Amid the relentless images of the dead extracted from a building in Qana, amid the fiery anger those images generated--from Lebanon to Europe and from Egypt to Indonesia--and amid deafening global cries for an immediate ceasefire, a curiously contradictory picture is emerging from the battlefields of Hizballistan: Hizballah is on the ropes, running short of resources and desperate for a ceasefire for its very survival.
While the world has held itself aghast at "Israeli aggression," Israel has been relentless in pursuit of what has been described as the fiercest Arab fighting force in the region. Undeterred by global outcry as over two thousand rockets and missiles have rained down upon Israeli cities with relatively little note, Israel has made good on their Prime Minister’s declaration of “Enough.”
Israel is providing a lesson on fighting the war on terror. The mighty Hizballah, rightfully feared as the most lethally armed terrorist organization on the planet, is now on the ropes. Only their lifeline from Syria sustains them in the midst of devastating strikes from the Israeli Air Force. From the hundreds of rocket launchers in southern Lebanon to weapons depots and infrastructure all the way up the Bekaa Valley in Baalbek, Hizballah’s operational headquarters city, the IAF has exacted a heavy toll from Hizballah since the attack in Israel in which Hizballah terrorists killed eight IDF soldiers and abducted the two surviving.
In fact, in a radio interview with John Batchelor, retired Air Force General Tom McInerney detailed a debriefing with a senior IDF official in which he detailed that Israel believes their airstrikes have eliminated 70 percent of the long-range Iranian ZelZal missile systems in Hizballah hands. McInerney noted that over 1000 Hizballah infrastructure targets have been struck by Israeli air power up and down the Bekaa Valley (once called the most heavily defended air corridor on the planet) and throughout Southern Lebanon, including weapons storage facilities, command and control centers, vehicle repair facilities and 18 Hizballah financial centers which serve in the place of banks.
While sustaining these enormous losses, Hizballah is having difficulty re-supplying across the Syrian border. Convoys from Syria are struck by F-16’s and drones once they are within Lebanese borders, often with the massive secondary explosions that indicate arms shipments. The Israelis believe that Bashar Assad is “directly involved” in the attempts to smuggle rockets, other arms and ammunition to Hizballah, and the release of the results of "defense establishment" intelligence is Israel’s way of sending a message to the Syrian president.
In what is likely to be perceived as a potential escalation, Bashar Assad told the Syrian Army to raise its readiness and they have reportedly been sent from their barracks and posts to the field. But this is very unlikely any Syrian attempt to re-enter Lebanon to come to the aid of Hizballah, as the IDF can dispatch of the Syrian military forces with far greater ease than they can Hizballah. Syria wants nothing of Israel’s IDF/IAF war machine. That’s what Hizballah is for.
As Assad senses Israel’s growing frustration over the doomed-yet-constant shipments of arms into Hizballah, the move is most likely to get them spread out in a reflexive and defensive maneuver. To leave them in their barracks is to create a "target-rich environment" under each roof should Israel decide to send a less subtle message to Assad.
Sure, Assad may have sounded tough when he said, “The barbaric war of annihilation the Israeli aggression is waging on our people in Lebanon and Palestine is increasing in ferocity." But that’s what dictators and state sponsors of terrorism are supposed to say. What likely was in his mind as his message was typed for distribution was far more fearful than fearsome. As they are for Iran, Hizballah is Syria’s front-line Special Forces. Behind them, it gets mighty thin mighty fast.
Curiously, Israel also said that, according to their intelligence, Hizballah is not allowed to fire Iranian missiles without Iranian permission and that few have been fired. The most notable was the C-802 Silkworms that put an Israeli frigate out of commission and sunk an Egyptian transport ship. But, after the Hizballah-manned Lebanese Army ground radars were eliminated in short order, the C-802’s have been dormant.
Israel’s intelligence lets out what it wants to let out (fact or fiction) for specific design. So what is the design here? It’s simple. Israel is intent on putting it’s boot squarely on Hizballah’s throat, once and for all, and allowing both Iran and Syria to stay clear.
Hizballah is Iran’s ground force against Israel. Iran has no other offensive capabilities in the Levant aside from missiles launched from their own borders that will likely get shot out of the air. After Hizballah, they’re out of options at the moment. Israel knows this and is giving Iran a face-saving way to quietly back out. After all, Iran never ‘gave permission’ for Hizballah to fire their weapons. Israel is saying, “Take your 60 recently sent jihadists back and go home.” If Iran ignores this, there really is little they can do in any event, as the logistical conduit utilized from Syria is increasingly being collapsed under the weight of Israeli air power.
But Hizballah is also Syria’s principle ground force against Israel. Syria’s shallow army is the one force aside from Hizballah that can muster a fight within the battlespace. It would be a short fight at that. But in any event, for Syria, Israel hands a different message without a face-saving option. By declaring the Assad is ‘directly invovled,’ Israel is warning him, ‘“We know what you’re doing and we hold you personally responsible.”
Israel does not need to roll tanks on Damascus or even drop a few 2000-pounders on military installations. They simply need to convey that it’s just as easy to bank east from Baalbek as it is to bank west. Leave the option to Assad. He likes his palaces. He’ll make the right self-preserving choice.
And with that, the supply lines are cut off, leaving Hizballah alone with their pride and their banter, backing northward in a battered creep up the Bekaa Valley. It is an unpleasant feeling when your eyes are feeding your brain the images of where you’ve been rather than where you’re going…especially in a fight.
So, while the Iranians, the Syrians, the Lebanese, Hizballah and seemingly the entire world demands a ceasefire, Israel knows that a ceasefire is nothing more than a quiet pause for re-arming Hizballah. They’ll have none of it.
Israel’s inner security cabinet just authorized the "widening of the ground offensive." Take that in context with the above messages to all parties involved. While the IDF may not roll Merkavas all the way up to Baalbek, the Hizballah that emerges from a fight they could not finish will be denied southern Lebanese territory and will be a shell of its former self, requiring years, and much treasure, to reconsitute.
Steve Schippert is the Managing Editor of ThreatsWatch.
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