Friday, September 15, 2017

The Other Gathering Storm?

There is a gathering storm that Israel will face north of their border. Does Israel wait for it or strike first?

This seems about right:

Storm clouds are gathering on Israel’s horizon that will one day pose a grave danger to the security of Israel.

In a speech given this June, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah warned that a future war with Israel, “…could open the way for thousands, even hundreds of thousands of fighters from all over the Arab and Islamic world to participate – from Iraq, Yemen, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan”.

Iran's hoped-for land bridge from Iran to Lebanon would be the source of Iranian-backed attacks on Israel.

I've been looking for signs that Israel will strike deep into Lebanon to tear up Hezbollah while the terror group is busy in Syria. Ideally, the strike comes at the point of maximum damage to Hezbollah from their service to Assad and Iran in Syria (2,000 killed in action so far). This point could be at either the point of an Assad victory or an Assad defeat.

At that point Hezbollah can withdraw their expeditionary force from Syria and reset to fight Israel. So Israel could strike then while Hezbollah in Lebanon is the weakest and while the force moving from Syria is vulnerable to air strikes.

So have we reached that point?

The Lebanese Shi‘ite group Hezbollah has declared victory in the Syrian war while Russia said government forces had driven militants from much of the country where President Bashar al-Assad’s rule seemed in danger two years ago.

I suspect this leans more to a "mission accomplished" moment than a true victory. But it can help to fake it until you make it if it truly depresses the enemy by making them believe they've essentially lost the war.

An Israeli combined arms strike that advances deep into Lebanon and really tears up Hezbollah would reduce the Hezbollah threat to Israel; give Lebanon some hope that a new and improved UNIFIL and strengthened Lebanese forces could regain control of southern Lebanon; and remove a major force in Assad's arsenal, making it more likely that declarations of victory will be more off base than they likely are by tipping the balance away from Assad in the fight against post-ISIL Syrian rebels.

Israel did just finish a very large exercise aimed at defeating Hezbollah:

“We know our enemy. He’ll take advantage of launching against us up until the last day and the last minute of the war in order to serve his narrative,” [Israeli Brig. Gen. Saar] Tzur said. “But we‘re not excited about this. We will create our own narrative by facts on the ground. Next time around, we expect our victory picture to be very clear to all.”

I know I'm biased as a land-centric analyst, but that sure sound like having Israeli troops on the ground in Lebanon when the ceasefire goes into effect so nobody can doubt whose ass got kicked. Lopsided body counts just don't matter in the propaganda war.

Also, I know people say Hezbollah is "battle hardened" after their long war in Syria on behalf of Assad. But their very small "army" has suffered 2,000 KIA. Can't we just as readily call Hezbollah's ground forces "bled white?"

Is this dispute a reflection of Israeli intentions?

Is a gathering Israeli storm for Assad, Iran, and Hezbollah on the horizon?