Israel Threatening to Take on Hezbollah After Cross-Border Attacks Produce Intense Wildfires

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Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu has just visited the border area in northern Israel and vowed to take “intense action” against Hezbollah, as reported in lead stories in the Jerusalem Post and the Times of Israel. By what some may regard as an odd coincidence of timing, this announcement came the same day that a Syrian who shot at the US embassy in Beirut was injured in return fire and taken captive by the Lebanese army.

Back to the main event. We have recounted Alastair Crooke some months back describing how Israel has been politically committed to ending Hezbollah strikes into the border area with Lebanon, which has resulted in large scale evacuation, with reports ranging from 60,000 to as many as 100,000. Not as well covered has been that Hezbollah has been making these attacks to create a second mini-front in the Gaza war (as in if Israel would enter into a settlement with Palestinians, the attacks would presumably be dialed back to their former nuisance level) and that Israel has been firing into southern Lebanon, making life similarly miserable for its border town denizens.

The displacement of these Israeli settlers has been a festering economic and political wound. Businesses there are shuttered. Israel is providing temporary housing. The settlers say they can’t/won’t go back until Hezbollah has been removed from the border, which Israel treats as meaning Hezbollah must withdraw or be forced to retreat to the Litani River. Mind you, Israel did not get that far in its failed 2006 war with Lebanon.1 By all accounts, Hezbollah is much stronger than then and Israel weaker.2 Hezbollah leader Hassam Nasrallah has said Lebanon will not cede one inch of territory to Israel.

So we have a bit of an out-trade.

Again, back when Crooke first started warning that Israel had committed itself to attacking Lebanon so as to make life safe again for its settlers, defense minister Benny Gantz started blustering that Israel would force Lebanon out of its own border areas if it had to. From the Times of Israel in December:

War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz on Friday warned that Israel would be forced to push the Hezbollah terror group away from the Lebanese border if the international community could not do so through diplomatic means.

Note that the US and Israel idea of negotiating is Lebanon should cede its border areas because they say so, another element of the out-trade.

However, despite the displaced Israeli setlers remaining vocal, not much has happened to advance their cause until perhaps today. One reason is that the IDF has gotten bogged down in Gaza. That underscores a second problem, the IDF has performed much less well against Hamas than officials had expected.

But the third and big problem is that Israel is very likely to lose and lose more bigly against Hezbollah than in 2006. As both Scott Ritter and Crooke have explained, Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas have all organized themselves to fight Israel and the US. Both wage wars the same way: airpower heavy combat, with the plan/preference being to mount intense, overwhelming, but comparatively short conflicts. So all three forces have created deep and extensive tunnel networks so as to be beyond Israel and US fire. They have also worked out how to be effective with lots of relatively cheap weapons. Crooke stresses that they set out to fight attritional wars, which neither the US or Israel can handle well. and to dial up and down intensity of the engagements.

So if the failure to get the border town settlers back into their homes is a festering wound, why has Israel not acted? I have no idea, but some commentators have suggested that saner heads in Israel, particularly in the IDF, have warned that a war with Lebanon would be a very bad idea. The only reason Hezbollah has not welcomed it is that Lebanon is an economic basket case. A war, even a comparatively short one where Hezbollah won, would still produce a lot of costs in terms of physical damage.

What about the hope that the US would ride in to help Israel if Lebanon were to look like it was winning? Many in Israel keenly desire getting the US involved militarily. The fact that Israel has not (yet) escalated with Lebanon suggests they have doubts about how forcefully and effectively the US could intervene. The US has not been able to check the Houthis. US weapons stocks have been drained in the Ukraine war. Hezbollah’s tunnel systems reportedly dwarf those of Hamas. And they have lots more rockets and missiles too, some of them also more sophisticated.

