Israel Plans to Attack Lebanon Because Israel Is Not Winning Against Hamas

Once in a great while, things so speak for themselves that there is not much point in going on overmuch. Israel is not winning against Hamas. So it plans to take on a much tougher opponent, Hezbollah, which will be the result of executing on its plan to enter and occupy Lebanon up to the Litani River. This is not the way clear-thinking people operate.

But as Alastair Crooke explains (more on this soon), the Israelis recognize that they are no longer feared militarily in their ‘hood. Maintaining that fear is fundamental to Israeli citizen’s sense of security. Proof comes via Israel having had to pull its citizens out of the border to Gaza and Lebanon and not having been able to turn things around so they can return. Although I cannot prove a negative, Crooke and some Twitterati maintain that this effective loss of territory very much puts Israel on the back foot, since Israel historically has used buffer zones as an interim step in increasing the area under its control, and understands the risks when that process goes the other way.

Despite the assumption by many military experts at the start of the Israel campaign in Gaza, that the IDF would prevail given its much greater resources and ease of resupply, here we are, over 100 days in, and Israel is not all that much closer to victory, save in exterminating the Palestinian population in Gaza, as opposed to eliminating or at least crippling Hamas. Israel has not killed any of the leadership of Hamas’ military wing. Israel has not rescued any hostages. It is not clear how many Hamas fighters Israel has killed, but its claim of 10,000 versus the 27,000 dead reported in Gaza seems unreasonably high, particularly given admissions that schemes like flooding the tunnel system have not worked very well.

Hamas has been retaking Northern Gaza after Israel claimed to have secured it. And on top of that, as an article in today’s Links pointed out, Israel is having to husband its artillery use in Gaza in light of global shortages. So they plan to take on Hezbollah with less than a full magazine?

There are signs of dissent within Israel over where to go in the war. More and more family members of hostages have been getting sympathetic coverage in the press and support from some officials for their demand that Israel negotiate with Hamas now to get the hostages back. A new story in Christian Science Monitor recounts a key rupture:

The cracks in what had been near universal public unity supporting Israel’s war aims in the conflict’s first few months have even reached the five-person wartime Cabinet tasked with prosecuting the campaign against Hamas.

In a bombshell television interview on Israel’s Channel 12 this month, Gadi Eisenkot, a centrist politician and former military chief who joined Mr. Netanyahu’s wartime coalition in October, said the welfare of the hostages had to take precedence.

The government, he added, needed to stop “selling fantasies” to the public that their release would be achieved through force alone.

And the dissent continues:

But at this point, with Hamas doing not badly given the givens, it has escalated its demands. Israel meeting its demands for their return would be seen by its citizens as a capitulation:

Netanyahu, who also has his own survival to consider, is fiercely maintaining that defeating Hamas remains the priority, and the release of the hostages will follow from that.

Mind you, there are recent reports of negotiations between Israel and Hamas over the release of the hostages. With Tony Blinken involved, I didn’t see much reason to be optimistic (how many deals has Blinken said were imminent, like Egypt accepting Palestinian refugees in bulk, that came to naught?). Alastair Crooke, who has long-standing, high-level contacts all over the Muslim world, didn’t see fit to dignify them in his recent presentations. A new report in the Times of Israel suggests they are not going anywhere. The subhead:

Terror group appears to pour cold water on mediators’ latest offer after Qatari PM says ‘good progress’ made; Israel said open to lengthy truce but refuses to end war

On top of that, Israel is telegraphing its intent to go into Lebanon, despite the Anglopshere media not taking much notice. Israel first engaged in the lame pretext of “negotiating” with Lebanon to pull back to the Litani, as in cede a habited area to Lebanon for the benefit of Israeli settlers near the border. Israel is housing these families at what is reported to be non-sustainable cost. The border residents have said they won’t return until they can’t see Lebanese from their homes. Quite the ask, and Israel has said it will deliver. It has promised these border denizens they will return. The initial promise was by the end of January, which is clearly na ga happen. But Israel is signaling it plans to move soon. From the Times of Israel over the weekend:

The IDF said Saturday it was further increasing its preparedness on the northern border, publishing footage from recent “intensive” training exercises carried out by the 226th Reserve Paratroopers Brigade, as Hezbollah-led forces in Lebanon continue to launch attacks on Israeli communities and military posts along the border…

The drill by the health system this week dealt with a variety of potential scenarios involving the operation of hospitals, health maintenance organizations’ community clinics, medical evacuations, and the provision of support to chronically ill people in need of immediate assistance.

From the Reuters today:

Israeli troops will “very soon go into action” near the country’s northern border with Lebanon, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said tonight, as tensions surge amid the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

Gallant told troops near the border with the Gaza Strip that others were being deployed to Israel’s north.

“They will very soon go into action… so the forces in the north are reinforced,” Gallant said.

“The forces close to you… are leaving the field and moving towards the north, and preparing for what comes next,” he said.

Yes, Hezbollah has been shelling the border area, but in tit for tat attacks. Crooke contends that both sides so far have been somewhat careful, hoping to goad the other side into a disproportionate reaction they can use to justify a larger attack.

But reminiscent of the Great Ukraine Counteroffensive, Israel is committed to Doing Something, and is making that awfully clear in advance too.

Without belaboring the issue, there is no reason to think Israel will win against Hezbollah. It was eventually beaten in 2006. Hezbollah is a much better fighting force than then while Israel is no better and perhaps worse. Among other things, Israel is betting on the US entering the conflict and saving its bacon, when Scott Ritter has warned that recent war game have shown Israel to lose against Hezbollah even when the US saddles up. And those didn’t factor in the Houthis interfering with ship getting to Israel’s ports. On top of that, the US has brought aerial refueling planes after the supposed drone attack on an outpost in Jordan that killed three service members. Many observers claim that means the US feels it needs to keep its jets in the air so as not to have them destroyed on the ground. That would have to complicate air support for Israel in Lebanon.

In other words, this plan seems, to be polite, a reckless gamble. Yet the Israelis seem fanatically committed to moving ahead with it. Crooke tries to explain what looks like determination to self-destruct:

Israel is boxed-in, as is becoming very evident to many Israelis. One Israeli correspondent (formerly a Cabinet Secretary) illustrates its nature:

The meaning of the 7th October default is not only the loss of lives … but mainly the potential transformation of how Israel is perceived … as no longer to be feared by Middle Eastern actors.

The Israeli leadership must internalize that we can no longer be content with a ‘sense of victory’ among the Israeli public … It is doubtful whether victory in Gaza is enough to restore the fear of Israel to the levels we had vis-a-vis our enemies. A victory that boils down to just the release of the captives and confidence-building measures to establish a Palestinian state would not be enough in shoring up Israel’s image in that regard.

If the quagmire of Gaza … brings the [Israeli] leadership to the realization that there is no ability to present a clear victory on this front, one that will lead to a strategic change in the region, they must consider switching fronts and reasserting Israeli deterrence through the removal of the strategic threat in Lebanon … victory against one of the richest and most powerful terrorist organizations in the world – Hezbollah – can restore deterrence in the region in general … Israel must remove the threat from the north and dismantle the power structure Hezbollah has built in Lebanon, regardless of the situation in the south.

But without victory in the south, a significant achievement in the north becomes that much more important.

The above quotation goes directly to the heart of the issue. That is: ‘How can Zionism be saved?’. All the rest of the ‘blah-blah’ coming from world leaders is largely bluff. Not only is Gaza NOT giving Israelis a sense of victory; on the contrary, it is widely proliferating a violent anger at a surprise, ‘shameful’ defeat…

The latest Peace Index survey reflects the pervasive gloom: 94% percent of Jews think Israel has used the right amount of firepower in Gaza (or “not enough” (43%)). Three-quarters of all Israelis think the number of Palestinians harmed since October is justified to achieve its aims; a full two-thirds of Jewish respondents say numbers of casualties are definitely justified (only 21% say “somewhat” justified).

Crooke explains that Zionism promised Jew security within Israel, and that promise has been turned on its head. Not only are Jews in Israel now insecure, but blowback from the Gaza campaign is also threatening the diaspora. Biden is merely pursuing containment posturing; the two state solution is a non-starter and as we described earlier, the normalization scheme with Saudi Arabia is an empty exercise in optics.

He argues in his latest article that Israel feeling it has its back pushed against the wall has unleashed deeper impulses in the form of hewing to cultural archetypes. His article goes through some analogies. I think Crooke is on the right track but has not quite nailed this analytically. But explaining what looks like a mass psychosis is not easy.

Crooke has another go at trying to explain Israel’s overwrought state in his current Judge Napolitano talk, where he describes the conflict as an Armageddon-like struggle which is partly fueled by the way the Islamic world has been in decline for the last 1000 years, with the meddling of Europeans in the last 500 years a major contributor. And the Israel side even more so is seeing it in Biblical and eschatological terms. Hence the emotionality and lack of sound calculations.

