Category Archives: Articles

Biden’s cynical Rafah obsession only strengthens Hamas

Article published by,  14 May 2024. © Richard Kemp

Biden’s cynical obsession with preventing Israel from finishing off Hamas in a major offensive in Rafah will have the opposite effect from the one he intends. His analysis of US electoral projections has convinced him that he must be seen to stand against Israel as the voting intentions of some of his supporters, especially young people, will be damaging to his prospects for a second term unless there is a course correction.

Thus we have seen direct public attacks on Netanyahu and his cabinet by Biden and his supporters such as Chuck Schumer, outrageously calling for replacement of the democratically-elected government of an allied country. There was the failure in March to veto UN Security Council Resolution 2728 demanding a cease-fire without linkage to hostage release.

Then there have been repeated false accusations of Israel blocking aid into Gaza and creating famine. We have seen Biden’s unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations of the IDF going ‘over the top’ in attacks against Hamas in Gaza.

The Biden administration has threatened to sanction an IDF unit on the basis of information supplied by a hostile American NGO with connections to the Muslim Brotherhood of which Hamas is an offshoot. There are even suspicions that Biden encouraged an International Criminal Court plan to issue arrest warrants for Netanyahu, his defense minister and military chief of staff.

In the last couple of days, the State Department reported to Congress its suspicions that Israel has breached the laws of war in Gaza, while stopping short of making any conclusive accusation. Such a public attempt to vitiate a close American ally at war must be almost unprecedented.

Most damningly of all is Biden’s withholding supplies of some armaments to Israel, including precision-guided munitions. This from a man who said in 2019 that any such action would be ‘absolutely preposterous’ and ‘beyond comprehension’. Continue reading

Hamas will be destroyed in Rafah, against the wishes of the West

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 7 May 2024. © Richard Kemp

Hamas’s agreement on Monday to a ceasefire deal that was never on the table was yet another ruse to buy time and build international pressure to halt a major IDF operation in Rafah. It was a sign of the terrorists’ desperation to prevent the destruction of their final stronghold. An IDF move into Rafah has been delayed far too long. It is the result of months of fruitless negotiations over release of hostages that never showed any sign of materialising. Yet Israel had little option than to play along while even the smallest glimmer of hope existed.

The delay was also brought about by unbearable pressure from the US and other Israeli allies, with Biden repeatedly forbidding an attack on Rafah without what he called a ‘credible and executable plan’ to protect or evacuate the civilian population there. Similar demands were recently parroted by Lord Cameron during a visit to Jerusalem. No plan the IDF drew up ever met Biden’s stipulations, but then no plan could have done so if his real intention was to block the final destruction of Hamas amid growing concerns about adverse effects on his own electoral prospects. Of course one credible plan would have been to allow civilians to take temporary refuge through the Egyptian border into Sinai. Biden could have brought that about by pushing Cairo to agree but neither he nor any other international leader ever even raised a finger to do so. That unforgivable failure, which played right into Hamas’s hands, has contributed to many of the civilian deaths during this war and will likely lead to many more.

Now the IDF has been making preliminary moves against Rafah on the ground and from the air. Quite rightly, Jerusalem has not signalled its immediate intentions. Those may be to shape the battlefield for future large-scale operations, including spurring the civilian population to evacuate Rafah to designated humanitarian zones and adding pressure on Hamas to free the hostages. Nor is it impossible that an apparently inevitable push into Rafah might impel elements of the Hamas leadership to make good their escape from Gaza while Continue reading

Democratic nations must challenge ICC’s legal distortions for Israel’s and their own sake

Article published by,  29 April 2024. © Richard Kemp and Rafael Bardaji

Is the International Criminal Court about to issue arrest warrants for top-level Israeli political and military leaders? That is certainly the view of some legal professionals in the court’s Hague ecosystem — and perhaps as early as this week. Any indictment for international crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction cannot possibly be made with a solid legal basis in wartime.

The court has not been able to carry out any investigations on the ground in Gaza and will not be able to do so for perhaps many months. That means any such move would be politically motivated, intended to undermine Israel’s ability to defend its citizens from terrorist violence.

Given the high stakes in the region, and the direct involvement of the US in the conflict, it is inconceivable that ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan would issue indictments without the approval and maybe even the active encouragement of the White House.

With the presidential election approaching and a desire to gain votes from both supporters and opponents of Israel, Biden has been trying for months to restrain Jerusalem’s legitimate self-defense while at the same time backing its war effort. That amounts to disgraceful duplicity at a time when America’s closest ally in the Middle East needs full-throated support.

Members of Biden’s administration and his political allies have also shown extraordinary hostility to the democratically-elected prime minister of one of America’s closest allies, going back well before this war began. What better way now of heaping pressure on Israel and trying to drag down its prime minister than having the ICC-level charges at Netanyahu directly as well as his defense minister and military chief of staff?

