15 August 2006

Iran's First Foreign Legion's teething pains

This ceasefire will not last for very long as the Lebanese government has made clear that it will *not* disarm Hezbollah and that Hezbollah may retain weapons so long as they are not openly seen. Needless to say this is a violation of the ceasefire. Iran and Syria has supplied and will continue to supply weapons, equipment and funnel incoming manpower to Hezbollah, so that it can be re-enforced and re-armed in situ. Additionally Hezbollah has said it will attack Israeli forces in Southern Lebanon before they pull out. Perhaps Kofi Annan should be made aware of this via form letters. This will start up *again* as this ceasefire is already in trouble and neither side is wholly satisfied at the result. And now the Iranian Foreign Legion known as Hezbollah has a chance to regroup, and chat with their paymasters via Damascus.

The early and big pluses for Hezbollah:

1) Survival - Hezbollah can claim a sort of tactical victory by surviving in the field against Israel south of the Litani River.

2) Media - This started out on a shaky front with the pre-made banner fiasco and has since started a festering sore. What certainly was *looking* good in the way of civilian casualties has unraveled due to their agents using photomanipulation, deceitful staging of photographs and outright staging of media events to make them appear as post-combat rescue work. Although Western Media is all too willing to cooperate in their non-reporting of contextual information to help things along, the actual contextual images being taken have proven to be worse than any mole planted in the propaganda arm of Hezbollah. Luckily Western Media can be counted on to have no journalistic ethics in reporting and are easily threatened and brought into line. The Western *public* especially in the US, however, has extremely high level skill at this entire field and their examination and pinpointing of the propaganda uses of imagery has seriously degraded the respect of reporting agencies and the veracity of their reports. In some quarters images and actual real-life reports from Hezbollah controlled areas are now fully in doubt until actually verified and *proven* by outside and non-controlled invidiuals. And those Westerners have been damned efficient in their distributed masses in ferreting out these things. The once iron grip of terrorists to get an assured and responsible media outlet is now degraded because the outlets are, themselves, seen as partisan and contaminated and biased from the very start. So while the gullible are still swayed by the media, especially in State controlled markets, the West appears to be taking the gloss of professionalism off of their viewing and now see the underlying propaganda.

3) Continuous bombardment of Israeli population centers, save for a 3 day lull when Hezbollah was under serious pressure. This is the largest, single fact that Hezbollah has to its name: it continued to threaten terror, even when it was being thrown back.

4) The Israeli forces were indecisive which was a mirror of their weak political leadership. Being able to harass them as they went back and forth and only really staged a single large operation in the closing hours proved a big bonus and wonderful talking point for Hezbollah.

5) With the use of the cruise missiles from Iran, Hezbollah damaged an unprepared Israeli warship and sank a civilian freighter. This demonstrated capability to start interdicting shipping about half-way to Cypress, although it is doubtful that targeting at that distance will be any too good. Still, coastal shipping in that part of the Med will now need to take heed that Hezbollah can and demonstrably WILL hit neutral targets at its pleasure. That is a huge piece of foundational work by Hezbollah that it will wish to strengthen as time goes on, and possibly expand upon.

The minuses and learning areas are also clear and even harder:

1) Staying in fixed positions gets you killed. The immobility of Hezbollah meant that a number of times its forces were over-run and had to fight very hard and they still got killed. Even worse, is that they did not have any mobility to run, save on foot. Once delivered to a position via car or truck, they were stuck unless they could heist a local vehicle. And that was no saving grace once *those* were targeted by the IAF. They made driving a nasty affair. The big lesson here is that terrorist tactics do *not* work against combat forces, especially those in the enemy's Engineering Corps. The reports by Israeli soldiers of the smell of bodies buried and smoldering in bunkers they had overrun are now coming back. Plus Israel has watch over that region and is warning people *not* to return, so it can be assumed that they are now *watching* where the 'returnees' go. The Israelis may or may not just cover those bunkers over... or they may just quicklime them and be done with it. If they leave, then clearing those bunkers out will not be popular with Lebanese civilians no matter *how* dedicated they are to Hezbollah. And Hezbollah forces will see first-hand what is waiting for them if they are the ones to clear them out. What is even worse than all of this for Hezbollah is that it has NO effective mobility in the field while the IAF is in the air, and it is a day/night, all-weather combat air force.

2) Logistics, combat re-supply and protecting the rear. The operations using Israeli inserted forces via air proved a deadly and unexpected surprise to Hezbollah. Baalbeck was a very, very nasty surprise at it served as a regional coordinating center, and having it suddenly inundated with Israeli Commandos and then having *those* protected by fixed and rotary wing aircraft and then having them SAFELY removed was a huge blow to Hezbollah. Getting in, taking prisoners, taking documents and then leaving without so much as a sprained ankle amongst them was beyond belief and audacious. But it was further complicated by the problems that the IAF had given by closing off the road through the Bekaa to Damascus. This area was once thought to be the best defended air corridor on the planet and the IAF just waltzed through and interdicted it, blew up bridges and generally made things impassable. This is *the* terrorist stronghold in Lebanon and the IAF made a mockery of it without even a scratch to their planes. These two combined demonstrate a lack of theater level thinking by Hezbollah and not properly allocation manpower to defending vital re-supply routes and critical bridges. This was capped off by the raid on Tyre, which ended the capability of coordinating rocket attacks in Lebanon and forced that to go via Syria. In a series of a few attacks in the Bekaa, Baalbek and Tyre, the IAF and Israeli Commandos have proven to be the deadliest and most capable fighting force Hezbollah has to worry about. Hezbollah's inability to properly think about what can be attacked by them, and defend the necessary critical infrastructure that they can get to *at will* makes future operations without *any* reserve forces an impossibility. And while Syria, in theory, serves as a final backstop... if Hezbollah has to retreat that far, then they are finished as a fighting force.

