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On Wednesday, December 6, 2023, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres invoked Article 99 of the U.N Charter on the situation in Gaza.

Article 99 allows the secretary-general to “bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security”

The invocation seems to be in line with the unfolding events in the middle east region.

  • The humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire and worsening by the minute
  • The West Bank is agitating with violence
  • Iran-backed militants in Iraq are repeatedly attacking U.S. forces
  • Iran-backed Houthi in Yemen are attacking Israel-linked ships in the Red Sea and firing ballistic missiles at Israel
  • Hezbollah is attacking Israeli military sites and soldiers in the north of Israel daily.

Apparently, the region is slowly drifting into a regional war which can rapidly escalate to World War 3! The U.S. has repeatedly expressed that it doesn't wish to see the conflict in Gaza expand to a regional conflict, yet it vetoes the UN attempt at a ceasefire resolution.

The longer the war in Gaza endures, the more there is a chance a regional war could break out, so why did the U.S. neutralize the UN ceasefire resolution? Does that not contradict its publicly articulated intentions?

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    That World War 3! thingy seems strongly speculative in nature. Which reasonable and influential individuals or bodies have been making that claim? Can we get a citation? Otherwise, yes, good question and likely on many people's mind. Dec 9, 2023 at 21:49
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica A china expert did. check out the this Fox Business YouTube video: youtube.com/watch?v=I-VvN0Im6ro
    – machine_1
    Dec 9, 2023 at 22:04
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    LOL. If a had a dime every time Fox News invited some "expert" on China. The only thing that qualifies someone as such there if they say that China is the root all evil. Which in that case they did say, i.e. that China is behind the Oct 7 attack. About par for the course given the affiliation of the source en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gatestone_Institute Dec 9, 2023 at 23:17
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    There seems to be a lot of misunderstandings about what a ceasefire is and what they accomplish. A ceasefire does not end the conflict, it is a temporary suspension of the violence. Of all of the listed points, only one, the first one, would be influenced by a ceasefire. Additionally, ceasefires typically have asymmetric influence to each participant of the conflict. If the call for a ceasefire does not include a benefit to both sides, it is essentially a call for support of one side.
    – David S
    Dec 11, 2023 at 18:32
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    @DavidS: I'm reminded of The Babylon Bee's recent headline "Hamas clarifies they only want Israel to cease fire". It's satirical, but it works because a huge segment of the American population has that view of the ceasefire proposal.
    – dan04
    Dec 11, 2023 at 21:16

5 Answers 5

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Well, we can read what the U.S representative said the UN:

The US engaged in good faith on the text, said Deputy Permanent Representative Robert A. Wood, that would increase opportunities for hostage release and more aid to reach Gaza.

“Unfortunately, nearly all of our recommendations were ignored” leading to an “imbalanced resolution that was divorced from reality that would not move the needle forward on the ground in any concrete way. And so, we regretfully could not support it."

He said the US still could not understand why the resolution’s authors declined to include language condemning “Hamas’s horrific terrorist attack” on Israel, of 7 October.

It killed people from a range of nationalities, subjecting many to “obscene sexual violence.”

He said he had explained earlier in the day why an unconditional ceasefire would simply be “dangerous” and leave Hamas in place, able to attack again.

It was “a recipe for disaster for Israel, for Palestinians and for the entire region”.

Any ceasefire leaving Hamas in control would also deny Palestinians the chance to build something better for themselves, he added.

Moreover, the reasoning suggested in the OP that "the more the war in Gaza endures, the more there is a chance a regional war could break out" is not so obvious as it seems. Alternative view could say that if Israel stops now, the chances for WW3 would increase dramatically — it won't happen tomorrow, but probably in 2-3 years. As it would increase the likelihood that other factors would also try like Hamas to exterminate the Jews. In order to avoid war, U.S should show they are ready for war and are not afraid of it.

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    TLDR: you could emphasize the last sentence in the quote. The US agrees with the fundamental goal of Swords of Iron op: to remove Hamas from power. Calling for more than short ceasefires for aid delivery and/or for hostage releases is not in the US vision. Dec 9, 2023 at 13:46
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    @alamar - I would not go quite that far—it's obvious that Israel does want to get rid of Hamas, if only out of self-interest, whereas Russia's commitment to getting rid of neo-Nazis is very questionable. But what is true is that there is clearly some motivation of revenge involved there, perhaps combined with a desire to acquire more territory, which is probably more important to Israel than the goal of getting rid of Hamas (which the war may even be counterproductive in, as I have previously suggested).
    – Obie 2.0
    Dec 9, 2023 at 15:04
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    @Obie2.0 Hamas is people. I'm not sure how Israel can get rid of all those people. By running 2M population through filtration camps, perhaps?
    – alamar
    Dec 9, 2023 at 16:06
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    "try like Hamas to exterminate the Jews" - Hamas did not try to "exterminate the Jews" (unless you believe that terrorism == ethnic cleansing). On the other hand, Israel's actions have been widely described as genocidal by the UN and by many genocide scholars, including Israeli.
    – Eyeofpie
    Dec 10, 2023 at 8:47
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    @Eyeofpie One can easily argue that their latest attack was not expected to "exterminate the Jews" but that (or similar words) have been used many, many times by Hamas.
    – MikeB
    Dec 11, 2023 at 10:20
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Since the Q suggests WW3 and what not, I'll just add this bit from a Nov 14 presser of the Pentagon.

