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Middle East – the war begins

I get breaking intelligence reports relating to conflict around the world, via stratfor.com, most of which is very interesting. Not all of it is new though, or interesting enough for me to write about. The other times I did was when I was talking about the bird flu hoax and the Muslim crisis planned by the US. The latest report I got, just in the past hour or so, talks about the Middle East, but is the most recent of many.

The ground war has begun. Several Israeli brigades now appear to be operating between the Lebanese border and the Litani River. According to reports, Hezbollah forces are dispersed in multiple bunker complexes and are launching rockets from these and other locations.

It provides a very interesting analysis of events. Basically, Hezbollah have initiated this war at their own time and choosing, and dragged the Israelis into Hezbollah territory, both of which are strategically advantageous.

Israel is forced to end the threat to its cities by destroying Hezbollah’s launch capabilities, destroy Hezbollah’s infrastructure, and do these things in a way that avoids occupations. It has to do it quickly and decisively.

Unfortunately, its ability to do that is severely hampered by Hezbollah’s effective strategy, and has thus lost the strategic initiative. That doesn’t mean Israel’s options are limited, as it’s still a frorce that is superior to Hezbollah. Israel’s most effective strategy, according to Stratfor, is:

  1. Insert airmobile and airborne forces north of the Litani to seal the rear of Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon. Apply air power and engineering forces to reduce the fortifications, and infantry to attack forces not in fortified positions. Bottle them up, and systematically reduce the force with limited exposure to the attackers.
  2. Secure roads along the eastern flank for an armored thrust deep into the Bekaa Valley to engage the main Hezbollah force and infrastructure there. This would involve a move from Qiryat Shimona north into the Bekaa, bypassing the Litani to the west, and would probably require sending airmobile and special forces to secure the high ground. It also would leave the right flank exposed to Syria.
  3. Use air power and special forces to undermine Hezbollah capabilities in the southern Beirut area. The Israelis would consider a move into this area after roads through southern Lebanon are cleared and Bekaa relatively secured, moving into the area, only if absolutely necessary, on two axes of attack.
  4. Having defeated Hezbollah in detail, withdraw under a political settlement shifting defense responsibility to the Lebanese government.
  5. Do all of this while the United States is still able to provide top cover against diplomatic initiatives that will create an increasingly difficult international environment.

Israel has one other choice, which is to extend the campaign to defeat Syria as well. Israel can do this, but the successor regime to Syrian President Bashar al Assad likely would be much worse for Israel than al Assad has been. Israel can imagine occupying Syria; it can’t do it. Syria is too big and the Arabs have learned from the Iraqis how to deal with an occupation. Israel cannot live with a successor to al Assad and it cannot take control of Syria. It will have to live with al Assad. And that means an occupation of Lebanon would always be hostage to Syrian support for insurgents.

Hezbollah has dealt Israel a difficult hand. It has thought through the battle problem as well as the political dimension carefully. Somewhere in this, there has been either an Israeli intelligence failure or a political failure to listen to intelligence. Hezbollah’s capabilities have posed a problem for Israel that allowed Hezbollah to start a war at a time and in a way of its choosing. The inquest will come later in Israel. And Hezbollah will likely be shattered regardless of its planning. The correlation of forces does not favor it. But if it forces Israel not only to defeat its main force but also to occupy, Hezbollah will have achieved its goals.

Interesting times ahead…

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