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09 August 2006

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Chris Bray

I've read about guerillas from the Tamil Tigers visiting the Bekaa Valley to train with Hezbollah, and members of the IRA meeting with Colombian narcoterrorists to trade notes. It seems to me that the learning model for organizations like Hezbollah is probably more of a conversation than a relationship between Iranian teachers and Lebanese students, or anything like that. Isn't it possible that a whole international community is meeting in partnership to brainstorm approaches to fighting against the American way of war, which Israel -- more about this in a moment - seems to have adopted. This model of tactical and strategic discussion would bring people with different interests and ideologies together around a common goal. I would bet good money that al-Qaeda's leaders have all read the PLA's book on "Unrestricted Warfare." So Hezbollah may just be benefitting from a long and more general exchange of ideas and plans.

Also, I wonder if American military support of Israel hasn't come with an unrecognized cost, imposing our own idiotic, hardware-centric model of warfare on a historically tough army.

david frost

I would offer that it is communication, home turf advantage and clarity of purpose that is giving Hezbollah some success. This is their home turf, and they have had time to prepare, but their greatest gift is that they have developed a good C&C structure with good communications.

Reporters always mention how a civilian type guy with a radio or cell phone is always nearby checking things out and then they disappear just as rapidly to report to their local leader. They clearly have situational awareness when it comes to moving assets before the IAF comes in to bomb them.

The IDF on the other hand probably get conflicting orders all the time down their chain of command reacting to the days political pressures. Their goals and tactics change daily.

I'll wait till more information comes up about tunnel networks and bunkers, like was mentioned before, exaggerating your enemies prowess often starts at the front line and gets repeated to reporters eager to break news.

I think there is irony that in today's hi-tech warfare, that vehicles (tanks and APC's) have become more of a liability due to the increasinly accurate nature of shoulder launched ordinance and the large target they present.

John in LA

I think Nabil is right. We're wasting a lot of energy trying to track the evidentiary source of Hizbullah tactics/materials.

They fight with Russian equipment and Viet Cong tactics. That's not rocket science. And if we can "prove" that they came from Syria and Iran -- well, that's blindingly obvious as well.

And so what? We provide Israel with cluster bombs, white phosphorous, satellite intel, F-16s and nuclear weapons!

What I don't fully understand is their will to fight. And I might say that, regardless of their motivation, one has to admire their tenacity.

The Palestinians I get -- The Israelis stole their land and I'd be fighting Israelis too.

But the Hizbollah don't want to occupy Israel.

Clearly, they want to occupy Beirut and make a Shia/fundamentalist Islamic State. And they correctly surmised -- the politics has really been artful -- that to lure the Israelis into a killbox they could achieve that goal.

Plus--when they send up a flare for the Shia of Iraq to declare war on U.S. "occupiers" -- well, you can forsee almost anything -- revisitation of the Iraqi claim (not without logic) to Kuwait; Palestinian overthrow of the Hashemite dictatorship/monarchy; Hamas declaration of an Islamic State in New Jordan....and all we (the US) is left with is the mid-twentieth century petro dictatorships of the soft-palms Sheikhs and the mid 20th-century Pinochet-style Police dictatorship in Egypt.

Oh...you say you wanted a clean break?

Keone  Michaels

As usual, well said despite some details in question, the money para is right at the end:

"It begins to sound like an historic battle in the making. The intention seems to have been clear. It was to lure the Israelis into an attritional battle."

The implications are pretty intense.

Alex

If this is the Tabouleh Line, and the next one is the Shawarma Line, would it be true to say that Hezbollah are drawing the Israelis into a hoummous?

mike

I agree with those above who speculate that the bunkers are a homegrown effort. It does not take a rocket scientist to design bunkers (even concrete ones). As for the air conditioning in fighting bunkers, my suspicions are that something was lost in translation. It was probably meant to mean some type of primitive air circulation system. A bunkered hospital or aid station on the other hand may possibly have been built with AC.

However, I do believe someone in HA has been studying American military history - both Iwo Jima where we suffered 26,000 casualties (4,000 more than the defending japanese), and possibly Cowpens if speculation above re Hezbollan phase lines with different tactics at each line is correct.

