[Marxism] LEBANON: Key Issue: will Israeli send in troops, door-to-door? (WSJ)
walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Jul 17 21:40:10 MDT 2006
(The biggest issue in world politics now is the Israeli attacks on
Lebanon and everything which flows from that. Tonight's edition of
the Cuban news analysis program, the Mesa Redonda [Round Table]
was completely devoted to looking at these developments. It was as
well the lead story on the Cuban national news which follows the
Mesa Redonda, and was furthermore the lead story on Telesur which
follows the evening news cast. It had been the lead on the mid-day
news program as well at 1:00 PM, and was the top story in today's
print publications here as well. It really DOES seem that we are
on the cusp of World War III if nothing is done to rein in those
Israelis. Washington continues to make it know that, as far as the
U.S. government is concerned, "go for it" is the slogan of the day.
(This WALL STREET JOURNAL analysis, from the front page of today's
paper, tells us a great deal about what is now unfolding, and its
lessons are generally applicable in many other places. No matter
the fact that "Israel enjoys vast military superiority", the fact
is Israel has not sent in troops to Lebanon, and is "relying" on
air power to try to terrorize the people of Lebanon. But why have
the Israeli's NOT sent in soldiers on the ground, the only way a
country can ultimately be subdued? I'm guessing that they are so
afraid of the killed, wounded and captures which the Israeli army
would suffer, that they are avoiding doing this as much as it can
be avoided. With Hezbollah having fired a thousand missiles into
Israel, and having over ten times more of such weapons, the ONLY
option Israel has is to invade Lebanon and go after the Hezbollah
house-to-house, door-to-door and to even engage in hand-to-hand
fighting. This will make Hadith look like a picnic by comparison,
and, unlike Hadith, will result in significant Israeli soldiers
being killed, wounded, and, God Forbid, CAPTURED by Hezbollah.
(So, are the Israelis prepared to take this terrifying step?
THAT would make Sabra and Shatila look like mere child's play.)
July 17, 2006
Key Issue in Lebanon Fighting:
How to Stop Hezbollah Rockets
To Find Them Might Require
Entailing Many Casualties
The Risk of a Widening War
By KARBY LEGGETT
July 17, 2006; Page A1
WALL STREET JOURNAL
Country Troops Tanks Aircraft Artillery Systems
Israel 625,000 3,700 650 2,800 Up
to 100 systems
Iran 520,000 1,500 300 2,300
Syria 215,000 4,700 600 3,700 Over
Lebanon 60,000 300 N/A N/A N/A
As its powerful campaign of air strikes in Lebanon over five days
shows, Israel enjoys vast military superiority over its Hezbollah foe
in Lebanon. Yet that superiority is ill-suited for the one thing the
Israelis most seek to do right now: Stop Hezbollah's rockets. And in
that shortcoming lies a danger of a widening war.
Since the crisis began on Wednesday with Hezbollah's kidnapping of
two Israeli soldiers, leading to Israel's military response,
Hezbollah has fired more than 1,000 rockets and missiles into Israel.
They've been landing ever deeper inside.
Sunday, one hit a railway depot in the Israeli port of Haifa, some 20
miles from the Lebanese border, and killed eight Israelis. Other
rockets later struck several communities in Israel's Jezreel Valley
area, marking Hezbollah's deepest strike inside the country yet.
The Israeli military has largely been unable to stop these strikes.
The reason is that unlike conventional armies, Hezbollah doesn't keep
its weapons in armories. It hides them in the homes of supporters, in
remote valleys and caves, and in small factories and industrial
workshops scattered across Lebanon, according to Israeli and Lebanese
military experts and the group itself. Ardent members willing to die
for the movement are assigned to protect these sites, many of which
are said to be booby-trapped.
"There are no Hezbollah bases anywhere. So the only way to find the
weapons is to go on foot and look for them," said Timur Goksel, a
former United Nations official who lives in Beirut and has tracked
Hezbollah's military capabilities for two decades.
That reality underscores the core conundrum Israel now faces:
Defeating Hezbollah means tracking down and destroying its enormous
supply of rockets and missiles, estimated at roughly 13,000 in all.
Yet to do so Israeli soldiers would likely need to search
house-by-house and cave-by-cave throughout the hostile territory of
southern Lebanon, many military officials and analysts here say.
This could lead to a huge number of Lebanese civilian casualties and
cost the lives of many Israeli soldiers. It could spark strong
international controversy and condemnation.
One risk in the coming days is that the sides will remain locked in a
series of escalating strikes. If so, some observers here worry Israel
may decide that the only way to rein in Hezbollah is to attack Syria
and possibly even Iran. Those two countries have long been
Hezbollah's primary supporters, providing the group with the bulk of
its weapons and aid.
