneath that, that’s someone that’s in trouble. Part of its demographic.

The Israelis have some laws that protect basically people who commit themselves to Judaism. So if you’re studying to become a religious scholar and all you do is study the Torah, you don’t have to pay taxes and you don’t have to serve in the military. And that means that you can have lots of kids and don’t have to pay for them, which, you know, encourages people to have kids.

And that means somewhere between ten and 30% of the population, based on where you draw the line of the population, basically doesn’t work but can still vote. And think of that relative you have who’s on disability insurance and doesn’t work and who sits in his La-Z-Boy all day and bitches about how people are screwing up the world a problem and they are a rising demographic because of population growth.

I mean, the demographic and that means that they have been the king maker in any number of governments in recent decades. And they are a strong, strong minority within the Israeli system, and there’s no way to get rid of that. One of the many, many outcomes of being Jewish in a post all the cost world is that you value the opinion and you refuse to silence the voices of anyone within your community.

So the political system in Israel, it works on something called proportional representation, where you vote for a party and if the party gets 10% of the vote, they get 10% of the seats. Normally, if you’re going to have a political system like this, you want to have a floor so that the real whack jobs don’t get into government.

And in Israel, there really isn’t one functionally because they don’t want to silence anyone’s voices. So you have this whole rainbow of whack job right wing parties, right? Which is probably about the right term, is to call them religious fundamentalist parties who are supporting the current government. And they’re not very good at what they do because they’re coming from a stock of people that doesn’t value secular education at all.

So here in the United States, we’ve got Matt Gaetz gets the Florida guy who caused the downfall of Speaker McCarthy and basically made the American Congress nonfunctional. Take him take his awesome hair away and clone him. And that is roughly 40% of the Israeli government right now, people who are absolutely mind numbingly incompetent but have very firm ideas on how the world should work.

And they’re the ones who are now having to explain how they have presided over the greatest intelligence debacle in the world in the last 50 years. That will have consequences. So let’s do a Ron next. At the moment, there are no smoking guns indicating that Iran is behind this. But I would be shocked if they didn’t put their finger on the scale, at least for the timing.

Also, considering the various ways that the Hamas fighters launched into Israel that required nonstandard supplies, which had to come from the outside, and Iran is the most likely suspect. But really, it’s about the timing. The Saudis and the Israelis were working on a normalization process that if it would have completed, you would have taken the most powerful country in the Arab world, Saudi Arabia, economically, and as well as one of the larger ones.

And put it basically in the same bucket for security issues as the Israelis. And that would have triggered a number of other countries to follow suit, including places like Oman and Kuwait. And if that would have happened, basically the Iranians would have been facing a wall wall opposition throughout the entire region. Because, remember, the Iranians are Shia and Persian, where most of the region is Sunni and Muslim, Sunni, Shia being the two sets of Islam and Persians and Arabs being the ethnicities.

If that had happened, Israel would have been able to basically work through the Arab world to contain, be the Persians, the Iranians. And it would have been a downhill slide from there, no matter what happens with policy for anyone in the rest of the world. So they had a vested interest in disrupting that and we will probably find out in a month if it worked or not.

There’s an argument going on in Saudi Arabia right now about what to do and how much value to ascribe to the Palestinians. There was one pro forma news release that came out a couple of days after the attack, and that’s been it, although and I can’t underline this enough, this is not an alliance and Hamas is not a proxy of Iran.

Hamas is doing Hamas things for Hamas reasons that are defined by their position in Gaza, living in a prison camp. The Iranians think at best that the Palestinians are animals. Remember, there’s a religious and an ethnic split here. Hamas, like the Saudis, are Sunni and are Arab. And so the Iranians officially consider Hamas, the Palestinians and the Arabs in general to all be apostates and therefore worthy of elimination.

So if there was a deal on the table for the Iranians from anyone on anything like trying to get a discount at Red Lobster, they would sell out Hamas in a heartbeat. And that may well happen considering everything being up in the air these days diplomatically in the region. OC For thing what to expect next in the war, it’s going to be awful.

Hamas is not a unified organization and we’re not talking about the Catholic Church here. We’re talking about an institution that officially runs the place. But they import all their energy and their food. So they in charge of a little bit of distribution, and that’s about it. Security is managed by dozens of independent factions who pay at most lip service to the central government of the Hamas led Gazan government.