Crooke has warned (as have a few others) that Israel is putting its survival as a state at risk if it launches a full scale attack against Lebanon. But even that possibility seems to be no deterrent.

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  1. Feral Finster

    “Once in a great while, things so speak for themselves that there is not much point in going on overmuch. Israel is not winning against Hamas. So it plans to take on a much tougher opponent, Hezbollah, which will be the result of executing on its plan to enter and occupy Lebanon up to the Litani River. This is not the way clear-thinking people operate.”

    The plan in Israel is for the US and its vassals to do the fighting for it.

    “Despite the assumption by many military experts at the start of the Israel campaign in Gaza, that the IDF would prevail given its much greater resources and ease of resupply, here we are, over 100 days in, and Israel is not all that much closer to victory, save in exterminating the Palestinian population in Gaza, as opposed to eliminating or at least crippling Hamas. Israel has not killed any of the leadership of Hamas’ military wing. Israel has not rescued any hostages. It is not clear how many Hamas fighters Israel has killed, but its claim of 10,000 versus the 27,000 dead reported in Gaza seems unreasonably high, particularly given admissions that schemes like flooding the tunnel system have not worked very well.”

    Ethnic cleansing, and, barring that, outright genocide via wholesale extermination was always the plan. When the Nazis did it, they called it “Lebensraum”.

    1. Librarian Guy

      But we all realize that the US Empire is too overstretched, expensive & pathetic to conquer anything, even the Houthis, much less either Lebanon or Iran, right? So it won’t be a pyrrhic victory in the North, it won’t even be a victory at all. Some speculate that the US-Israeli Axis of Evil’s only way out is similar to the Reich’s end game. Create Chaos & mass destruction, burn everything down & destroy it, & hope that Your Side can recover over time. And let’s face it, dead-eyed psychos like Blinken would likely not balk at doing this.

      The “only hope” would seem to be if there are still any adult voices in the Pentagon to stop this. But personally, I think with Biden-Sullivan-Blinken-Nuland at the top, only throwing gasoline on the fire will be the likely outcome.

    2. Christopher Fay

      So Israel’s plan is to use U.S. troops as the cannon fodder just as the U.S. used Ukrainians to do the dirty work of dying.

    3. Michael King

      No. The Nazis called it The Final Solution to the Jewish Question.
      Hitler had two main fixations: the extermination of European Jewry and the expansion of Reich territory. Lebensraum refers to the latter.

  2. Raymond Sim

    In my opinion Zionism was already well and truly dead when the answer to “How is Zionism to be saved?” became “US protection.”

    If there was ever any “Zionism” worthy of the name, there’s been none for decades. Instead Jewish-American oligarchs play the role of Court Jews, allowing dipshits in the US and Israel to LARP as tough guys.

    And there’s your mass psychosis: millions of LARPers who thought the game was real. Talk about belief-scarring!

    1. Feral Finster

      In my opinion Zionism was already well and truly dead when the answer to “How is Zionism to be saved?” became “US protection.”

      That always was the case, since at least 1967. Take away American support and Israel would have to get a whole new attitude, and fast.

  3. Michaelmas

    I read that Crooke piece too. As I did, some obvious questions came up about what happens further up the escalation ladder:-

    [1] If Israel launches a full-scale attack, how many missiles will Hezbollah retain to fire back at Israel in reprisal?

    [2] When Israel suffers widespread missile attacks during Hezbollah’s reprisal and is substantially damaged, does it then flatten 4,000 square miles of Lebanon with conventional missiles and bombs in its own further counter-attack? Does it even have sufficient conventional capability without the US to do that?

    [3] Does Israel’s reprisal against Lebanon then bring Iran into play so that, given that Israel has adopted ‘mad dog’ mode, Israel attacks them too — while trying to drag the US in — and would that in turn mean Iran retaliates by flattening Israel with its conventional missile capability, which Iran absolutely can do?

    [4] What means does Israel then have to attack Iran effectively — a territory of 0.64 million square miles making it the world’s 17th-largest country, with a population of around 90 million people — which even the US can’t do, without using nukes?

    [5] If Israel uses nukes against Iran, what then is the position of Russia, given the recent formalization of the cooperation deal between the two countires?

    And so on.

    1. Albe Vado

      The nukes are the part that worry me most. For decades we’ve been told we should be scared of the ‘mad Mullahs’ getting the bomb. Aside from the considerable fact that Iran does not have, and has never had, a nuclear weapons program, I genuinely trust the Iranians to be restrained and sober minded in their foreign policy decisions even if they did have nukes. It’s the mad Rabbis I’m worried about. What will Israel do when it becomes clear it can’t achieve anything through conventional belligerence, and maybe it’s very existence is threatened? What happens when Netanyahu, or the even worse swamp creatures he’s peopled his cabinet with, need to prove what tough guys they are so as to not be blamed for losing a war?

      1. The Heretic

        If Israel uses Nukes, when no country has landed troops on its land nor said they will kill every Jew (as opposed to erasing the Zionist state, which is not genocide , although Zionists would like to conflate the concepts), Israel will destroy its most valuable source of power and its strongest shield; the sense of moral guilt the West has for allowing or facilitating the Holocaust. If it uses the Nukes, it will lose support of the Western World and will cause absolute fury in the Arab/Muslim world? There would be HUGE reprisals for that evil action. Consider that some or much of the arab world was sympathetic to the Americans after 9/11; how much more will they sympathize and ‘aid’ a country that gets Nuked by Israel?
        I.e. What would stop Pakistan from ‘loaning nuclear material’ to another Arab country to conduct and self develop a nuclear industry? It just so happens that most of the material is U235 and plutonium . What would stop Iran from contributing missile and drone technology to that same country?

        No country in the world can attack another country with Nukes, unless it has the enemy on its territory and sees its city destroyed.

  4. Oldtimer

    The end game here is to get US ground troops involved.
    The irony is that they will, as soon as they start taking losses, the screams of holocaust against the Jews will be such in all media that American youth will go and die in the deserts of that cursed land. Mark my words.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      See the discussion in the post about the Houthis. This is not 1991. Our ground forces are much smaller and critically, we can’t move men from the US into the Middle East, nor could we supply them. We can only move men who are in theater by land. So all we can do is air support and perhaps some ballistic missiles fired from the sea…assuming there are any left after the Houthis have been attriting them.

      Scott Ritter describes further how the US way way way way overestimates its capabilities in the Middle East here, staring at 12:00.

      1. Benny Profane

        Yes. Many forget that both Iraq incidents required months of logistics, and using Saudi Arabia mostly but other ME locations to stage these invasions and assaults. That ain’t happening this time. Chances are we’ll see another marine barracks attack on steroids, using missiles instead of suicide truck bombers. That won’t go well in an election year.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          “Months” as in nine. I recall the reports that hospital ships were being repositioned, which I read nine months ahead of the invasion window (only 2 a year because weather). I knew then we were going in.

          1. jrkrideau

            The other question is where is the USA going to park its troops?

            Saudi Arabia was a great place to build up forces for invading Iraq. Lots of nice desert to part people and equipment with essentially first-world facilities a couple of kilometre down the read in Damman.

            My guess would be no country in the Arab League nor Turkey would let a rowboat land or a weather balloon pass overhead.

            Most like countries like Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Djibouti might politely suggest that the USA close operations for a while. If nothing else it might be a way for current governments to stay in power.

            Turkey refused to allow US troop movements for the Iraq invasion.

            Is the USA going to do all its basing in Israel?

            1. hk

              Middle Eastern countries are already letting US and even Israel transit through their territory (see Larry Johnson’s latest post about the tangled web in Jordan, for example.). The catch is that they can’t do it too overtly, so a full scale invasion, I imagine, is still out, but small scale operations away from population centers are still game, if no one talks about them.

              One thing I can’t remember is, back in 2003, whether US was forbidden only from sending ground troops from Turkiye or whether US was actually forbidden from using air bases like Incirlik. Can Turkiye plausibly claim that they can’t stop US from using Incirlik in case of conflict with Iran or deny overflights from, say, bases in Greece?

        2. Chad

          Remember Trump tried to withdraw our boys from Syria, where they have no business, except as he succintly said, “to steal their oil.” The Pentagon resisted. The man is an honest asshole. That’s why our entire family will vote for him.

          The Zionists always tip overtip their hand. Many Americans are going to take advantage of their constantly self-identifying as a persecuted minority, seen Glen Greenwald’s video about anti Semitism in Hollywood?, Zionists First, Americans second, to target them.

          Many Jewish friends are pro Palestinian. You have to respect them for that. Israel is not friend, anymore than a tapeworm is your buddy.

    2. nippersdad

      The US military is already having problems with recruitment, given the polling of youth on the Israel/Gaza conflict that could only get worse. Conscription on behalf of Israel would then get their parents involved, and I can see no faster means of suicide for the military than to seek to kill off the nations kids for such as Chaim Saban and Bill Ackman’s personal vanity project. They didn’t buy everyone’s allegiance, and that fact will quickly become apparent.