A senior Israeli politician suggested Hezbollah's main foreign
sponsors may not be beyond Israel's reach. "We place full
responsibility for this crisis on Syria and Iran," said Isaac Herzog,
a member of Israel's security cabinet. "We are not ruling out any
operation and we will not forget who is responsible."
At the Group of Eight meeting in St. Petersburg, key European allies
joined the U.S. in beating back a Russian attempt to have the G-8
formally lay the blame on Israel for its assault of Lebanon. What
emerged was an American-crafted compromise by the industrialized
nations blaming "extremist elements" for triggering the violence and
issuing a call for Israel to exercise "utmost restraint." The
communique demanded that the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas
return a total of three abducted Israeli soldiers and halt their
rocket attacks into Israel. (G-8 Mideast statement6)
"The immediate crisis results from efforts by extremist forces to
destabilize the region and to frustrate the aspirations of the
Palestinian, Israeli and Lebanese people for democracy and peace,"
the statement said. "These extremist elements and those that support
them cannot be allowed to plunge the Middle East into chaos and a
wider conflict." (Also in St. Petersburg, a U.S.-Russia summit
exposed strains in the relationship.7)
The G-8 statement highlighted an unusual aspect of the current
Mideast crisis: The U.S. and its European allies, who often find
themselves on opposite sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict, appear to
now be in general agreement that most of the blame for the current
violence rests with Hezbollah and its allies in Syria and Iran. That
suggests that Israel has a window of opportunity to continue its
military strikes against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon.
The G-8 statement came as United Nations officials reached Beirut and
began working on ways to defuse the crisis. Vijay Nambiar, U.N.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special political adviser, voiced
support for a weekend pledge from Lebanonese Prime Minister Fouad
Sinoria to deploy the Lebanese army along the southern border, where
Hezbollah now operates independently. Though Israel has long demanded
such a shift, Israeli officials said Mr. Sinoria's offer fell short
because it failed to address the question of Hezbollah's weapons.
Hezbollah itself is part of the Lebanese governing coalition, holding
two cabinet ministries.
Over the weekend, the Lebanese army opened fire on an Israeli jet,
raising the possibility that the Lebanese government armed forces
could be dragged into the fight but on Hezbollah's side. Early this
morning, Israel struck two Lebanese military bases along the
country's northern coast, killing at least nine Lebanese soldiers.
Speaking on Hezbollah's TV station Sunday, Hassan Nasrallah,
Hezbollah's leader, said the campaign against Israel was "just
beginning." A senior Syrian official said any attack by Israel would
be met with a "harsh and direct response."
In a late-night conference call, senior U.S. officials said the Bush
administration was considering proposals that would have a U.N. force
of some kind deploy along the Israel-Lebanon border. The U.S.
officials said that such a "monitoring force" could help allow Israel
to end its counteroffensive with confidence that Hezbollah wouldn't
resume attacks. "This could be a way to resolve the crisis by giving
confidence to Israel that Hezbollah couldn't send rockets," said R.
Nicholas Burns, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.
"Unless Israel knows Hezbollah has been pushed back, it won't have
any confidence" about ending the assault, he added.
Events over the weekend underscored this risk, turning what had
largely been a theoretical threat into a concrete menace. After two
days of punishing Israeli aerial attacks, Hezbollah militants late
Friday night fired a sophisticated missile at an Israeli warship
stationed some 15 miles off Lebanon's coast. Officers on the warship,
a command-and-control vessel that also ferries helicopters into the
battle zone, apparently failed to turn on its electronic antimissile
system, some Israeli news organizations reported.
The missile made a direct hit, engulfing the ship in flames. Another
Israeli warship saved the vessel from sinking by towing it to an
Israeli port. Four Israeli soldiers died in the attack, Israel's
Israel responded with a new round of aerial bombardment. It attacked
Hezbollah strongholds in south Beirut, including compounds frequented
by Mr. Nasrallah, Hezbollah's leader.
Seven Canadians were killed Sunday in an Israeli air raid that hit a
Lebanese town near the border with Israel, Canadian and Lebanese
officials said. Three other Canadians injured, Canada's foreign
Sunday, both sides were preparing for another round of heavy attacks.
In the north, Israel deployed a battery of antimissile rockets. Known
as the Patriot, the defense system was last deployed during the Iraq
war in 2003, to guard against Iraq Scud missiles. (The Patriot wasn't
used then because no Scuds arrived.) The Patriot doesn't work against
Calls for restraint seemed unlikely to have much immediate effect.