Just the threat of such a highly dangerous move also opens up other duplicitous opportunities for Biden to coerce Israel. He can perhaps Continue reading

Donald Trump has saved Nato – and the West

Article published in The Sunday Telegraph, 27 April 2024. © Richard Kemp

It may sound counter-intuitive, but Donald Trump has probably done more to strengthen Nato than any other political leader in recent years. While he was president, he berated European members of the alliance for failing to pay what he called their ‘dues’, accusing them of freeloading on the US.

Earlier this year, he seemed to go even further by suggesting at an election rally, not only that he would not bring America to the defence of ‘delinquent’ Nato members, but would encourage Russia to attack them. Cue a predictable international outcry, led by Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, who accused him of undermining ‘all of our security’. Joe Biden, of course, waded in, saying Trump’s remarks were ‘appalling and dangerous’ and would give Putin ‘a green light for more war and violence’.

Both of them were wrong. Anyone who has the slightest understanding of Trump’s negotiating techniques knows that he is unlikely to have meant what he said literally; it was a rhetorical device to emphasise his entirely valid point about recalcitrant Nato members. As for a green light, it was Biden who flashed that at Putin with his disastrous retreat from Kabul in 2021, which can only have contributed to Moscow’s calculations on invading Ukraine the following year.

Trump’s presidency was in fact a red light against Putin’s aggression, largely because of his unpredictable nature. And that same unpredictability has now rattled many Nato leaders into recognising that they need to step up their defence efforts for fear that he might abandon Nato in a second term.

Poland, now with the largest defence spending by percentage of GDP in the whole of the alliance, has bolstered its military out of fear of Russian invasion. But do we really think that the likes of Germany would finally have started to get their act together without genuine concern over a second Trump presidency? It doesn’t seem to have been Putin’s invasion that spurred them into action. We’ve had two years of heel-dragging and inadequate military support to Kyiv on the part of France and Germany. Britain, meanwhile, has been inexplicably continuing to reduce the size of its Armed Forces. Continue reading

The UK has set an example to our ‘tight-fisted’ NATO allies with one move

Article published in The Daily Express, 24 April 2024. © Richard Kemp

Grant Shapps has achieved something no Defence Secretary has managed since the end of the Cold War, a historic increase in defence spending to 2.5% of GDP.

Many will argue that, given the increasingly dangerous world, even this is not enough. But realists understand that, with so many demands on the public purse, it was the best that could reasonably have been hoped for.

It is particularly striking at this range from a general election, with defence never traditionally seen as a vote winner in peace time.

Some will complain that part of the increased budget will be spent on support for Ukraine. But helping defend Ukraine is also helping defend the UK, by enabling Kyiv to fight against a despot that, as part of the Russia-China-Iran axis, threatens the whole of the Western world.

After decades of hollowing-out by successive governments, our armed forces are in dire need of this uplift. We have a wide range of military capabilities, many highly sophisticated, but in almost every category, we simply don’t have enough – not enough tanks, artillery, planes, ships, missiles.

A key focus should be on expanding existing forces as well as developing new weapons. Recent defence thinking has leaned towards technology over hard fighting power. That was always mistaken, and has been demonstrated recently by the World War 2 style battles in Afghanistan and bitter street by street warfare in Gaza.

The truth is you need both, and that is very expensive.

We also don’t have enough manpower to fly our planes or crew our ships, while the Army has been leaching its soldiers and is unable to recruit enough replacements.

Some of the money needs to be spent on better pay and improved conditions for our troops. Continue reading

Israel’s strike has exposed Iran’s fatal weakness

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 19 April 2024. © Richard Kemp

Israel’s presumed counterstrike against Iran has proved Joe Biden and David Cameron wrong in their insistence that Israel should just ‘take the win’. Instead, it fought back – and yesterday Iran was trying to pretend that nothing had happened.

This was a profound humiliation for the ayatollahs who just days ago were saying they would deliver punishing retaliation for even the slightest Israeli strike; now they seem to be saying they will do nothing. We don’t yet know what happened at the targets. To save face, the Iranians are unlikely to admit there was any damage. For strategic reasons, Israel has not accepted responsibility and therefore has not made known its damage assessment.

The main target seems to have been Iran’s third city, Isfahan. The Hastam Shikari airforce base is there: it was involved in the April 14 drone and missile attack against Israel. There are drone production factories at Isfahan.

Of perhaps greater significance, the city is at the heart of Iran’s nuclear programme with a research site as well as a processing facility, including stockpiles of highly enriched uranium. Although the International Atomic Energy Agency has made clear that no damage was caused to the nuclear site, Israel’s apparent ability to penetrate Iran’s most heavily defended sites will have triggered enormous concern in Tehran as it gets ever closer to obtaining a nuclear weapons capability.