Deterrence in the Middle East is working, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said today.

And yeah, the US says that's because they are striking back.

“Is deterrence working? We feel that it is," said Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh. "We have not seen this war spread into a wider regional conflict. The strikes that we are taking is to signal and to message very strongly to Iran and their affiliated groups to stop. That is the purpose of those strikes.”

"I think we are being very deliberate on how and when we conduct our strikes against these groups," she said. "And I think that Iran is certainly seeing that message.”

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  • "Since the Q suggests WW3 and what not...". Do you disagree that things are headed towards another world war? The Gaza war has destabilized the entire region.
    – machine_1
    Dec 9, 2023 at 16:40
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    @machine_1: You have to make up your mind if you're really asking about what the US says or you're merely using this Q to soapbox. In re the latter: my personal opinion is that WW3 would not start from the Middle East unless Russia somehow sees Iran as indispensable and intervenes on its behalf. Which seems pretty unlikely to me, but I have no more a of Putin mind reading device than you have. (Thus far Iran hasn't really proven it sees Hamas as indispensable either, I might add.) Dec 9, 2023 at 16:48
  • For some Iranian statements on the latter see ft.com/content/e296eb62-cd36-4945-80c2-1ca3a6b79259 At best, they hope Israel will be stuck in a protracted guerilla war in Gaza. Dec 9, 2023 at 16:58
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    @machine_1"World wars" were global wars that involved all of the world's super powers. Do you think China and the rest of NATO will be involved? A regional war != world war.
    – Eyeofpie
    Dec 10, 2023 at 9:01
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    Hamas benefits from the Russia-Ukraine war, because European countries are funding Qatar (and therefore Hamas) where they previously funded Russia.
    – gerrit
    Dec 11, 2023 at 9:08
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The UN Security Council and especially the veto powers used there are mostly a geo-policital platform and whatever the topic of the day is is mostly an afterthought.

During the Cold War, it was pretty much protocol for the USSR to veto anything the USA wanted and vice versa.

The US has used its veto on dozens of past resolutions against Israel. This is part of how the US expresses its political support for Israel. This veto is simply a continuation of what the US has always done. It has nothing to do with this particular resolution or its contents, and if the US feared an escalation of the conflict, it would use its direct influence on Israel rather than supporting a UN resolution.

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    The US did not block (i.e. abstained on) a UNSC resolution that used softer language in re Israel a few weeks ago. That one called for "“urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors” in Gaza for “a sufficient number of days” to allow full, rapid, safe and unhindered access for UN agencies and partners". news.un.org/en/story/2023/11/1143632 So wording does matter in this case. The US did block like 3 other USNC attempts (generally advanced by Russia) to call for a permanent ceasefire. Dec 10, 2023 at 12:08
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    @Fizz I agree that wording matters. The word "ceasefire" specifically has a defined meaning, unlike "pause".
    – Tom
    Dec 10, 2023 at 15:19
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    The first two paragraphs are incorrect or unuseful. First, The UNSC is by definition a "geo-political platform", so it's meaningless to mention that as a reason for voting this way or that. It is also not true that the topic of the day is an afterthought, and very serious and grave topics with significant consequences are brought before it and discussed - after and during taking up a lot of the attention of many world powers. An example is wars which some UNSC members are involved in. /...
    – einpoklum
    Dec 12, 2023 at 12:06
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    ... finally, and most importantly - this is not a "USSR vs USA" matter, nor "Russia vs USA", nor "China vs USA" etc. The proposal was supported universally (Britain, a very close US ally did not put itself in opposition to the US and just abstained).
    – einpoklum
    Dec 12, 2023 at 12:07
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Your approaching WW3 argument for making a ceasefire doesn't hold up - first off, why does this seem so close to WW3? Its basically Israel, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran by proxy - hardly world powers. But besides for that, the Russia-Ukraine war is much, much, much, much closer to being WW3 - Putin clearly said that the US giving certain types of weapons to Ukraine would be considered an act of war against Russia. However, there is no effort whatsoever to make a ceasefire in that conflict.

The US' objection would be that, while the plight of the innocent civilians in Gaza is extremely unfortunate, there are a few problems:

  1. Cease fires with Hamas don't work - there was a ceasefire on October 6th from the last conflict, Hamas broke it on October 7th. And its not nearly the first time they've broken ceasefires. A ceasefire is merely kicking the can down the road, except down the road the can will kill and kidnap civilians, and present a constant existential security threat.
  2. There is no other country in the world that is held up to the absurd standards that Israel is - when the governing body of a land mass attacks its neighbour, unfortunately the residents suffer - especially when said governing body embeds terrorists in civilian areas as a strategy. So the fact that the Palestinian people are suffering has no bearing on the fact that Hamas is a terrorist organization that needs to be destroyed.

