The most important part of the Wall Street Journal’s expose on Yahya Sinwar’s text messages isn’t a message written by the Hamas leader at all. It is, rather, the collapse of the West’s will to win.

The Journal aptly sums up the tranche of Sinwar’s messages: “In dozens of messages—reviewed by The Wall Street Journal—that Sinwar has transmitted to cease-fire negotiators, Hamas compatriots outside Gaza and others, he’s shown a cold disregard for human life and made clear he believes Israel has more to lose from the war than Hamas.”

The main takeaway from the article has been what should’ve been clear long ago: The ceasefire negotiators are getting played by a man whose every decision is calculated to cause as much bloodshed as possible. But the Western naivete isn’t merely unsuccessful as a negotiating strategy; it has relieved Sinwar’s isolation. That makes it one of the more consequential strategic blunders in modern history.

Sinwar has always been an ideologue and a maximalist, not a pragmatist. As the texts show, he has personally ordered the escalation of violence each time there appears to be a diplomatic breakthrough—whether between Israel and another country, such as Saudi Arabia, or between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, or even between Israel and Sinwar himself. His entire military and political strategy revolves around literally blowing up peace talks.

That gives him an advantage: He knows Israel will be blamed for any lack of aid getting into Gaza, for example, so he orders attacks on aid crossings. If at any moment not enough Palestinians are dying, Sinwar will adjust accordingly and make sure to change that. Palestinian deaths are more important to the success of his strategy than Israeli deaths, although both are necessary to his hold on power.

There are times, however, that even Sinwar can go too far. It is that barbarity that the West can exploit by using it as a wedge between Hamas leaders in countries like Qatar—anti-Western but with some skin in the game because of their funding and hosting of Hamas—and those on the ground around Sinwar.

Hamas is a proxy of the Iranian government. And Sinwar found out the hard way that Iranian leaders wanted to contain the war to its armed affiliates rather than an Iranian boots-on-the-ground intervention like the one in Syria. That signaled Hamas’s non-Gaza-based leadership to create some daylight with Sinwar as well, reports the Journal:

By November, Hamas’s political leadership privately began distancing themselves from Sinwar, saying he launched the Oct. 7 attacks without telling them, Arab officials who spoke to Hamas said…

As Israel’s army quickly dismantled Hamas’s military structures, the group’s political leadership began meeting other Palestinian factions in early December to discuss reconciliation and a postwar plan. Sinwar wasn’t consulted.

Sinwar in a message sent to the political leaders blasted the end-around as “shameful and outrageous.”

“As long as fighters are still standing and we have not lost the war, such contacts should be immediately terminated,” he said. “We have the capabilities to continue fighting for months.”

In early January, Israel eliminated Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri, spooking Sinwar. He moved around more and communicated less. He was on the run and isolated.

Then the Biden administration ramped up its pressure on Israel to limit casualties and stop the IDF from finishing the job in Rafah. Reports the Journal, “Sinwar’s response: Hamas fired on Kerem Shalom crossing May 5, killing four soldiers. Hamas officials outside Gaza began to echo Sinwar’s confident posture.”

The war began with an agreed-upon goal: the dismantling and defeat of Hamas. President Biden, along with our European allies, abandoned that goal. The international community now works assiduously to preserve Sinwar’s control in Gaza. In doing so, they have essentially forced Hamas’s leadership-in-exile to back Sinwar to the hilt. That, in turn, has weakened Qatari leverage over the terror group. It has forced Egypt to reconcile itself to Hamas’s survival on its border. In effect, everyone except for Israel has recalibrated its approach to the conflict in a way that, directly or indirectly, prioritizes Hamas’s survival.

And all of this came after Hamas was on the ropes and Sinwar was staring defeat in the eyes. A superpower talked itself out of victory. And Sinwar’s war goes on.

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