With that high-level overview, things are heating up because they have heated up, literally. The last set of Hezbollah barrages set off wildfires in northern Israel. Israel and Western accounts are depicting this escalation as kicked off by Hezbollah, although that is far from clear:

Human Rights Watch confirmed the use of white phosphorus in post October 7 attacks in South Lebanon (but not the allegations of fresh attacks)

The fires resulting from the Hezbollah strikes are fierce:

Hence the government feels compelled to Do Something. First from the Times of Israel:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Wednesday that Israel was prepared with an “extremely powerful” response to attacks from Hezbollah in Lebanon, which have escalated significantly in recent days.

“Anyone who thinks that they can harm us and we will sit on our hands is sorely mistaken,” Netanyahu during a visit to the northern city of Kiryat Shmona, which has been largely evacuated since the Lebanon-based terror group began attacking Israeli communities and military posts along the border on a near-daily basis on October 8….

The prime minister visited the area hours after after firefighters confirmed that they had gained control of a series of major blazes in northern Israel sparked by Hezbollah rocket and drone attacks, following some 48 hours of intense firefighting efforts….

Earlier on Wednesday, the government raised the number of reservists the IDF is authorized to call up if needed from 300,000 to 350,000, though military sources told The Times of Israel that the move was related to expanded operations in the Gaza Strip, rather than the northern front.

The IDF said that the cap was increased due to ongoing operations in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, which has taken more additional personnel than initially planned.

And from the Financial Times:

Israeli leaders have threatened to take more “intense action” against Hizbollah after an escalation in cross-border fire, increasing tensions and the prospect of all-out war with the Lebanese militant group.

In a visit to the largely evacuated northern Israeli city of Kiryat Shmona on Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to the fires that raged across much of the region over the past two days, mostly a result of Hizbollah rockets and drone attacks…

“We are prepared for very intense action in the north. One way or another, we will restore security to the north,” he [Netanyahu] added.

The long-serving Israeli leader’s comments come after his military chief, Herzi Halevi, warned that a “point of decision” was fast approaching over whether an offensive would need to be launched in Lebanon….

In recent weeks both Hizbollah and Israel have increased the frequency and range of their strikes. Local leaders and residents in northern Israel have grown exasperated by the inability of the Israeli government to restore security and return people to their homes, and have criticised the absence of a timeframe for a resolution to the crisis.

Hizbollah officials have said that they do not seek to escalate tensions with Israel, but would not halt strikes as long as the conflict in Gaza continues…

Pressure is growing on the Israeli government to act more forcefully against Hizbollah. Apocalyptic night-time images of forests going up in flames have only added to public distress over the loss of security in the north.

Israel is clearly overextended yet feels compelled to make a powerful response. Uber hardliner Ben-Gvir is calling for war against Hezbollah. But what can Israel do that might not wind up being self defeating? Stay tuned.

_____

1 As I heard from one of the YouTubers commenting on the the 2006 conflict, Israel’s troops did get to the Litani long enough to raise a flag, take a picture, and run away.

2 I am basing this on Scott Ritter, who worked extensively with the IDF in the 1990s. He had a great deal of respect for what they were then. His take since then (my paraphrase) is the IDF has over time both fallen in love with its own mythology and has also become optimized for breaking arms of Palestinian kids.

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50 comments

  1. ChrisFromGA

    A new war front would serve Netanyahu by memory-holing the fake Gaza ceasefire and pressure tactics from the US.

    Reply
    1. digi_owl

      Hezbollah is a whole other level than Hamas though, more akin to a regular army with a industrial supply line than a resistance militia with rifles and improvised explosives.

      For one thing the IDF will unlikely be able to bomb with impunity like they have done in Gaza, unless the F-35 stealth is the miracle Lockheed claims.

      Reply
        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Talk is cheap and the US must have been asleep if this is as far as their plans go. Similar super heavy bombs have been used in Gaza. Not only not much evidence of damage to tunnels, but flattening all those building created much more favorable terrain for Hamas to make surprise attacks and retreat into the rubble.

          By all accounts, Hezbollah has a much better tunnel network, as in among other things, at deeper levels and better fortified.

