The specter of a major war between Israel and Hezbollah looms over the volatile Middle East, with tensions rising and subsiding periodically as both sides engage in a perpetual low-intensity conflict.
In the backdrop of this enduring standoff lies a ‘Cold War’ of sorts, characterized by an ongoing struggle for influence and power between Israel and Hezbollah’s primary benefactor, Iran.
This article delves into the potential strategies that may be adopted by the key players involved if the situation escalates into a full-scale conflict.
Why Another Major War?
To comprehend the dynamics of a potential Israel-Hezbollah conflict, we must first address a fundamental question: Why would such a war occur in the first place?
Israel’s strategic objectives concerning Lebanon have primarily revolved around maintaining the relative calm achieved since the “Second Lebanon War,” with no clear political ambitions in the region. Although Israel has occasionally targeted Hezbollah assets in Syria to prevent the flow of advanced weaponry from Iran to Hezbollah and responded to sporadic Hezbollah attacks on its border with Syria, it has displayed no political interest in intensifying hostilities.
Therefore, the impetus for another major conflict lies primarily with Hezbollah and, more likely, its patron, Iran, although an Israeli preemptive operation could trigger the military aspect of the conflict.
Hezbollah, a religious-political Lebanese movement, was established and is meticulously nurtured by Iran.
As a result, it is guided by dual allegiances – to Iran, its source of funding, equipment, and training, and to the Lebanese Shiite population, from which it derives its political support and recruits. While Hezbollah has diversified its sources of funding, including involvement in the narcotics trade, Iran remains its predominant financial backer.
The Lebanese Shiite population has gradually shifted its support from the secular AMAL movement to Hezbollah due to the latter’s ability to provide welfare, education, healthcare, jobs, and influence the Lebanese government to allocate resources to their community.
In the late 1980s, despite AMAL’s initial political and military advantage, Syria’s intervention forced it to desist from dismantling Hezbollah and gave Hezbollah de facto control over southern Lebanon.
Hezbollah’s objectives concerning Israel are primarily ideological, rooted in the religious beliefs shared with its Iranian benefactors. One central tenet of this ideology is the elimination of a Jewish state in the Middle East.
Since the Iranian revolution, the religious regime in Iran has consistently expressed its goal of eradicating Israel, with Iran’s supreme leader, Khamenei, even setting a deadline for this objective by 2040.
Hezbollah’s leader, Nasrallah, has echoed this commitment, albeit without specifying a deadline. Thus, the driving force behind Hezbollah’s actions vis-a-vis Israel is rooted in a religious-ideological framework.
The precise spark that could ignite the next conflict is unpredictable. The “Second Lebanon War” in 2006 was triggered by a Hezbollah raid on an Israeli border patrol, resulting in casualties and the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers.
While such incidents were not unprecedented, this time Israel responded with a significant airstrike, leading to a 38-day medium-intensity war. Neither side had initially planned to engage in a protracted conflict, illustrating how hostilities can escalate unpredictably.
The future could see another unforeseen incident as a trigger. Over the years, Israel has been accused of covertly targeting important Hezbollah personnel. Additionally, Israel has repeatedly attacked Hezbollah convoys transporting advanced weaponry from Iran through Syria to Lebanon, adhering to its policy of preventing certain “game-changing” weapons from reaching Hezbollah’s arsenal.
Although Hezbollah has not openly retaliated for these actions, one incident in 2015 saw them fire anti-tank missiles at Israeli military vehicles near the Lebanese border, resulting in casualties. This highlights how any small action on either side can potentially trigger a significant escalation.
Given Israel’s primary objective of maintaining a quiet border with Lebanon, there are scenarios in which Israel may initiate a war.
These scenarios include responding to a Hezbollah-instigated escalation or conducting a preemptive strike based on intelligence indicating a large-scale Hezbollah attack. While Western analysts often downplay religious and ideological motivations, these factors are significant in the Middle East, where actions are frequently taken for ideological reasons while being carried out through rational and pragmatic means.
The likelihood of an Iranian decision to initiate a major war with Israel is slim, as Iran has demonstrated its commitment to pragmatic political and military calculations despite its religious rhetoric. Israel has previously defeated more formidable coalitions, and Iran, Hezbollah, and Syria’s combined military capabilities do not pose an insurmountable threat.