PS - Michael: I do not get the "Shaddoks" reference. Please excuse my density, but my only point of reference is a pomelo - WTH???

chew2

Pat,

"These fellows have had a lot of help from someone. One does not learn how to organize and plan a deliberate defense like this from reading a few books. They may have learned a good deal by reading about construction of such positions but the "art" of integrating all this into a coherent whole probably required outside help. I would "vote" for the Iranians as "helpers."

Great analyses. I really appreciate your insight.


But I don't think you are giving Hizbullah enough credit. They operate a whole civilian infrustructure, and large construction companies that rebuilt much of Lebanon. They are not technically simple rubes. They successfully fought a long guerilla war against the Israeli occupation. Since then they have been trading shots with the Israelis and anticipating their countermoves over the last 6 years. I don't think Iranian or Syrian or Russian military doctrine has much to tell them about how to fight Israel. Although they no doubt need training in operating the advanced weaponry they've been supplied with.

You seem to believe this is some prepared defense in depth. Perhaps it is nothing more than guerilla tactics, from prepared hiding places. It's hard to tell whether HB is really defending fixed positions or not.

The one question I have is whether Hizbullah still has an effective centralized command and control capability. Or whether all of this fighting is taking place on an independent decentralized basis. The fact that Hizbullah mostly stopped its rocket attacks during the 48 hour "cease fire" suggests HB still has some means of communicating with the field. Frankly I am surprised that their command and control remains so effective.

W. Patrick Lang

Alex

Closer to Beirut the Israelis may encounter the "Gucci Line."

pl

zanzibar

While negotiations flag, Israel’s cabinet has approved a wider, 30-day military campaign in Lebanon. “It’s going to be very bloody,” an Israeli official told me today. “The diplomacy is dead.”

And the confrontation to come could make this one look like a sideshow. As summer turns to autumn we are likely to see the Hizbullah proxy war morph into an even uglier fight between the United States and Israel, on one side, and Iran, on the other. Israeli officials are increasingly forthright in saying that their current effort to neutralize Hizbullah, and Washington’s eager endorsement of this effort, is part of a larger strategic campaign being waged against Iran, one of Hizbullah’s chief sponsors, at a time when Tehran is getting fearfully feisty.

I don't know how much credence there is in this report and others with a similar theme on the plan to widen the conflict to Iran. But I suspect there is something to it for such stories to constantly be circulated in our corporate media. The Judy Miller's and the WMD in Iraq stories are always a reminder that someone is planting these stories for a reason. I just hope that they are just stories and only for the purpose of racheting up the rhetoric as a backdrop to this November's congressional elections. Anything further will be sheer insanity IMO.

julie

The Washington Post indicated that the Israeli public opposes an expanded ground war. Evidently they want victory without casualties.

Israeli leaflets have evidently explicitely warned Lebanon that will make war on all the Lebanese people rather than doing so and having their supporters say that they only destroy rockets.

Margaret Steinfels

Somewhat tangential: I am reading Thomas Ricks, "Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq." So many accounts of military mistakes--at almost every level--reported, it seems by the military itself and after-action reports.

Two questions:
First, what do the professional soldiers make of Ricks' book?
Second, has the IDF been training with the U.S. military (neocon division), helping to explain in Lebanon its poor showing, lack of over-all strategic planning, and inadequate intelligence gathering?

BadTux

Thing is, HA is not really using advanced weaponry. The most advanced weapon we've seen so far has been upgraded Saggers with Iran's new two-stage warheads. These are literally 1950's vintage anti-tank rockets. The Katyusha rockets they're firing at Israel are basically a WWII design that is so simple that it can be manufactured (other than its detonater) in any well-equipped workshop using nothing more than hand tools. These weapons may *seem* advanced compared to the rocks and rifles that Israel has been up against on the West Bank and Gaza, but really, we're talking 40 year old technology here.