      We may see some shelling, maybe thirty days worth until we completely run out of ammo, but I tend to believe that boots on the ground against a real military force like Hezbollah is supremely unlikely.

      1. Benny Profane

        The Black pastors have been uniting in talking down the genocide in Gaza, and I’ll bet that the pictures of those three black kids who died on the border of Jordan (and sorry, they were kids) will not inspire more people of color to sign up and be stationed as targets in the desert. Maybe Ackman can start an Ivy league recruitment drive. Volunteer, or I’ll make sure you’re blackballed on Wall Street.

        1. Malik

          That’s not going to happen. The fact is that when you sign up for the military you accept all risks. What are we doing in Syria and Jordan and Iraq? No Black person is so mealy mouthed emotionally that they will push for a military conflict, especially when you can’t get clean water in Flint and Jackson, Miss. You can’t get schools fixed for Black taxpayers but you can for illegal immigrants. You need a better understanding of why recruitment sucks, it’s because no one, Black/White/Rich or Poor is signing up for this nonsense. We ain’t that emotional. Black pastors better get it right or get kicked to the curb. We see through all the bullshit. The most realistic outcome, when Israel get’s it’s hat handed to it is nuclear war. 3 dead Black kids ain’t gonna get anyone to vote for a death wish.

      2. SocalJimObjects

        Unless there’s a false flag attack in the United States, then it will be everyone’s patriotic duty to defend the nation.

    3. Librarian Guy

      I retired from teaching High School 3 years ago. I think you are wrong. Modern youth aren’t the rabid dogs of the Bush Jr. Iraq invasion years. They hate TPTB and know it’s not worth it. Now I taught in California & I’m sure there are a few places where the Goobers would send their kids to die (Alabama, Oklahoma, places like that come to mind.) But mass conscription won’t be accepted by the population, & a coalition of hayseeds needs training & time– that the US & Israel don’t seem to have.

      1. Benny Profane

        The “Goobers” and “hayseeds” may be way way ahead of you and me and basically 90% of the population that would never think of joining up or encouraging their kids too. That segment of our population has seen military service up close, and at this point it’s a generational family affair. Something tells me the Iraqi and Afghanistan vets weren’t sitting there at holiday dinners advising the younger ones that the services were a good deal. Certainly not a winning deal. It’s going to take a 911 level false flag to get the kids to put the video controllers and porn vehicles down to go get their asses shot for the billionaires.

        1. redleg

          And you both are missing some important details about mobilization or conscription.
          1. What’s the mobilization plan? If there is one, it will take time (months) to execute. If there isn’t one, it will take months to create one, and then months to execute.
          2. It will take months to train the mobilized troops, double that or more to train conscripts.
          3. Is there equipment ready for training the mobilized troops and new conscripts? I’m talking uniforms, boots, housing, fuel, transportation, meals, medical care, etc., not weapons.
          4. Are there resources allocated to train enormous numbers of soldiers, sailors, and airmen- weapons, communications, land, fuel, housing, transport, ammunition, planes, engines, ships, medical care, etc., all the stuff that these people will need to learn to do for their MOS? (Re-)acquiring these resources is going to take months or longer, if they can be acquired at all.
          5. Is there a plan to organize the influx of trained men and women into combat and combat support units? If not it’ll take months to create one.
          6. Congress needs to allocate funds to do all of this. Then those funds need to get to where the money is needed. How long is that going to take? Is there even a plan to know where the resources are needed (there must be), and assuming there is will Congress and the (so- called) executive leadership follow the plan (or simply no-bid it to their funders)?

          Those are just basics that I can think of off the cuff as a former battalion and brigade staff officer. I know I’m missing things.

          Now imagine that the above are all under control and in process. What if events cause plans to change? Is the existing US leadership class (military and civilian) capable of handling that in a hurry? …sucessfully handling that in a hurry?

          1. Malik

            These lunatics have not even figured out how to supply weaponry to Ukraine. Ukraine is getting kicked to the curb in part because the Lobby tells the lawmakers to do so. The munitions are being preserved for Israel. You accurately outline basic facts, but there’s nothing more basic than I got 1000 rounds of ammo and you got 10. Everyone should understand that math. Poll the Ukrainians if you have doubt. These incompetents can’t even withdraw from Afghanistan without looking like keystone cops. They don’t know the meaning of “military preparedness.” We’re going to see the exposure of 2 paper tigers and it won’t be pretty. The nuclear clock will move to 1 second before midnight. And tactical nukes in the Middle East will embolden Russian to use them in Ukraine, even though they don’t need to. And if you are the Chinese you sit back and wait for the blowback and then calk walk into Taiwan, again, even though they don’t need to invade Taiwan. Taiwan will be absorbed into China economically and politically.

          2. Benny Profane

            I’m not talking “mobilization”. I’m still talking about a volunteer, “career” army. The bright red line is mobilization, or, simply, as I remember it as a 17 year old, the Draft.I will argue that we need a draft again, because that will certainly wake the middle class to this BS of forever war that they suddenly have to risk their or their children’s lives in. No way we could have kids sitting in deserts as rocket bait if the American public had them coming back in boxes. It wouldn’t get anywhere near the logistical and funding issues you speak of. You’ll finally see kids marching in the streets again, because they’re first to the meat grinder in distant lands. Brought down one President quickly.

            1. zach

              Idk. Plenty of people avoided the draft back in the day. “Cadet Bone Spurs,” Dubs joined the coast guard(?) , i think Clinton got a college deferment.

              Not that everyone who avoided the draft ended up being presidents, but there were ways around it if you were the correct skin color and tax bracket. My ancestors of that era were C.O.’s… peaceniks, that is. Also, upper middle class.

              Why should it be any different now?

            2. hk

              I don’t know about that: during 19th century, European empires maintained colonial armies separate from the regular army. The French army in Algeria, for example, was a professional volunteer army, including “mercenaries” (eg the Foreign Legion). Conscripts stayed in metropolitan France. Even if there is a draft, no reason to expect “ordinary Americans,” even in uniform, would see the ugly side of empiring.

          3. GeoCrackr

            6. Congress needs to allocate funds to do all of this. Then those funds need to get to where the money is needed. How long is that going to take? Is there even a plan to know where the resources are needed (there must be), and assuming there is will Congress and the (so- called) executive leadership follow the plan (or simply no-bid it to their funders)?

            As readers here well know, “there’s always money in the banana stand” when it comes to murdering brown people overseas. Congress has never in my lifetime had any problem at all holding an emergency session to vote with near-unanimity to write a blank no-questions-asked check to the Pentagon for that purpose.

          4. hk

            That’s the thing I wonder when I wander by decommissioned bases. Many of them came into being (in many cases up to a year and a half before Pearl Harbor) on the account of World War 2 and remained active to support the Cold War. Now, they are not only closed but long converted to civilian use. Where will the new bases be set up and who’s going to build them and provide the necessary support?

          5. vao

            Is there equipment ready for training the mobilized troops and new conscripts? I’m talking uniforms, boots, housing, fuel, transportation, meals, medical care, etc., not weapons.

            A question for knowledgeable people:

            I had the impression that armies kept in store vast amounts of discontinued equipment — mainly uniforms, helmets, personal gear, individual arms. They should serve as a stop-gap to supply troops in case of a big operation if the current, up-to-date equipment is unavailable in sufficient amounts, and often serve as props in historical movies.

            Is this still the case, or have NATO armies disposed of all the no-longer-regulation stuff?

    4. .Tom

      I’m confused. Crooke says Israel’s urgent priority is to reestablish its neighbors fear of Israel. How does that fit with a goal of getting US ground troops involved. Doesn’t that demonstrate weakness?

      If Israel shows that its defense depends on foreign troops and/or privileged supply of special materiel, then it shows that it cannot defend itself.

      1. elkern

        If Israel demonstrates that it [still] controls the disposition of US forces, then it doesn’t matter whether it’s neighbors fear Israeli or US military power.

        Unfortunately, this means that maintaining “influence” over US politics his right at the top of Israeli priorities. Campaign donations may no longer be sufficient for ensuring that…

  5. john brewster

    Many observers claim that means the US feels it needs to keep its jets in the air so as not to have them destroyed on the ground.

    I do not understand this reasoning. US aircraft are “hangar queens” many hours of maintenance per hour in the air. Current availability is around 30%, so 2 out of 3 planes would be on the ground already. The demand for spare parts and aviation fuel would further stress an already stressed supply chain. F-35s are notorious for losing their stealth coating simply by flying.

    How many hours per day would make the planes “safe” from ground attack? All it takes is an observer to report when planes have landed. They can’t stay up forever, due to human factors – pilots need sleep, planes need oxygen supplies.

