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

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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Hamas Attacks, What Does It Mean?


I Try To Avoid The Word Genocide


  1. capelin

    Who benefits? I think the case could be made it is the Russians.

    And _all the captains of war.

    Shame about all the wasted resources and innocent life-forms.

  2. Haydar Khan

    From 2021:

    On a related note, I remember this quote from Sy Hersh’s The Samson Option:

    ” We can still remember the smell of Auschwitz and Treblinka.
    Next time we’ll take all of you with us.”

    It looks like we are in another Kali Yuga, maybe the last.

  3. howie

    If only Israel would do the right thing and show restraint: that would be the smart, correct – and of course a really surprising thing to do.

    They won’t – and that will play right into the hands of Hamas, and their other enemies. From the Guardian just now – ” ‘We are just getting started’: Netanyahu says”
    Soon will come the pictures of dead Gaza children – wailing mothers, and all the rest.

    After 9/11, the US made many stupid moves (popular at the time) such as our invasions and worthless occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States has important advantages – such as it’s size, and distance from the Middle East – so ‘we got away with it’, costly as it was.

    Israel is not so lucky.

  4. Willy

    Yeah, this time may be different. Seems too well-coordinated to be just another “pot boiled over” situation ended with the usual inflicted 20 to 1 casualty ratio. Israelis wanted the corrupt, aggressive, and incompetent Bibi and now the rest of us get to watch hard right dysfunction in action. What’d they expect?

    Maybe it’s just me, but as the years go by the sci-fi dystopian optics of these Gazan rebel events seems to increase. I’m seeing these videos… the kidnapped, killed and terrified Israelis they keep showing and interviewing, look a lot like the effete suburban attractives you’d find at the Thousand Oaks fashion mall. The Gazans look vastly different, much darker, poorer, even weird looking. I’ve worked with a lot of people from the Islamic world and by comparison, the Gazans I’m seeing on TV really do look like escapees from some hell world. Maybe with better technology they’ll fight like Fremen.

  5. VietnamVet

    This is accurate. There are two current regional wars that can go nuclear. There is a big difference between the 1950s/1960s and today. Then there were actual governments on both sides that could sign agreements that prevented nuclear war that are still working but are being dismantled. Nuclear disarmament is a faded dream.

    The only thing that matters today is money/profit; no matter the number of human lives it costs. Except they don’t admit it. One result of the belief that there is no society, only markets, is that there will never be peace between ethnic states. Tribal humans are always looking for greener pastures. The hard right is intent on expanding the number of believers and letting God choose if the others are heretics. The liberals embedded with Coke’s Kumbaya are also just as impracticable. Chinese tribes have been moving south for a millennial pushing darker skinned Malays into the ocean. That’s why Polynesia was populated by native Taiwanese. One Western unmentionable is that Cambodia is building a naval base for China to assure that a repeat invasion by the Vietnamese Army does not occur again.

    A nuclear holocaust can only be avoided thanks to MAD, functional governments that work for their people, strong borders, and local and international rule of law. The human species has been on the brink of extinction before. It is now, once again, on the edge of extermination if the conflicts between Israel and Palestine or NATO verses the Russia Federation escalate out of control.

  6. Purple Library Guy

    It’s all definitely good for Russia in an immediate, tactical way–suddenly all the NATO military aid is going to Israel, and Ukraine can go whistle until this dies down. And Russia is in fact starting a couple of offensives. They were going to about now anyway, since the Ukrainian push has now categorically ended.

    As to Hezbollah . . . Israel reacts with the gut, and so far still like the US more based on internal politics than military realities. And Hamas and the Palestinians in general have spent generations now being oppressed and humiliated; I expect they’re really mad.

    But Hezbollah are a pretty canny bunch and I don’t think they think with their balls, despite their often somewhat florid rhetoric (I think that’s just the Middle Eastern style of speechifying, anyway). Look at their patient approach to Lebanese politics. I don’t think they necessarily want to take Israel out entirely even if they can, certainly not at the strong risk of nuclear war. I think they’d probably be quite satisfied with DEFEATING Israel, in the sense of meeting the Israeli armed forces in battle, beating them in a couple of serious fights, showing that Israel cannot stop them from either territorial advance or doing damage at will with missiles. If they successfully do that, they’ll be in a position to negotiate from strength. So I wouldn’t be surprised if they stop after a demonstration of power and try to talk. If they try to actually CONQUER Israel, not only is there the nuclear issue, but also they’d get bogged down in cities, and Israel’s army may have turned incompetent from long use mainly for occupation, but still, much of the population of Israel is trained ex-military; a city insurgency would be no joke.

