- Israel's current military operations to uproot Hizballah and to destroy it as a formidable military and terror organization is not merely an operation against another determined terror group like Hamas in Gaza. Hizballah has a disciplined, well-trained army with sophisticated weaponry, backed directly by Syria and Iran.
- A high-level Iranian official recently emphasized to Western diplomats in London Hizballah's importance to Iran: "Hizballah is one of the pillars of our security strategy, and forms Iran's first line of defense against Israel." Walid Jumblatt, the Lebanese Druze leader, shares this perspective: "The war is no longer Lebanon's...it is an Iranian war. Iran is telling the United States: You want to fight me in the Gulf and destroy my nuclear program? I will hit you at home, in Israel."
- Iran's Revolutionary Guards provide the majority of Hizballah's weaponry, financing, instruction, and strategic command and control. Hizballah's short- and medium-range missiles are manufactured in Iran and exported to Lebanon via the Damascus International Airport. Iranian officers from the Revolutionary Guards are on the ground in Lebanon, playing active roles in supervising terror actions and training Hizballah operatives to launch rockets against Israel.
- Hizballah is nothing less than an extension of Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Iran has taken a strategic decision to activate Hizballah terror against Israel in order to preclude the United States and its Western allies from stopping Iran's nuclear development program.
- The only way to defeat an insurgency is to first isolate it from external reinforcement. Israel is seeking to cut off Hizballah from Syria and Iran and isolate it from the rest of Lebanon. Israel must carry out its current military operation against Hizballah until it is fully neutralized and disarmed. It would be nothing short of catastrophic for both Israel and the international community if diplomatic efforts result in Israel being forced to end its military operation prematurely.
Hizballah Has No Red Lines
.... Since Israel's overnight unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, Hizballah built itself into a deterrent military force possessing 13,000 to 15,000 short- and medium-range missiles.....Hizballah - the "Party of God" - has no red lines. Any strategic strike that it can execute, it will execute....
... Hizballah, Syria, and Iran were taken by surprise by the sheer magnitude and intensity of Israel's response to the missile attacks and kidnapping. Nasrallah did not understand what causes a democratic country to act harshly when its red lines are crossed and its citizens are threatened, as Israelis are today. ....
... a high-level Iranian official .... emphasized Hizballah's importance to Iran: "Hizballah is one of the pillars of our security strategy, and forms Iran's first line of defense against Israel. We reject [the claim] that it must be disarmed."
... Walid Jumblatt, the Lebanese Druze leader, shares this perspective: "The war is no longer Lebanon's...it is an Iranian war. Iran is telling the United States: You want to fight me in the Gulf and destroy my nuclear program? I will hit you at home, in Israel."
Hizballah is not an independent actor. Iran's Revolutionary Guards provide the majority of Hizballah's weaponry, financing, instruction, and strategic command and control. Most of Hizballah's terrorist weaponry, particularly short- and medium-range missiles - including the Zalzal missile that can reach as far as Tel Aviv, 150 kilometers from Israel's northern border - are manufactured in Iran and exported to Lebanon via the Damascus International Airport.
Weaponry and materiel are then openly transported by truck convoys to Hizbullah in Lebanon.
According Israeli intelligence, Iranian officers from the Revolutionary Guards are on the ground in Lebanon, playing active roles in supervising terror actions and training Hizballah operatives to launch rockets against Israel.
On July 14, Hizbullah fired an Iranian copy of a Chinese C-802 Kowthar missile at an Israeli warship, killing four crew members. These rockets have been in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' arsenal for four or five years.
Some of Hizballah's weaponry is manufactured by Syria and is provided to the terror organization at the direct order of President Bashar Assad. The rockets in the first barrage that struck the northern city of Haifa on July 16, killing eight Israelis, were manufactured and supplied by Syria. Other medium-range Syrian and Iranian missiles are also in Hizballah's stockpile but have yet to be used against Israel.
Dimensions of the Conflict
On a macro level, there are three dimensions to the current war against Hizballah:
... it is abundantly clear that Israel cannot allow Hizballah to return to its former positions in southern Lebanon. The Lebanese army must be deployed to ensure that southern Lebanon remains free of Hizballah control.