          Reply
          1. ilsm

            If they can find the one target, a butterfly that causes a hurricane, a 5000 pound bomb still has a limited damage area requiring accuracy, to take out a small section of tunnel.

            Judging from US and allies’ experience since 1964, bombes are not the answer.

            Does IDF ground force have the “chops” to gut Hizbollah?

            It is possible significant US air power remains closeted in Jordan, but as above what do they get if IDF boots don’t stand over the ground?

            BTW $5 billion of the last $10 billion for IDF is rearming their air and missile defenses. While Macron will need a lot more air defense to cover his trainers in Kiev.

            Reply
          2. WJ

            Plus if the US directly engages Hezbollah in this manner then there are likely to be more serious and sustained attacks on US assets in Iraq and Syria than anything we’ve seen so far.

            Reply
    2. steppenwolf fetchit

      It would keep the war going which would allow Netanyahu to say: ” We cant’ have elections now in the middle of a war” and ” we can’t send me to court in the middle of a war”. Netanyahu’s goal is to keep the war going forever so as to defer his rendezvouz with court-case forever. His hardest-rightest coalition–partners’ goals is to ramp up the war to pretend to justify the Gazafication of the West Bank in pursuit of their goal of rendering everything from the River to the Sea “Arab-rein” one way or another.

      In reality, can Israel survive a forever war? In reality, the Messianic Rightists don’t care because they believe that if they can get Israel involved in a no-win war of extinction, that God will send the Messiah to save them and give them the victory.

      Well, this is what Parliamentary Democracy smells like. This is the power which coalition-partnerism gives to demographically minor partners in the coalition government. This is the kind of governance which the supporters of Parliamentary Democracy-ism wish to bring to America.

      Reply
  2. Balan Aroxdale

    What about the hope that the US would ride in to help Israel if Lebanon were to look like it was winning? Many in Israel keenly desire getting the US involved militarily. The fact that Israel has not (yet) escalated with Lebanon suggests they have doubts about how forcefully and effectively the US could intervene. The US has not been able to check the Houthis. US weapons stocks have been drained in the Ukraine war. Hezbollah’s tunnel systems reportedly dwarf those of Hamas. And they have lots more rockets and missiles too, some of them also more sophisticated.

    Still I can’t see how this is even in question. The US has already entered the Gaza war by providing weapons, likely surveillance, that sorry pier, and airstrikes against Yemen. I don’t think there’s any question that the US will be providing at the very least airstrikes against Hezbollah if not a whole lot more.

    I don’t see any way out of the present crisis which does not involve US boots on the ground in the Middle East. In fact I see a US political class eager, even giddy, to do so. Ukraine will be dropped like a half eaten pretzel if required, and it’s looking like it will be required if the IDF is forced to move back in to Lebanon(I cannot see how that is avoidable now). The bigger western NATO militaries and political classes are likewise eager, and in some practical sense are in need of a “Spanish Civil War dress rehearsal” to gain experience of this new drone heavy 21st century warfare before their intended big kick off with Russia. At the very least I think they will send some infantry ground forces, Syria or Ukraine sized deployments.

    This has been building for months and everyone trying to deescalate has been shouted down, cancelled, vetoed, or ignored. Is there any credible scenario explaining how an outbreak of peace is going to erupt through such wild opposition?

    Reply
      1. Benny Profane

        It fell apart in a windy near storm and then they quietly picked up all the pieces and took them away.

        Reply
      2. digi_owl

        I think the latest was that they tried to move it due to bad weather, and then the US boat doing the towing got beached or something. After that it got very quiet as Biden had promised over an over that US boots would not touch Gaza shores.

        Reply
        1. ChrisFromGA

          I love how they blamed it on the weather.

