Preventing a Wider Middle East War Linked to Ending Israel’s Brutal War in Gaza

Interview with Medea Benjamin, co-founder Code Pink Women For Peace, conducted by Scott Harris

As Israel continues to prosecute its brutal war in Gaza, a wider conflict in spreading across the Middle East. Since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack against Israel that triggered Israel’s war in Gaza, the U.S. military has retaliated against dozens of attacks on U.S. bases in the region by Iran-aligned militia groups in Iraq and Syria. U.S. and U.K. forces have also targeted Houthi rebels in Yemen, who have launched attacks on commercial ships linked with Israel in the Red Sea that they say is in solidarity with Palestinians under attack in Gaza.

But the scale of U.S. airstrikes dramatically increased after three American soldiers were killed and dozens more were injured in a Jan. 28 drone attack on their base in Jordan.  Since then, President Biden has authorized hundreds of retaliatory airstrikes on Iran-supported militia groups in Iraq and Syria, but maintains that the U.S. does not seek war with Iran.

Meanwhile, U.S., Israeli, Hamas, Egyptian and Qatari negotiators are working to achieve agreement on a 40-day truce in Gaza that would pause the fighting, arrange for humanitarian aid to reach the 2.3 million Palestinian residents of Gaza and free remaining Israeli hostages held by Hamas in exchange for the release of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink Women for Peace, who examines deepening U.S. involvement in clashes across the Middle East linked with Israel’s brutal war in Gaza that calls out for an immediate ceasefire to stop the killing and reduce escalating tensions that could provoke a wider Middle East war.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: The U.S. is involved in a widening war and doing everything that you can imagine to make it even worse, whether it’s the support of Israel as it attacks neighboring countries, including the capitals for neighboring countries, or it’s the direct involvement now that we’ve seen in retaliation for the killing of those three soldiers.

So this is a very, very catastrophic and dangerous situation where we see only the “tough guy” stand from the administration. You know, “You hit us” and blaming it all on Iran. Well, these militia groups, they might be have ties to Iran and sympathy from Iran and maybe get some of their weapons. They are autonomous groups. The Yemenis, the Houthis don’t take their orders from Iran. The Iraqi militias, the Syrian government, these all have autonomy and agency. And both the U.S. and Israel think of them in terms of “all Iran-backed.”

And the Israeli government would like nothing better than to see direct U.S. attacks on Iran, which would be catastrophic. And members of the U.S. Pentagon know that, which is why they have tried not to strike Iran directly.

SCOTT HARRIS: Medea, what do we know about Joe Biden’s position on a ceasefire? There are current negotiations involving Israel, Hamas, Qatar, Egypt and the United States. Is there any hope that we will see a ceasefire in Gaza that could help tamp down the tensions and the tit-for-tat attacks that we see across borders all across the Middle East now that has resulted in many deaths as well as the threat of a wider, more deadly regional war.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, yes, I think the Biden administration is under a lot of pressure from many of its allies overseas to call for a ceasefire. We see overwhelming support for a ceasefire at the United Nations. We see the South Africa court case. We see the protests that are happening inside the government, whether it’s directly in the Biden National Security Council or people resigning from the State Department or the staff writing letters that are saying how alarmed they are about U.S. policy. And we see that in the House and the Senate, as I’ve been going every day to those offices and you see distraught staff who do not want to stand behind the position that their bosses have.

Yet, Biden could stop this immediately if he said to Netanyahu, “We’re not going to support this anymore. Zero funds coming in to you. We’re not going to give you the kind of military support that we’ve been giving.”

And instead, the Biden administration is talking about wanting a ceasefire, but continuing to call for more money to Israel. And even as we saw twice in the past month, going around Congress to send more weapons.

So this is a really untenable situation. I do want your listeners to know, Scott, that there’s also been an encampment outside the home of Secretary of State Antony Blinken that’s been going on for 11 days now. And it’s quite remarkable. At times you get up to 100 people out there sleeping outside, yelling until we’re hoarse every single day, “Bloody Blinken Secretary of Genocide.” These things have an impact.

All the interruptions you hear of Biden himself, of his administration. Just a couple of days ago, the head of AID, Samantha Power, interrupted at a talk she gave. I mean, this is commonplace now. And members of Congress who can’t go anywhere and give a talk without having it being interrupted.

And then the polls, we have to understand that the vast majority of the American people want a ceasefire. In fact, there was a CNN poll that said 66 percent of Americans and 80 percent of Democrats. But there’s a more recent poll that came out that showed an astounding 90 percent of Democrats wanting a ceasefire.

So the fact is, the Biden administration and both parties in Congress are deaf and blind to the suffering of the people in Gaza, to the desires of the American people and to the threat of this spreading throughout the region. One has to wonder, is it all about AIPAC money? Is it money from the military industrial complex? Is it just a longtime support of Israel that they can’t seem to shake off?

It’s very hard to understand why they are taking the positions they are taking.

For more information, visit Code Pink Women for Peace at

Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with Medea Benjamin (19:01) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.

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