Second, Hizballah cannot be allowed to be the driving force that decides, whenever it so chooses, together with its Syrian and Iranian patrons, to inflame the Middle East. In this sense, Israel's current war in Lebanon is not punitive; it is strategic. The Israeli air force has struck the main arteries for the transfer of weapons to Hizballah from Syria and Iran through Beirut International Airport, all Lebanese seaports, and across the Beirut-Damascus highway from the east, which has served as one of Hizballah's main lines of weapons transport....
... Thus, Hizballah is being cut off from Syria and Iran and isolated from the rest of Lebanon. Hizballah has waged an insurgency against Israel from the mini-state it has created inside of Lebanon. The only way to defeat an insurgency is to first isolate it from external reinforcement. That is what Israel is seeking to do.
In a second phase, the insurgency must be disarmed. In this regard, the international community must enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1559 that imposes the obligations of state sovereignty and responsibility on Lebanon to force the Hizballah to disarm, as even French President Jacques Chirac has demanded.
The third and broader dimension of the escalating conflict is that Hizballah is nothing less than an extension of Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Iran has taken a strategic decision to activate Hizballah terror against Israel in order to preclude the United States and its Western allies from stopping Iran's nuclear development program. The uprooting of Hizballah's military capacity will neutralize one of Iran's most dangerous and valuable deterrent threats against any country that attempts to act against Tehran's nuclear weapons program.
The Stakes for Israel and the West
Israel must carry out its current military operation against Hizballah until it is fully neutralized, disarmed, and unable to serve as Iran's long "arm" that can bring terror upon Israel and destabilize the Middle East region at will. The current Israeli victims of Hizballah terror will not have sacrificed their lives in vain if Israel conducts its war to an uncompromising victory. However, if Hizballah is allowed to remain a military force in Lebanon or even an armed presence in southern Lebanon, Israel will have indeed sacrificed its soldiers and citizens in vain, and will also suffer similar attacks in the future.
Furthermore, it is a primary interest of the international community that Hizballah be fully neutralized as a military extension of Iran. Only a full victory against Hizballah will allow the possibility for Lebanon to emerge as a free and democratic country. This is also in line with the Bush Administration's vision of helping the peoples of the Middle East to free themselves of tyrannical and fundamentalist elements and prevent the threat to the region of a nuclear Iran.
This underscores the regional and international importance of Israel's current mission.
Any Syrian or Iranian forces or advisors in Lebanon are legitimate targets for Israel. Israel must send a clear message to Bashar Assad that it will not accept any Syrian interference in Lebanon. However, while Israel should not open up a front against Syria at this juncture, if Syrian forces show any type of movement, Israel must be ready to engage them.
The duration of the current war depends on Israel, Lebanon, and the international community. .... the war does not have to last very long. But if Israel is pressured to stop its operations, this acute conflict will indeed last a long time.
... if Israel's air force fails to stop Hizballah rocket assaults, Israel may be forced to send in substantial ground forces to control the areas from which rockets are being launched. This real possibility would have far-reaching implications in terms of potential losses for the IDF and for the citizens of Lebanon.
No less significant is Israel's readiness to absorb damage to its home front. ...Israel is showing great fortitude and national will.
Iran's Ongoing War Against the West
Even if Israel is successful in destroying the Hizballah infrastructure, Iran will not be deterred in its ongoing war against the West, for Hizballah's attacks on Israel represent Iran's strategic decision to launch what it sees as a counter-offensive against the West following America's post 9/11 attacks on the regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. ..... if Hizballah is neutralized in the current conflict, Iran will have lost a major asset in its ongoing struggle against the West.
The Diplomatic Front
In order to achieve its war objectives, Israel must succeed on the diplomatic front in addition to the battlefield. It would be nothing short of catastrophic for both Israel and the international community if diplomatic efforts result in Israel being forced to end its military operation prematurely. Furthermore, it is incumbent on the international community, which last year demanded that the Syrian army withdraw from Lebanon, to provide the necessary assistance to Lebanon that will ensure that Hizballah is disbanded as a military force, and this must be the highest international priority.
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Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, Program Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs, is former commander of the IDF's National Defense College and the IDF Staff and Command College. He is also the former head of the IDF's research and assessment division, with special responsibility for preparing the National Intelligence Assessment. In addition, he served as the military secretary of the Minister of Defense.
Dan Diker is a senior policy analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and heads its Defensible Borders Initiative. He also serves as Knesset correspondent and analyst for the Israel Broadcasting Authority's English News.