          I mean, it’s not as if coastal areas ever experience significant waves and wind. I mean, that like never happens, except maybe in Newfoundland, or Virginia, or Britain, or Fortaleza, or in all those ancient stories in the Bible of Mediterranean shipwrecks, or in Ancient Greek mythology, or Boston, or Long Beach, or Miami, or the Algarve, or the Kamchatka peninsula, or …

          Reply
      3. Emma

        I’m relieved that it crumbled to nothing. I am convinced that the plan was to force Palestinians in Gaza into a tiny prison camp next to the pier and supplied only via the pier, thus cutting them off from Egypt and possibly from the ocean altogether.

        I didn’t think they would have succeeded anyways, but now they don’t have that option anymore.

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    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Pray tell, how will the US get troops over with Houthis looking like they chased the USS Eisenhower out of theater? The US army is much smaller and weaker than in Desert Storm and the Iraq War. It took us 9 months to get all the troops and equipment moved over, starting with the pre-positioning of hospitals ships.

      And the sort of clearing operation that the Russians have gotten good at in Ukraine is absolutely the worst sort of fighting imaginable. The IDF has not attempted it in Gaza. Think they or the US can do this in a tunnel network in Lebanon? Seriously?

      Let us put this another way. Scott Ritter has repeatedly discussed the results of war games with Israel v. various opponents. The results are always the same. Against Hamas, even with the US coming in, Israel loses. If Hezbollah joins Hamas, Israel suffers a serious defeat. If Iran comes in too, Israel is wiped off the map.

      You are not supposed to lose your own war games, yet Israel, even with the lessons of these practice encounters, can’t even get a victory in a simulation.

      Reply
      1. Jana

        Sadly, innocent blood will be shed yet again. The US govt will enlist those who believe they are entering into a “last days” holy war. These are sick humans we’re dealing with here. Sick humans.

        Reply
  3. Aurelien

    The idea of the US helping Israel attack Hezbollah, even indirectly, seems to me verging on insanity. This would amount to participating in a deliberate attack on a sovereign state, the only one in the region that is just about functional, and a state where the US has invested a huge amount of time and money over the last couple of decades. The vast majority of the LAF’s equipment is donated by the US, which also does quite a bit of training. The US has been quietly paying a stipend of $100 per month to LAF personnel for some months now to keep them above the poverty line (the Lebanese Pound has lost 95% of its value against the dollar, and most soldiers have to take second jobs just to eat.) In one go, the US would destroy several decades of political efforts, antagonise the entire region, disgust its allies and completely undermine its influence on all other subjects. And for what? The limited help that the US could provide wouldn’t make any difference.

    If you want to be cynical about it, then it makes much more sense politically for the US not to intervene. Hezbollah is suffering politically for being seen to have dragged Lebanon into a war which has nothing to do with them, and the Palestinians are not, of course, universally popular in the country. I’ve heard Lebanese from some communities express themselves forcibly in favour of the Israeli action, insofar as it gets rid of Hamas, whom they regard as a potential threat to Lebanon as well. It would actually be in the US interest for things to continue much as they are now.

    Reply
    1. JonnyJames

      Hmm, Hezbollah dragged them into a war? Are they the aggressors? That would seem highly debatable. How is Hamas a threat to Lebanon? Lebanon is a famously diverse country – ethnically, religiously etc. Which groups in Lebanon believe that siding with Israel benefits Lebanon? Do they represent a majority?

      Also, the LAF military capabilities seem to pale in comparison with Hezbollah. They seem to be a bit of an ineffective joke.

      Also problematic is defining what “US interests” are. The interests of the foreign policy elites?
      Letting the status-quo continue benefits US interests? Arming, funding, and legal/political protection of Israel benefits US interests? I apologize if I misinterpreted your points.

      Reply
      1. Aurelien

        Hezbollah did not have to step up its attacks against Israel after 7 October: they could have continued the desultory exchanges which had been going on for years. By escalating, they brought about the current situation where Lebanon is in danger of getting dragged directly into a war which has nothing to do with its security interests, and where parts of the South and the Beka’a Valley are subject to constant attacks. To be fair, I don’t think that’s what Hezbollah–or Iran–intended, but that’s how it turned out.