Sources (they are all copied to highlight, so it will take you to the correct paragraph):

[11]: https://www.britannica.com/event/Iran-Iraq-War#:~:text=The%20number%20of,see%20Kurd). [12]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10171164/#:~:text=We%20estimate%20that,related%20to%20combat.

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    In 8 days of cease-fire, based on indirect Israel-Hamas negotiations, 105 hostages were released. In two months of bombings, one hostage was liberated. Now which strategy would make more sense to continue if hostages were a priority?
    – gerrit
    Dec 11, 2023 at 9:11
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    @gerrit Done...
    – Kovy Jacob
    Dec 11, 2023 at 9:54
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    @gerrit, unfortunately, hostages released is not a barometer of peace. Hostages (3 month old babies!? 4 yr old girls who are still talking in a whisper?!) are a barbaric tool of Hamas to ensure Israel doesn't dismantle their power structures and kill their leaders. Peace however would be described as ensuring Hamas can't use Oct. 7 as a "rehearsal" for more (-Sinwar). To that end a ceasefire is completely counterproductive.
    – YouDontSay
    Dec 12, 2023 at 13:08
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    @gerrit Israel claims that the negotiations were successful in part because of the pressure their military action has put on Hamas. This may or may not be the case, but negotiations and military action are not entirely independent of each other.
    – Tom
    Dec 12, 2023 at 14:35
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    @gerrit Hostages are not and must not be the priority, because that gives undeserved de facto legitimacy to hostage-takers and provides bad actors with incentives to take more hostages. The first priority, above all else, must be Hamas delenda est. Dec 12, 2023 at 19:08
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While @Tom is correct, in that the veto is part of the US' ongoing support for Israel, it is not true that UNSC votes are made with the matter at hand being an aftertought. More often than not the matters are quite grave, and occupy the "thought" of many UN and UNSC members, especially the larger empires, all the time when they come up in the UNSC.

The same is true for the Israeli onslaught in Gaza. This matter occupies quite a hefty chunk of public discourse and the news cycle in the US these days - perhaps even more than the war in Ukraine. The administration is under pressure from multiple sides and even internally - to support Israel more staunchly or to use the US' leverage to stop the killing, let humanitarian aid through, withdraw ground troops etc.

Biden has opted for full support of Israel for the past two months, while signaling that the US would like the operation concluded within a few weeks. He has also backed this up with a statement of intent to bankroll the affair to the tune of 14 Billion USD.

All of this happened with a humanitarian situation which was already untenable in Gaza before the current Israeli campaign: The siege blocking most trade and transport of goods, the water beginning to salinate, lack of electricity during much of the day etc. And - what OP describes in their first two bullets is the obvious consequence of a massive bombing campaign. So, the US vetoed the cease-fire resolution because it wants the Israeli campaign in Gaza to continue, or at the very least - prefers its continuation to an argument with Israel and the 'Israel lobby' over the matter.

That being said - OP is overly emphasizing the ties of US-hostile or Israel-hostile armed groups, and IMHO is getting carried away talking about a regional war widening into a third world war. Despite some Yemenis firing some rockets, so far this does not seem to be in the cards. Or at least - many don't see it talkingso, and possibly so does the USA.

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  • Very important point that Biden is under pressure to do something against the human rights violations by the current Israel military campaign. His public image is all the more important because the American election campaigns are slowly getting under way. If the left discontent with Biden grows he may face a primary challenger. American support for Israel is a confluence of a multitude of reasons, but it is not unlimited. Dec 12, 2023 at 19:00
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    @Peter-ReinstateMonica: A primary challenger is not his main problem. The DNC cancelled the primary debates and the mainstream media refuses exposure to the main challengers - Kennedy and Williamson, with ~20% and 10% respectively a few months ago already. Kennedy decided it's rigged and went off to be an independent candidate; Williamson is sticking with it, but has no chance. Plus, the Florida party completely cancelled the primaries and just put Biden forward as the state delegation's choice for the convention. However,
    – einpoklum
    Dec 12, 2023 at 20:42
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    Biden has three more serious problems. The first is his health and cognitive capacity, but that's not policy related. The second is independent candidates. RFK, Cornell West and Jill Stein are "covering" both his left flank and his, shall we say, traditionalist/liberal-ish non-left flank, meaning he would need to try to pander to these parts of the electorate and can't use the "It's me or Trump!" line as well. Even worse, disaffected left-leaning, Arab, and Muslim voters are more likely to stay home and not come out for "Genocide Joe".
    – einpoklum
    Dec 12, 2023 at 20:46
  • I also realized after writing this that the time for a primary challenge has already passed, even legally in a few states. (But there is actually a significant chance that he dies before the election.) Yes, losing (even more of the) the left-leaning young voters would be fatal, judging by the current polls. Dec 12, 2023 at 22:27
  • @Peter-ReinstateMonica: Well, you know, Trump's legal trouble might catch up to him before the elections I suppose. Plus - the polls typically focus on the popular vote percentages, which as we know, don't mean all that much.
    – einpoklum
    Dec 12, 2023 at 22:49

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