Claim: Hezbo command center untouched in Syrian town

Israel has not been able to break up Hiz b'allah's command and control, or even to lower the pace of rockets raining down on Haifa and the North of Israel. Now DEBKA.com claims one reason is that Hezbo command and control is not located in Lebanon at all.

The command which coordinates the pace of those attacks is located at the Anjar base of the Syrian Army's 10th Division opposite the Lebanese town of Az Zabdani. It is manned by Iranian and Hizballah officers, who take their orders from a Syrian military intelligence center in Damascus to which Iranian Revolutionary Guards intelligence officers are attached. It is headed by a general from one of Syria's surface missile brigades. This joint command is provided with the most up—to—date intelligence and electronic data available to Syria on targets in Israel and IDF movements. The timing and tempo of Hizballah rocket strikes are set according to that information.

To keep the rockets coming without interruption, the joint Hizballah—Syrian—Iranian command is also responsible with keeping Hizballah supplied with an inflow of rockets and launchers. They use smuggling rings to slip the supplies into Lebanon by mule and donkey which ply the 5,000—7,000 feet mountain paths that straddle the Syrian—Lebanese frontier.

A senior Israeli officer told DEBKAfile: We can go on bombing Lebanon for many weeks, but that will not stop the rockets.

We can't be sure this report is true. But it makes sense because of the failure (so far) to impede Hezbollah's rain of rockets. If Israel has known about the Anjar command center, a political decision must have been taken to leave it alone for fear of bringing in Syria and perhaps Iran. Israel's government is said to fear knocking out the Assad government, because Syria could be taken over by an even worse regime.

The result of such an Israeli decision is to leave a safe haven for Hezbollah supply, command and control. This is the Vietnam failure: US Presidents were reluctant to mine and blockade North Vietnamese ports for fear of involving China. Hezbo seems to be following a Vietcong strategy, by mining, tunneling, bunkering, and holding a safe supply chain that cannot be attacked. We now know that the Vietcong were constantly supplied with fresh soldiers from the North Vietnamese Army, who simply took off their uniforms and suddenly became guerrillas.

There is evidence for Iranian, Syrian, North Korean and Chinese expertise being supplied for Hiz b'allah. This is a major test for Israel, but it is also a serious test for the United States. Israel mirrors American combat ethics, emphasis on the value of human life, reluctance to harm civilians, as well as US arms, planes, and civilian control of the military. As in Vietnam, the Western model may be in danger of failing. If it does, this same pattern of attack will be repeated in Iraq and elsewhere.

Although news reports are always spotty, we know that the IAF has been bombing South Lebanon for four weeks. The Hezbos have not broken. This is from the UK Times:

The Israeli military has saturation air coverage over southern Lebanon with missile—firing reconnaissance drones, Apache helicopter gunships and F16 fighter—bombers. It is attacking its Hezbollah enemy with multiple airstrikes and heavy artillery bombardments from land and sea as well as raids by Israeli special forces units.

Yet Hezbollah squads are still firing dozens of rockets a day into Israel from locations lying just a few hundred yards from the border and within full view of the Israeli military.

One such position lies between the villages of Naqoura and Alma al—Shaab. The rocky, uninhabited hillside and deep ravine of 12 square miles is covered in a dense undergrowth of juniper bushes and scrub oak where Hezbollah over the past three years has established an unseen, but clearly formidable, military infrastructure of weapons depots, tunnels and bunkers. [....]

Even seasoned UN observers, whose headquarters is at the foot of the hill, are baffled at how the guerrillas have managed to survive the onslaught and keep up a steady rate of rocket fire. 'We simply have no idea how they have been able to fire rockets for so long from more or less the same location and the Israelis have not been able to stop them,' said a senior officer for United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon

One possibility is that the Naqoura bunker complex has simply been bypassed by Israeli ground forces. However, it seems at least equally likely that the government of Israel has tied the hands of the IDF, as the US did in Vietnam.

Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post expects a heated national debate after the Hezbo war is over, with respected military officers speaking out against the Olmert government. She points out that an earlier debate along those lines led to the resignation of Golda Meir's government and the rise of Likud.

The IDF cannot afford to fail. Israel had a traumatic experience trying to hold Lebanese territory before it retreated in 2000. But the only choices today may be to either expand the war and hit Syrian command centers for Hezbollah, with the danger that Iran will enter the war; or to take Lebanese territory up to the Litani river, and hold it against guerrila attacks. None of the choices are attractive.

Ultimately, Tehran is protecting its nuclear ambitions. If Hezbollah cannot be defeated in Lebanon, Iran will increase the number of its long—range missiles pointing at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem under the nominal control of the Hezbos. Any attack on Iranian nuclear facilities will elicit an immediate counter—attack on Israel's civilian population.

It is in the interest of the West for the Hezbos to be severely degraded. If that cannot be accomplished, Iranian nukes might as well be taken as a given. The implications for the control of the world's oil supply and for the war on terror are frightening to contemplate.