    As to other countries–if Hezbollah does do a major attack, including with ground forces, I’d be surprised if Syria didn’t at least try to take advantage of the situation to grab the Golan Heights back.

  7. Curt Kastens

    At the moment this looks to me mostly like wishful thinking. Egypt is unlikely to get involved. As long as Egypt does not get involved on the side of the Gazans Israel does not really have much to worry about.
    The current Syrian government is so unstable it can not even deal with its own internal problems. Hezbollah also has enemies other than Israel and if it gets involved it could face a two front war. The Jordanians do not appear to count for anything. Iranian and Iraqi forces would have to cross Jordan and or Syria to be able to attack Israel. The Israelis will spot that far in advance. I suppose they could send small numbers of fighters. But that would not be very effective.
    Furthermore I do not think that the Russians or the Iranian leadership want Iran to be drawn in to a war with Israel now. The Iranian people overwhelmingly certainly do not want it. Forces in Yemen will certainly not turn the tide against Israel.
    Brian Berlitic thinks that this apparent Israeli-US intel failure was deliberate. He says that there are even Israelis that suspect as much. If I were Israeli and I even wondered about that I would seriously be asking myself if I had spent my entire life as a fool, as a sheep for American imperialism. I would be enraged enough to turn my weapon on anyone that supported my own “apparent” government. If this failure was deliberate what more proof should one need to understand that the true enemy of all Israelis has always been the United States Government and its Israeli Quisling leadership. Any person with half a brain should have figured this out decades ago anyways, long before this latest Hammas attack. But I am not surprised that 97% of Israelis do not have 1/2 a brain because 98% of Americans do not have half a brain either.
    I think that the Russians and the Iranians had another plan. Defeat the Ukrainian Quisling fools first. Then use Hungary, and Slovakia and Serbia to start prying the lid off of NATO and the EU and expose its slime to the light of day. Then after that circle back to Palestine with Europe firmly on the side of the Palestinians. Of course there was absolutely no guarantee that the Russians would ever defeat the Ukrainian Quislings.
    I can certainly understand the desire of the Palestinians to fight back now. Whether or not the intellegence failure was deliberate, whether or not Hammas is a legitimate representive of the Palestinian people, or a instiution that is manipulated by the US MIC, the war of survival between the Gazans and the Israelis is out of the bottle. It can not be put back in. The only choice that the Palestinian Gazans have is to try to extract greater costs from the Israeli colonists. Make the Israelis kill you face to face so that the Israelis will never be able to forget the people that they murdered. If the Gazans let the Israelis kill them with tens of thousands of airstrikes and artillery rounds their deaths will have no impact. They will die as they have lived, invisable to the world.
    This is Warsaw Ghetto Number 2.

  8. NR

    Hezbollah has fired off a few rockets, but I seriously doubt they will launch a major attack. Lebanon is already falling apart, they can’t even keep electricity going for more than an hour or two a day. Israel wouldn’t have to use nukes, they could absolutely devastate Lebanon with purely conventional weaponry. Israel would probably also sustain significant damage, but the likeliest outcome is that Lebanon gets the worse end of the exchange simply because they’re starting out from a much worse place.

  9. NR

    Also my (admittedly very limited) understanding is that Hezbollah dislikes Hamas almost as much as they dislike Israel. So I don’t know how likely it is that they’ll stick their necks out for them.

    But we shall see, I suppose.

  10. game theory

    Interestingly, event scenarios similar to what is playing out were reported by a prominent member of the Israeli government apparatus and a well-known figure in “blob” circles.

    Yigal Carmon is an Israeli government counter-terrorism expert who was previously a counter-terrorism adviser to prime ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin. Carmon worked in the Israeli Military Intelligence Service at Aman from 1968-1988.

    On August 31, 2023 Carmon published a report entitled “Signs of Possible War September – October” in the infamous MEMRI outlet that he himself founded along with Meyrav Wurmser, wife of David Wurmser.

    The Jerusalem Post reports:

    “A little over a month ago the former counter-terrorism adviser to two Israeli Prime Ministers authored a prescient essay, outlining an invasion of the Hamas terrorist movement into Israel.

