Thursday, August 03, 2006

A longer war than they think...

Ehud Olmert gave an interview to the Times of London. I'd like to highlight two excerpts. First, the last question and answer:
Q: So you can have all your old colonial powers back?

A: Not in Israel. In Lebanon.
That sort of brash answer is a substantial miscalculation. But, not the only miscalculation from Olmert. (My numerials)
Q: How has the military campaign gone?

A: I think that the military campaign has been brilliant. Let put things in some perspective. I don't know of any army in modern history which has done near what we did against a guerrilla organisation. 1.) You will recall how the Russians coped with the terrorism in Afghanistan. They pulled out and ran away. Russia, not at the time of Putin, Yeltsin and Gorbachev. In the good old times when Russia was Russia [ironically] and they couldn't care less about world reaction, about internal reaction, and when they could do everything they wanted and they ran away from a terrorist organisation. A big, giant, world power, Russia. Look how difficult it is for the allied forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why? Because you don’t fight big formats.

If Lebanon as a country had been the target within half an hour there wouldn't have been any air fields, any planes, any tanks, anything, and that would be it. Here you fight against an organisation which, for years and years and years, were getting the most sophisticated, modern weapons that can be operated by one or two persons. They don't need big units, they don't need armies.

They just need a few operators without even uniforms that can press the button of the timer, of the launcher and then with a motorcycle go to another launcher and press the timer again and then to a third and press the timer again and then you have 50 rockets falling on different parts of your country and then they hide in bunkers and caves that they built for years.

Can you imagine that on the first night Israel destroyed tens and tens of these launchers that were hidden in private homes spread all over the south of Lebanon and due to the enormous, unbelievable intelligence we knew in every village which home they had these launchers and we succeeded in hitting that particular home and not all the neighbouring ones, in tens of different locations.

We destroyed most of the launchers of the longer range missiles, again due to unbelievable intelligence. We also destroyed 700 targets that served as command positions, as logistical positions, as storage houses as offices of Hezbollah across Lebanon. So I think that the army operation was very successful.

It is enough to look at the face of Nasrallah to know one thing. 2.) That it doesn’t matter how many Katyusha short range rockets he still possesses, had he been able to reverse it to square one and not to start it altogether he would have done it immediately. I think he will live to regret what has developed of what he thought would be something entirely different.

Number one, the 3.) Hezbollah lost entirely their status in the political structure of Lebanon. Number two, they lost their position amongst the moderate Arab countries. For Hezbollah to hear that Saudi Arabia is opposed to them is a blow in the heart, and so is Abu Dhabi and 4.) Jordan and Egypt. This is a dramatic development of historical proportions, let alone the rest of the international community.

If indeed at the end of this they will be forced out of the south of Lebanon they will therefore not have direct contact with the Israeli border then they have lost a strategic asset.

“One can say ‘but still they are shooting rockets’. We are not dumb. We knew from day one that no matter how successful we would be there would always be rockets of enough range to reach Israel, if not from Lebanon from Syria.

No-one can seriously argue that we genuinely thought that at the end of this operation Israel will not be threatened potentially by missiles.

It’s whether or not Hezbollah and the Syrians and all the others would be quick to assume that 5.) it’s worthwhile to shoot rockets or missiles at Israel or they will think twice, three and five times before they dare enter into this again after the experience with Lebanon considering what was the response of Israel and how long we have been ready to endure these attacks and to fight back.

And therefore I think that in the long run this is a dramatic defeat for Hezbollah and for the Iranians that manipulated them. I think the Iranians as well as Hezbollah made a dramatic error of judgement, which is the source of all this failure. And this error of judgement was that Israel would not respond in the way that we did.
Now the miscalculations.

1.) Olmert compares the Israeli action, at this point still limited and only about three weeks old, to a more substantial and longer lasting war. Russia occupied all of Afghanistan for years. Israel has just begun to take bites out of Lebanon.

2.) His assumption that Nasrallah would reverse all of the past three weeks, if he could, is nothing but a guess. CNN:
BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Thursday vowed to strike Tel Aviv in retaliation for Israel's bombardment of Lebanon's capital, Beirut.

"If you hit Beirut, the Islamic resistance will hit Tel Aviv and is able to do that with God's help," Nasrallah said in a televised address.
Nasrallah may just be bluffing. But, I fear he has much more fight in him than Olmert realizes.

3.) Olmert claims that Nasrallah and Hezbollah are now without status; "Hezbollah lost entirely their status in the political structure of Lebanon." Hezbollah, according to all reports I have read, has actually gained in popular support. If any faction has lost its political status, it is the Lebanese government.