James Lewis   8 08 06

Israel has not been able to break up Hiz b'allah's command and control, or even to lower the pace of rockets raining down on Haifa and the North of Israel. Now DEBKA.com claims one reason is that Hezbo command and control is not located in Lebanon at all.

The command which coordinates the pace of those attacks is located at the Anjar base of the Syrian Army's 10th Division opposite the Lebanese town of Az Zabdani. It is manned by Iranian and Hizballah officers, who take their orders from a Syrian military intelligence center in Damascus to which Iranian Revolutionary Guards intelligence officers are attached. It is headed by a general from one of Syria's surface missile brigades. This joint command is provided with the most up—to—date intelligence and electronic data available to Syria on targets in Israel and IDF movements. The timing and tempo of Hizballah rocket strikes are set according to that information.

To keep the rockets coming without interruption, the joint Hizballah—Syrian—Iranian command is also responsible with keeping Hizballah supplied with an inflow of rockets and launchers. They use smuggling rings to slip the supplies into Lebanon by mule and donkey which ply the 5,000—7,000 feet mountain paths that straddle the Syrian—Lebanese frontier.

A senior Israeli officer told DEBKAfile: We can go on bombing Lebanon for many weeks, but that will not stop the rockets.

We can't be sure this report is true. But it makes sense because of the failure (so far) to impede Hezbollah's rain of rockets. If Israel has known about the Anjar command center, a political decision must have been taken to leave it alone for fear of bringing in Syria and perhaps Iran. Israel's government is said to fear knocking out the Assad government, because Syria could be taken over by an even worse regime.

The result of such an Israeli decision is to leave a safe haven for Hezbollah supply, command and control. This is the Vietnam failure: US Presidents were reluctant to mine and blockade North Vietnamese ports for fear of involving China. Hezbo seems to be following a Vietcong strategy, by mining, tunneling, bunkering, and holding a safe supply chain that cannot be attacked. We now know that the Vietcong were constantly supplied with fresh soldiers from the North Vietnamese Army, who simply took off their uniforms and suddenly became guerrillas.

There is evidence for Iranian, Syrian, North Korean and Chinese expertise being supplied for Hiz b'allah. This is a major test for Israel, but it is also a serious test for the United States. Israel mirrors American combat ethics, emphasis on the value of human life, reluctance to harm civilians, as well as US arms, planes, and civilian control of the military. As in Vietnam, the Western model may be in danger of failing. If it does, this same pattern of attack will be repeated in Iraq and elsewhere.

Although news reports are always spotty, we know that the IAF has been bombing South Lebanon for four weeks. The Hezbos have not broken. This is from the UK Times:

The Israeli military has saturation air coverage over southern Lebanon with missile—firing reconnaissance drones, Apache helicopter gunships and F16 fighter—bombers. It is attacking its Hezbollah enemy with multiple airstrikes and heavy artillery bombardments from land and sea as well as raids by Israeli special forces units.

Yet Hezbollah squads are still firing dozens of rockets a day into Israel from locations lying just a few hundred yards from the border and within full view of the Israeli military.

One such position lies between the villages of Naqoura and Alma al—Shaab. The rocky, uninhabited hillside and deep ravine of 12 square miles is covered in a dense undergrowth of juniper bushes and scrub oak where Hezbollah over the past three years has established an unseen, but clearly formidable, military infrastructure of weapons depots, tunnels and bunkers. [....]

Even seasoned UN observers, whose headquarters is at the foot of the hill, are baffled at how the guerrillas have managed to survive the onslaught and keep up a steady rate of rocket fire. 'We simply have no idea how they have been able to fire rockets for so long from more or less the same location and the Israelis have not been able to stop them,' said a senior officer for United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon

One possibility is that the Naqoura bunker complex has simply been bypassed by Israeli ground forces. However, it seems at least equally likely that the government of Israel has tied the hands of the IDF, as the US did in Vietnam.

Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post expects a heated national debate after the Hezbo war is over, with respected military officers speaking out against the Olmert government. She points out that an earlier debate along those lines led to the resignation of Golda Meir's government and the rise of Likud.

The IDF cannot afford to fail. Israel had a traumatic experience trying to hold Lebanese territory before it retreated in 2000. But the only choices today may be to either expand the war and hit Syrian command centers for Hezbollah, with the danger that Iran will enter the war; or to take Lebanese territory up to the Litani river, and hold it against guerrila attacks. None of the choices are attractive.

Ultimately, Tehran is protecting its nuclear ambitions. If Hezbollah cannot be defeated in Lebanon, Iran will increase the number of its long—range missiles pointing at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem under the nominal control of the Hezbos. Any attack on Iranian nuclear facilities will elicit an immediate counter—attack on Israel's civilian population.

It is in the interest of the West for the Hezbos to be severely degraded. If that cannot be accomplished, Iranian nukes might as well be taken as a given. The implications for the control of the world's oil supply and for the war on terror are frightening to contemplate.

James Lewis   8 08 06