    The counter-terrorism adviser, Yigal Carmon, the founder and president of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), wrote on August 31 the “Signs Of Possible War In September-October.”

    Carmon noted “There has also been an increase in efforts by Iran and Hezbollah to smuggle weapons into the West Bank, similar to the smuggling of weapons into Gaza.”

    The MEMRI article entitled “Signs Of Possible War In September-October” that Yigal Carmon wrote at the end of August:

    On the day the actual hostilities began, MEMRI published an article entitled “MEMRI’s Early Warning About Today’s Attack In Israel” reemphasizing what their earlier article had said:

    MEMRI’s history as a pure Zionist propaganda mouthpiece is unfortunately not well enough known. MEMRI’s main tactic is intentionally “translating” words and situations incorrectly in order to create enemy images, generally of Muslims and Arabs.

    Brian Whitaker said that MEMRI’s articles all show a distinct pattern of reflecting badly on the character of Arabs or in some way furthering the political agenda of Israel.

    Whitaker wrote an article for The Guardian all the way back in 2002 – soon after the September 11, 2001 event – which prompted a response from Yigal Carmon himself:

    This portion of the email exchange between Whitaker and Carmon highlights one issue in particular:

    “I have no wish to sound uncivil, but Memri has placed itself in a glasshouse by claiming to represent the views of the Arabic media to the English-speaking world. Given your political background, it’s legitimate to ask whether Memri is a trustworthy vehicle for such an undertaking. The evidence suggests it is not. You now concede an error of translation in the interview with the mufti, but ignore the more serious charge of dishonest editing. Indeed, you persist in misrepresenting the original Arabic question, in which the mufti was asked how he dealt with the Jews besieging the mosque.

    Your translator turned this into a question asking how he felt about the Jews (ie in general). Your “corrected” version, once again, fails to recognise that in the Arabic text it was not a general question. It was about a specific group of Jews who were behaving in a hostile manner.

    Having misrepresented the original question, you then had to misrepresent the mufti’s answer. There is no excuse for this sort of textual manipulation, and I can only surmise it was done for political reasons – to make his remarks look more anti-semitic than they actually were.”

    The exchange is well worth reading in its entirety:

    Juan Cole has covered MEMRI well. This SourceWatch page has information from Cole and others as well as more links:

    Returning to Yigal Carmon, one of his closest associates over the years has been Steve Emerson, the “pundit on national security, terrorism, and Islamic extremism” who’s been ranting about Muslims and terror for decades.

    Emerson began his “Jihad in America” documentaries in 1994 and writes books with titles such as “Terrorist: The Inside Story of the Highest-Ranking Iraqi Terrorist Ever to Defect to the West” and “The worldwide Jihad movement: Militant Islam targets the West.”

    Oh, and “Terrorism in the United States” and “The future of terrorism: violence in the new millennium.” Add to this many other books and articles with similarly banal, terror-y sounding titles.

    Media Monitors Network did a piece on Emerson back in spring of 2007, where they revealed that Emerson has “close ties to the Israeli Mossad according to The Jerusalem Post (9/17/1994).

    Emerson has yet to disclose key facts regarding his activities, including his source of funding. While he criticizes Muslim-American organizations that disclose their operating and financial details, Emerson shrouds his own in guarded secrecy.

    Vince Cannistraro, a former Chief of Operations and Analysis at the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center said of Emerson’s closest associates Steve Pomerantz, Oliver Revell and Yigal Carmon: ‘They’re Israeli-funded. How do I know that? Because they tried to recruit me.’

    Steve Emerson also has direct ties to Rita Katz through their Investigative Project on Terrorism. Katz serves a similar propaganda function with her SITE intelligence group.

  11. Carborundum

    Given that the primary Israeli missile base has its own wikipedia entry, I sure hope Iranian intelligence knows where it is. Mobile MRBM basing has a distinctive signature (one that Iran is quite familiar with, given both their own basing arrangements and what Saudi fields). However, once they disburse the launchers, assuming they know what they are doing, they become a nightmare target.

    There’s no way that IAF basing is under significant, enduring threat. Even by the standards of military airfields IAF bases are extremely hardened. In the modern world, in the absence of total air dominance, there are really only two ways of taking an airfield off the board – nuclear weapons and seizure. The IAF is the senior Israeli service because they know it is the lynchpin of both their strategic and conventional defence strategies – no way they lose it to this array of threats.