4.) The claim that the moderate states have been harsh toward Hezbollah is now unwound by Israel's extensive attacks. Olmert mentions Jordan. Here's the latest from that king, BBC:
King Abdullah of Jordan has publicly criticised the United States and Israel over the fighting in Lebanon.

He told Jordanian newspapers he was enraged by the war, and that continued fighting only weakened the voice of Middle East moderates such as himself.

He argued Israel's attempt to destroy the militant Hezbollah group would not solve problems in the region.

He stressed the only way to achieve peace was to end the Israeli occupation of Arab lands.
Stories like this, in the New York Daily News, will not help Olmert's moderate Arab supporters:
TYRE, Lebanon - Lebanese authorities were prepared to bury almost 90 people yesterday in this city's third mass funeral, but called off the unceremonious rite because of heavy bombing in the area.
Civil Defense troops spent the morning placing the bodies in simple wooden coffins, on which they wrote the deceased's name and town where they died with a black marker. The coffins of those who could not be identified were marked with an "X."

But as the morning dragged into the afternoon, the planned funeral was aborted as Israeli bombings resumed just a few miles away. Hezbollah rockets were also being fired from the northernmost point yet during the conflict.

"Today was going to be calm, but Israel has weapons that they want to try out on us," said Abdul Mohsen el-Husseini, Tyre's mayor.
5.) At present, Hezbollah appears to still believe rocket attacks are wise. AP:
At least 100 rockets hit northern Israel in a matter of minutes during a deadly barrage, police said, and air raid sirens rang out across northern Israel. Meanwhile, Hezbollah's chief spokesman said that his group will not agree to a cease-fire until all Israeli troops leave Lebanon.

The Hezbollah rocket attacks killed six people on Thursday and injured many others, Israeli rescue officials said. There were conflicting reports about whether children were among the dead.
I believe Olmert, Bush and Blair have not properly calculated their enemy. The Asia Times Online has had two stories in recent days that depict Hezbollah as resilient and developing an insurgency. Yesterday. Today.

An excerpt from Yesterday:
In Iraq, after the US-led invasion, people decided at the neighborhood level to form bands of resistance. These turned into Islamic groups, which in turn melted into the broader resistance.

The Lebanese street, certainly in the south, appears much the same. But a trustworthy organization - Hezbollah - is already on the ground and people only need to join forces with this broad resistance.

The next step, therefore, is for this resistance of Lebanon to become a part of the international anti-US Islamic movement. The Israelis were warned.
A similar account from the Washington Post:
Three weeks into its war with Israel, Hezbollah has retained its presence in southern Lebanon, often the sole authority in devastated towns along the Israeli border. The militia is elusive, with few logistics, little hierarchy and less visibility. Even residents often say they don't know how the militiamen operate or are organized. Communication is by walkie-talkie, always in code, and sometimes messages are delivered by motorcycle. Weapons seem to be already in place across a terrain that fighters say they know intimately.

"On the ground, face to face, we're better fighters than the Israelis," said Hajj Abu Mohammed, a bearded, 44-year-old militiaman in the small village of Srifa, whose walkie-talkie crackled and cellphone rang with a Hezbollah anthem.

Israel has claimed to have destroyed Hezbollah's infrastructure in a 22-day campaign that has driven hundreds of thousands of civilians from their homes and wrecked village after village along valleys sometimes charred by fires.

Hezbollah admits to having suffered losses, but in the fighting so far, it has demonstrated its detailed planning since the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, ending an 18-year occupation. Fighters appear to exercise a great deal of autonomy, a flexibility evident along the region's back roads: ammunition loaded in cars, trucks in camouflage, rocket launchers tucked in banana plantations.

Analysts say the militia could probably hold out a month without serious resupply. Fighters and supporters suggest that time is their advantage in a war that most suspect won't have a conclusive end. In conversations in southern Lebanon, the militia's supporters seem most adamant in trying to deprive either Israel or the United States of political gains from the military campaign.
Any robust and capable insurgency -- even one lasting just months -- can derail Israel's established exit strategy of a 15,000 strong international force.

At that point, Israel becomes the occupier, not just the conquerer.

2 Comments:

Blogger Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

Hi there,

Read this article by Gary Brecher on the Lebanese-Israeli war

Powerful stuff

8:07 PM  
Blogger mikevotes said...

That's a good post.

Mike

2:37 PM  

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