Will Hamas, Iran be emboldened by a humiliated US in Afghanistan and a power vacuum in the region?
The ripple effects in Israel of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan
Though Israeli officials have remained largely silent on Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban, intelligence and security experts expressed grave concerns over regional security issues stemming from the perceived weakness of the United States and the power vacuum Israel’s greatest ally has left in central Asia.
Consider that the terror group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, not only congratulated the people of Afghanistan for “defeating” the U.S. but said the Taliban triumphed over the “demise of the American occupation and its allies.” (emphasis added)
The fall of Kabul, Hamas said, “proves that the resistance of the peoples, foremost of which is our struggling Palestinian people, will achieve victory.”
The Taliban’s renewed presence in Afghanistan after 20 years of absence has inspired the group. Musa Abu Marzouk, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, compared the Taliban “victory” to the causes of all oppressed people groups, referring to the Palestinians.
“Today Taliban is victorious after it used to be accused of backwardness and terrorism. Now, the Taliban is more clever and more realistic,” he wrote on Twitter. “It has faced America and its agents, refusing half-solutions with them. The Taliban was not deceived by the slogans of democracy and elections and fake promises. This is a lesson for all oppressed people.”
Hamas’ leader, Ismail Haniyeh, recently released photos of himself meeting with a Taliban delegation in Doha, which could indicate plans for increased cooperation between the two groups.
The timing was certainly suspect.
And the events that unfolded in Afghanistan over the past week only serve to embolden terrorist groups, former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia Heino Klinck said.
“When American power, credibility and reliability are perceived to be diminished or weakened, the threat to all of our friends, allies and partners increases,” Klinck told Fox News. “And that is certainly the case in respect to Israel as well because what appears to be a defeat of the United States in Afghanistan and one that is being portrayed internationally as, in essence, a truly humiliating withdrawal, is only going to serve to embolden as well as inspire the enemies of Israel that are U.S. enemies as well. Terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah.”
Israel Defense Forces Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser gave a similar assessment, saying that the American catastrophe in Kabul, “may strengthen radical Islamic elements such as Iran, Al Qaeda and ISIS, and also elements of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Hamas, and encourage them to challenge the United States and its allies, including Israel.”
ABRAHAM ACCORDS MORE STRATEGIC THAN EVER
But this is where the Abraham Accords plays a crucial role for Israel – and also for moderate Arab nations in the region. The historic peace treaty that normalized relations between Israel and several Muslim nations is crucial to reducing Israel's sense of isolation in the region.
“Precisely in the face of the weakness projected by the United States, Israel stands out in the regional arena as a stable pillar that moderates in the region can rely on,” Kuperwasser wrote for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. “This is an opportunity to leverage the problematic developments in Afghanistan to strengthen and expand the Abraham Accords between Israel and moderate Arab states, which stood the test of the first year of the Accords’ signing, as well as building ties with others disillusioned with Washington’s problematic functioning.”
Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations and president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, contends that Israel must shore up its relations with the Saudis and other states in the Sunni Arab world.
It’s time, he said, to “build an alliance of moderation for the Middle East against the forces that are threatening us.”
“We in Israel have to team up with our Sunni Arab allies to build a new security consensus for the Middle East,” Gold wrote. “After Prime Minister Netanyahu’s 2015 speech to Congress on the Iranian threat, a whole new approach became visible to us in the Sunni Arab world. It became clear that they understood the dangers of the Middle East the same way we did and the basis for a real alliance between former enemies became very real.”
IRANIAN THREAT LIKELY TO CONTINUE
The distraction created by the Taliban takeover will likely embolden Iranian aggression which, as Jonathan Spyer noted, has been going on for several months now. The director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis lists several examples in a Wall Street Journal piece, from an offensive in Daraa located in southern Syria to a shadow war on Israeli ships in the Arabian waters.
“The Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan, while swift and dramatic, is neither the first nor the sole challenge to the U.S. and its allies taking place in and around the region,” he wrote. “Iran is mounting another, no less significant push. Behind both offensives is the perception that the regional order is failing and the U.S. is retreating.”
He goes on to say that if Iran perceives the U.S. action as “a headlong flight from Afghanistan” it will only serve to “reinforce the sense of a crumbling regional order.”
And, if America continues to pull troops out of the region as it has indicated it would, Iran will continue to fill the void.
“Tehran senses it is time to push forward, against weakened and isolated enemies hesitant to push back,” he wrote.
Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.