The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Tag: Hezbollah

Will Israel Invade Lebanon? Will They Win If They Do?

Hezbollah’s Flag

Lots of reports coming out that an attack is imminent.

Israel is caught in a bind. The constant attacks on settlements and military targets in the north of Israel from Hezbollah in Lebanon have forced settlers to leave. There’s are at least a quarter million internal Israeli refugees, and they can’t return until Hezbollah stops firing. The ongoing war, the problems with trade, the refugees and so on are causing massive budget and economic problems.

Hezbollah won’t stop firing until Israel leaves Gaza, stops bombing it and stops the blockade.

Israel, or rather Netanyahu, needs a win in Gaza or his political career is over.

Hamas won’t give up the hostages until there is a permanent peace and all Israeli troops withdraw from Gaza, but the Israeli project is to occupy at least part of Gaza permanently.

The only way Israel can end the Hezbollah strikes is thus to, in effect, lose the war with Hamas. Such a loss isn’t just the end of Netanyahu’s career, it’s a massive strike to Israel’s legitimacy, and to the myth that Israel is powerful.

And it’s the end of the settler project in the North, since any new settlers (or old ones) will know that they’re there at the sufferance of Hezbollah, which wants them gone and will eventually try and force the issue. Settlers will leave and stop coming if the IDF can’t protect them, and protecting them means having deterrence over Hezbollah

So Israel needs to force Hezbollah to stop attacking without meeting Hezbollah’s demands. They need to prove they can still force Hezbollah to what they want. The threat of force isn’t working any more, so like a bully whose victim won’t give them what they want, they now have to go all in.

Problem is Israel can’t even win against Hamas, who are far weaker than Hezbollah. Hezbollah has 150,000 missiles, many of which can reach Tel Aviv. Israel won’t be able to defeat Hezbollah and they won’t be able to stop the missiles, so to “win” they’ll have to devastate Lebanon’s civilians: mass destruction, like in Gaza.

Problem is, again, that Hezbollah is a LOT stronger than Hamas and has enough missiles with enough range to launch absolutely massive attacks against Tel Aviv. They can take out Israel’s power, their water: everything. Anything that Israel does to Lebanon with air power, Hezbollah can do in return. And Israeli civilian morale is likely to be a lot weaker than Lebanese civilian morale.

Worse, though I don’t believe the Israelis understand this, if they lose the war on the ground, Hezbollah’s strong enough to advance into Israel and take and hold ground.

Israel’s in a bind, and unless they’re a lot stronger than I think they are (they aren’t) or Hezbollah’s a lot weaker, or the US mobilizes for war against Hezbollah, they’re marching into a war they can’t win; a war which will destroy their internal legitimacy by proving the IDF can’t protect civilians and can’t win wars, and which will badly damage and possibly even destroy the settler project and thus the “River to the Sea” for Israel.

Could happen to a country who deserves it, but only with a lot of looking.

The price of expelling Israel from Palestine will be huge, but Israel is on that road.

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Thinking About A Hezbollah Intervention

So, let’s say Hezbollah intervenes, as they have said they will if there’s a ground incursion–and Netanyahu has announced it has started.

Remember that Hezbollah has thousands of missiles and that the Israeli “Iron Dome” couldn’t even keep up with Hamas’s attack.

Hezbollah didn’t have much of a missile force in 2006, and what they had were short range and inaccurate. Still, Israel was unable to find and destroy most of the launch sites and its ground incursion was defeated. Indeed Hezbollah was able to intercept Israeli comms while Israel could not intercept Hezbollah’s comms, since they were based on an underground private system.

It seems like the first steps would be to overwhelm the Iron dome, then hit the airfields and ports. A few missiles that get thru to the ports could wreck enough ships to make the ports unusable and hitting airfields, whether the planes are on the ground or not, would cripple the IAF. No nearby nation is going to let Israel run its air attacks off their airfields, after all. Even places where the government is sympathetic (Egypt) couldn’t, the population backlash would be immense and violent.

The Israeli army isn’t an elite bunch, they’re mostly conscripts who man checkpoints. Hezbollah is battle hardened. Once the Israeli air force is grounded, a land incursion suddenly doesn’t look as bad. Israel deploys its artillery in formations which indicate it hasn’t learned the lessons of the Ukraine war: drones and missile attacks could take much of it out.

At that point its Hezbollah ground troops vs. Israeli ground troops, and that’s a lot more even than it looks. Israel is a small country, there’s little land to give up.

The joker is Israeli nukes, but I have seen claims that Iranian intelligence knows where the ground based nukes are.

A strike against them is super-dangerous, if Israel thinks they are going to lose them, they’ll use them. At the same time, if Israel looks like it’s going to be defeated, they might use them anyway. Especially if Iran becomes involved, taking them out becomes very important.

Israel also has five diesel subs, possibly retrofitted with nuclear launch capability. I don’t know if Iran has any way of dealing with those.

Now, remember that there are other actors. Iraqi militias have indicated they support the Palestinians, and I would expect that many of them are already on their way to Israel’s borders. Syria hates Israel, and may decide to join in. Yemen has plenty of missiles as well, and strongly supports Palestine. Finally, there is Iran.

Iran is significant Russian ally, and one of the only countries to unconditionally support Russia in Ukraine (Israel has supported Ukraine.) Russia’s unlikely to extend its nuclear umbrella to Iran against Israel, but it might warn the US not to use nukes if the US decides to escalate.

I am not convinced that if the entire “axis of resistance” gets involved that Israel will win the ensuing war. These aren’t the incompetent Arab armies of the 60s, these are well equipped and battle-hardened troops who have been fighting for much of the last 20 years.

