Tom Arms’ World Review

Trump

Trump has been too tight-fisted for his own good. That is the judgement of number of those observing the trial of ex-president Donald Trump on racketeering charges related to his alleged efforts to subvert the Georgia electoral process.

So far, three lawyers and one bail-bondsman out of 19 of Trump’s co-defendants – have flipped, pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against the ex-president.

One of the main reasons for their change of heart is believed to be astronomical legal fees. America’s top legal eagles are expected to turn up in the Georgia courtroom for the Trump trial. Their fees can be as high as $5,000 per hour and each defendant is expected to have two or three attorneys each for the six-month trial.

The fees for just one lawyer could run to $3.6 million. The latest co-defendant to change sides is Jenna Ellis. Her crowdfunding page raised $216, 431 for legal fees – a drop in the proverbial ocean. This means that most of the co-defendants face the prospect of bankruptcy unless they turn against Trump.

The ex-president may have been able to retain their loyalty by paying their legal fees. He has refused to do so. All the money being raised by his crowdfunding efforts is going to his legal fees alone, except for what he can siphon off for his presidential campaign.

There are other reasons for bail bondsman Scott Hall, and lawyers Jenna Ellis, Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro to switch sides. Agreeing to help the prosecution means that prison time has been more or less ruled out. And the lawyers are hoping that the most they will be found guilty of is a misdemeanour. If the jury opts for a felony charge then they will be disbarred and lose their legal license.

There are, however, risks in turning against Trump. He has repeatedly proven himself to be a vengeful man with thousands of followers prepared to harass those who turn up against him and even issue death threats. And death by shooting is a very real danger in America – as the people in Lewiston, Maine discovered this week.

Israel

Why are we waiting? Is the question being asked by thousands of Israeli soldiers camped on the Gaza border and in the street cafes of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised a ground invasion of Gaza to end the power of Hamas once and for all. But so far no Israeli boots have trod on Gaza ground.

There have been a lot of exploding artillery shells – an estimated 8,000 of them. And there has been a watertight blockade which has left 2.2 million Gazans without food, water, electricity and vital medicines. As a result an estimated 6,000 Gazans – many of them women and children – have died, and the world’s sympathy is shifting from Israel to Gaza.

None of this has affected the Israeli public’s thirst for vengeance for the estimated 1,300 deaths inflicted by Hamas. So, why are they waiting? Several reasons, good and bad.

For a start there are the 200-plus hostages being held by Hamas. As of this writing, four have been released and it is believed that up another 50 may be set free. They are mainly women and children and foreign nationals. Western nations are keen that Netanyahu does nothing to endanger the lives of their nationals, and he needs their support. Hamas will want to hold onto captured Israeli soldiers to exchange them for the 4,500 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

Next there is the danger of opening a second front in the Middle East. Iran has warned that if Israel invades Gaza it will order Hezbollah troops in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq to attack Israeli and American targets. Some attacks have already occurred and there has been limited retaliation. Israel wants to make certain that promised American Patriot missiles are in place as well as additional US ground troops and Mediterranean and Gulf-based ships. The hope is that a strong American presence – coupled with diplomatic pressure – will deter Iran.

Third, there is the problem of fighting an urban war, especially in densely-packed Gaza whose underworld is honeycombed with hundreds of miles of tunnels. American officials have expressed concern that the Israelis need more intelligence before crossing the border.

Next on the list is uncertainty about the exit strategy. Going in, shooting about and leaving will allow Hamas to re-form, probably using its Qatar-based leadership as a core. A permanent occupation would be costly in lives, reputation and money. Shifting responsibility to the Palestinian Authority would destroy the West Bank’s Palestinian administrators already badly tarnished reputation.

Finally, there is Netanyahu’s political future. Few believe he has a chance of surviving the crisis. 1,300 Israelis died on his watch while he was claiming that he had a firm lid on Hamas. When the dust has settled there will be an official inquiry and the blame finger will almost certainly be pointed at the Likud prime minister.  The longer he can put off the ground invasion, the longer he can delay the inquiry and the more time he has to shift blame onto other shoulders.

Qatar

Qatar: broker extraordinaire, is a term being used increasingly in the Middle East to describe the Gulf Emirate. It performs much the same role as Vienna during the Cold War.

So far its position has led to the release of four hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. It may also be helping to restrain Iran.

There are only 300,000 Qatari citizens. But the Gulf Emirate run by the al-Thani family is the world’s third largest exporter of natural gas. It uses its wealth to project political power in the Middle East and beyond out of all proportion to its size.

For a start, Qatar is home to the Al Jazeera news network which rivals the BBC and CNN as one of the world’s most powerful and respected news organisations, especially in the Arab-speaking world.

It also maintains good relations with all the main players in the Middle East. The Hamas leadership is based in the capital Doha.  The Taliban had its main offices there during the ten-year war in Afghanistan and Doha played host to the talks that resulted in NATO withdrawal. Forty percent of those evacuated from Afghanistan were routed through Qatar.

There are 10,000 American troops based at Al Udeid Airbase and the Qatari government cooperates with the US on counter-terrorism issues throughout the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. In 2022, President Biden named Qatar as a vital non-NATO ally.

But at the same time, Qatar also has good relations with Iran and Hezbollah. In 2008, for instance, it brokered a deal in Lebanon between Hezbollah and the opposing Maronite forces. The Doha government speaks to everyone on behalf of everyone and is possibly the best chance of releasing the Hamas hostages and, hopefully, defusing the current crisis.

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopaedia of the Cold War” and “America Made in Britain". To subscribe to his email alerts on world affairs click here.

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4 Comments

  • Rif Winfield 30th Oct '23 - 9:31am

    The statistics need to be put into a context more people here can understand. The area of the Gaza Strip is 365 square kilometres – about the size of Birmingham and the Black Country put together – with a similar size of population. The northern half of the territory (the governorates of Gaza (city) and North Gaza) are roughly equal to Birmingham in both area and population, so it’s all very urban. The remaining three governorates to the south have a similar area and population to the Black Country – again, not much spare land! And certainly little space to escape the bombs and missiles.

  • Peter Hirst 31st Oct '23 - 2:26pm

    Vengeance is not a good reason to do anything. What is done is done. Preventing a recurrence is another issue. If all the nations of the Middle East could show a little more love and a little less vengeance we would all be better off.

  • It is not clear what the strategy of Hamas was in launching an attack into Israel and killing so many civilians. It must have been understood that there would be a strong military response by Israel in the Gaza strip.
    The only outcome appears to be the killing of many more Palestinians in Gaza and International publicity for a conflict that needs no publicity. If that was the strategy, it is a fruitless one that keeps on failing.
    The troubles in Ireland required a 30 year occupation, numerous ceasefire agreements and severe diminution of the military capacity of the IRA before a dialogue produced a peace process. A peace of sorts (even if not wholly satisfactory) has been achieved between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank that has allowed the majority of people there to go about their lives.
    It is hard to see what kind of lasting settlement could be achieved with Hamas. Difficult as it may be, perhaps the only possible solution is the forcible removal on the ground of Hamas and other militant groups like Islamic Jihad and reinstallation of the PLO as the government in Gaza.
    That can only be realistically done with a military occupation of Gaza and martial law over an extended period of time and would likely require the support of Egypt and other neighbouring Arab states to have any chance of success.

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