A ‘pause’ will not get the job done

Hamas will only release its hostages when its back is against the wall.

Iran must continue to be at the center of international efforts to counteract the Oct. 7 Hamas atrocity. The trail invariably traces back to Iran, recognized globally as the principal state backer of terrorism. The stark contrasts between Hamas’s abduction of over 230 individuals and the Iranian hostage episode from 1979 are apparent, yet Iran’s history of employing kidnapping as a tactic in its malign endeavors cannot be ignored.

The historical parallel dates to Nov. 4, 1979, when 52 Americans were held in captivity in Iran, a situation that endured for 444 days. The timing of their release, synchronized with President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 1981, was far from serendipitous. The hostage predicament contributed to Reagan’s victory over Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election, with Reagan’s advocacy for “peace through strength” causing trepidation among the Iranians over potential repercussions.

In the face of the current crisis, the strategy must mirror past firmness. A month of intensive discussions has resulted in the liberation of only a handful of hostages by Hamas. The Israel Defense Forces halting their ground offensive after a week, as has been suggested by President Joe Biden, is unlikely to facilitate further releases. It would merely afford Hamas the opportunity to consolidate its position. Historical precedent suggests that a cornered Hamas, akin to the scenario with Iran at Reagan’s ascendancy, may yield the release of captives.

Recalling 2014’s incursion into Gaza, President Barack Obama permitted only a restrained Israeli military action, which proved inadequate. After the Oct. 7 violence, Biden’s initial alignment with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared firm. However, the proposition of a “pause” could indicate a change in stance. Despite this, Israel should maintain its operational tempo, which is essential for a decisive outcome against Hamas.

I remain hopeful that President Biden will reassess the proposed “pause” and allow Israel the latitude required to ensure that the tragic events of Oct. 7 are not repeated. Such a hiatus is unlikely to bring about the desired end goal.

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