3) Skilled terrorists make awful soldiers. Hezbollah has learned the hard lesson that the *courage* it takes to stand up and fire a gun wildly shouting 'Inshallah' is far different than that needed to offer covering fire to friendly forces, suppression fire against enemy forces and the ability to stage a *fighting retreat*. The lack of field mobility is critical not only to get forces *to* the fighting, but to move them quickly across a front of fighting. No matter who was training Hezbollah in their capabilities, they did not account for hard ground warfare. And the number 1, without a doubt, most frightening thing on the battlefield is the Israeli tanks. In theory all of those wonderful anti-tank RPGs should have done the trick... but faced with a rumbling column of tanks, armed helicopters and armed, mobile troops, they were no match for the modern armored forces of Israel. Plain old infantry can only stand up to that with good and solid leadership in the field, adequate equipment on close-assault tactics and the ability to withdraw with cover fire while actually under fires. No one had prepared Hezbollah for this and they either ran for cover, stole cars and were attacked, or stayed put in bunkers. Escape by foot is not a good thing to try and do before a modern mobile and air mobile combined arms force and often ends one up behind the enemy, without supplies and fearing for one's life. The second makes one an easy target for an air force, and the IAF plus UAV/UCAV operators proved that this can not be a fun way to die. Staying in bunkers makes one a rotting stench unless relieved by a force that can actually take the offensive. Hezbollah has only proven able to move *in* when Israeli forces move *out*. Infiltration of individuals is *not* enough for relief of trapped men in bunkers. In an earlier comment on The Belmont Club, I called them 'Instacrypts' and with good reason. The *incoming* groups from the Second Foreign Legion might be able to help as the US and new Iraqi Army are far, far worse than Israel on the ground... but Hezbollah may find that they are only going to get a handful of *experienced* urban fighters and no one capable of open ground or small built up area combat. The Revolutionary Guard from Iran seemed to be more interested in *not* getting discovered than in actually helping. They did help on training, but they didn't seem too well skilled at night combat, maneuver and such... but they did boast of all the civilians they terrorized back home. And the *other* terrorists from Indonesia and other places, plus those al Qaeda braggarts are not going to be much help at all, save as delay soldiers and storm troopers. If even that. Still, better *them* than those experienced veterans now recovering in Lebanese hospitals.

4) If one boasts of ability it is best to *use* that ability before a superior enemy *removes* it from you. Hezbollah boasted much about having all of Israel as its target. They certainly *tried*, but by the time they finally realized that the IDF was *serious* their forward combat positions were overrun and launchers destroyed. The use of the longest range Katusha has proven to be a hollow threat against Israel as, to make it effective, one must throw hundreds into the air in less than an hour at the SAME TARGET. One here and one there and a third skittering off into the sea is of no help whatsoever. The Katusha is a wonderful terror weapon when used as such, but is only a combat effective weapon in huge, multi-launch salvos. A skid here and a three tube pod there are *not* enough to dissuade a Civilian population that fighting is a bad idea, nor to distract ANY combat forces to the rear. The IDF let their normal first responders take care of things and the unreliability of the rockets to score repeated hits on the exact same place meant that threatening rescue workers was a more miss than hit affair.

5) Sea and air interdiction by Israel. The need to counter the latter is critical as the ability to interdict roads and supply routes means that no matter how *good* the front line combat forces actually *are* that they can be starved of food, weapons, ammo and medical supplies. This is the first critical phase of re-supply: replacing stores and getting the wounded out. South of the Litani will be a barren nightmare to Hezbollah, having to clean out rotting corpses from bunkers, try and repair old strong points and still threaten Israel without a plane with a white and blue insignia targeting them. MANPAD SAMs are the answer and, apparently, in very short supply. So is a real air defense and early warning system. A RADAR system would be damn handy for use to find air, sea and even, yes, land movements. Worse than those lacks is the fact the comms infrastructure is torn up and barely effective. Rocket attacks dropped in the waning days as Israel made good its claims of damaging launchers and destroying stores. With about 25% or the rockets launched and at least another 25% destroyed on the ground, Hezbollah is faced with a massive problem of actually uncrating and making combat ready the *other* 50% or less that is remaining. Further, they are in heavy need of mobile launchers. Actually, mobile *anything*. And a way to keep them from getting a bolt from the white and blue.

This is a major blow against the West and a huge victory for Transnationalism both in its Terror and Progressive stripes. Iran has been able to use its proxy army to keep a tenuous hold on Lebanon for its own purposes, but it is still feeble enough that reinforcing it is necessary before they can make active use of it. Still, a win like this is not to be sneezed at and allows Iran and Syria to continue on making mischief in Lebanon and so distract from the goings-on in Iran and the absolute feeble nature of the Syrian military. If Syria had wanted to retake the Golan Heights they would have done so and not be boasting that they *will* do so. Boasting of the 'hollowness' of the IDF just makes the Syrian Army look absolutely pathetic in comparison: mere walking ghosts in uniform.

On the Isreali side the only solution is to: take land, clear it of fighters or at least subdue it, push the active forces back continuously, shape the battlefield with air and sea bombardment and force Hezbollah to roll back along its supply lines. Those do *not* end in Beirut.

They end in Damascus, locally.

And, finally, Tehran.

1 comment:

Bushwack said...

Good reasoning there. and I hope the Israeli's learn the lessons required for their survival. We will see very shortly.