    IMHO, the only reason for the tankers is to increase range, either for planes from aircraft carriers that remain out of anti-ship missile range, or to participate in a foolhardy attack on Iran.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Its less a matter of keeping them in the air than in keeping them ‘mobile’. Having air tankers active in the area allows the combat aircraft to move from rear to forward bases rapidly, making them a harder target and keeping them further away from Iran’s ballistic missiles.

    2. hk

      I wondered about this the other day: it seems like 6 tankers can’t do much–can barely support the strike package launched from a single aircraft carrier at best, it seems. I can’t figure out what they would be good for…..

    3. V V Gerasimov

      Excellent point re the US “hangar queens”. Another issue to consider: if the war goes general, Hezbollah and/or Iran could target the few airbases in Israel and quickly knock them out of commission. Where would the surviving planes of the IAF then operate from? British bases in Cyprus? US carriers? And with the IAF crippled, how effectively could Israeli ground forces function, especially given their abysmal performance vs Hamas to date?

      Yet another issue to consider if the war escalates to no-holds-barred: IIRC there are only about a dozen electric and water desalinization plants in Israel. So a double handful of big missiles could transform all of Israel into the current Gaza strip. Add a few more missiles to knock out the ports and airports, trapping the Jewish population — and they could very well find themselves on the other end of that “Amalekite treatment” that they so fervently wish to inflict upon the Palestinians. Talk about Karma being a bitch….

      1. ISL


        And its not as if Cyprus is out of Iran’s (and potentially Lebanese) missile reach (or Saudi Arabia would allow US planes to land – they are both in BRICs, and Russia can supply SA with its weapon needs (and they work). The US only has 4 aircraft carriers functional (and I think one needs repair), and only 40% of the US submarine fleet is functional.

      2. redleg

        Airbases are much harder to destroy than most people think, unless of course nukes are used. Sure they can be taken out of service for a day or ten, but permanently destroying a meter-thick reinforced concrete runway is not going to happen as long as the owner has the resources to repair it.

    4. ilsm

      Numerous uses for aerial refueling aircraft!

      I suppose the east bound “flow” of KC 135 can be to: send more fighters into the Middle East, refuel heavy airlift taking heavy cargoes to the Middle East, last to refuel combat missions.

      A point to ponder: no KC46’s going east! While KC 135 can off load during aerial refueling about the same amount of fuel as a KC 46.

      Way to go USAF weapons procurement!

  6. Feral Finster

    “Israel is boxed-in, as is becoming very evident to many Israelis. One Israeli correspondent (formerly a Cabinet Secretary) illustrates its nature:

    The meaning of the 7th October default is not only the loss of lives … but mainly the potential transformation of how Israel is perceived … as no longer to be feared by Middle Eastern actors.

    Even if Israel itself is no longer feared, it doesn’t matter, as long as Israel’s American thug is still feared. This is why, apart from the Houthis, none of the Arab countries dares so much as raise a peep, much less kick out American troops or cut off relations with Israel.”

    For their part, the Houthis have no megarich leaders to sanction, no western assets to seize, no western toys that can be taken away.

  7. David in Friday Harbor

    As we saw in Algeria and in South Africa, settler societies based on fantasies of racial superiority and impunity reach a tipping point when the illusion of personal security is breached. Then it’s La valise ou le cercueil. Or Masada…

    My comfort and safety should never be dependent on my neighbor’s suffering. Not a single drop of American blood should be shed for this doomed exercise in magical thinking. Let it end now.

    1. cousinAdam

      Thoughts of Masada crossed my mind as well, especially having had the opportunity to visit the site in the early 90s- awesome and sobering. Less sobering is one of my favorite lines from the tv sitcom “Married With Children” – “If you’re gonna lose, Lose BIG!”

  8. Camelotkidd

    Since Donald Trump’s surprise victory in 2016 I have lost respect for countless liberal writers whom I once held in high regard.

    Count Rick Perlstein as among them. In a new article, entitled “American Fascism”, Perlstein writes about the potential for American-style fascism should Trump win another term.

    The problem with this analysis is that the US is already there, with the liberal stalwart–Joe Biden– and his administration, actively aiding and abetting the Israeli genocide unfolding in Gaza. In the latest outrage, the US and rest of the EU, in response to Israeli claims that several UNRWA employees’ were involved in the Hamas attacks of 7 October, have cut off aid to the only agency barely preventing starvation in Gaza. Conveniently, the charges comes as the International Court of Justice in The Hague on Friday, ruled that Israel was committing genocide, and from the real news of the day which continues to be the genocidal activities of Israel in Gaza, with another 165 civilians reportedly murdered yesterday.
    There’s a method to the madness for liberals and Democrats in the runup to the 2024 presidential election in November. Alastair Crooke writes. “The White House hopes – through containment – to ‘stroke’ the flames of war-fever raised by the Gaza assault down to ‘low heat’, and thus to slide the situation imperceptibly towards the regional ‘quiet’ that the Administration deems ‘appropriate’ to an Election Year.”

    That’s the plan. Keep the genocide on the down-low while shrieking about the threat of American fascism if Trump wins.

      1. playon

        No it sure wasn’t…

        I have a friend who was a big Hillary fan living in Seattle while I was in a rural part of the state, and I had a sense of what was going to happen. When I told her that Trump was going to win because a lot of people don’t like Hillary Clinton, she said “But all my friends like her!” There is serious lack of awareness among the PMC.

        1. Idaho_Randy

          The same absence of awareness that nixed advertising on weekend afternoon baseball games because: “No one will watch it, Everyone is at the polo match.”

      2. Pat

        Others here were more aware than I was. Oh, I knew it was going to shock most of my friends and online acquaintances since it was going to be really close, but I admit I thought Clinton was going to just eke past the finish. I missed that her incompetent campaign allowed her entitled arrogant self to bask in the admiration of Californians and ignore the rust belt after the convention. Otherwise…

          1. fjallstrom

            The 99% was from Sam Wang at Princeton who had a model that just ran on state polls (unlike 538 that adds propritary weights). Wang promised to eat a bug if he was wrong. Actually it was closer to 100%, but in order to cover his bases he had a 1% risk that the polls were systemically wrong. So my conclusion is that the polls have larger errors than they present. Wang, to his credit, ate a bug. He has since become more interested in why polls are wrong.

            Couple of years after 2016 there was a US paper that compared polls in the weak leading up to an election (any election) and if they predicted the winner as accurately as they claim. They did not. To reach the accuracy they claimed you needed to duobled the margin of error.

            So I always double the margin of error when I read a poll. And then much narrativium becomes just noise.

          2. fjallstrom

            To add to my other comment (in moderation for now) Sam Wang of 99% probability fame seems to have learned from the experience:

            From Scientific American in 2020:

            One thing we shouldn’t do is convert polling data into probabilities. That obscures the fact that polls can be a few points off. And it’s better to leave the reported data in units of opinion [as a percentage favoring a candidate] rather than try to convert it to a probability.

            It’s best not to force too much meaning out of a poll. If a race looks like it’s within three or four points in either direction, we should simply say it’s a close race and not force the data to say something they can’t. I think pollsters will take this inaccuracy and try to do better. But at some level, we should stop expecting too much out of the polling data.

    1. hk

      Like Huey Long said, when fascism comes to America, we’ll call it anti-fascism. I always thought it very clever and accurate, but I never expected it’d be literal. :/

    2. redleg

      The hill I’m willing to die on is this:

      The modern Democrat party is closer to Franklin Pierce than FDR, and Dem policies are GOP policies from ten years ago.

      1. CA

        Nixon’s America

        May 25, 2008

        To the Editor:

        George F. Will’s smug and sniping review of Rick Perlstein’s “Nixonland” (May 11 * ) may capture the book’s shortcomings, but Will dismisses out of hand its central thesis. To claim, as Will does, that Nixon has nothing to do with the rise of modern conservatism, and thus with the rise of the modern Republican Party, ignores the myriad ways in which both are built on foundations Nixon laid.

        Will would have us look at specific policies – concerning China, the Soviet Union or particular domestic issues – but that misses the point. Nixon’s more significant legacy to the Republican Party includes the politics of polarization, paranoid levels of secrecy, grossly enlarged executive power, extra-constitutional criminalities too numerous to mention and a corrosive cynicism after Watergate that has left many Americans too numb to care much about our politics. Sounds like Karl Rove to me, and yet Will insists that Nixon’s six disastrous years in the White House were “an empty parenthesis.”

        Will doesn’t like Nixon and thus he simply can’t seem to accept that the Republicans in power during the last generation, for whom Will has been an apologist, are all Nixon’s children – Reagan, Bushes I and II, Gingrich, DeLay, Lott, Cheney and on and on. Bob Dole was right when he said as much during his eulogy for Nixon in 1994. It is still Nixon’s world – the rest of us just live in Nixonland.


        Steven Conn
        Columbus, Ohio
        The writer is a professor of history at Ohio State University.

