Sunday, August 20, 2006

Hezbollah's transformation is a case study

Mercury News reported The Hezbollah force that fought Israel to a draw in a month-long border conflict is the product of a two-decade, Iranian-nurtured program that took a guerrilla group and transformed it into a full-blown Shiite Muslim army.

I know they are saying that now, but it is still an army that acts as a guerrilla group, i.e. it is not willing to meet the Israeli army, or even a pack of wolves, face to face. They cower in the background, hiding behind civilians, in the hope that the civilians will be shot and not them.
To be sure, Israel knew much about Hezbollah's military capabilities. Israeli intelligence had detected a 2003 shipment of long-range, Iranian-made Zelzal-2 missiles, which arrived at the Damascus airport in flights returning to Syria after delivering blankets and other emergency relief supplies to earthquake victims in Iran. Israeli officials said they didn't reveal the shipment at the time because they were afraid of tipping off Hezbollah and its allies to their sources. Israeli military officers also were aware that Hezbollah was constructing a network of bunkers and tunnels on Israel's northern border. One reserve general called them the "infrastructure of an underground Tehran."
I would hope that Israel is acquiring or developing bunker busters capable to destroying them now.
They knew as well that Hezbollah fighters were regularly shuttling between Lebanon's Bekaa Valley and Iran for advanced training. But the depth of Hezbollah's development became clear only once Israel attacked its installations in Lebanon in what some initially envisioned as a one- or two-week campaign. After slightly more than four weeks, Israel agreed to a cease-fire that left Hezbollah intact as the strongest political and military force in Lebanon. The Israeli invasion showed that Hezbollah, with Iran's help, had taken hundreds of small steps to create a powerhouse. Among them:

-It acquired thousands of Russian-made anti-tank missiles from Syria and Iran, then trained its forces to use them. The missiles were startlingly effective not just against Israeli tanks but also against houses and other buildings where Israeli troops sought shelter.
What is Israel going to do to counter them?
-It set up a top-down, stealthy military structure that tightly controls operations and is led by a covert chief of staff whose name isn't known to the Israelis or at least isn't made public. Israeli military officials think that some promising Hezbollah fighters have been sent to special Iranian command courses.
That is good. Just capture one of the Hezbollah commanders and you will know what Iranian commanders are learning.
-It established a combat-ready organization: a logistics branch to handle the delivery of food, fuel and munitions; a black-clad special forces unit to conduct daring combat missions and abduct Israeli soldiers; navy commandos; and an infantry that trains for complex operations and supports the other units.

-It set up a reserve system that consists of former full-time fighters who can be called back to service and "weekend warriors" who undergo regular training but generally haven't seen combat.

It also created an intelligence unit that recruited a Bedouin spy inside the Israeli army and an air wing that sent drones on test runs over Israel in 2004 and 2005, on flight paths similar to those that its Katyusha rockets followed this summer as they rained down on Israel.

It has Shiite fighters who speak Hebrew, perhaps learned on patrols along the northern border in earshot of Israeli broadcasts. This makes some Israeli soldiers suspect that they were being overheard.

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