The most advanced weapon which Iran is reputed to have supplied HA is the Iranian clone of the Chinese clone of the Stinger missile, which is itself a 1970's-era weapon. However, if so, it hasn't been used yet, because it appears antiquated SA-7's are the extent of what they've used against the Israelies so far (SA-7's are only useful from the rear aspect of departing enemy at low altitude, and have a tendency to hit hot spots on hills and such rather than their target). SA-7's are 1960's technology.

So it appears that 40-year-old technology is the newest technology that HA is using against the Israelis. Their innovations in Lebanon are tactical, not technological. Everything they're using was available in 1973 the last time Israel fought an Arab army, and Israel was supposed to know how to deal with that.

-BT

taters

Col. Lang,
I always thought the term "Gucci Guerillas" referring to Chablabi and his crew was very apt. Did you coin that, by chance?

confusedponderer

No matter how good HB really is, I see a clear incentive on the Israeli side to make them somewhat bigger than life to justify their somewhat embarassing shortcomings, given their reputation.

IMO somewhat like the British tendency to make the Germans larger than life to gloss over own shortcomings at the beginning of the war. Maybe that's neccessary to maintain morale.

And as for German engineers ... gimme a break. That's all so holocaust/ axis-of-evil-ish. Germans again aiding killers of Jews! Evildoers from Iran, NK, Syria uniting with HB against Israel and the West! Geez ... all the standard themes.

Despite all my scepticism I think that HB is underestimated. They have considerable experience, the will and time to learn lessons, good light infantry training, good small unit cohesion, quite probably skilled and experienced leaders and the will to fight.
They differ from folks like the Taleban season campaigners in that they are indeed seasoned campaigners. That's probably enough to give a good fight.

W. Patrick Lang

Margaret

That conference at Fordham seems eerily prophetic.

The general consensus among soldiers is that "Cobra 2," "Fiasco" "Assassin's Gate" are all accurate depictions of events past. In reading these books one must sort out which things are military mistakes and which are the mistakes of the civilian government.

The professional officer corps has no control whatever over US foreign policy and so compartments its collectve mind to get on with the job and not obsess over things it can not control.

As for the IDF and the US forces it is arguable as to which group has been the teacher. pl

pbrownlee

Things are not exactly rosy at the IDF command level:

"Senior officers in the Northern Command were harshly critical yesterday of Halutz's decision to place Kaplinsky over Adam as de facto commander of fighting in the north. They also slammed the government's conduct in the affair.

"According to the officers, Adam showed 'loyalty to the system under the very difficult circumstances that were created. He gets a lot of support from us, his subordinates, and for now he will probably stay at his job until the end of the war. But he has a bellyfull against Halutz and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and there's no doubt that when things calm down, he'll express his opinions'.

"Adam said yesterday to his subordinates, 'the important thing now is to win the war. We'll have time later to deal with this saga'.

"The officers added that 'a smear campaign' had been directed against Adam over the past few weeks,'to blame him for all the failures of the war'. It was carried out, the officers said, in a way that was 'mean and low'. They said the purpose was clear: 'to cover all kinds of mistakes that other people made and to turn the GOC into a scapegoat'. According to the officers, 'Adam may be accused of all kinds of things. But the claims that he doesn't understand tactics, that he was lacking in knowledge and is not a real leader, are false'."

More at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/748515.html

Sound familiar?

BTW you've reached the Gucci Line when the bad guys wear tasselled loafers.

Montag

It's like the old joke about tic-tac-toe--the only winning move is to refuse to play.Are you ready for this? On TV an Israeli "expert" was being interviewed and he insisted that the IDF failures were due to them facing "a regular Iranian division." If there was ever a case of a propaganda machine exceeding the speed limit, this is it. Oh yeah, thousands of Iranian soldiers would really BLEND IN in South Lebanon. I guess next they'll blame it on the Swiss Marines.

tomas del sol

Unforunately everyone should remember that access to the actual battlefield is limited on the Lebanesse side and the Isreali censorship prevents realistic reporting on the events of the day from the south.
Although these discussions are intelligent and enlightning, as in all wars, history will (hopefully) discover the truth(s).