        It’s not a question of “sides.” For most Lebanese (even the Christians) Israel and Hamas are both threats. This is a part of the world where my enemy’s enemy is my tolerated companion, and the best solution for the country would be if the two fight each other to a standstill. The LAF itself, although a good and battle-hardened army, has been deliberately starved of the equipment it would need to repel a potential invasion, so Hezbollah has taken this role by default.

        The US problem is that it has long tried to combine unwavering support for Israel with political and military support for Lebanon as the last Arab country more-or-less standing in the region. This has been a tricky act to perform, but the attempted combination of the two represents the US view of its own interests. The US approach in Lebanon hasn’t always been very skilful, because they are obsessed with Iran and Hezbollah, and essentially seem to want to disband Hezbollah without giving the LAF the resources it needs to defend the country, which is not acceptable to the vast majority of Lebanese. But their policy thus far has involved keeping all these balls in the air at once. However, any involvement at all in an Israeli invasion, and the whole policy would be in ruins. I wouldn’t rule out a new civil war in Lebanon in such circumstances.

        Reply
        1. JonnyJames

          Thanks for clarifying. Not to quibble, but it looks like it was Israel, not Hezbollah that escalated. The article above indicates that as well. It is Israel that is in flagrant violation of so-called international law and norms, not that makes any difference. The past invasions, bombings etc by Israel are also well documented. Any reference by Israel or the US/UK, to legal or normative values is laughable of course. This is naked brute violence (politics by other means and all that)

          As others have noted above, the US directly aiding Israel in an invasion of south Lebanon is highly unlikely. Keeping Lebanon divided and in disarray, and the LAF weak, as you point out, is a juggling act, but it serves the status-quo and the US foreign policy elite’s interests. We’ll have to wait and see, but Israeli threats to invade appear hollow for now. A ground invasion would be potentially disastrous for Israel as well as Hezbollah and Lebanon.

          However, the US MICIMATT always profits. No matter what the gamble, the “house always wins”.

          Reply
        2. The Rev Kev

          Hezbollah knows that if Gaza fully falls, then they are on the chopping board next as Israel wants southern Lebanon back. This being the case, it would be better for Hezbollah pushing Israel while they are stretched and not when Israel can fully concentrate on them. In any case it is Israel that is escalating things using white phosphorus on Lebanon which is actually chemical warfare in case people forget and is forbidden as a direct weapon.

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          1. steppenwolf fetchit

            White phosphorus is one of those shyster-legal weapons. It is legal to use it to cast a brilliant white liight during night-time to light up the battlefield to see how to do battle activities. It is ILLegal to drop it on people with the intention to burn them.

            And here is where the clever shyster-lawyering comes in. If you use it to “light up the battlefield” and it gets on people by mistake, did you commit a war crime? If you really truly did not mean for it to get on people and it got on them by mistake, then the good shyster lawyer could make the shyster case that you did not commit a war crime. And the other side’s shyster lawyers have to prove that you inTENded for the white phosphorus to get on those people.

            If the Lords of the Laws of War want to make white phosphorus ILLEGAL, they just have to close the ” light up the battlefield” loophole. Make it never ever legal. As long as they keep the provide-illumination shyster exception open in the Laws of Lawful War, that goes to show they want to preserve the option of using white phosphorus in their own future battlefield activities. ” Oops. We’re sorry if it got on some people”.

            Reply
    2. marku52

      That all would require the USG to take a hard look at what it has invested in in Lebanon, and make a sound decision based on its own capabilities.

      I’m not seeing that level of decision making coming out of Biden, (or who ever teleoperates the Biden-Bot). Just lots of screeching from AIPAC/Congress to “Do Something”

      Well bombing Lebanon is certainly “something”

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    3. Lee

      “It would actually be in the US interest for things to continue much as they are now.”

      Given the political pressure within Israel and the predilections of the its current leadership, is that even possible? Are there more rungs on the escalation ladder for Israel to climb? I’m assuming nukes, tactical or otherwise, are not an option. Ever the giddy optimist, me.