It is possible there may be a pause in the nuclear programme so as not to provoke further attacks until defences can be significantly enhanced. Perhaps Iran may be deterred from launching further direct strikes against Israel as it realises the extent of its vulnerability.

It was vital for Israel to launch a response to Iran’s aggression quickly to avoid an impression of weakness in a region where strength is everything. But among Israel’s calculations on how to calibrate its response will have been the need to build on the international defensive coalition that formed so quickly last week. This is of strategic importance given the range of threats in the Middle East, foremost of which is the array of 150,000 or more missiles in Lebanon, pointing at Israel.

These have been supplied to Hezbollah by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to deter or retaliate against an Israeli attack on Iran. Benjamin Netanyahu will not have wanted to do anything to shake the West’s new resolve against Iran, with the G7 announcing sanctions this week.

In its Gaza campaign, the IDF is getting ready to mount a major assault in Rafah to deal with Hamas’s remaining stronghold and to rescue the hostages being held there. That is Israel’s number one priority at the moment and it does not want to have its military efforts diverted by an escalation with Iran. Continue reading

Suicide drones threaten to bankrupt Western militaries

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 16 April 2024. © Richard Kemp

Yesterday marked one year since the war in Sudan started. There, Iranian manufactured drones fielded in the last few months have been turning things round for the army against the Rapid Security Force militias. Drones have also been used extensively by Tehran’s Houthi proxies in Yemen, attacking international shipping in the Red Sea.

In Ukraine, Shahed drones have been used in their thousands by Putin’s forces, especially to target civilian population centres and critical infrastructure. Many people have been killed and huge damage inflicted on Ukraine’s food and energy sectors by attacking grain silos and power plants. In 2019, drones were used by Iran or one of its proxies to attack Saudi oil installations. They have also been used in multiple attacks against US forces in Iraq and Syria.

Combat drones have been with us now for several years, but the remarkable increase in Iranian production and export over the last two years is altering the impact of asymmetric warfare by giving far greater potency than previously imagined to a much wider range of state and non-state actors. They are highly flexible and can be launched from a wide range of platforms including trucks, shipping containers and vessels. They can be readily disassembled and re-assembled and easily transported and concealed. As the Russians have frequently done in Ukraine, drones can be deployed in swarms to overwhelm air defences.

The most dramatic attack to date using Iranian drones came, of course, this weekend. Repelling that bombardment is estimated to have cost up to 1.5 billion dollars, a significant amount of which must have been expended on downing the drones. This illustrates one of the most pressing problems facing our national defences today.

Both attack and reconnaissance drones, which also endanger deployed forces as shown in Sudan, can be very cheap, as little as $2,000. Even the Shahed drones which have been used extensively in Ukraine and in the attack against Israel, can deliver large explosive charges with great precision at ranges of around 2,000 miles, at a cost of only $20,000-$50,000. Some of the missiles that have been used to intercept these drones can cost upwards of a million dollars a shot and sometimes much more. In broad terms, the earlier on the flight path they can be knocked out of the sky, the better the chances of preventing them from hitting the target, but the higher the price tag.

Iran’s drone production and export, as well as Russia’s use of drones and other missiles in Ukraine has given a long overdue wake-up call to Western countries who are now applying greater focus and resources to counter-drone technology as well as missile defence. Israel, under the most immediate threat for many years, has long been leading the way. It expects to field Iron Beam, a laser interceptor for drones and missiles, in the near future. It is the first Continue reading

Israel needs the unequivocal backing of its allies after Iran’s despicable attack

Article published in The Express, 14 April 2024. © Richard Kemp

On Saturday night I witnessed the most intensive aerial assault I have seen against Israel. To the soundtrack of thunderous explosions, the sky over Jerusalem was lit up with Star Wars-like air defence projectiles colliding with Iranian missiles. But Iran’s historically unprecedented attack was a total failure, with the overwhelming majority of killer drones, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles knocked out of the sky before even entering Israeli territory. As well as 300 air weapons fired from Iran, projectiles were launched by Tehran’s proxies in Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon, again without success. The total effect of this massive bombardment was the severe wounding of a child and only minor damage to an IDF air base. Nevertheless it is important to recognise this was not a symbolic attack designed to fail. That would have been done with far fewer missiles and drones. The response to this strike should be commensurate with Iran’s clear intent: to hit hundreds of targets and kill hundreds of people.

Yet President Biden has told Prime Minister Netanyahu that he should consider this ‘a win’. In other words: take it on the chin. Did Biden pressure Ukraine not to respond to Russian missile strikes on it territory? No he did not and such a call to Israel now is preposterous. It is exactly this approach from the start of Biden’s presidency that has led us to where we are today — consistently appeasing Iran and responding with abject feebleness to repeated attacks against US forces.