Dimitar Vesselinov

"I have read reports (all western and Israeli) that say that there are complex fortifications and deep tunnel systems and that HA received some help from the Syrians, Iranians, N Koreans and even some German Companies."

Add some more helpers:
Ehud Barak and Shaul Mofaz, the authors of the premature withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000.

"In May 2000, Israeli forces withdrew suddenly from the occupied zone without having given any warning to the SLA."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1982-2000_South_Lebanon_conflict
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Lebanon_Army

Leon

Anyone who takes on Israel has been suckered. Just like the human sacrificial bombers. Tough luck and goodbye ! Israel is a hard target. Lebanese should be careful about their residents. For terrorists, stick to killing soft targets, children, old women, civilians. This will make you even more popular than what you have already achieved. I do sympathize with the poor old Palestinians, do Muslims ? Not really.

Mo

"In May 2000, Israeli forces withdrew suddenly from the occupied zone without having given any warning to the SLA"

Ah Wikipedia, where facts are facts because someone says their facts.

In actual fact, the Israelis withdrew because Hizbollah had infiltrated the SLA to such an extent(it was estimated that as much as 50% of the SLA were Hizbollah) that they all "desserted" at the same time causing the rest of the SLA to collapse, leaving the Israelis with no buffer between them and Hizbollah.

Piotr Chmielarz

This tactic of hezbollah is nothing new the same was useb by Jewish Fighting organisation during uprising in Warsaw Ghetto they prepare bunkers and they use them as advance points or places where they ca rest.

DM

My guess is that Israel is being pushed into attacking HA by the neocons.

Up until the push into Lebanon this year, the 6 years since Israeli withdrawal have been pretty quiet, except for action around Sheeba Farms.

I dont think the Israelis want this war; theres simply nothing to be gained from it for them, but for the neocons, the desire to give Iran a bloody nose is too great, and the resulting pressure on Israel pushes them into untennable actions.

M. Simon

I have been saying for the last week or two around the net that the Hizbollah strategy was not to blunt the tip of the spear but to attack the shaft.

The counter to that is what Israel has been doing. Slow foward advance.

However, the best way to counter such a strategy is bypassing. Go after the source of the infection and let Hizbollah wither on the vine.

Syria and Iran are the key.

sophia

Col. Lang:

So far Hizballah (HA)has done well fighting in dug in positions.

How well would they do if they were forced to maneuver? (Which of course was a strength of the VC)

Today's NY Times had this interesting tidbit:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/12/world/middleeast/12soldiers.html?ref=middleeast

"As soldiers entered homes in the village, they found hundreds of explosives and weapons. On Monday morning, Sergeant Yousef fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the door of a heavily barricaded house the troops planned to enter.

He hit the door, but it was so well reinforced it did not open, and instead sprayed bits of burning metal back at him, puncturing his abdomen in six places."

Erm, a door that is so well reinforced that it resists fire from an RPG isn't something that your average local carpenter can construct, eh, Billmon?

"If they didn't learn how to fight like this on their own, who would have taught them? The Syrians? "

Billmon: I think Colonel Lang's point is not that HA aren't tough fighters, but the defenses and fortifications they have constructed are too elaborate and sophisticated for them to have built without expert help from abroad. Iran. Russia. Who knows? What do you think?

"Then why aren't they in downtown Tel Aviv right now?"

See above. They are good at defense,not maneuver. Let's see how well they do when they are flushed out of their hidey-holes, if the Israelis aren't forced to quit beforehand.

"The Iranians? Did they teach them how to use little boys as human mine sweepers?"

They use the local equivalent, ensconcing themselves among the civilian infrastructure.

But I'm glad to see that you have saved me the trouble of pointing out the unspeakable evil of HA's main sponsor: Iran.

BTW the Iranians were not the aggressor in that war.

Oh, and for extra credit, to the dude who stated that Israel "stole" land from the Palestinians, this is a side issue, but has everyone noted history repeating itself with Nasrallah's call for Israel Arabs to quit Haifa? Now, where have I heard that one before??

I did hear or read somewhere that Hizbullah has been getting advice from some old NVA and Viet Cong vets. Which makes sense to me -- why not the best?

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