      Reply
    4. Irrational

      There seems to be a lot of insanity around, judging by US & Europe Ukraine policy. It’s probably evenly spread.

      Reply
    5. Pearl Rangefinder

      In one go, the US would destroy several decades of political efforts, antagonise the entire region, disgust its allies and completely undermine its influence on all other subjects.

      Just what do you think has been going on for the past 8 months? The US has already passed that bridge and lit it on fire for good measure. Just what influence and credibility do you suppose they have left?

      I’ve heard Lebanese from some communities express themselves forcibly in favour of the Israeli action, insofar as it gets rid of Hamas, whom they regard as a potential threat to Lebanon as well.

      Thanks for the laugh. “Lebanese hope to become Israel’s next genocide target”. If that’s what they think, good luck to them.

      Reply
      1. Aurelien

        It’s an entirely logical point of view. Hamas and Israel are both threats to Lebanon. Get them to fight each other, and your country benefits. If Israel wipes out Hamas but is gravely weakened in the process, that’s good news for Lebanon. It’s the Middle East we’re talking about here.

        The US benefits from a surprising amount of international acquiesence in its proxy support and political championing of Israel in Gaza. That would vanish overnight if they helped the Israelis invade Lebanon. It’s not hard to understand.

        Reply
        1. Pearl Rangefinder

          Here I’m afraid you are gravely mistaken. Your operating assumptions WRT Israel are out of date by decades, as is most Westerner’s, something argued by Alistair Crooke. Everyone in the Western halls of power seems to be stuck in the 1980s, while Israel has moved far, far to the right not just in government terms but as a society as well, evidenced by polls which show that most Israeli’s actually think the IDF is using “too little firepower” in their slaughter of Gazans. The premises that you are building your Israeli arguments on are the same kind Western policy makers are still stuck in, where this is just another Israeli ‘mowing the lawn’ operation, while Israel has gone full-monte on genocide. Whatever Israel was in the past, the Israel of today is a fanatical, right-wing, settler-run supremacist state that views all of its non-Jewish neighbors as, to put it bluntly (I’ll avoid the use of the original German term despite the temptation), sub-humans. If these sub-humans are in their way, they will wipe them out without compunction. And they can do it to the cheers of large swathes of an Israeli co-opted US government. There are clearly no red lines from America, at least thus far, but there will be for an attack on Lebanon, because American Credibility™? Do I have that right? Are we to believe that Biden will pull a Reagan and tell BiBi to pull back from a Lebanon invasion? You’ll forgive me if I don’t find that convincing in the slightest.

          Faulty premise, faulty conclusions.

          In any case, Israel isn’t ‘wiping out Hamas’, it is wiping out the Palestinians, which is a completely different outcome strategically for the Lebanese. And they are doing it with vast amounts of American material help. I’m sure you know that large parts of southern Lebanon were once ‘historical Israel’; once the right wing crazies are done with their genocidal program against the Palestinians, where do you think they will be turning their American supplied guns on next?

          Reply
        2. Yves Smith Post author

          Huh? I have no idea what you are talking about. Hezbollah, part of the Lebanon power structure, has been actively supporting Hamas by shelling Israel. You may deem that not to be in Lebanon’s interest but the right wing crazies in the Knesset, as Alastair Crooke has described repeatedly and long form, decided in a meeting in the tunnels under Al Aqsa that they were going to retake Israel, as in all of Biblical Israel. That includes all of Lebanon. Hezbollah may have decided that Oct. 7 gave them an opportunity to get a jump on this threat.

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      2. Emma

        He’s referencing the Falangist and some Sunni compradors who are always cool with collaborating with Israel for political advantage. Every country has such lowlifes. They killed tens of thousands of Palestinians and Shiites during the Israeli occupation.

        Such compradors in each country are often brought up under the rubric of ‘it’s complicated’. I think it’s just the ole ‘divide and conquer’ play in all cases.