        1. Harold

          I didn’t know about George Will’s review (and at this point have even forgotten exactly who George Will was.) But looking it up just now, I wholeheartedly agree with Will’s statement that: “The cumulative effect of carelessness, solecisms and rhetorical fireworks is to make Perlstein seem eager to portray the years and people about whom he is writing as even wilder and nastier than they were.”
          I was alive then and (in fact as a student) closely following events, I don’t remember that, say, student protesters in Queens, NYC, overturned a bookcase, as Perlstein portentously asserts. The horror! There was no internet or 24-hour all-news-all-the-time cycle, and believe me, this wasn’t national news. It looked like Perlstein had employed a bunch a grad student “researchers” to make lists of every little thing that happened, which he (or they) then jumbled together mindlessly, without interpretation or assessment, as filler. I wasn’t able to verify anything in the footnotes, which were were allegedly “online.” As for the psychological stuff, it was pretty feeble.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      So if the IDF was doing so bloody well, why is it about to embark on a potentially Israel-destroying campaign against Lebanon?

      You are missing the point of this post. The sense of Israel’s security has been shattered. Israel is on a path to self-destructively attack Lebanon because Israeli citizens are traumatized not just by October 7 but the fact that they have effectively had to cede territory by treating the Lebanon and Gaza borders as buffer zones. On top of that, the IDF levels of casualties in Gaza were recognized as unsustainably high, which means its can’t even prevail in a short conflict with a small “terrorist” group. So in the minds of Israelis, they are cornered with the IDF a not adequate defender.

      1. Raymond Sim

        Simply put, if three months from now every civilian in Gaza is dead, will Israel’s military situation have changed?

        1. Carolinian

          Yes, it will be worse. I like Crooke who I have been reading for a long time but I wouldn’t take his prediction for a certainty. While the tiny state of Israel likes to pretend it’s a major power the real action will be here in America and our status in the world may finally matter more than Israel’s. And a new Andrew Cockburn tells how, based on history, the US can say no and have done so to a previous drive to the Litani.

          At the end of the day 7 million Jewish Israelis are not going to control the Middle East and it’s insane to think so. Of course Netanyahu has his own calculations but his popularity now in Israel is not great.

          This is all about America and our politicians and it always has been starting with Harry Truman and Israel’s beginnings.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      Plenty of neutral sources believed that Hamas could not last much more than 3 months in the tunnels, not least because disease and starvation would eventually deplete their fighting strength.

      But its become clear that they are not just surviving, they are actively taking back territory in the north from the IDF. Its anyones guess as to how long they can keep this up, but if anything they seem to be demonstrating greater resilience than the IDF. The general population is of course being killed and driven out, but the longer Hamas can hang on, the more likely it is that enough of the civilian population will remain that it will be impossible for Israel to clear the Strip (which is clearly their intention) without collapsing their own economy or resorting to even more extreme means. The reality is that every day that Hamas clings on is a victory – wars like this are won by resilience, not by planting a flag on a ruin.

      1. Peter L.

        I feel as though Israel has left itself with only two options, genocide or defeat. It seems that the IDF is incapable of holding territory without destroying every structure and killing every living thing in that territory. Would it be right to say that, ironcially, the IDF’s weaknesses espcially in terms of its soldiers low morale, cowardice and ineffectiveness actually makes it much more dangerous? Unless the IDF kills everything it sees, it can’t “win,” whatever that term means in this foul and disgusting war.

        So, I suppose, if this perspective is on the right track, as long as Israel has yet to complete its genocide or total depopulation of Gaza, it will remain defeated.

    3. hk

      I suspect that this is a bit more complicated than that. I’d wager that the problem is that neither can really fight each other without endangering themselves: Hamas can’t survive a big firefight with IDF, true, but IDF can’t do a close in fight with Hamas either. Further, all the shelling and bombing can’t stop Hamas from bringing in supplies or moving about in the ruins. So IDF had to move into Gaza physically to try to cut off these channel–which exposed them to close-in fighting and ambushes of the sorts where Hamas can negate the material advantage that IDF has.

      I used to think that the material advantage of IDF would mean that they would win “militarily.” That clearly is not the case: if the combatants are asymmetrically matched, you can only “win” by forcing the other to fight on grounds where they are disadvantaged and it seems that, no matter what, Israel can’t drag Hamas out to fight on terms where IDF has the advantage. The catch is that, if the battle for Gaza does wind up becoming a long, drawn out siege, IDF would not actually need to commit that many troops. If they do not actually advance into Gaza and instead maintain a large defensive posture, they would not need that many troops and can limit their casualties. So they have resources left for expanding the fight elsewhere. The basket case that Israel has become by falling into a “state of war” means that they don’t have much to lose if the fight expands. They can actually count on the political chaos triggered by an expanding war (e.g. US is forced to intervene in force) that could shift things to Israel’s advantage strategically and are sure that the West would not let Israel be “destroyed” (whatever that would actually mean in practice.)

      From the US (and Western) perspective, this is a very bad development: I wondered, given the kind of rhetorical trap that the West was falling into, whether Ukraine could drag on their war to the last American. Well, Israel probably can, as the West has trapped itself rhetorically in a self-exploitive relationship with Israel for decades now.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Some pointed out fairly early on that Hamas would win by not losing. That is turning out to be the case. Look at how it has raised the bar for a ceasefire and hostage swap. You don’t do that if you think you are in trouble.

        1. hk

          I don’t know if Israel would “lose” (in the immediate term) by Hamas not losing. Yes, Israel loses in the big picture sense, in terms of political and strategic aims. But, if Israel refuses to fight on Hamas’ terms in the near term, by pulling troops out from Gaza but continuing the siege, along with bombing and shelling, it still has hundreds of thousands of troops standing around doing not much and a bunch of politicians who are eager to do something that’d help them score political points. Convincing Israel to act like they “lost” when they have not yet “visibly lost” is the challenge. I keep thinking about Germany in 1918–imagining Bibi in Pickelhaube reprising the Kaiser is oddly funny, but those events did not go well for anyone involved.

      2. vao

        I already stated it, but the only recent point of comparison we have for the Gaza operation is the siege of Raqqa (turned into a fortress of Daesh) by the Syrian Democratic Forces assisted by the US air forces and French artillery.

        Proportionally, it involved a tenth of the troops fighting in Gaza (defenders as well as attackers), on a tenth of the surface. It took 4 months, 1 week and 4 days — which sets the absolute minimum duration for the Israelis to achieve success. The battle destroyed 80% of Raqqa.

        Since Gaza has been fortified for decades (instead of about 3.5 years for Raqqa), is probably not 100% cut off from supplies via undeground tunnels to Egypt (contrarily to Raqqa, which ended up completely surrounded), and the operation is an order of magnitude larger, one can only wonder how much longer the conquest of Gaza by the IDF might take.

      3. Martin Oline

        It is likely that the north of Gaza is at best a gray zone. It cannot be cleared by the Israelis because you cannot defend a gravel heap. Dima on Military Summary says the war in Ukraine has shown both parties are unable to hold a town that has been destroyed because there are no positions left for defenders to hold. Hamas can continue to fight there because they are closer to their tunnels than the Israelis are to their Kibbitzes.

  9. KD

    It is evident that the capabilities of Israel’s enemies (as well as frenemies) are vastly increasing, especially in terms of drone warfare, ballistic missiles and other anti-access weapons, and the renewed cooperation between Iran and Russia promises that this trend could accelerate.

    Part of the calculation for Israel may be that the balance of forces is as good as it is going to get for Israel, so they need to take out or disable their enemies now before their opponents become too powerful.

  10. Chris Cosmos

    Israelis and Israel-first types in the US government I’ve known over many decades do regard the situation in Israel/Palestine as a conflict not just in terms of religion but, in fact, the main civilizational crisis of the West. They tend to view themselves as staunch defenders of Western civilization as Bibi has said many times. Muslims (both Arabs and Iranians) are viewed as barbarians at best. Israeli’s knee-jerk reaction is to grab a gun, a plane, a tank and never honestly try and reach a diplomatic solution with their “barbarian” neighbors (the trope I’ve heard over time is that “the only thing the Arab understands is violence.”

    Warlike states see war as a statement of strength and determination and diplomacy and honest give and take among peoples as a sign of weakness. Thus Israel must fight Hezbollah and/or Iran who will, like the Russians, just drop their weapons and run from overwhelming military military might of Ukraine. People really believe this sort of BS particularly in power centers in Kiev, Jerusalem, and (above all) Washington. My guess is that win or lose, fanatics are happy when they are fighting what they believe is the “good fight” and like the Germans, Ukrainians, Japanese, they will fight to the last man/woman all those peoples knew they would lose the war yet they kept fighting.

    Israelis know they have to fight no just to win but to keep the hoi polloi engaged in the fantasies at the heart of the Israeli state. Only Washington can stop the war–but Washington itself is in the throes of a existential crisis that is much deeper.

