Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Israeli Strategy

Media pundits, not always the most reliable information source, have expressed surprise at how quickly the the Israeli crisis has escalated.

Perhaps the only real surprise (so far) is that Israel hasn't launched an incursion into south Lebanon, in an effort to crush Hizballah. That will come, perhaps in a matter of days. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) began calling up reservists a couple of days ago; as the Army mobilizes and deploys additional units, Israel will quickly marshal enough combat power to launch a major strike across its northern border, aimed at crushing the terrorist infrastructure in southern Lebanon, and reducing the rocket threat to northern settlements and cities. Each of the measures are part of long-standing (and carefully developed) plans, designed for this type of contingency.

As a part of their overall strategy, the IDF is implementing steps to isolate its enemies and limit their military options. The highly-publicized strikes against Beirut International Airport serve a two-fold purpose: first, to prevent the air transfer of captured Israeli soldiers to Iran, and secondly, to cut off the "air bridge" from Damascus and Syria, used to move supplies and reinforcements to Hizballah units in the Bekka Valley and southern Lebanon.

With the airport now closed, Israeli jets are now concentrating on choke points along the Damascus Highway, the major east-west supply route between terrorist sponsors in the Syrian capital, and their operatives in Lebanon. Latest media reports indicate that the IAF has struck at least five major bridges along that route, attempting to cut off the primary land route between Syria and terrorist bases in central and southern Lebanon. An Israeli naval blockade has been imposed off Beirut, isolating the city from the sea.

In the next phase of the operation, Israel will likely expand their attacks in southern Beirut (where Hizballah) has created a substantial infrastructure, as well as the Bekka Valley, another terrorist stronghold. At this point, Israel faces a greater chance of a direct confrontation with Syria, given their continued military presence along the Lebanese border. Syrian air defense sites east located of the valley could potentially engage Israeli aircraft in the area, raising the possibility of engagements between Syrian SAMs and the IAF.

Interestingly, Syria has built a number of bunkers at its forward air defense sites in recent years, underscoring that (a) Damascus understands the growing threat from Israeli PGMs, and (b) the Syrians may adopt a "hunker down" approach--if the Israelis come calling--trying to shelter and preserve equipment, vice actively engaging the IAF. Syria has long memories of the 1982 Bekka Valley campaign, where the IAF shot down over 80 Syrian jets (with no losses of their own), and destroyed a good chunk of Damascus's ground-based air defenses. In other words, terrorist groups operating in western Syria (and even the Damascus area) can expect little protection from the Syrian Air Force.

With the skies over Lebanon and the Golan secured, Israel can shift its focus to eliminating the rocket threat from southern Lebanon, with a combined air and ground campaign. I'm guessing that Israeli Apache pilots will be very busy in the coming days, targeting anyone who remotely resembles a terrorist rocket crew. The bad guys have light AAA and shoulder-fired SAMs for protection, but they're no match for Israeli attack helos and tactical fighters. As of early this morning (14 Jul), there had been only one additional rocket attack into northern Israel, suggesting that IAF targeting efforts are having an effect. Rocket attacks will decrease even more as the Israeli Army returns to southern Lebanon.

Mitigating the threat on the northern front will allow the Israelis to return to their original focus--dealing with Hamas in the Gaza, and securing the release of that captured corporal. At this point, Israeli feels relatively secure that the captured soldier remains in the Gaza area, and their recent detention of senior Palestinian officials gives the Olmert government a powerful bargaining chip. Some sort of exchange deal appeared to be in the works before the northern border erupted. Once the Lebanon situation stabilizes, the bulk of Israel's military effort will shift southward, depending on the tactical situation. However, the IDF is more than capable of fighting a two-front war, and the search for the missing solider in Gaza will continue, along with persistent surveillance of the region, and occasional strikes against Hamas targets.

There are, of course, some wild cards in the equation. The sudden execution of one (or all) the Israeli soldiers would prompt an even greater escalation by the IDF, and a possible expansion of its area of operations (think airstrikes against Damascus). Then, there's the Iran factor. Tehran has already indicated that an attack against Syria would be considered an attack against the wider Muslim world, suggesting that it would come to the aid of its ally. Iran's threats aren't entirely hollow, but it's military options are limited to (1) more terrorist attacks, (2) missile strikes against Israel, or (3) a long-range airstrike, using F-4 or SU-24 aircraft. The potential damage from these attacks would be limited (except if WMD were used), but the long-term consequences for Tehran would be exceptionally grave.


The Last Ephor said...

PGM = Projectile Guided Munitions?

El Jefe Maximo said...

The information that would be of most interest, at least to me, right now would be some more data on the Israeli reserve call-ups. I have been expecting an Israeli ground incursion into Lebanon somewhat like Operation Litani in 1978...but that hasn't happened...yet. But I think they need boots on the ground to get Haifa out of rocket range.

I thought the Israelis had been bombing the bridges to keep the Hezbollah types from getting away, or at least, their equipment from getting away.

If the Israelis have called a significant amount of reserves, that would indicate to me that they planned to act relatively quickly.

Still, today, so far, looks like more of yesterday.

eatyourbeans said...

You're the expert, but do you think Israel is attempting to provoke Iran to strike beforeit gets its nukes? This may be the last chance.

If Iran takes the bait, then Israel can do what everybody wants done, but does not dare to admit it. On the other hand, if Iran just sits there and watches the zionist infidels demolish the armies of the faithful, well, ha, some defender of Islam!

Think there's anything to this?

Papa Ray said...

Your thoughts are much along with mine (and I would guess thousands of others) but there are just too many "wild cards" to really do more than just munch popcorn and watch tv and keyboard a little.

I think that's because we are dealing with thousands of hotheads and nutcases (nutcases in that they don't think like we do).

