Strategy of Confronting Hezbollah 7-27-06

The Strategy of Confronting Hezbollah!


Richard J. Garfunkel

July 27, 2006



Yes, he makes some serious points. With these crazies anything can almost be believed. For my money, I would doubt that Iran would trust Hezbollah with that type of high-level ordinance. But stranger things have happened. Unlike Al Qeada, which could easily pose as “stateless,” one would not have to guess whose sponsors are behind Hezbollah. An aggressive layered defense along with reinforced bunkers and tunnels usually causes problems for an offense,  but in the end they would lose. They have no real retreat. They will be under the pressure of incredible bombardment and the noise and fear that accompanies such barrages. The Japanese fortified Tarawa with coconut logs and concrete enforce steel mesh and worked on those emplacements for many, many years. They said that it would take 100,000 men 20 years to take their island. The Marines of the 6th Division men destroyed their regiment-sized defense in 3 days (76 hours). The Marines had very high casualties, 1056 KIA's and 2300 wounded, due to three distinctive problems; 1) getting onto the beach in spite of withering fire that destroyed half of their landing craft 2) getting inland and dealing with fanatical and suicidal resistance 3) dealing with tunneled defenses and reinforced bunkers. But the 4800 or so Japanese defenders were reduced to just 17 survivors. Of course, in later analysis, and evaluation, and in response and reflection to high criticism regarding losses, certain conclusions were rendered; the air attacks were mostly ineffective due to smoke and dust obscuring the ground to the naval fliers, and the naval bombardment was too little and what they had expended proved ineffective. Because of the flat terrain and the low trajectory of the ordinance many shells bounced and skimmed off the coral island and wound up in the sea. Tarawa needed weeks of softening up by naval bombardment, not days! 


What have we learned from all of this? Fixed positions, that are isolated, with no ability to be relieved will fall. The taking of them can often be expensive, but sometimes not. During WWII the Germans were quite adept at taking fixed positions. The Israelis have a few choices; attempt to overwhelm Hezbollah with massive ground forces, reduce their positions by continued bombardment from air assets, artillery, and laser guided ordinance or use small unit actions that penetrate strong positions at night and destroy them bunker by bunker. 


With regards to the first option, the use of a massive attack has some advantages and drawbacks. The advantage would be a quicker victory and the capturing of POWs, information and equipment along with the stopping of the launching of short-range missiles. The downside is casualties for a nation with limited manpower. The second option is a war of attrition with the expending of valuable ordinance along with downside of the continued vulnerability regarding the civilian population being hit by missiles. The third option, which they are using now, is the use of small units backed up by Apache gun ship helicopters and limited heavy armor. The downside is that this tactic will take longer but it will insure victory but at a slower pace. Also time may not be on their side.


Meanwhile regarding, and reading through Thomas Lipscomb's thoughtful analysis, one must carefully weigh what he has said. In the first place he could be very correct about the Iranian-Hezbollah strategy of drawing Israel in to a more prolonged effort. But in a general retreat deeper into Lebanon they (Hezbollah) would face a great vulnerability once out in the open. Their defenses would not be layered they would be much more exposed to Israel's air arm and Israeli armor. With complete air support this armor would obliterate their weakened positions. An army on the retreat cannot sustain a prolonged defense. Also the bulk of Hezbollah's trained men and equipment would have been destroyed in southern Lebanon. This would break the morale of most fanatical of Israel's foes. It would not be easy to reconstruct what they have put together. Also, once Hezbollah is gone, the environment for a few regiments of NATO troops as a peacekeeping buffer would be more comfortable.


With regards to the idea that Hezbollah would launch higher impact, more sophisticated long-range guided missiles into Israel is not completely far-fetched. But, for sure, that would be an escalation that could be disastrous for Iran and Syria. The specter of Israel being hit by V-2 sized guided missiles is horrorific, but the retaliation could be catastrophic. As insane as one may think that the Teheran mullahs are, one would be hard-pressed to believe that they would declare war through their surrogates and face a nuclear response. If they attempted this action and Israel was gravely hurt, the consequences to the region could be hard to contemplate. 


My sense is that Hezbollah does not have the use of long-range high impact ordnance. Their investment is in southern Lebanon and they have been banking on time. If time is unlimited, then their time will run out. If they are destroyed as a fighting unit, their political arm may wither. The key to this game, is in the wake of a Hezbollah military defeat is to get the US and NATO into Lebanon, support their centrists and anti-Syrian supporters and help the government root out Hezbollah which will be perceived as the root of their disaster. It was Hezbollah that brought on their destruction. If they rid themselves once and for all of Hezbollah, re-build and re-enforce their small army and welcome western money and support, Syria and Iran will be isolated and marginalized.