    1. Reply

      Eschatology becomes eschatapism.
      The Muslim version has 72 virgins.
      What will the Israeli version entail?

      1. Librarian Guy

        The 7 chambers of a cow’s stomach.

        I only know this from having studied a lot of Otz H-Chiim (The Tree of Life), which is commonly called Qabalah. The late Aryeh Kaplan was a great scholar and his translation & commentary on the Sepher Yetzirah includes some valuable ideas. But the part about the cow’s stomach, as well as Aaron’s sons getting caught eating meat with milk and beating the rap by explaining that the Cow was created by QBLH & not “ADNI” (god) was pretty far-fetched & set off my bullshit detector.

  11. PlutoniumKun

    I think Hezbollah and Iran have played this quite well – the Israeli strategy from the beginning seems to have been to try to push them into a direct attack on Israel, which could justify a ‘response’, and ideally would have allowed the IDF to fight on home turf or at least in the near border areas. But Hezbollah seem to have held their nerve. If Israel is to attack directly, it has no choice but to go deep into the Lebanon and possibly Syria too. This isn’t likely to end well for them, or the US if it helps out.

    1. vao

      It is significant that Russia and Syria just started joint air patrols over the demarcation line on the Golan. Those two countries probably sensed that Israel is in the mood of frantically striking everything around it, and those patrols are a clear signal from Russia that Syria is a no go area for an Israeli ground operation.

      1. Cat Burglar

        The report also says the patrols will be along the entire Syrian border — and that includes the border with Jordan and Iraq. Any US retribution for the strike against the US base could experience some obstacles. Lots of moving parts here.

    2. CA

      January 30, 2024

      China donates 10 mln USD worth of communications equipment to Syria

      DAMASCUS — China has donated communications equipment worth approximately 10 million U.S. dollars to Syria aimed at helping restore and strengthen the country’s war-damaged telecom stations.

      A delivery ceremony was held on Monday here in the Syrian capital with the attendance of Syrian Minister of Communications and Technology Iyad Mohammad al-Khatib and Chinese Ambassador to Syria Shi Hongwei.

      The batch would equip 26 major base stations in four Syrian provinces of Rural Damascus, Aleppo, Hama, and Deir al-Zour to offer voice and Internet services to over 100,000 families, the Chinese embassy said in a statement.

      The project’s installation and maintenance are expected to create nearly 1,000 new jobs in the regions, improving the local economy and people’s livelihood, it noted.

      Al-Khatib said the donation would play a key part in restoring basic services and communications in areas plagued by terrorism, building a more robust local economy, and indirectly facilitating the return of displaced people to their homes.

      Shi, for his part, voiced China’s commitment to providing further assistance according to the needs of the Syrian people. He underscored the historical and distinguished relations between China and Syria….

    3. hemeantwell

      Re going into Syria, there’s the recent announcement by Russia that their aircraft would be patrolling the Syrian border. As I recall, there was some doubts about the credibility of recent reports of Russia and Iran signing strategic cooperation agreements, but they do raise the possibility that Israel sees a very murky window of opportunity for military salvation to be on the verge of closing.

  12. Mikel

    So it goes from the optics of eliminating Hamas, to eliminating all Palestinians, to eliminating all Muslims…

  13. Aurelien

    I don’t think that even the most extreme Israeli politician genuinely believes that Israel has territorial claims North of the Litani River, which was the frontier that a number of radical Zionists wanted in the 1930s. So this piece of madness is not about “attacking Lebanon” so much as trying to recreate the “security zone” which existed near the border after the 1982 invasion, complete with a tame militia, the South Lebanese Army. But the situation has changed enormously since then, and has even changed a lot since the 2006 invasion.

    For a start, under UNSCR 1701 (2006), there are 10,500 UN troops deployed between the Litani River and the so-called “Blue Line” by the frontier. Currently, there are 48 Troop Contributing Nations, which is a lot of countries to piss off. Many of the countries are Muslim: a full list is here. Note the presence of troops from Turkey and Bangladesh, who are no pushovers, as well as more than battalion-strength contributions from Malaysia and Indonesia. There’s a French battalion, who will shoot back if attacked (they nearly shot down an Israeli aircraft in 2006), as well as a substantial force of Nepalese Gurkhas, whom you don’t want to mess with. Many other European nations have contingents, as do India and China. The Israelis know where the UN forces are stationed, and have avoided targeting them, but there’s no way that a full-strength invasion could avoid them. Rules of Engagement (and basic criminal law) allow the UN to shoot back to protect themselves.

    The second thing is the deployment of 15,000 troops of the Lebanese Armed Forces in the same area. These are seasoned professionals, most of whom have years of combat experience and know the ground intimately. They don’t have the equipment of the Israelis, but I would wager they are better trained and far more motivated. In 2006 they were ordered to stand aside: there is no government to give orders at the moment, and I don’t know how they would react, but Israel has become radioactive in Lebanon since 2006, even among large parts of the Christian community.

    Oh, and then there’s Hezbollah, but Hezbollah is not Hamas. Among other things it’s a Shia political party in (reasonably) good standing, with Ministers in such Lebanese governments as can be formed. The military wing is deeply embedded in the clan organisation of the Shia community, and in the Shia majority regions in the South. They have recent combat experience in Syria, and training by the Iranians.

    The only conceivable strategy for the Israelis would be a very careful advance, avoiding random barrages and air attacks, asking the UN and the LAF to stand aside and forbidding their own troops to engage them. I’m not sure that the leadership and training of the IDF is actually up to that kind of operation. What I can see, though, is Netanyahu deciding that, as long as the fighting is continuing, his position is relatively safe. Declare the war in Gaza over and he’s done for. Creating another unwindable war may, just, help him survive.

    1. jan

      asking the UN and the LAF to stand aside

      But would they?
      Also, why would they, unless ordered to do so by the UN?

      1. The Rev Kev

        The Israelis have not been shy about attacking UN troops in the past so why would they now? To them, those UN troops would be just like the Muslims – untermenschen. If I was a UN commander in that area, it would not be Hezbollah that I would be worried about being attacked by but the Israelis instead.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      I need to turn in, so forgive me for not running down the link, but an article in The Cradle before the war started contradicts your belief. The underlying incident was also recounted by Alastair Crooke, likely based on other sourcing because I have the impression that this development was well reported in Israel and the Arab world.

      The Israeli cabinet held a session in the tunnels under Al Aqsa (recall Israel has been engaged in arguably illegal excavations). This was something like May. They declared that this land is ours, not just Al Aqsa but also the historical Israel, and they committed to take it all.

      I don’t know what they thought that amounted to, but some readings of the Hebrew texts say historical Israel extends so far north that it contains all of Lebanon and more. So going to the Litani River would be a no-brainer to them. See:

      And a slightly more conservative reading:

      1. Aurelien

        Oh, indeed, this is one of those issues where every time you think you’ve encountered the most extreme extremist, you find another even more extreme extremist hiding behind. But even with the Litani, you’re talking about Tyre, which is a recognised Lebanese city where there has been no serious ambiguity about its status. Going that far, never mind further, would be the unambiguous invasion of a sovereign state and annexation of part of its territory, and would probably destroy the country. I’m reluctant to use words like “rational” in this context, but it’s hard to see even a government of borderline lunatics actually going that far in the face of international pressure, not to mention the violent resistance they would encounter. Of course wild assertions of sovereignty and “historical” claims to territory are common currency among all nationalist politicians, and for that matter there are plenty of people in Damascus who will tell you that Lebanon is really part of Syria anyway.

        1. ISL

          US politicians will make excuses for why it was justified, look the ICJ says they are potentially committing genocide – the worst crime humanity has made (not capturing an enemies city) and the media and politicians are full of excuses – even though the law says there are no excuses for genocide.

          Sadly, as with most of human history, I see this decided by blood. Rivers of it (or ash if your invoke the sampson option)

    3. hk

      I seem to remember an incident when IDF attacked Chinese UN contingent in Lebanon some years ago and some ugly noises came up (before, during, or after 2006, I wonder–I could be misremembering the whole thing though). Have the “serious” countries reinforced their UN contingents with heavy weapons since previous incidents, so that they can actually make IDF think twice about attacking them? During the previous era (I’ve read these mostly from Irish accounts, IIRC), IDF practically picked on UN forces in Southern Lebanon, which led to a lot of bad feelings towards Israelis among the people who served there….

      The Lebanese army always struck me as a strange institution: thjey NEVER fight anything and seems to be designed not to (being designed mostly as a symbolic entity more than anything.) I am curious what role they might play now that they never have in the past…..

      1. CA

        July 26, 2006

        President Hu Jintao Is Deeply Concerned about the Safety of Chinese Citizens in Lebanon and Expresses Deep Condolence over the Death of a Chinese Peacekeeper in Lebanon

        Since the outbreak of the armed conflict between Israel and Lebanon, Chinese President and Chairman of the Central Military Commission Hu Jintao has been highly concerned about the safety of Chinese citizens in Lebanon and made important instructions to related Chinese departments to try their best to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens in Lebanon.