And that means that each faction does their own thing in their own way. And the challenge that the Israelis have always had is figuring out who to hold responsible when one of these groups does something. And because if you punish the Hamas formal civilian government for something that a militant group did, it’s not like the formal civilian government has tools or even awareness over some of these factions.

And best guess here is that we have a new faction in play because we see new tactics, new approaches, new aggressiveness, new seem of absolute brutality that we have never seen in the Palestinian movement before. And with that in play, the Israelis are doing what now? The key, and they’re trying to dismantle all of Hamas. So everyone that they are aware of who is in the Hamas chain of command and any faction they’re targeting for elimination now, and they’ve already delivered something like 4000 tons of explosives into the Gaza so far, basically wiping out the entire human infrastructure of the entire organization, every individual faction.

But considering the intelligence failure, that means they’re probably missing the one that actually did the attack. And the only way that the Israelis might be able to find and eliminate those people is by going into Gaza hard on the ground and going building them by building room by room until they find the people that they’re looking for and kill them all.

So you’re talking about a building by building scouring of a zone with 3 million civilians. That will likely take months, if not years. And the human damage will be immense because again, this is a zone, densely populated industrial area with no food or water or power. The scale of the devastation is something we have not seen since at least World War Two.

I think the closest one that I can imagine would be the Russian siege of Grozny in the nineties, which conservatively killed 20,000 people out of a population of a quarter of a million. You’re talking about a zone with so many more people. So no matter what side of this that you are on, be careful who you condemn. No one is in a good situation.

No one is going to come out of this looking good. No one is going to come out of this anything but bloody and bruised and scarred. So careful you condemn, except, of course, the terrorist who do the attacks pluck those guys. Okay, finally, the American angle. The idea that the United States didn’t see this coming, that doesn’t really strike me as an intelligence failure.

Just we have to focus. U.S. has a lot of interest in a lot of places and a lot of eyes and ears, but it has to focus on the places where it sees a strict national interest. Of late, most of that activity has been in the Ukraine zone. So Moscow, Kiev, places in between in order to assist with the war effort.

Israel is a capable country that largely takes care of itself and we have zero interest in Gaza because there’s nothing economically there. It doesn’t sit astride any sort of transport routes. It has no resources. It’s not a manufacturing hub. It’s not an intellectual technological hub. It’s a camp. So we basically let the Israelis deal with that because it’s their concern.

That’s how we deal with pretty much any zone where we don’t have a direct national interest. We outsource to the locals. Okay. But we now know there are at least a handful of Americans who were involved in the attacks on the receiving end and who were kidnaped and taken back into Gaza. And that’s a problem. The United States is not a perfect place, but part of the social contract between the American population and the American government is no matter who you are or where you are, no matter what you have done, we will send to the Marines for you.

But first, we have to know where you are. And since the Israelis had such a colossal intelligence failure, there’s no one to ask which puts the U.S. in an awkward position. There are really only two approaches approach. Number one is you put every eye and every ear that you can spare on the Gaza just to find a couple dozen people.

That’s a huge expenditure of effort for very little payback. We’re going to do it, but that’s a lot of things we can’t be doing instead. And once we know that, we will send in the Special Forces and maybe a marine group and basically blaze a path in and get them out and hopefully it’ll go better than what happened in Iran in 1979.

Feel free to Google that. If you’re under the age of 40, you don’t really catch the reference.

There’s only one other approach that might garner something working from the theory that the Iranians put their finger on the scale for this assault. The Iranians are the only people who have meaningful access to the people who actually carried out the assaults. The first rule of intelligence is you have to go where the information is. Sometimes Americans forget that we put a lot of effort into breaking people who had nothing to do with it because they just happened to be proximate.

For example, waterboarding Osama bin Laden’s driver didn’t get much, but in this case, the people who know something are friends or at least coworkers with the Iranian government. And that means one of the very, very, very, very few places where the United States can turn for information on where to send those special forces is Tehran. So regardless of what you think of the Trump administration or the Biden administration or American approaches to the Middle East in general, we now have a clear and present reason to engage with the Iranians in order to get the information that we need to fulfill one of our most basic sacred social contracts.

And that’s the only way forward for us. What happens in the rest of Gaza, from the American point of view, has now become secondary. It’s all about getting our people back, and that is not going to be a pretty process. Okay. One of these days, people are going to ask me friendly questions, but that’s probably not going to be for a while now.

So everyone take care and I will see you again soon.