Of course the ayatollahs ignored Biden’s hollow warnings in recent days not to attack Israel and of course they have now directly threatened the US not to get involved in any Israeli retaliation. Lining up with Biden’s timorous message Iran’s military mission to the UN has said that, with its strike on Israel, ‘the matter can be deemed concluded’. But it is far from concluded. Iran has repeatedly confirmed its intent to annihilate the Jewish state and has constructed a ‘ring of fire’ of proxies surrounding Israel to achieve that. Hamas’s massacre of Israelis on 7th October was part of this monstrous design. As are the daily rocket attacks against Israel since Continue reading

The world stands on the brink of all-out war

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 13 April 2024. © Richard Kemp

I’m writing from Israel where the country is tonight braced for a wave of drone attacks from Iran.

The Israel Defense Force (IDF) warned at around 11pm that at least 100 drones had been launched. This was followed by an announcement from Iran’s state-run news agency that ballistic missiles have also been launched.

Israel has been expecting Iranian strikes since conducting an air strike on April 1 that killed Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders in Damascus.

Since then there has been some apprehension on the streets, but daily life has continued pretty much as normal, although tonight the IDF updated instructions for the population on the precautions they need to take.

Meanwhile, the IDF has been stepping up its air defences over the last 10 days, including calling up specialist reservists. Israel has the best anti-missile defences in the world, and they will do their best to down most or all weapons before reaching Israeli airspace. However that will not be easy to achieve, with large swarms of drones either preceded or followed up by missiles.

The commander of US forces in the Middle East has been in Israel in the last few days, coordinating with the IDF, and US forces will assist Israel in intercepting the drones, including by providing airborne early-warning systems. Israel’s other allies may also provide support, and the Israeli prime minister specifically thanked Great Britain and France for their support.

There is also a significant threat from Lebanon, where the Iranian proxy Hezbollah has an estimated 150,000 rockets and missiles pointing at Israel. They have been firing rockets and drones into the Israeli border area almost daily since the Hamas attack on Oct 7. It is possible that Hezbollah might launch an intensive barrage to coincide with the arrival of the weapons from Iran, in an attempt to overwhelm air defences.

Israel will have no choice other than to respond to this Iranian attack, as every country would. The IDF has of course been preparing for that as well, perhaps by striking military targets inside Iran and other countries from which any missiles or drones are launched.

As the US sought to prevent Iran from attacking Israel by intensive diplomatic efforts, the Biden administration will likely try to pressure Israel to limit its retaliation, in other words to de-escalate. However, even if limited damage is inflicted in this attack, Israel should strike back hard – perhaps with even greater strength – to deter further attacks.

While hostilities directly with Iran are unlikely to expand beyond air attacks and possibly naval conflict, a major attack by Hezbollah Continue reading

We must attack Iran if it strikes Israel

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 11 April 2024. © Richard Kemp

An attack on Israel by Iran seems imminent. President Biden says his support is ‘ironclad’ and that the US would do all it can to protect Israel. Britain too has a clear responsibility to stand alongside Washington and Jerusalem if Iran launches a significant attack. That means Lord Cameron’s words, ‘We stand up for Israel’s right to self-defence’, need to become more than mere platitudes and the UK should be ready to take direct military action against Iran.

Why should we get involved? The conflict in the Middle East is Iran’s war. Its proxies in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Iraq and the West Bank have all been targeting Israel since October 7. Tehran has only been able to bring that about as a result of US and British weakness. Trump’s maximum pressure policy to contain Iranian aggression was displaced by Biden’s knee-bending appeasement from the moment he took office.

Desperate to coax the ayatollahs back to Obama’s fundamentally flawed nuclear deal that Trump had abrogated, the White House did little to curb Iranian violence and instead unfroze billions of dollars in assets that could be used to fund terrorist proxies and the nuclear programme. On top of that, Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, failure to adequately support Ukraine in the face of Russian invasion and his ideological show of distancing himself from the Netanyahu government made it clear to Khamanei that America would be unlikely to stand up for its allies.

It amounted to a red rag to a bull. Where was Britain in all this? Waving our own red rag right beside Washington’s. And as Tehran repeatedly disrespected the nuclear deal, we, as one of the remaining parties to the agreement, failed to punish it. We happily maintained diplomatic relations with Tehran and have still refused to proscribe the regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps despite the previous Home Secretary labelling it last year as the biggest threat to the UK.

This strategic ineptitude by the US and Britain, as well as other Western countries, has contributed a great deal to the violence engulfing Israel today. It’s important to understand that the latest Continue reading