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    6. WJ

      This analysis makes sense if you believe that realism is sufficient to explain U.S. actions in the Middle East particularly with regard to Israel. But I tend toward Mearsheimer’s view: the power of the lobby over US electoral and cultural politics is such that realism cannot really explain U.S. actions in that global arena.

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    7. Emma

      This is the same US Gov that wrote a blank check to Israel and spent the last 8 months shredding international law (security council decision is not binding, ICJ directions not binding, arrest ICC prosecutor for Israel) and constitutional law (brutal suppression of campus protests, anti-BDS laws, adopting a definition of antisemitism that equate it with anti-Zionism). And 8 months of them all lie about beheaded babies and deny the clear evidence of genocide.

      So ‘insanity’ seems distinctly possible at this point. There’s been quite some chatter that the neo-cons and Zionists are going all out on genocide in Gaza because they anticipate unfurling something bigger that’s going to make Gaza look inconsequential by comparison. My guess is that they’re going to nuke Tehran ‘strategically’. These people have no reverse button.

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      1. c_heale

        Russia is now some kind of partner to Iran, now. I don’t think they are going to sit on the sidelines if Israel makes a nuclear strike on Iran. And China won’t either.

        In fact any such action would likely lead to a nuclear war imo.

        Reply
        1. Emma

          Yes, they’re utterly crazy. Iran itself has a huge arsenal that can be used against everyone in the region. And these people can’t even beat Hamas and the Houthis. But all they know is escalation and mass murder from the sky.

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    8. Oh

      The US behavior doesn’t just border on insanity. It is insanity. It has never hesitated to attack a sovereign state, so why should they stop now?

      I alos find it hard to believe that the US invested money in Lebanon. Perhaps with an ulterior motive? As far as “antagonize the region’ goes, they have the dictators in the region in its pocket.

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  4. Wisker

    Air attacks sure–Israel has supremacy in this area and no one else in the region has much air defense. This would be “symbolic” in the sense that it would do much less to Hezbollah but would cause civilian destruction. Par for the course for Israel.

    As you say, Hezbollah can respond with rockets but cannot hurt the Israeli air force. Unlike Iran, I doubt it has has enough missiles to spare in an effort to keep Israeli air bases suppressed.

    If Israel goes in with ground troops, then they are insane. So much so that I assume those videos they’ve put out showing them demining the border are intentional misdirection… right?

    A pragmatic strategy involves attacking your opponent where they are weak, not where they are strong. Russia is still learning this lesson in Ukraine*.

    * Depends on whether you think 1-to-5 losses is good news or bad news for Russia. Regardless, Hezbollah can inflict much more pain on Israel than Ukraine can on Russia.

    Reply
    1. rowlf

      My Battle Faerie bingo card has a square with “Hezbollah attacks runways after aircraft are launched.”

      A twofer.

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    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Hamas and Hezbollah have many many many cheap rockets and drones. Hezbollah also reportedly has a pretty good stock of higher end ones.

      The point of a war of attrition is to deplete your opponents’ resources. There have been many comments apropos the Houthis and the recent missile exchanges between Israel and Iran of the huge cost incurred by the US/Israel side v. the low costs for their attackers.

      Israel follows US practice: fussy, expensive weaponry, which results in limited stocks and difficulty in resupply when drained.

      More generally, manned aircraft are starting to look like the old cavalry: a badly outdated way of waging war. Drones, precision missiles, and modern air defenses when done right are much cheaper and more effective.

      Also see my comment above: in war games, Israel has consistently lost to Hamas alone, and even worse to Hamas + Hezbollah, even factoring in considerable US help. You are not supposed to lose your own war games.

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      1. KT

        Hezbollah has more than cheap rockets and drones, it has very advanced Russian air defense systems. they have acquired twice as much air defense over the last five years, according to Israel. Panstir systems, short and medium range, etc.

