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Monday, July 31, 2006

The rockets go quiet: considering Hezbollah's command and control 


According to Stratfor($), Hezbollah did not fire a single rocket during the calendar day July 31, Lebanon time. I have not found a press account that verifies this assertion, but if true it puts Israel in a very tough spot.

Israel got a breather July 31 from the blaring of sirens and steady barrage of Katyusha rocket attacks after nearly 20 days of heavy fighting. Hezbollah has managed to launch an average of 130-160 rockets per day into northern Israel since the conflict began. The grand total of confirmed rocket attacks for July 31 as of midnight Israeli time, however, stands at zero.

From a military standpoint, Israel's cease-fire demonstrated the strength of Hezbollah's command-and-control structure, even after taking a beating by Israeli forces. Hezbollah's communication lines clearly remain intact, as its military commanders evidently managed to signal the group's various units to switch off rocket attacks almost immediately after the cease-fire was declared.

Hezbollah quickly realized the benefits of refraining from attacks during this 48-hour cease-fire. Israel already faced piling international condemnation for its military operations in Lebanon, but the July 30 Israeli airstrike in the Lebanese village of Qana clearly shifted the focus onto the number of humanitarian crises created by this conflict, playing right into Hezbollah's hands.

Hezbollah is operating under the belief that a large toll in civilian casualties will expedite a cease-fire before the Israeli army completes its stated objective of significantly degrading Hezbollah's capabilities. Not only would Hezbollah be able to retain its offensive stature, but it would also claim victory as being the only Arab force capable of standing up to Israeli aggression and forcing an Israeli military defeat. By committing to a temporary cease-fire it is not even a signatory to, Hezbollah is making it exceedingly difficult for the United States to give the green light to Israel to resume its military offensive with full force while Israel is quickly earning the aggressor label around the globe.

Israel cannot afford to scale back its military plans and allow Hezbollah to raise its stature at the expense of Israeli national security. Admitting defeat to Hezbollah and exposing Israel's military weakness after years of building up an image of the most formidable military in the region would carry devastating consequences for Israel, and end up fracturing the ruling government. As Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said July 31, "there is no cease-fire and there will be no cease-fire in the coming days." Movements on the ground already indicate Israel is preparing for a larger ground campaign to root out Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon and to inflict greater damage on Hezbollah forces. This is an operation that is going to take a good deal of time.

But time is something Israel seriously lacks. Israel's air campaign has not achieved its desired results in a timely manner, placing a substantial pressure on Washington to table an immediate cease-fire, or at least to take real steps toward scaling down the conflict. The 48-hour cease-fire, which notably was announced by the U.S. State Department, was designed to ease some of this pressure by allowing Lebanese citizens in the south to flee northward, so avoiding becoming Hezbollah's human shields when Israeli attacks resume. Nonetheless, Israel's actions are putting a serious strain on U.S. relations with its European and Arab allies, which do not have the same tolerance level Washington does for Israel's military campaign, and which are facing mounting political pressure at home to do something to contain the conflict.

Hawks in Israel and the United States have been warning against the consequences of a ceasefire for days now, and Stratfor's description of the situation generally lines up with those who believe that Israel has failed to avoid the strategic trap that Hezbollah set for it. There is no need to belabor the argument, since the die is now cast, at least until it is cast again.

Stratfor does, however, make a very interesting point about the effectiveness of Hezbollah's command and control, both in the abstract and after almost three weeks of combat. It gave an order not to shoot rockets, and all over southern Lebanon the launchers went quiet. These guys did what they were told to do with excellent discipline, just as The Guardian predicted in the story linked through this post. Remember that the next time somebody argues that Hezbollah did not intend to do a particular thing. Its fighters apparently reflect the intentions of their commanders as efficiently as the soldiers in any Western army.

3 Comments:

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Mon Jul 31, 07:47:00 PM:

Of course, the other possibility is that...they've lost!

We live in such a strange world that when a combatant in a war stops shooting, the perception is that they've...won? Are you kidding.

George Friedman is an intellgince analyst paralyzed by analysis.

Maybe Iran has figured out where this is heading (the defeat of their frontline forces in Lebanon) and has told them to stand down before they are thoroughly embarrased. So I agree with the C&C point (not that I figured much differently) but have to wonder about the logic that says the absence of Hezbollah rockets signals their success. Doesn't Hez look incredibly weak, especially after all the noise about Qana? Shouldn't they be mobilizing for all out war to defend Lebanon against the bloodthirsty IDF?  

By Anonymous Dan, at Mon Jul 31, 09:09:00 PM:

I don't think that demonstrating the ability to standown the rocket attacks is a huge deal. We all know that Hezbollah is fairly well -trained and have the required discipline. Fanatical ideology often breeds a ruthless adherence to structure and orders.

Iran has obviously invested well and had 6 years to prepare them unimpeded.