    Whether Hizbullah becomes involved is a tricky analytical question and a lot is going to depend on how the conflict evolves. Hizbullah is not really going to want to become involved (note that their first response was to fire on Shebaa Farms) but they may get dragged into it depending on how their constituency responds to Israeli actions (and the nature of those actions). Overall, we’re now in completely new territory – the Israelis are going to go completely non-linear and desperately seek to establish a credible deterrence framework. I would not be surprised to see fairly large-scale expulsions as an end state – how everyone reacts to a step-function in intensity and qualitatively responses is tough to predict.

    Beyond that, I would note that Hizbullah are not ten feet tall – they’re patient and proficient and good at shaping the battlefield to favour their military strategy (which is integral to their political and social strategies). Probably most importantly they’re smart enough to know their limitations – I don’t see them sallying forth into any form of expeditionary warfare and they don’t have enough throw weight to be determinative in strategic attacks.

  12. Feral Finster

    If Israel is in any trouble, the political pressure for the US to get involved, either with air strikes or boots on the ground, will be overwhelming.

    Naturally, the Biden Administration response is to somehow tie aid to Ukraine to aid to Israel.

  13. elkern

    Hmm, the deployment of the Gerald Ford Carrier Group to the Eastern Med makes sense in light of the possibility of Hezbollah action in support of Hamas. US Carrier Groups are probably quite vulnerable to modern missiles/drones, so they function partly as a [very expensive] Trip-Wire, as no State would risk the (Nuclear?) wrath of the USA for the immediate gratification of sinking a Carrier. But non-State actors have less to lose (no Capitol City), and tend to me more highly motivated by short-term psychological victories. Hezbollah is kinda a hybrid – it’s not a State, but as a major Lebanese Political Party, it wouldn’t survive blame for US flattening Beirut.

    The Ford (assuming it stays afloat) could provide very real “support” for Israel, making sure that Hezbollah doesn’t launch any significant seaborne attacks on Northern Israel while the IAF is busy flattening Gaza. If Hezbollah actually launches any serious ground attack on Israel (most likely Golan?), US planes would “disrupt their supply lines” by bombing anything which moves in Southern Lebanon. We’d lose some planes, which would just solidify political support for deeper involvement.

    And of course, US politics is the key to US military actions. The GOP is already calling for attacks on Iran; it’s a great way to curry favor with the Israel Lobby (and undermine Democratic campaign funding for 2024), without having to worry about responsibility for the consequences (all blame goes to the President, especially when they’re a Democrat).

    Biden has to Do Something; covering Israel’s Northern flank is far more reasonable – and far less risky – than attacking Iran. I was really glad to hear that the Ford was *not* being deployed to the Persian Gulf.

    OTOH, I noted today that the USS Ronald Reagan has recently sailed Southward from its base in Japan, and was last reported in the Philippine Sea. If it moves into the Indian Ocean, I’ll be worried.

  14. game theory

    There is a lot of talk about whether or not Israel knew about this and allowed it to happen, or even provoked it. As I outlined above, it is obvious that this past August prominent, powerful factions within Israel’s security-government-media apparatus predicted an outbreak of war in September or October:

    It should be remembered that MEMRI is a propaganda outlet run by an expert with decades of experience in Israeli intelligence. It prepares and presents “estimates” to its own government officials while simultaneously preparing and disseminating propaganda to the targeted masses.

    More accurately, MEMRI prepares memos or drafts or even entire articles that are then placed with specific media outlets and pundits, who will then go on to disseminate it to a general audience or specific targeted audiences.

    The Brian Whitaker Guardian piece and the Juan Cole investigations make clear that MEMRI primarily creates and attempts to instill enemy images of Arabs and Muslims in the public psyche, while instilling positive images of Israel – in order to further Israel’s political goals.

    Here, we are dealing with MEMRI’s internal messaging – what it presented to its own government officials in order to prepare them for what may come.

    The Jerusalem Post article begins with a statement declaring that “Hamas carried out the terrorist attack, but Iran is the one behind this shocking murder of dozens of innocent Israeli women, children and men.”

    The MEMRI piece that Yigal Carmon wrote and that the Jerusalem Post article references begins by saying;

    “Lately there have been growing indications that a war against Israel may break out in September or October 2023. The trigger may be spiraling violent clashes resulting in many casualties, or the use of new weapons leading to many fatalities on the Israeli side, in the face of which Israel will be unable to suffice with its regular counterterrorism measures.”