        After being informed of the tragic death of a Chinese peacekeeper in the Israeli air raid in Lebanon early this morning, President Hu instructed the departments concerned to condemn the attack on UN peacekeepers and expressed his deep condolences on the victims and sincere sympathy for their families. He demanded that the Chinese departments concerned properly handle the aftermath of the incident and take every measure necessary to ensure the safety of Chinese nationals in Lebanon.

        1. hk

          Thanks. It seems that 2006 in Lebanon was actually more interesting in subtle ways than just Hizbullah kicking IDF’s ass militarily, huge though that was by itself.

      2. PlutoniumKun

        The Israelis have never been slow to attack (usually through proxies) any UN Peacekeepers who took their duties seriously. Usually it involves shelling close enough to force them to take shelter, but quite a few have been killed – there were a number of UN casualties in 2006 – but quite a few before then. The last Irish soldier to be killed by Israeli shelling was I think in 1999, although one was killed last year by some villagers associated with Hezbollah in pretty murky circumstances.

      3. Aurelien

        The Lebanese Army does a lot of fighting, especially in the North, and has suffered quite a few casualties over the years, notably when ISIS tried to cross the border. As I mentioned the other day, they have also carried out significant operations against drug smugglers, often involving casualties on both sides. They could be much more effective than they are, but with 95% of the budget going on personnel-related costs (even before the economic crisis) they are entirely dependent on donors for materiel, and the major donors (especially the US) won’t give them any weapons that could seriously be used against Israel. (What they really need are antitank and antiaircraft missiles.) That said, they are a serous professional force, used to doing a lot with a little, and are by some way the most respected institution in the country. In fact they may well be the only respected institution in the country.

        1. hk

          I knew about the Lebanese army being held in high regard by all factions, but I guess I was distracted by them being mostly absent in the South, vis a vis Israel, most of the time that I was paying attention to the country. If they are deployed in the South in force now, and if they gained much experience fighting ISIS, it is an interesting development indeed.

    4. gk

      > I don’t think that even the most extreme Israeli
      > politician genuinely believes that Israel has territorial
      > claims North of the Litani River

      Tyre and Sidon are included in Herzl’s Altneuland.

  14. Altandmain

    Seems like Netanyahu is doubling down on a very reckless and dangerous gamble to save his own political career. He’s persuaded most Israeli people to support his crusade. I’m deeply disappointed, not not surprised, that the Israeli public has supported the war crimes against the Palestinians.

    Let’s also not forget about the Israeli nuclear arsenal. The infamous Samson option. I could easily see a hardline Israeli unable to cope with defeat making the fateful decision to launch nuclear weapons. That’s the biggest danger here.

    When it comes to conventional weapons, the other big issue is that the Israeli military has proven itself to be subpar. I’ve heard the argument that the main problem is that armies that are mainly focused on beating up civilians tend to be less effective at fighting a conventional war. That’s why the Israeli military and indeed all Western military forces have been underperforming. The US proxy war shows the same thing too.

    There’s also the matter that the US no longer has the industrial base for a sustained war. There was an Israeli article linked about the ammunition shortage.

    I don’t agree at all with the article that Israel has justified its actions, but it seems clear that the Israeli military doesn’t have enough ammunition and the US, its main supplier, is unable to keep adequately supplying Israel, especially with the ongoing war in Ukraine.

    It also highlights another important issue. Getting the US involved may not be the easy win for Israel either. Not having enough ammunition production isn’t magically solved by escalating this into a regional war. The US has lost wars like Afghanistan as well to insurgents.

    1. KD

      It would be a lot easier for some rogue militia of Israeli settlers to seize the Philadelphia Corridor and start shooting people in the back unless they flee to the Sinai if Israel was involved in a major regional war, and unable to control rogue elements operating lawlessly in Gaza. It would probably require and existential regional war to make such an action feasible and plausibly deniable, at least to American ears.

    2. nippersdad

      I have been wondering if the first strike for such as Hezbollah and Iran supplied militias in the region would be those nuclear facilities in Israel. After all of the attacks by Israel on Iran’s nuclear labs, one would have to think that they would have made it their business to become as well informed as possible where their counterparts are. And as Israel’s nuclear deterrent is undeclared, could they bomb them without Israel having to admit that they were outside the bounds of the non-proliferation treaties?

      Many commentators have pointed out that Iran could level Israel using conventional weapons, that they have the means to do so, but none have said anything about any potential plan for using proxies to cut down the odds prior to an Israeli implementation of the Samson Option. If Iraqi militias can close down ports like Haifa, surely they would also have the means to close down missile silos. You don’t have to destroy them, just damage them enough that they could not be safely used.

      IOW, wouldn’t the very first wave be one of spiking their guns? And would it even be possible to do so?

      1. KD

        The question is what outcome does the Axis of Resistance realistically seek? If they seek to wipe Israel off the map, sure, things could go nuclear. However, if Israel is facing conventional military defeat and has to make a number of painful concessions, give back the Golan, buffer in Israel from Lebanon, recognition of a Palestinian state, but it has the prospect of coming back and fighting another day, it wouldn’t make sense to go nuclear, because then the regional players would seek extermination of Israel, and Iran can flatten Israel even without nukes. The Axis would probably be satisfied with a strategic defeat of Israel, because they have the prospect of coming back and fighting another day too.

        Its a question of controlling the escalation ladder, because Israel’s use of nukes would not be without serious consequences to Israel forever, and the same goes for the resistance. Its very doubtful even the nutters in the US Deep State want Israel lobbing nukes around.

        The issue for Israel is they have approximately 5 desalination stations on the coast, and if that goes up, that is most of the water supply. How hard would that be for an enemy to take out? Sure, its probably a war crime but would you care if you got nuked?

        1. nippersdad

          “The question is what outcome does the Axis of Resistance realistically seek?”

          I should think that nuclear disarmament would be a pretty high priority, whether they wanted to wipe Israel off the map or not. Israel has proven to be precisely the kind of irrational actor that the non-proliferation treaty was created to manage. Physically pointing out that they have two hundred of them, even if destruction of them were ultimately unsuccessful, would bring the RoW into the conversation in much the same way as SA taking them to the ICJ for genocide.

          They could always do the desalination plants the next day.

      2. Michaelmas

        nippersdad: If Iraqi militias can close down ports like Haifa, surely they would also have the means to close down missile silos … IOW, wouldn’t the very first wave be one of spiking their guns? And would it even be possible to do so?


        ‘Each Dolphin-class submarine is capable of carrying a combined total of up to 16 torpedoes and Popeye Turbo submarine-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs). The cruise missiles have a range of at least 1,500 km (930 mi) and are widely believed[11][12] to be equipped with a 200 kiloton nuclear warhead containing up to 6 kilograms (13 lb) of plutonium. The latter, if true, would provide Israel with an offshore nuclear second-strike capability.’

        1. JonnyJames

          Reminds me of the old movie, Animal House. where Dean Wormer says: “fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

          1. hk

            Animal House was, iirc, based on goings on at Dartmouth. Not exactly where HS dropouts wind up at (which, I guess, says something…)

    3. vao

      I could easily see a hardline Israeli unable to cope with defeat making the fateful decision to launch nuclear weapons.

      I cannot see that. When facing defeat, two cases can be considered:

      1) Those hardliners who can move, will move, i.e. migrate back to a country because they have the proper (dual-national) passport — USA, France, Argentina, Russia, etc. They definitely do not want atomic bombs to be thrown around, because (a) they might fall on the safe havens they want to decamp to and (b) this would make them irredeemably unwelcome wherever they go.

      2) Those who cannot move will prefer to arrive at an arrangement — any kind of arrangement — to forestall a complete collapse, or dying from radiation poisoning after nuking their neighbours.

      Simply put: historically, even hardliners capitulate rather than dying gloriously. There will be enough people, including most hardliners, who wish to live so that the nuclear option will not be activated. The madmen who want to die in an apocalyptic Götterdämmerung will be ruthlessly neutralized.

      1. Beachwalker

        A nuclear exchange won’t be authorized by a plebiscite, among sensible, self-interested people. It can all be set off by one or two maniacs with stars on their shoulder pads or a few desperate or nihilistic or delusional politicians of which there are many.

  15. Es s Ce tera

    I would suggest a reason for Israel wanting to attack a neighbour, any neighbour, can be traced to the logical outcome of the ICJ case.

    Even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, when the US was done exacting vengeance over 500,000 Iraqi civilians were dead.

    This is what is deemed acceptable by the US government. And let’s not forget how the US nuked Nagasaki and Hiroshima, is also the same country which inflicted Agent Orange. Just to name a few…

    Assuming Israel is satisfied US collateral death rates are “reasonable”, we’re looking at possibly 150,000 Gazan dead, at least, before they stop, and should the high numbers come into question Israel would point to US endeavors as establishing the precedent for what is a “reasonable” number of non-combatant deaths. This could become an open question.