As far as communications, they are obviously adequately equipped with the necessary communications which in the case of a small area like southern Lebanon, is not difficult to maintain. If every major launcher position has a "site commander" (undoubtably), then communicating via with fairly run-of-the-mill radio equipment is not difficult to achieve due to the short distances. Even walkie talkies could help relay the word down the line. Indeed, although they most likely are equipped with military gear, the chance for improvising commercial communications is likely also.

I suppose cellphone service would also be possible with a strategically placed mobile transmitter.

Internet, radio, cellphone, regular phones, and even TV are all possibilities. Do not forget "civilian" runners too.
If Lebanon was as large as Iraq, then you would have a much bigger problem no doubt.

There is just so much on the world market, I would think that they have multiple nodes of communication capability and Israel would well heed that it may be impossible to cutoff Hezbollah's comm and should plan the fight with that expectation in mind.

In fact, Israel could exploit Hezbollah's ability to communicate by using deception, surprise and disinformation to lure them into big fish kills. No doubt Israel has cooked something up.  

By Blogger Fern Sidman, at Tue Aug 01, 01:11:00 PM:

THE RESURGENCE OF ORWELLIAN IDEALS

BY: FERN SIDMAN

When George Orwell originally penned his classic novel "1984", I would venture a guess that neither he nor his readers ever actually envisaged a world that would embrace these warped and twisted values. Fast forward to the year 2006 and we are witness to a world that is being taunted with such strikingly similar values. We live in a world where otherwise educated and civilized people perceive an aggressor as a victim and the victim as the aggressor. Ideals and organizations that are predicated on a theology of terror and espouse a mantra of hate have been elevated to a heroic like status. They have garnered sympathy and support, while the world expresses its unabashed opprobrium towards concepts and countries that espouse justice and respect for life.

We need only look to the current crisis in the Middle East for qualification of the latest version of Orwellian values. The organization known as Hezbollah, an internationally renowned terrorist organization that is being sponsored by Iran and Syria, countries that espouse terrorism and the ultimate demise of Israel and the Western world, staged an unprovoked attack against Israel on July 12th. Since that time, Israel and Hezbollah have been embroiled in a war that raised the ire of the world. The Lebanese people have been used as human shields by Hezbollah whose main objective is to transform the fledgling democracy in Lebanon into another fundamentalist Islamic state.

Hezbollah is a well organized and thoroughly trained band of guerilla fighters who fight their battles while living in civilian populations and blending in with the civilian infrastructure. Since the inception of this current conflict they have fired thousands of Katyusha rockets into Israel from civilian strongholds and neighborhoods throughout southern Lebanon and in Beirut. Civilians are warned each and every time Israel prepares to strike back at Hezbollah terrorists. Thousands of leaflets are disseminated through these civilian areas, imploring all civilians to leave the area.

The recent incident in Qana, which aroused worldwide condemnation of Israel for the killing of 56 civilians, mostly women and children, deserves closer examination. According to writer David Horowitz, "Qana, be it noted was the source of 150 missile attacks on Israeli civilians, and the population of Qana was warned to leave but chose to stay alongside the terrorists. Like most of Lebanon, the population of Qana is on the side of the aggressors, and apparently like most Muslims in this part of the world, death for them is a badge of martyrdom and honor, and a noble pathway to heaven. They are willing instruments of the Islamist jihad."

Further evidence of Hezbollah's intent to place the Lebanese civilian population at risk has been revealed by Israel Insider's Reuven Koret, who filed on a report on 7/31/06 which stated, "On the morning of July 30, according to the IDF, the air force came in three waves. In the first, between midnight and one in the morning, there was a strike at or near the building that eventually collapsed. There was a second strike at other targets far from the collapse building several hours later, and a third strike at around 7:30 in the morning. There too the nearest hit was some 460 meters away, according to the IDF. But first reports of a building collapse came only around 8 am.

Thus there was an unexplained 7 to 8 hour gap between the time of the helicopter strike and the building collapse. Brigadier General Amir Eshel, Head of the Air Force Headquarters, in a press briefing, told journalists that "the attack on the structure in the Qana village took place between midnight and one in the morning. The gap between the timing of the collapse of the building and the time of the strike on it is unclear."

Gen. Eshel appeared genuinely mystified by the gap in time. He said, "I'm saying this very carefully, because at this time I don't have a clue as to what the explanation could be for this gap," he added.

The army's only explanation was that somehow there was unexploded Hezbollah ordnance in the building that only detonated much later.

"It could be that inside the building, things that could eventually cause an explosion were being housed, things that we could not blow up in the attack, and maybe remained there, Brigadier General Eshel said.

Eshel reported that as recently as two days ago, military intelligence reported the building area had been used by the terrorists for storage or firing of weapons. It was a bad place to cram dozens of women and children.

There are other mysteries. The roof of the building was intact. Journalist Ben Wedeman of CNN noted that there was a larger crater next to the building, but observed that the building appeared not to have collapsed as a result of the Israeli strike.