Plus there are just a few more than a thousand hotheads in Israel, it remains to be seen how many of those have decision making authorities.

Syria is ignoring reality if they think they would have any chance of defeating Israel. Of course, like it's been said, they may think that Iran will cover their ass and come to their aid (not if, but when they need it).

So since noone knows what Iran's intentions or plans are (most likely most of them don't know either), we will just have to wait and you said.

Meantime, I sure wish my ammo I ordered two months ago would get off backorder and come in. I need to get more practice in.

Papa Ray
West Texas

Robert said...

Doesn't Israel have at least one diesel submarine? Couldn't it, with US permission, get into the Persian Gulf and fire missiles at Iran? That would stir things up! I had to laugh to see where Lebanon is asking for a "cease-fire"!! Oh, I see, these Lebanese who can't control Hezbollah's actions, even though there are Hezbollah ministers in their parliament, are now pledging to stop Hezbollah from firing on Israel, if Israel stands down? Does anyone believe them? And if they actually could stop Hezbollah, wouldn't that make them just as responsible for the violence as Hezbollah? Someone's not playing with a full deck. And it ain't Israel.

Final Historian said...

The fact that Israel hasn't struck into Lebanon with Ground Troops seems to indicate one of two things: Either they are waiting until their airstrikes have weakened Hizb'allah enough and they have organized their reserves sufficiently, or perhaps Israel is hoping to try and slowly bait Syria into openly intervening, at which point Israel goes full out against Syria. I think that the first is more likely, as I don't believe that Syria is going to let itself get involved, not without Iran getting involved first, and Iran won't get involved until Syria is involved. Hence, both will sit out, and hope to benefit diplomatically.

Papa Ray said...

The Final Historian said: "I had to laugh to see where Lebanon is asking for a "cease-fire"!!"

You have to look at who said that and why. It was one of those, hold on, we can make it, don't give up, patriotic speeches. Did you notice while he gave that speech that the President of this "Nation" is off hiding in the mountains?

"The fact that Israel hasn't struck into Lebanon with Ground Troops..."

They have SO forces running all over the country, and are planning right as we speak to go in with Armor and ground troops.

There is a rumor on the Arab boards that Israel "attacked" the Lebanese Army, no action details available. Which says to me, its just a rumor.

Syria's special operations troops are already involved as well as their missile tecks, but that's as much as we will see in my HO. Syria may be the bait, but I don't think they want to be and will not do anything to encourage it.

Meanwhile, back at the UN, they will huff and puff and write their little papers and denounce anybody and everybody but the right people.

Papa Ray
West Texas

M. Simon said...

I believe it takes Israel 6 days to mobilize. This is day four.

Plus it is good to know the phase of the moon.

George Bush has put Syria on Israel's short list.

I don't see how Israel wouldn't do Syria if Syria doesn't bend over and beg for it. The lights are green for as far as the eye can see.

Iran has promised to join in if Syria is threatened. Make us an offer we can't refuse.

People are chosing up sides. Iran and Syria have only the friends they can afford. They have to hope they stay bought.

I don't think this is about limited objevtives. Israel and America intend to clear the table.

Final Historian said...

Personally, I think the time is as good as ever to go after Syria. But I don't know what is going on behind the scene diplomatically between the US and Israel.

Making The Wheels Turn said...

Ok, here's a basic map of the Bekaa Valley:

Basically, it's got the Litani River flowing through the Southern half of the valley. But at most points, the "Valley" betwen the two mountain ranges (the Lebanon Mountains running parallel with the Coast, and the hills/mountains lying on the other side of the river valley.

Now, about half way up the river valley is the cutoff directly into Syria and Damascus.

Now, I'm not talking about an invasion of Syria by Israel, but by the displaced residents of the Bekaa Valley.

... And you all say "Huh"....

Disclaimer first: I'm NOT by any means a supporter of Israel, but if I'm living in a nation where the whole entire Country is under seige from a bunch of religious crazies launching missiles, well, EVERYTHING'S on the table at that point in time.

Imagine how all of us would feel if we could be rocketed and bombed at will - at that point, all bets would be off and there's damned little we wouldn't do to ensure our safety - screw what the NY Times, WaPo, the UN, and/or the liberal Democrats think.

Ok, if I'm in Israeli leadership and these attacks continue, well, it's time to get really serious and stop screwing around.

We announced that 1) The Bekaa Valley from the Golan up to Jazzin is a "no go zone", and you've got 24 hours to get out & stay out. The clock's ticking, and if you are till there afterwards, you're a TARGET. End of story.
2) The entire Bekaa Valley all the way up to Baalbeck is also a "no go Zone" and all the inhabitants better plan on leaving, and they have 7 days to do it in. The clock's ticking, and if you are till there afterwards, you're a TARGET. End of story.

After that, ANYTHING in the Bekaa Valley is a target and whatever weaponry has to be used to make it happen, gets used. Personally, I prefer Fuel-Air explosives and/or cluster bombs.

Remember the story of Phil Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley in the US Civil War? That's how the Bekaa Valley gets treated.

Where do all the displaced Bekaa Valley residents go (most of whom are Hezbollah supporters)? - probably into Syria.

Logic to this: Actually, quite a bit.
1) If 1 side is trying to hold the other side's population hostage to terror style weapons, well, you've got to 'equalize' the equasion. Cold hearted, you bet - but probably highly effective. Imagine Syria having to deal with a mass influx of refugees.
2) Israel didn't start this fight - Hezbollah did. They've got to be made to pay a price, and the price has to be sufficient to ensure that any thought of future massed missile attacks upon civilian populations aren't a one-sided affair.

Final Historian said...

Why four years curious? For another US President? For Hizb'allah to be stronger?