        This is due to Hezobollah intervening in Syria, and working with the Russia army there. As a result, Hezbollah has a very good relationship with Russia and has gotten much stronger as a result of acquiring battle training from Russia and war material.

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        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Thank you for that additional information. Air defense would be extremely important if they intend to move into northern Israel, as Ritter has maintained they would.

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        2. JustTheFacts

          Putin said yesterday that if the US gave weapons to Ukraine that could reach beyond a given range, becoming a thorn in Russia’s side, Russia would give equivalent weapons to groups that would be a thorn in the US’s side (or its friends). Hezbollah & the Houthis sprung to mind.

          Reply
          1. steppenwolf fetchit

            Really?

            North Korea is what sprung to mind to me. And if the RussiaGov believes the Maduro government would survive for years to come, then Venezuela too.

            Those were my first two guesses as to “who” Russia would give longest-range weapons to in order to balance out “longest-range” weapons to Ukraine.

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  5. The Rev Kev

    About those fires. ‘Israeli media said over 2,500 acres had been burned by wildfires caused by Hezbollah rockets over the weekend.’ That sounds like a lot but then you have to remember that Israeli’s use of white phosphorus has caused more than 134 forest fires over the last eight months in Lebanon. And sometimes when firefighters go to fight those fires, the Israelis will lob artillery shells into that area to make them go away. And that Israeli trucks will drive up to the Lebanese borders and spray accelerants across the border to make those fires burn more fiercer while the Lebanese firefighters are trying to put them out-

    https://www.newarab.com/news/israeli-army-pours-accelerant-lebanon-wildfire

    Reply
  6. Victor Sciamarelli

    I think there is another element working against the Israelis which they’re unaware. That is, the civilian leadership, and possibly the military as well, is fundamentally racist. Moreover, the danger which they’re also unaware is their judgement is distorted by prejudice.
    In WW2, Americans respected enemy Generals like Rommel in the sense they would not underestimate his ability. The Israelis, I’m sure, underestimate the risks of a wider war because they can’t accept that the mass of unwashed inferior Arabs can possibly defeat the superior Israelis.
    And I’d go so far and say Netanyahu et al believe they are clever enough to hoodwink the Americans into paying for It and doing much of the fighting.

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  7. K.M.

    Israel is a small country with a small economy and a small army witch depends entirely for its existence on US support.

    Whether or not to go to war with Hizbollah on 2024 is not a decision that can be taken by Israel prime mimister. It is a US decision.

    One thing most analysts overlook is that the russian army is in Syria. It came to Syria as a result of the wars of the Arab Spring and as a part of arrangements with Hizbollah and Iran. What these arrangements are every one is free to figure out.

    Still the US can decide to go to War with Hizbollah but it will be a new Vietnam war and the very existence of Israel would be at stake as a result of such conflict.

    The USA has other things much more important to look after inside and outside America.

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  8. MFB

    What have the Israelis got to lose? None of their NATO friends will help Lebanon. I like Aurelien’s writing in general, but if his contributions to this thread are anything to go by, “realistic” European commentators are almost comically out of touch with realities in the Middle East. Russia is tied down in Eastern Europe and China is unlikely to help and Turkey won’t lift a finger for fear of destabilising its position in Syria. And it seems that the Israeli public is prepared to suffer any amount of financial and human loss so long as it ends in a big pyramid of Arab skulls.

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    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Did you miss that REPEATED war games shows Israel loses to Hamas alone, and even worse to Hamas + Hezbollah? They lost in 2006 to a much less effective Hezbollah. Hezbollah intends this time not to let any war take place in Lebanon and to push any hot conflict into Northern Israel.

      And let us not forget that Putin today said that if the US is arming Ukraine to attack Russia, why should Russia refrain from arming other countries to defend against US allies and proxies? That could easily include Yemen and Lebanon.

      Reply
  9. john r fiore

    Well, always remember that the US bombed Vietnam back to stone age…and now Vietnam has an 80 billion trade surplus with the US…..

    Reply

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