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July 19, 2006
Hezbollah Ready To Crumble?

The Australian claims that Hezbollah has been sent reeling both by the Israeli military response and the lack of support from the Arab world, and that the terrorist group may agree to pull away from the Israeli border in exchange for a cease-fire. The terrorists have found out that their deterrent no longer works on an Israel fed up with constant border provocations:

One week after the humiliation it suffered in a Hezbollah cross-border raid in which eight soldiers were killed and two captured, Israel senses one of its major military and political victories is within reach.

The stunning campaign it has waged against Hezbollah has reportedly brought the militia to a point where it is willing to discuss Israel's major demand - that it pull back several kilometres from the Israeli border, perhaps to the Litani River.

Reports from Beirut yesterday said that Hezbollah officials had declared readiness to discuss the pullback proposal as well as a ceasefire with Israel but were not willing to discuss Israel's demand that it disarm. ...

The huge missile arsenal Tehran sent to Hezbollah - 13,000 missiles, according to Israel - was intended primarily as a deterrent against Israel should it contemplate an airstrike against its nuclear facilities.

To respond heavily to a Hezbollah provocation could bring down a rain of missiles on Israel's cities. Surprisingly, it was an Israeli leader without a significant military background, Ehud Olmert, who decided to take on Hezbollah and pay the price.

We should clarify the notion that Olmert lacks a "significant military background", a meme that has arisen over the last couple of weeks. While Olmert never served in a command position in the Israeli Army, he certainly served -- as required by Israeli law of all young men. Charles at LGF has covered this in the past, but it bears repeating: Olmert has military experience. He served in a combat brigade in 1963, got seriously injured, and endured "prolonged military treatment". He returned to the IDF in 1971 as a combat journalist. In 1979, he re-entered the IDF and passed officer training, after which he volunteered for duty in Lebanon, but apparently did not get selected for the mission.

He knows enough to outfight Hezbollah. As The Australian notes, Hezbollah held the threat of rocket attacks over Israel for the last six years, and they built up quite an arsenal. The New York Times reports today that the US and Israel had a "blind spot" and that the extent of Hezbollah's inventory took both by surprise:

The power and sophistication of the missile and rocket arsenal that Hezbollah has used in recent days has caught the United States and Israel off guard, and officials in both countries are just now learning the extent to which the militant group has succeeded in getting weapons from Iran and Syria.

While the Bush administration has stated that cracking down on weapons proliferation is one of its top priorities, the arming of Hezbollah shows the blind spots of American and other Western intelligence services in assessing the threat, officials from across those governments said.

American and Israeli officials said the successful attack last Friday on an Israeli naval vessel was the strongest evidence to date of direct support by Iran to Hezbollah. The attack was carried out with a sophisticated antiship cruise missile, the C-802, an Iranian-made variant of the Chinese Silkworm, an American intelligence official said. ...

But neither Jerusalem nor Washington had any idea that Hezbollah had such a missile in its arsenal, the officials said, adding that the Israeli ship had not even activated its missile defense system because intelligence assessments had not identified a threat from such a radar-guided cruise missile.

Perhaps the scope surprised Israel and the US, but not the assistance itself. Israel has long known that Iran and Syria had been arming Hezbollah, and that the new Lebanese government has no power to stop it. The range of the rockets -- with Hezbollah saying they can reach Tel Aviv -- has also taken Israel aback. However, the real surprise continues to be that Israel has been willing to sustain that kind of damage, and Hezbollah has nothing else in its arsenal to keep Israel from responding militarily to their act of war.

The second surprise has been the utter lack of restraint placed on Israel by the world community. Even the Arab League, a rubber stamp for Islamist terrorism if one ever existed, blamed Hezbollah and not Israel for the conflict. Iran had to take notice of this political embarrassment, the first of its kind. Arabs have turned against Iran and Syria, preferring peaceful coexistence than a new pan-Islam caliphate run by the mullahcracy in Teheran. Arab nations have not marched to Hezbollah's rescue, not even their patrons in Syria, who know damn well that the Israelis would tear them apart as soon as they cross the border.

And let's not forget the pathetic multinational force that the UN placed in Lebanon to supposedly enforce the peace and UNSC resolutions. Not only have they failed spectacularly to do either, but they've also stood by while Syria and Iran have transferred all these weapons to a group that should have been disarmed. UNIFIL has done nothing but act as a shield for Hezbollah, a useless UN appendage that provided a deterrent to Israeli action but none to the terrorists causing the problems. Now they find themselves in the middle of a firestorm that they were supposed to prevent, and no one, not even Kofi Annan, has even given them a second thought.

Hezbollah sees all of this and has to wonder where their grand plan went wrong. They fail to recognize that the world has changed since Israel left Lebanon in 2000, and that Islamist terror groups no longer get considered as "freedom fighters" but as agents of despotism and brutal oppression. The world grew up, at least a little, since 9/11 -- and we're no longer patient with people who target civilians for death as political statements. Sheikh Nasrallah can contemplate that as the bombs fall on his head.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 19, 2006 7:51 AM

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