    Expect Israel to point to the US example and whine about why Israel is being held to different/higher standards. Where was the international outcry when the US dropped the bombs? Where was the outcry when US killed 500,000 Iraqi civilians? Where was the outcry when all sorts of US leaders promised Iraq would be bombed to the stone age, a clear expression of genocidal intent?

    Where indeed.

    But bottom line is both Israel and the US could be seeing where this is leading and desperately need something, anything, to fudge both the issue (genocide) and the numbers, also to divert attention. And now in the ICJ the Israeli team cites war with Lebanon as mitigating factor. They REALLYREALLY need to muddle the issue somehow, it’ll be top priority to find some way to do so.

  16. jo6pac

    Well one thing for sure is China, Russia, & Iran are setting back eating popcorn waiting to see how the above plays out. It won’t end for Iseral or Amerika.

      1. nippersdad

        People like Lindsey Graham have been warning them of an eventual attack for forty years now. I’m pretty sure they are ready for anything the US is prepared to fling at them. Plenty of time for them to throw popcorn at our neocons from the cheap seats until such time as a call to arms is in order.

        On an unrelated note, I was under the impression that rabies was a fatal disease, but old Lindsey appears to have found a way to live with it. We need to send that guy into one of our Ukrainian bio-labs and see if we can’t boil a serum out of him.

  17. Albe Vado

    Regarding Hamas casualties, the various Gazan armed groups supposedly started with 40,000 fighters. Generally 25% KIA would be crippling for a military organization. It would be deemed combat ineffective and withdrawn from the fight. Maybe an ideologically committed militant group like Hamas and its siblings has more resiliency than something like a modern infantry division, but how much more?

    The 10,000 figure Israel is giving is almost certainly bunk. Israel not only keeps withdrawing, but the supposedly devastated Gazan fighters keep spilling back into ‘cleared’ territory. Hamas in fact seems to be keeping a substantial core of its manpower intact, which is kind of insane to me. Usually the rule with this kind of power imbalance, for example in Vietnam, is that whenever the two sides directly clash the insurgent type faction gets disproportionately mauled, even if sometimes it wins in the end. That might not be happening here. Could the IDF just genuinely be this bad at warfare, as opposed to thuggish policing?

    As an aside on Gazan casualties, back when the official tally was, IIRC, ‘only’ 15,000 or so, Biden was out saying those numbers were a Hamas lie and others followed his line. I still see it come from rabidly pro-Israel sources that any official Gazan government numbers are Hamas lies and untrue. But at the exact same time Biden was saying that, Israeli media itself was quoting an even higher number and bragging about how 20,000 ‘terrorists’ had been killed.

    1. Es s Ce tera

      If the IOF is really this bad at warfare then attacking Lebanon will decimate them. They’ll go from having some fighting capacity to none. Maybe that, too, is intentional? Perhaps they’re hoping that will bring in the Americans?

  18. JonnyJames

    I agree with Ritter, Yves and others about Hezbollah: if Israel does indeed launch a full ground offensive in Lebanon it will not go well. Aurelien, above says that Lebanese regular troops, in addition to Hezbollah could be involved. As many have speculated for weeks, if this goes down, escalation will be very likely and spiral…

    It could be that “defeating Hamas” was not the real goal. Using the excuse to defeat Hamas was a front to make Gaza uninhabitable and so miserable that those who have not been slaughtered will be forced to leave. Israel needs Hamas to “justify” it’s illegal atrocities.

    Also, it looks like Netanyahu wants to keep the war(s) going for personal reasons, so he can try and avoid prosecution and imprisonment for his past corruption. Who knows how much that influences the policy, that’s hard to say.

    We know that the Israelis almost certainly knew in advance about the Oct. 7 attacks, so it is very curious how this is playing out regarding Lebanon. Maybe someone has some background on if Israel has or had any plans for another ground invasion. Would they have learned from the 2006 and other past experiences?

    1. bwilli123

      Netanyahu will insist on a free non-indictable pass for himself in any US led end game. This will be presented as a clean break for a future Israel, though shifting deck chairs on the Titanic is probably more symbolically apt.

  19. skippy

    At the end of the day it seems some think[believe] a/the creator has their back and a book from antiquity cobbled together, by elites of the day, means they are granted special powers – it was written – !!!!!!

    Back too if things go wrong = being tested and when they succeed = vindication of everything ….

    Yet historically we are informed about a General that took his peoples too war and lost, became the only survivor after licking the boots of his adversary …. we will repeat …

  20. Willow

    Israel needs US troops to defeat Hezbollah. To get desperately needed US troops on the ground in Israel, US needs to contrive a reason to attack Iran and justify its Israeli presence. Middle East has become a massive gravity well for the US Administration. A huge amount of effort and cunning will be needed to avoid being sucked in. A level of competency missing from the Biden administration. Dark comedy of Dr Strangelove (Middle East style) seems about right. Hold onto your hats!

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      As we said, there will not be US troops on the ground save those that can be redeployed from within the region. We don’t have the logistics to bring them from the US or even from Europe. The Houthis would attack sea transit and the land route would go through Turkiye. With Ergogan making fire-brand-y speeches and whipping up his citizens, even with him trying to play nice to both sides, he is not going to enable a modern crusade.

      1. Willow

        That’s a rational view but where has the Biden administration shown any competency in these things? US State has been captured by interests who have no regard for US’ wellbeing. Same hopium (too much blow?) that created Ukraine debacle remains. Russia laid down an open misère in lead up to Ukraine conflict and the US still went there. It’s as if the Biden administration believes they can keep doubling down (Afghanistan, then Ukraine. now ME) until they get a win to cover up mistakes in the lead up to the election. I can’t see how Biden administration will apply any reasonable logic to the Middle East given Dems/State Dept’s current state of psychosis triggered by Trump. Biden/Dems/State will go where no reasonable or sane person would go.

        1. Lefty Godot

          Maybe the Biden administration just needs its version of Jimmy Carter’s Operation Eagle Claw, a failed military intervention that can’t be disguised as anything else. That would at least give the Democrats an excuse for losing to Trump a second time. And maybe wake some deluded people up.

          The only frightening question is whether we’ve gone beyond the norms of adult behavior to the point that anyone who fails spectacularly then tries to blow up the whole game board in a fit of childish rage. Including both Netanyahu and Biden as possible demolishers.

          1. The Rev Kev

            Biden tying his fate to the political fortunes of Bibi Netanyahu in an election year is definitely an own goal.

  21. Rubicon

    We wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Michael Hudson’s “take” on what the US Financial Empire is doing in Israel. Netaynahu, is merely another highly corrupt leader; very similar to the corrupt Zelensky. The US always picks corrupt leaders to do the US’ doings.

    Hudson points out that the US Financial/Political Empire is based on World Hegemony. In this case, the US is compelled to remain the Master of all Energy: oil, electricity, etc. Owning the world of energy allows the US to dictate trade policy, the movement of products from/to the Western World, Asia, Latin America, and all the African nations. To maintain its Mastery of ALL Energy, it is purposely in the Middle East, trying to recapture their hold on the World. It’s as simple as that.

  22. The Rev Kev

    Nothing spells desperation more when losing a war than to open up a second front. Go ask Germany and japan. The IDF has lost hundreds of people to Hamas but if they go against Hezbollah, could easily lose thousands more. In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Israelis lost up to 2,800 people killed and the nation was traumatized as a result. They get themselves into a two front war, they might find themselves shooting past that number but whereas the ’73 war gave them strategic victory, this war will bring them what exactly? Nobody is afraid of the IDF anymore and it is only a matter of time until counters will be found for the Israeli Air Force. And seriously, what is the point of an armed forces that is only good going against unarmed civilians?

  23. dang

    Given my philosophical bent, what I see is Western Religion on trial. A failure of all these truths we preach, suggests that what we have believed for 2024 years, was wrong. Make believe as a strategy for survival. The basis of human beliefs, perhaps.

    I am one who often hopes there is a divine purpose for our struggles through the predictable and unpredictable stages of life.

    1. Jams O'Donnell

      Well, I agree with you in that there may be some kind of ‘divine purpose’ or something of that nature somewhere behind it all, possibly, maybe, but history shows quite clearly that if ‘it’ does exist, it definitely does not intervene in worldly mass events – on either side of any particular conflict. Or of course, if you are a Zoroastrian, the opposite is true for both or any sides. All a bit mind-boggling, really.

  24. johnt

    I have not yet read the comments, only Yves’ article, so forgive if this is a repeat notion.
    Alastair Crooke’s statement on the percentages of Israelis’ support of the war in Gaza, and the degree of force used, presages what the American reaction will be when–when–this nation faces setbacks such as the Israeli military and intelligence services have experienced recently.
    When real losses begin and mount: “They can’t do that to us!”

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