October 11, 2006


HOW HEZBOLLAH DEFEATED ISRAEL: PART 1: Winning the intelligence war (Alastair Crooke and Mark Perry, 10/12/06, Asia Times)

Hezbollah's primary arsenals and marshaling points were targeted by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) in the first 72 hours of the war. Israel's commanders had identified these bunkers through a mix of intelligence reports - signals intercepts from Hezbollah communications, satellite-reconnaissance photos gleaned from cooperative arrangements with the US military, photos analyzed as a result of IAF overflights of the region, photos from drone aircraft deployed over southern Lebanon and, most important, a network of trusted human-intelligence sources recruited by Israeli intelligence officers living in southern Lebanon, including a large number of foreign (non-Lebanese) nationals registered as guest workers in the country.

The initial attack on Hezbollah's marshaling points and major bunker complexes, which took place in the first 72 hours of the war, failed. On July 15, the IAF targeted Hezbollah's leadership in Beirut. This attack also failed. At no point during the war was any major Hezbollah political figure killed, despite Israel's constant insistence that the organization's senior leadership had suffered losses.

According to one US official who observed the war closely, the IAF's air offensive degraded "perhaps only 7%" of the total military resource assets available to Hezbollah's fighters in the first three days of fighting and added that, in his opinion, Israeli air attacks on the Hezbollah leadership were "absolutely futile". [...]

It now is clear that the Israeli political establishment was shocked by the failure of its forces to accomplish its first military goals in the war - including the degradation of a significant number of Hezbollah arsenals and the destruction of Hezbollah's command capabilities.

But the Israeli political establishment had done almost nothing to prepare for the worst: the first meeting of the Israeli security cabinet in the wake of the July 12 abduction lasted only three hours. And while Olmert and his security cabinet demanded minute details of the IDF's plan for the first three days of the war, they failed to articulate clear political goals in the aftermath of the conflict or sketch out a political exit strategy should the offensive fail.

Olmert and the security cabinet violated the first principle of war - they showed contempt for their enemy. In many respects, Olmert and his cabinet were captives of an unquestioned belief in the efficacy of Israeli deterrence. Like the Israeli public, they viewed any questioning of IDF capabilities as sacrilege.

The Israeli intelligence failure during the conflict was catastrophic. It meant that, after the failure of Israel's air campaign to degrade Hezbollah assets significantly in the first 72 hours of the war, Israel's chance of winning a decisive victory against Hezbollah was increasingly, and highly, unlikely.

"Israel lost the war in the first three days," one US military expert said. "If you have that kind of surprise and you have that kind of firepower, you had better win. Otherwise, you're in for the long haul."

IDF senior officers concluded that, given the failure of the air campaign, they had only one choice - to invade Lebanon with ground troops in the hopes of destroying Hezbollah's will to prevail.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 11, 2006 7:48 AM

Alastair Crooke (Hamas enabler) and Mark Perry (Arafat confidante and Hizbullah cheerleader) make a most predictable, if loathsome, tag wrestling team.

Mark Helprin provides a bit of balance. (Via Martin Kramer)

Posted by: Barry Meislin at October 11, 2006 8:23 AM

No one thinks Lebanon won. Hezbollah did.

Posted by: oj at October 11, 2006 8:42 AM

Barry's dead on. This was a disaster for the Hezzies who might never recover, and if they do it will only b/c they let their fellow Shia in Lebanon know that they won't dance to the Tehran piper anymore.

As for the NeoCons, aren't they the ones who were screaming at the Israelis from day 1 of the battle? -- calling it a war is a bit too much. Caroline Glick -- a first-class hysteric in the Jerusalem Post -- is always a good barometer of neocon feeling. They were saying the war was lost as soon as it began.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at October 11, 2006 11:19 PM