Friday, July 21, 2006
The Ground War has Begun - Breaking Intel From Stratfor
Hezbollah's strategy appears to be threefold. First, force Israel into costly attacks against prepared fortifications. Second, draw Israeli troops as deeply into Lebanon as possible, forcing them to fight on extended supply lines. Third, move into an Iraqi-style insurgency from which Israel -- out of fear of a resumption of rocket attacks -- cannot withdraw, but which the Israelis also cannot endure because of extended long-term casualties. This appears to have been a carefully planned strategy, built around a threat to Israeli cities that Israel can't afford. The war has begun at Hezbollah's time and choosing.
Israel is caught between three strategic imperatives. First, it must end the threat to Israeli cities, which must involve the destruction of Hezbollah's launch capabilities south of the Litani River. Second, it must try to destroy Hezbollah's infrastructure, which means it must move into the Bekaa Valley and as far as the southern suburbs of Beirut. Third, it must do so in such a way that it is not dragged into a long-term, unsustainable occupation against a capable insurgency.
The Israelis have by now thought the problem through. They don't like operational compromises -- preferring highly focused solutions at the center of gravity of an enemy. Hezbollah has tried to deny Israel a center of gravity and may have succeeded, forcing Israel into a compromise position. Repeated assaults against prepared positions are simply not something the Israelis can do, because they cannot afford casualties. They always have preferred mobile encirclement or attacks at the center of gravity of a defensive position. But at this moment, viewed from the outside, this is not an option.
An extended engagement in southern Lebanon is the least likely path, in our opinion.
More likely -- and this is a guess -- is a five-part strategy:
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.
There can be many variations on this theme, but these elements are inevitable:
1. Hezbollah cannot be defeated without entering the Bekaa Valley, at the very least.
2. At some point, resistance in southern Lebanon must be dealt with, regardless of the cost.
3. Rocket attacks against northern Israel and even Tel Aviv must be accepted while the campaign unfolds.
4. The real challenge will come when Israel tries to withdraw.
No. 4 is the real challenge. Destruction of Hezbollah's infrastructure does not mean annihilation of the force. If Israel withdraws, Hezbollah or a successor organization will regroup. If Israel remains, it can wind up in the position the United States is in Iraq. This is exactly what Hezbollah wants. So, Israel can buy time, or Israel can occupy and pay the cost. One or the other.
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.
If the rest of the world would get in on this we could all rise up and put an end to this shit for good!
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