Monday, July 31, 2006

Chest Beating

Is Israel really prepared, nearly three weeks into this fight, to expand the ground war inside Lebanon?

Israel's Security Cabinet early Tuesday approved widening the ground offensive, a participant said, and rejected a cease-fire until an international force is in place in southern Lebanon.

The participant, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters, said Israel's airstrikes would resume "in full force" after a 48-hour suspension expires in another day.

Thousands of army reserves have been called up in recent days in advance of the decision, which is expected to lead to sending more troops into the border area. Israeli leaders have said they want to carve out a zone about 1 mile wide that would be free of Hezbollah.

Given that the RUMINT says that a ceasefire may kick in within a few days, Israel's decision to widen the war seems more of a threat designed to ensure that a force does move into southern Lebanon soon. That is, the Israelis seem to be telling the international community that if you want a ceasefire, you'd best do something significant or we're prepared to keep fighting.

Likewise, Syria has boasted they must be ready for war:

In an annual address on the anniversary of the foundation of the Syria Arab Army, Assad called on the military to "work on more preparedness and raise readiness of all units.

"We are facing international circumstances and regional challenges that require caution, alertness, readiness and preparedness," Assad said in the written address.

Diplomats in Damascus say the Syrian army has been on alert since the Israeli onslaught on Lebanon began on July 12 after Hizbollah fighters captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border operation.

Good grief, what are they going to do? Bleed on Israel?

This is an empty threat. Syria can gas Israel with missiles or send terrorists. Sending in the army is a recipe for lots of burning hulks of armor scattered about. And there will be no Soviet resupply after the tanks are blown up.

And really, given that Hizbollah has appeared to hold out after three weeks of Israeli assault, the Syrian military would emerge from a war with Israel looking considerably worse--and in a shorter time period. Remember, jihadis in Fallujah held out as long in 2004 as the entire Iraqi military in 2003--and inflicted the same scale of casualties on US forces. Syria can't afford to look worse than a terrorist outfit.

It looks to me like a ceasefire could be coming soon based on the boasting of terrible things to come that the Syrians and Israelis are releasing. And despite Hizbollah boasting, they are being hurt on the tactical level every day Israel keeps shooting. They will agree to stop fighting, too, and take the moral victory of surviving.