A Middle East chess match

By Thomas Lipscomb
Published July 27, 2006




The Israeli military has already been surprised by the carefully prepared defenses of Hezbollah, just across the Lebanese border. Their leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, and his Iranian sponsors have clearly not been wasting their time over the past six years. Israel's military has been facing first-rate defenses that are breaking up the effectiveness of invading Israeli armor with both fixed defenses like mines and IEDs and well-employed flexible defenses like anti-tank missiles. Israeli armor is already responding with a quick fix, like installing belly armor to save their highly trained crews if they can't keep their tanks from being knocked out.

    But a key element in understanding the underlying Hezbollah strategy may be paying attention to the kind of missiles being used up to this point in the engagement. They are almost all short-range area weapons like obsolete Katuysha rockets. Doesn't that seem very strange indeed, as Israeli forces freely pound Hezbollah targets in the Bekaa Valley and southern Beirut with the most sophisticated laser-guided munitions?

    For now, as Israel attacks north, it has to pay a high price for eliminating the least effective missiles in the Hezbollah arsenal. Even assuming Israel captures all of them, there are still an estimated 2,000 missiles out of reach that are far more dangerous.

    Has Hezbollah prepared a very clever defense in depth? Will a battered Israeli military move northward, only to find it thought it left things safe behind them — paying a higher and higher price as more modern missiles start reaching out at far longer ranges than the antique Katuyshas? Their range is no longer 25 miles but 155 miles, with missiles that can reach key points in Tel Aviv and elsewhere. And won't this create intolerable political pressures on the government of Israel?

    The United States has already suffered from the propaganda and strategic effect of directed weapons on September 11. What if the first Hezbollah long-range missile attack lands on the Knesset in session?

    Mr. Nasrallah has already stated he has a “surprise” waiting for the Israelis. And he isn't the sort of leader who postures impotently for photo-ops, like Yasser Arafat, while totally lacking the military capability for anything besides harassment. His calm announcement that he had informed the Lebanese government in advance that he intended to kidnap Israeli soldiers had to throw a shock into those still wishing to dismiss him as some out-of-control warlord whose host state would welcome his removal.
    It is time to admit that, if this is Mr. Nasrallah's strategy, it is far too late to interdict his supply lines. He has already installed and hidden all the weapons he needs to carry out this attack. The Israeli military is using its considerable skills to locate them in Lebanon. But if only 5 percent — or even 50 sophisticated weapons — survive to land on effective targets in Israel, what real “negotiated peace” is possible?

    Under these circumstances, the Middle East may well be facing another of those interim truces being pressed by the usual clueless international entities that have solved nothing and only ramp up the next level of confrontation. Even if a NATO force moves in to occupy the area south of the Litani River the Lebanese Army couldn't, or wouldn't, occupy according to U.N. Resolution 1559 and Israeli forces declare victory and go home, in reality Hezbollah and Iran become more empowered and Israel becomes the most vulnerable it has ever been.

    That kind of “solution” may eliminate any useful Katuysha sites, but it also leaves Mr. Nasrallah's Hezbollah firmly emplaced with its most effective standoff weapon arsenal and the trained forces to employ them no matter what kind of idiotic “demilitarization” clause they agree to and ignore in the negotiated truce. And Lebanon will have made a giant step in undoing its “Cedar Revolution.”

    Freed from direct Syrian control, Lebanon will have only moved from the host of a stateless terror group to another failed state politically now under Hezbollah's direct control. And Iran becomes the real beneficiary of this proxy war against Israel, gaining a stunning victory in its real battle for the leadership of the Middle Eastern Muslim world — without a direct confrontation with either Israel or the United States — that will significantly alter the balance of power in the Persian Gulf.

    There has been a controversy for centuries over who invented chess. The leading contenders remain India and Persia, which today is called Iran. As this engagement unfolds, the odds have to be increasing that it was Persia.

    But chess depends upon harnessing a limited number of inexorable probabilities, which is why the IBM computer Deep Blue finally was able to beat a chess master. Iran has to be concerned that human beings play other games as well. Israel knows who it is really confronting. Faced with the “solution” above, which for the first time threatens its very existence in a conventional engagement, Israel may well change the name of the game.
    Thomas Lipscomb is an investigative reporter and a fellow of the Annenberg Center for the Digital Future.


Thomas H. Lipscomb

Annenberg Center for

   the Digital Future (USC)

1360 York Avenue, Suite 3D

New York NY 10021





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