Why would the civilians who had supposedly taken shelter in the basement of the building not leave after the post-midnight attack? They just went back to sleep and had the bad luck to wait for the building to collapse in the morning? "

These are questions that have yet to be answered. Perhaps in the days that follow investigations of this incident will uncover facts that Hezbollah would prefer to hide from the world. Hezbollah has already won the public relations battle. They clearly have the United Nations in their corner, an international governmental body that sits with bated breath at every opportunity to condemn Israel. They have the EU and the Arab countries on their side. South American and Asian countries have chimed in with their vocal and strident condemnation of Israel as well.

Hezbollah has won the hearts and minds of the Lebanese people, however, in retrospect that wasn't an arduous battle. The Lebanese people have thrown their support behind Hezbollah as is evidenced in the composition of the Lebanese parliament. Over 20 percent of the members of this parliament are Hezbollah representatives. The Lebanese people never demanded that their government implement and enforce United Nations Security Council resolution 1559 issued in the year 2000, which placed the responsibility of harnessing Hezbollah forces in the hands of the Lebanese military.

The Lebanese people, particularly the Shiitte population in southern Lebanon, view Hezbollah as a big, warm and giving social service agency. Hezbollah has adroitly filled the stomachs of its constituents, fattening them up, metaphorically speaking for the kill. For the beneficiaries of Hezbollah's outreach and social service programs are now being called upon to pay the piper. They pay with their lives and the lives of the children as human shields for those who gained favor in their hearts for all the "goodness" that was bestowed upon them.

It is of no great revelation that we hear that Lebanese president Faud Siniora praised Hezbollah for its efforts in defeating the Israeli enemy as he attempts to shore up even more support from the Lebanese population for Hezbollah, thereby encouraging even more of them to die as martyrs to an organization that cares nothing for them, their lives or the future of their children.

And yet we hear no sounds of outrage and indignation at the murderous policy of Hezbollah directed at the Lebanese people. We hear of no raucous and explosive demonstrations directed at Hezbollah for placing the lives of its own people in death's doorway. Instead, we are deluged with condemnations and denunciations of Israel's military actions in Lebanon. We hear the world condemn Israel's "disproportionate" response to the constant barrage of Katyusha rockets that have rained down on Israeli cities and towns. We hear admonitions directed at Israel to exercise self-restraint when attempting to defeat their hardened enemy that seeks its destruction.

As Charles Krauthammer stated in his article entitled, 'Disproportionate' in What Moral Universe?' (Washington Post, 7/28/06), "When one is wantonly attacked by an aggressor, one has every right -- legal and moral -- to carry the fight until the aggressor is disarmed and so disabled that it cannot threaten one's security again."

Mr. Krauthammer goes on to state that, "The perversity of today's international outcry lies in the fact that there is indeed a disproportion in this war, a radical moral asymmetry between Hezbollah and Israel: Hezbollah is deliberately trying to create civilian casualties on both sides while Israel is deliberately trying to minimize civilian casualties, also on both sides.

Israeli innocents must die in order for Israel to be terrorized. But Lebanese innocents must also die in order for Israel to be demonized, which is why Hezbollah hides its fighters, its rockets, its launchers, its entire infrastructure among civilians. Creating human shields is a war crime. It is also a Hezbollah specialty.

Had Israel wanted to destroy Lebanese civilian infrastructure, it would have turned out the lights in Beirut in the first hour of the war, destroying the billion-dollar power grid and setting back Lebanon 20 years. It did not do that. Instead it attacked dual-use infrastructure -- bridges, roads, airport runways -- and blockaded Lebanon's ports to prevent the reinforcement and resupply of Hezbollah. Ten thousand Katyusha rockets are enough. Israel was not going to allow Hezbollah 10,000 more."

Today the nation of Israel faces even more deadly attacks from the Hezbollah terrorists. Today the nation of Israel, which represents the values of preserving human life, of upholding the loftiest of moral concepts has been transformed into the world's bogeyman. It is viewed as a giant and ruthless murder machine, which displays a callous disregard for civilian lives. Today the nation of Israel is being raked over the proverbial coals by a world possessed by Orwellian values. Bad is good, right is wrong, justice is injustice. The aggressor is now the victim and the victim is now the horrific aggressor.

Mr. Orwell, wherever you are, we send you a message that your ominous vision has manifested itself. It is a world gone mad, and all vestiges of morality and conscience are slowly and methodically becoming obsolete.

At this most frightening and difficult period in history, those of us left with a modicum of morality, ethics and values must speak out. We must orchestrate a campaign to challenge the purveyors of Orwellian thoughts and to neutralize their vitriolic and incendiary rhetoric.

It is indeed a dark moment in the history of the Jewish people and of the nation of Israel. Our values and ethos must come from our unwavering faith and trust in the Almighty G-d of Israel. Our morals and values must be derived from our G-d given sources of Torah. Our values must reflect the words of our prayers to G-d. Our morals and values spring forth from the divine words of King David in the book of Psalms. It is time to rededicate ourselves to serving our G-d with devotion and passion.

May the Almighty G-d of Israel protect His nation, Israel and may we see a world that can distinguish between light and darkness and of right and wrong.  

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