Lead, Follow or Get Out of The Way
By Steve Schippert | August 4, 2006
It was posited in a recent commentary that, contrary to popular opinion, Hizballah Is On The Ropes. That is because they are. Yet, if there were one thing that could have been made clearer in that commentary, it would be to stress that Hizballah "on the ropes" does not mean they are near destruction or elimination. Hizballah is still the fiercest Arab fighting force in the region and still empowered by an intense fanatical ideology.
But make no mistake, Hizballah is indeed on the ropes and hoping the bell rings soon.
For those who may believe otherwise, even after the context provided in the previous commentary, consider today's events. Hizballah political leader, Hassan Nasrallah, pressed for a ceasefire and negotiations, couched as it was in yet another bold threat to Israel and amid further branding of Israel as the aggressors.
While they are presently being reduced in both stature and war-making capacity -- through in-place bombings and un-replenished consumption -- it should not be lost that Hizballah will not be ‘destroyed’ by this effort alone as Hizballah is representative of a movement, an ideology, an idea.
They are, however, in the process of being boxed into two sets of offensive capability as Israel seeks to neutralize their threat to Israeli population centers.
The Litani River extends eastward from the Mediterranean Sea to the southeast corner of Lebanon where, like an elbow, it takes a 90-degree turn northward. All along the Litani River, bridges have been targeted creating a natural barrier. To the south lies the operational zone of what can be considered the ‘Katyusha Brigades,’ with Israel still within the Katyushas’ limited range. To the east is the Bekaa Valley, longtime home of the international campus of Terror University and home to Hizballah’s ‘capital,’ Baalbek.
In the south of Lebanon, the ‘Katyusha Brigades’ are maintaining the most visible sign of Hizballah’s strengths by relentlessly raining rockets down upon northern Israeli cities. Israel looks to sandwich them between forces on the Litani River and the Israeli border as at least 10,000 IDF troops, complete with artillery and air support, look to squeeze them as they move, clearing the area of rockets, launchers and terrorists.
This will be an ugly task and Israeli forces will likely be met with many of the same insurgency tactics employed in Iraq, such as waves of IED attacks on armor and troops. Enter into the equation the brutal close-quarters fighting already displayed by well-trained Hizballah terrorists and it becomes clear that the fight will neither be without cost by any measure nor easy, but one Israel will decidedly win if left unimpeded.
The latest spate of Katyusha rocket attacks into northern Israel should not be interpreted as a show of strength by Hizballah as much as it should be viewed as a state of ‘use it or lose it’ with the coming IDF advance impending.
But when the downpour of Katyusha rockets begins to abate into silence, then what?
This is when the sum effect of Israel’s unrelenting attacks on Hizballah’s established infrastructure throughout the other regions of Lebanon, especially the Bekaa Valley, will finally become visible to those currently focused on Katyushas and Beirut. With the Katyushas destroyed or pushed beyond their useful range - with the possible exception of their surviving ZelZal longer-range missiles and any other unknown assets - Hizballah will be reduced to fighting the Israeli troops who come their way specifically looking for that fight.
It is in the Bekaa Valley that Israel’s second box comes into play. Israel likely seeks to cut off that elbow by taking it on the ground, trapping the ‘Katyusha Brigades’ to the south and stranding much of the rest of Hizballah’s capabilities in the Bekaa Valley above it. It would then become a two-front theater. How – or rather, to what extent - Israel intends to punish Hizballah with any IDF ground assault in the southern Bekaa Valley remains to be seen. Quite possibly, it remains to be determined by the IDF and Israeli leadership as well.
Regardless of what they may or may not have decided, the external imposition of a cease-fire may determine that for them. Hizballah is obviously quite anxious for this to finally occur.
The irony should not be lost in that, while pressing for a ceasefire and negotiations, Nasrallah framed Israel’s assault on Hizballah as a “campaign against our cities, villages, civilians, and infrastructure.” For it is clearly Hizballah who has been targeting Israeli cities, villages and civilians with incessant rocket attacks upon them with warheads filled with anti-personnel projectiles. Unlike parts of Lebanon, with Hizballah intentionally and deeply embedded within the Shi’a civilian population, the only ‘personnel’ in those targeted Israeli villages are civilians. Note that it is not IDF artillery or other troop positions targeted by the 2,000+ Katyushas. Terrorism doesn’t work that way.
Hizballah has created a massive infrastructure of facilities, institutions, networks of tunnels, weapons stores and firing positions deeply seeded among, beneath and behind the civilian population. This choice, rather than the placement of that infrastructure in remote or isolated areas, as its Israeli enemy has, is precisely why attacking Hizballah’s war-making capabilities (infrastructure) results in civilian casualties and the destruction of private property.
While Israel showers the civilians of Lebanese towns with warning leaflets urging evacuation, Hizballah showers civilians of Israeli towns with ball bearings, nails and bolts, hoping for sudden and gruesome death and injury.
But Nasrallah may have dropped a form of leaflets of his own today by warning Israel not to bomb ‘Beirut proper,’ north of the Hizballah-dominated Shi’a suburbs of southern Beirut. He has increasingly spoke with the assumed authority of all Lebanese people and in so warning Israel, he may just have warned the citizens of Beirut proper: “Hizballah is coming to town.” The apparent swell in support for Hizballah may have been interpreted by Nasrallah as a green light to seek new refuge outside the current bounds of Hizballistan.
But, where Hizballah goes, Israel is likely to follow – as evidenced by the bold air assault on Baalbek. Nasrallah and his puppet masters know this and may likely seek to extract greater support through their sacrificing of swaths of the civilian population in ‘Beirut proper,’ banking on the likelihood that they, like the rest of the world, will easily recognize the source of the bombs without due pause to recognize their cause.
This may be the preferred front chosen by Hizballah in hopes of drawing enough international outcry to result in an immediate ceasefire before Israel can properly clamp the vice on their “two boxes” and effectively reduce Hizballah to an operational capacity that leaves northern Israel well beyond Hizballah’s reach.
Yes, Hizballah is on the ropes. The victorious do not sue for ceasefire and negotiation.
The unfortunate truth is that there can be no negotiation with terrorists who ultimately seek to destroy a nation, a people and, eventually, an entire civilization. Yes, the fight is hard. Yes, the fight is ugly. But this is not a reason refuse to engage in a war inspired and begun by aggressors who seek your death and destruction.
That Hizballah chooses not to finish the fight they have wrought is no reason impose a false sense of peace that would allow a battered terrorist organization to replenish resources and once again plot against Israel.
For Israel to accept an immediate ceasefire and withdraw is to cede victory to terrorists and sentence their civilian population to further unprovoked slaughter. This is unacceptable.
The ‘international community’ should reconsider rewarding Nasrallah with precisely what he desires: An immediate ceasefire and negotiations, through which Hizballah can reconstitute, re-arm and, eventually, re-deploy better equipped in pursuit of the destruction of Israel. For, as it stands, his terrorist organization is persistently being slammed with the aerial destruction of its complex infrastructure used to manage the machine and is essentially cut off from Syrian (and thus Iranian) aid. Hizballah’s tools of war are being expended and destroyed with little if any re-supply.
The Hizballah terror machine increasingly starves for resources as the tables have turned on Nasrallah’s pronounced desire for a war of attrition with the IDF. The Peacemakers must be unobstructed while they seek to do the difficult work of neutralizing Hizballah. Who else is willing or able? The UN Peacekeepers?
The world needs to get out of the IDF’s way and allow them to loose the dogs in pursuit of Hizballah.