Indeed, as the situation escalated, fear was growing that Israel's
campaign against Hezbollah could reverberate across the region in
ways that would complicate the U.S. goal of spreading democracy in
That includes Iraq, where the U.S. is struggling to tamp down
violence and create a stable government. A Shiite Islamist group,
Hezbollah has close ideological and religious ties to Shiite Muslim
groups in Iraq. Those groups are in turn part of a tentative alliance
with the U.S. military that is fighting a Sunni Muslim-dominated
insurgency. Now, with Israel's attacks on Lebanon inflaming public
opinion across the Arab world, some feared a prolonged conflict could
deal a serious blow to efforts to stabilize Iraq.
Even so, Israeli officials vowed Sunday to expand their offensive in
Lebanon further and said Hezbollah's missiles would be the prime
target. "We are working in a surgical manner to eliminate every
single Hezbollah site," said Mr. Herzog, the Israeli cabinet
Finding and destroying the missiles and rockets promises to be a
gargantuan task that would take months to complete. The vast majority
have short to medium ranges, traveling about 10 to 20 miles,
according to senior Israel military officials and Lebanese military
Some, however, can fly well over 100 miles, putting Israel's largest
population centers at risk. Israeli military officials say they fear
Iran may have provided Hezbollah with even longer-range missiles in
recent months. The Israeli military warned residents as far south as
Tel Aviv to be on alert for Hezbollah strikes.
Short of a ground offensive and door-to-door search, it's unclear how
Israel would eliminate the threat. Most of Hezbollah's missiles are
tucked deep inside Shiite villages and towns that are overwhelmingly
aligned with the militant group. Those loyalties are underlined by
myriad colorful posters plastered on walls and billboards throughout
Shiite villages in the south. The posters all praise Hezbollah for
its role in fighting Israel. In many of these towns, Hezbollah
controls the local government and provides a broad range of social
services, including education and medical services. Hezbollah
fighters are often awarded celebrity status.
Most of the short-range missiles held in these towns are said to be
stored in wooden crates that are easily transported. Mr. Goksel, the
former U.N. official, said Hezbollah militants regularly move the
weapons to launch sites in cars, station wagons and vans. After
setting up launch pads, often camouflaged by trees and underbrush,
they attach makeshift timers, such as digital watches, and drive away
before the missiles are fired.
"It's a big problem for us," said a senior Israeli military official
Sunday, referring to Hezbollah's short-range missiles. "The launchers
pop up only for a few minutes before the rocket goes... We just can't
get to them all."
Among the problems Israel's military must grapple with is control
over the Syria-Lebanon border. That area, which includes the vast
Bekaa Valley, has long been one of Hezbollah's main conduits for
bringing its missiles into Lebanon. Large stretches of it remain
unguarded and open to smugglers, suggesting Hezbollah may find a way
to replenish its missile stocks.
Mr. Herzog, the Israeli cabinet minister, said the military was
urging residents of southern Lebanon to evacuate their homes ahead of
a new Israeli bombing campaign. Asked if Israel was also mulling a
ground offensive in the area, he declined to comment.
Israel's military campaign has been its most intense in nearly three
decades, enforcing a complete naval blockade of Lebanon and targeting
hundreds of roads, bridges, as well as Beirut's main airport and
harbor. The raids have killed more than 100 Lebanese civilians.
At the G-8 meeting in Russia, none of the European countries backed
Israel as strongly as the U.S., and several mixed condemnations of
Hezbollah with expressions of concern about the scope of the Israeli
offensive and the number of civilian casualties in Lebanon. Still,
the public statements of most of the G-8 leaders seemed to closely
mirror the Bush administration's demands that the government of
Lebanon take stronger steps to disarm Hezbollah and prevent it from
launching attacks on Israel from Lebanese territory.
In a joint appearance with President Bush, for instance, French
President Jacque Chirac stressed the need for "the to-the-letter
implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559," which two years
ago called for Hezbollah to disarm. British Prime Minister Tony
Blair, meanwhile, echoed American language accusing Iran and Syria of
contributing to the violence through their military and financial
support of Hezbollah.
The diplomatic push to end the Lebanese violence came amid signs that
the effort to persuade Iran to drop its nuclear program might be
bearing some fruit. Major powers agreed last week to refer Iran to
the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions. For weeks they got
no response from Tehran to an offer of economic incentives and direct
talks with the U.S. if Iran drops plans to enrich uranium. But on
Sunday, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said Iran considered
the offer from the U.S. and its European allies to be "an acceptable
basis" for resuming negotiations and urged the coalition not to refer
the matter to the world body.
--Yochi Dreazen in Strelna, Russia, contributed to this article.
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