    The footnote to this statement states that:

    “On the face of it, a large number of Israeli fatalities will be nothing new, but we assess that, in the present circumstances, Israel will undertake an unprecedented, comprehensive response, even at the cost of a comprehensive war with Iran, which is activating the Islamist resistance organizations on the ground.”

    The opening paragraph of the MEMRI piece concludes with the statement:

    “While neither Hamas nor Hizbullah are eager to start a comprehensive confrontation with Israel, such a confrontation could result from an uncontrolled deterioration on the ground or from the use of new and unusually deadly weapons by these movements.”

    It then goes on to quote statements from various Arab and Muslim leaders that may or may not be quoted correctly. That is not really the point here, however.

    We can easily glean – just from the opening paragraphs of these Israeli intelligence agency statements that were prepared for their government officials – that Israeli intelligence foresaw a Hamas invasion that would use weapons and tactics that hadn’t been used before, and that Israel would have to call up significantly more reserves than in the past in order to counter this – “an unprecedented, comprehensive response.”

    All of this was predicted to happen in October.

    How is this a massive intelligence failure on the part of Israel?

    The interesting part to me is the statement that “Israel will undertake an unprecedented, comprehensive response, even at the cost of a comprehensive war with Iran, which is activating the Islamist resistance organizations on the ground.”

    “…even at the cost of a comprehensive war with Iran” indicates that such a war is always on the front burner for Israel, and given the Oded Yinon – Securing the Realm/PNAC literature this isn’t surprising.

    What all of this “intelligence” doesn’t state is all of the violent Israeli military ops that preceded this August report, were going on as it was being written, and which culminated in the atrocities at the Al-Aqsa mosque which Israeli police had already raided back in April and again in August – when the MEMRI report was being written.

    Who remembers, or who even knew to begin with, that on July 4 of this year Israel conducted its biggest West Bank military operation in decades?

    Immediately previous to that, this happened:

    and this:

    The day Hamas began its “sneak attack” Israeli forces had once again violated worshippers at al Asq Mosque, just like they had in August when the MEMRI report was being prepared, and just like they did in back April, when they allegedly went in to break up some “agitators.” These are clearly provocations:

    Would anyone like to place a bet on whether or not the BBC report was prepared by someone affiliated with Israeli intelligence?

    One final piece of information: On the same day the MEMRI intelligence directive was issued, the United Nations produced another one of the many “special reports” they are famous for, once again outlining all of Israel’s barbaric policies. The “Special Rapporteur” stressed that “these are powerful findings.”

    I guess we can consider this a preliminary report. The next Goldstone Report will have to wait until Israel is done with “Operation Human Animals.”

    Oh yes. After allegedly ignoring its own intelligence report, Israel then told Palestinians to leave Gaza because they were going to bomb the fuck out of it, just like the MEMRI report said they would have to. Then, after apparently giving “fair warning” they closed the only way out of Gaza:

  15. I keep thinking of John Dolan’s article about the Millennium Challenge war games, where the American playing as an Iranian commander destroyed 2/3s of the American fleet, including an aircraft carrier. This was in 2003, before widespread drone tech. A different sea, of course, but otherwise it’d be even easier to do now.

  16. Jan Wiklund

    Still, in a war numbers count. That’s why the Russians have an advantage in the Ukraine war, see Peter Turchin’s article at An advantage of 2 to 1 in numbers translates into an advantage of 4 to 1 in battle.

    So I wouldn’t stake too much in a Palestinian victory even if I would like to. Hamas may be right in attacking as they do, but in the past they have thought too much in terms of morals and too little in terms of strategy. Kind of “they kill our children, we are right in killing theirs.” But that doesn’t win any wars.

    And after all, states have an advantage as soon as the struggle becomes violent. Violence is what states specialise in.

  17. CB

    Ian, can you provide some sources for weapons from Ukraine ending up with Hamas? This is likely to be a very incendiary take to many people so I’d like to know where the information is from before repeating it. Thanks

  18. Ian Welsh

    CB, there were early reports of that, but they turn out to be wrong or at least unverified. I’ve removed that section from the previous article and put in a note explaining the change. Thank you for bringing this up and thus making me revisit the issue. Appreciated.

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