I think Israel’s military position is far more tenuous than it wants to admit, and probably more so that it even realizes.

We’ll see how this plays out. But the first thing to watch is Hezbollah. If they decide to go “all in” this is going to be a real war, not a replay of 2006 where they had to stay on the defensive and just take the massive bombing from Israel.

(Oh, and as for the American carrier group, well, don’t be so sure that if it gets involved, it’s immune to counter-attack.)

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Saudi Arabian Crown Consolidates Control as War Looms

Right, so there is a purge in Saudi Arabia, with princes arrested for “corruption” (they’re surely corrupt, but in Saudi Arabia that’s like saying they drink water), but more importantly, the National Guard commander was arrested and replaced with the Crown Prince, and the navy commander was also replaced.

A new anti-corruption committee led by the Crown Prince will continue the purge.

This has shades of what’s been going on in China, where Xi Jinping is called the “Chairman of Everything,” because he’s in charge of every important committee. In Saudi Arabia, his counterpart is the Crown Prince.

Power is being consolidated. It is true that Saudi Arabia has unavoidable problems and larger challenges coming down the pike. The most important should be the price of oil, which can be expected to continue its relative decline over the next couple decades as electric cars and so on come online.

But they’ve also chosen many of their problems: The war in Yemen is a self-inflicted wound, as is the (related) confrontation with Iran.

The latter confrontation is barrelling ahead, and it is likely to be the next significant war, not North Korea. The resignation of Lebanese PM Saad Hariri (who lives part time in Saudi Arabia) is part of the clearing of decks for the next phase, which will be another attempt to take out Hezbollah.

We can expect the US to impose significant sanctions on Lebanon as part of this, justified by Lebanon supposedly being insufficiently democratic (it was Hariri’s job to make this plausible).

Lebanon not being Venezuela, this will likely not be sufficient and military action will be required.

Note that, in this effort, Israel, the US, and Saudi Arabia can be expected to act in cooperation.

This can and may well easily escalate into an actual war with Iran. As in Iraq before, the Saudis will want the US to do the actual dirty work, and Trump is eager to do it.

Iran is increasingly a Russian ally, and, as for Hezbollah, they appear to expect Syria to support them in any war with Israel, which is not unreasonable: Without Hezbollah support, Syria would have lost its war. Additionally, the usual reason for not fighting Israel doesn’t particularly apply any more: Syria is a smoking ruin already, though I’m sure Israel will try to demolish the capital. However, one suspects it will be heavily defended by Russian air defenses, however.

The entire mess is a clusterfuck waiting to happen. Absolute stupidity: Israel would be better off leaving Hezbollah alone (they have a lot more missiles than last time and are even more battle hardened); Iran is not an existential threat to Saudi Arabia, and; the US would have to be crazy to start another major war in the Middle East or even become involved in another one as it has done in Yemen (which should be none of the US’s business).

A lot of countries are acting directly against their own self interest. The only thing Saudi Arabia should be concerned with right now is handling the end of oil, and the prestige they might gain from defeating Iran will not be sufficient to save them from the consequences of a complete economic meltdown.

So this entire mess is, again, worth keeping an eye on.

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Hizbollah’s Leader Says They Are Battling All Across Syria


The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah has said his fighters would expand their presence in Syria, saying the group was engaged in an existential battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged for the first time that his Shia group was fighting across all of Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

Picture of Hassan Nasrallah

Picture of Hassan Nasrallah

Years ago, I noted that Hizbollah needed to keep supply lines open to Iran, and thus had reason to support the Syrian government. That was a near-existential reason in itself.

And he called specifically on his fiercest critics in Lebanon to back his intervention across the border, warning that their support for Assad’s opponents would not save them from ISIL.

I think this is accurate. There is a weird idea that if ISIL conquers Syria it won’t move into Lebanon. Of course it will. ISIS is the Caliphate. As a matter of belief and ideology, their legitimacy is tied to expansion, and Lebanon is definitely part of the lands they consider as rightfully belonging to the Caliphate.

To not fight them will not save Lebanon if ISIL wins, and Lebanon is a heck of a lot easier of a target than Iran or Turkey. Thus, former prime minister, and leader of Lebanon’s anti-Hezbolla bloc, Saad Hariri’s criticism of Nasrallah’s speech and his movement’s intervention in Syria is nonsense:

“We in the Future Movement declare publicly that the Lebanese state and its institutions are legitimate and our choice and guarantee,” Hariri said in a statement. “Defending the land and the sovereignty and dignity (of Lebanon) is not Hezbollah’s responsibility.”

Well, I suppose the last part might be true. But it is laughable to suppose that the Lebanese army can guarantee Lebanon’s safety from an ISIL invasion. Lebanese who are old enough will remember how well the Lebanese army performed against the Israeli invasion. I am unaware of any particular reason to suppose they would do better enough this time to matter. (It is also true that Hezbollah is currently mostly fighting the Nusra front.)

These wars are also sharpening fighters throughout the Muslim world. They are becoming tougher and smarter. Hezbollah has already defeated the Israeli army twice, ISIL is fighting very well, and the same can be said of many other forces in the Muslim world. I will be frank: I believe that Western force’s edge now comes down mostly to military equipment, which means air power–open-field battle systems (i.e., shoot them before they are even in range of you) and surveillance systems.

I believe the Israeli military, especially, given its corruption due to being an occupying force whose primary job is to beat up, torture, and kill the effectively defenseless, is not even close to as good as quite a number of Muslim (non-state and ISIL) forces.

One really shouldn’t create the perfect Darwinian learning system for those one considers one’s enemies.

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