Battlepanda: Underestimating Hezbollah


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Underestimating Hezbollah

Billmon may be onto something:
Two weeks ago Lebanon's Prime Minister was demanding an immediate cease fire while Shrub and company were insisting that only a "lasting cease fire," leading to a "permanent solution," would do.

Now it's the other way around:

Speaking to reporters today at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., where he is on vacation, Mr. Bush said, “Everyone wants the violence to stop.’’

“People understand that there needs to be a cessation of hostilities in order for us to address the root causes of the problem,’’ he said . .

Mr. Siniora said he opposed the cease-fire resolution in its current form, saying it would not effectively halt the violence. “It barely leads to a cease-fire,’’ he said, with tears in his eyes. “We want a permanent and full cease-fire.’’
Obviously, something has changed -- that something being the completely unexpected outcome of the war (unexpected by everyone but Hizbullah I mean.)

It would appear that I completely misjudged the situation when I suggested Sheikh Nasrallah would be smart to take or at least pretend to take, the deal on the table -- essentially agreeing to a ceasefire in place while ignoring the "permanent solution" his Anglo-Israeli enemies were in no position to demand or implement.

But every word spoken by the respective sides since Sunday indicates that the Israelis and the Americans have reached a point where they both want a cease fire more badly than Hizbullah does.
But of course Siniora won't want a simple ceasefire now that he has seen how well Israel observed the 48-hour truce. I don't know if one can take the fact that Siniora is asking for a more comprehensive ceasefire as a sign that he is now speaking for Hezbollah. What Billmon is right on, though, is the 180-degree change in attitude of Israel and the U.S. I think Israel now fully realized the shit it stepped into -- Hezbollah is not Hamas.
Until Hezbollah sparked the conflict on July 12 by capturing two Israeli soldiers and killing eight others in a border clash, most of the young Israeli soldiers had seen little serious combat.

Many have spent time fighting Palestinian militants in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Few considered them worthy adversaries.

"We're not used to people who know how to fight," said Assaf. "Here, it's scary. It's like a war."
Emphasis mine.

This is Hezbollah.
As the Israeli Army struggles for a fourth week to defeat Hezbollah before a cease-fire, the shipments are just one indication of how — with the help of its main sponsors, Iran and Syria — the militia has sharply improved its arsenal and strategies in the six years since Israel abruptly ended its occupation of southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah is a militia trained like an army and equipped like a state, and its fighters “are nothing like Hamas or the Palestinians,” said a soldier who just returned from Lebanon. “They are trained and highly qualified,” he said, equipped with flak jackets, night-vision goggles, good communications and sometimes Israeli uniforms and ammunition. “All of us were kind of surprised.”

Much attention has been focused on Hezbollah’s astonishing stockpile of Syrian- and Iranian-made missiles, some 3,000 of which have already fallen on Israel. More than 48 Israelis have been killed in the attacks — including 12 reservist soldiers killed Sunday, who were gathered at a kibbutz at Kfar Giladi, in northern Israel, when rockets packed with antipersonnel ball bearings exploded among them, and 3 killed Sunday evening in another rocket barrage on Haifa.

But Iran and Syria also used those six years to provide satellite communications and some of the world’s best infantry weapons, including modern, Russian-made antitank weapons and Semtex plastic explosives, as well as the training required to use them effectively against Israeli armor.
Was Israel truly surprised by Hezbollah's strength? Maybe, but it shouldn't have been. The photo above was from 2002. Israeli Military Intelligence also claims to have tracked Zelzal long-range missiles from Iran going to Hezbollah through Syria in the wake of the earthquake in Bam. It's understandable that Israel might have panicked about the increasing military strength of Hezbollah, but did it really think that "turning the clock back 20 years" on Lebanon was going to be the way to do destroy it?

One thing is for sure. We can forget about the "Lebanon is complicit because it didn't enforce its sovereignty" bluster. If the mighty IDF is still having trouble with those guys in Bint Jbeil after all these weeks of fighting, I don't think it was realistic at all to blame the Lebanese army for not rooting them out in the first place.