Thursday, June 30, 2011

Same Place, Different War

Israel is preparing to refight the 2006 Hezbollah War, but this time to win. But a war in the same place against the same enemy will require a different plan if the objective has nothing to do with Hezbollah and Israel.

Hezbollah has been preparing to refight the war, too. And with Syria in chaos, Hezbollah may want to trigger a war with Israel to save Syria:

Israel believes that Hezbollah is preparing for another war with Israel. Like the last one, it would be started by a Hezbollah attack on Israel. But this time around, the war would be for the purpose of reducing political pressure on the Assad clan, which has ruled Syria for decades and is threatened by a growing public uprising. A war with Israel would, normally, demand that all Arabs get behind the war effort. There is some doubt, even in Arab circles, that this would work if Hezbollah attacked Israel now. For one thing, Hezbollah was created by, and subsidized by, Iran. Three decades of Iranian support has turned Hezbollah into the most powerful religious militia in Lebanon.

Without Syria in their corner, Hezbollah will be much weakened even with continued Iranian support. Hezbollah needs the supply line and direct support that Syria provides. Without Assad in power, Syria may not want to help a Shia Iranian ally like Hezbollah.

While I figured I knew what Israel would do in a round two, if it is to be a war for Syria fought in southern Lebanon and northern Israel, it should not be fought with means and objectives to defeat Hezbollah. It would be a Pyrrhic Victory indeed if Israel smashes up Hezbollah in a brilliant military campaign only to see Syria's Assad regime saved by the war.

If Hezbollah triggers a war to save Assad, Israel will need to be very careful to make sure Hezbollah alone bears the brunt of any Israeli military action and does not even appear to threaten Syria. That would appear to rule out a deep penetration of Lebanon to destroy Hezbollah infrastructure that would also put Israeli armored forces on the road to Damascus outflanking the main defenses southwest of Damascus.