An Iranian decision to engage in a large-scale war with Israel may either respond to Israeli or U.S. attempts to destroy Iran’s nuclear program or be part of a long-term strategy aimed at inflicting a psychological blow on Israel, akin to the 1973 concept introduced by Egyptian President Sadat, which sought to undermine Israelis’ faith in their nation’s viability.
The issue of nuclear weapons plays a pivotal role in these calculations. Iran, like much of the world, believes that Israel possesses nuclear weapons and is willing to use them under certain circumstances.
Iran is pursuing its own nuclear weapons program to achieve parity. The Iran nuclear agreement was intended to halt this program, but it only temporarily delayed it at best. As Iran progresses towards manufacturing a large number of nuclear warheads and mounting them on reliable delivery systems, the risk of more aggressive Iranian actions against Israel rises. Until then, Iran is likely to exercise caution in its direct confrontations with Israel.
Hezbollah’s Intentions and Capabilities
Hezbollah, a powerful Shiite militant group operating out of Lebanon, finds itself in a precarious position, caught between a web of regional and international tensions. The organization, which has been designated a terrorist group by the United States and several other countries, must navigate carefully to maintain its domestic and international commitments, all while being cautious not to provoke another major conflict. However, it is worth noting that every measure Hezbollah takes to counter potential Israeli attacks increases the likelihood of a catastrophic conflagration.
The Death of Qassem Soleimani
On January 3, 2020, the United States carried out a targeted strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force. This event was welcomed by Israel, as Soleimani had been one of their most dangerous foes and had played a key role in facilitating the arming of Hezbollah.
Despite this significant setback, Hezbollah refrained from immediately provoking Israel in the weeks following Soleimani’s assassination. However, there remains the possibility that Hezbollah might become involved in an Iranian retaliation against the United States and/or Israel, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere.
Hezbollah’s Political Influence in Lebanon
Hezbollah exerts significant influence within the Lebanese parliament and government, where it operates under the guise of a legitimate political party, seeking to conceal its terrorist identity. The group has also cultivated connections with the Lebanese military, a factor that raises concerns about its potential infiltration into the Lebanese state apparatus. This strategy enables Hezbollah to operate on multiple fronts, both militarily and politically.
In recent years, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) discovered and destroyed tunnels originating in Lebanon and leading into Israel. These tunnels served as potential avenues for Hezbollah’s infiltration into Israel. In a future conflict, Hezbollah is likely to employ both above and below-ground tactics, seeking to infiltrate operatives into Israel.
The IDF would undoubtedly respond swiftly to neutralize any Hezbollah fighters who breach the border. Despite the anticipated short-lived and unproductive nature of such incursions, Hezbollah would undoubtedly attempt to portray them as victories, thereby necessitating Israel’s characterization of them as failed raids.
The Use of Civilian Areas for Rocket Storage
One of Hezbollah’s most controversial tactics is the storage of its rockets within urban areas. This strategy is particularly problematic because when Israel targets these rockets, it risks causing significant collateral damage to the populated areas housing them.
In an effort to mitigate this, Israel often issues warnings to Lebanese noncombatants, allowing them to evacuate their homes before strikes occur. This warning system, while designed to protect civilians, provides Hezbollah with additional time to fortify its positions and plan its responses.
Hezbollah’s Growing Arsenal: Analyzing Their Military Strength and Recent Weaponry Display
Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group based in Lebanon, recently showcased its military capabilities in a public event, revealing a significant expansion of its arsenal and providing insights into its evolving strategies. This analytical review delves into the details of Hezbollah’s military strength, including its rocket and missile stockpile, fighter numbers, and its support network. It also examines the group’s emphasis on anti-drone technologies, the potential for precision-guided missiles, and a diverse array of weaponry on display during the event.
Hezbollah’s Military Strength
As of the latest estimates, Hezbollah is believed to have a formidable arsenal consisting of approximately 150,000 rockets and missiles. Moreover, the group boasts around 20,000 active fighters, supported by an additional 20,000 reserves. Hezbollah’s formidable strength is not limited to its weaponry but extends to its operational reach, which spans beyond Lebanon into Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.
The group’s power and influence have grown significantly, with some experts suggesting that it has surpassed any single military division in Lebanon. This expansion is driven by a combination of religious beliefs, a stated objective of defending Lebanon against Israeli intervention, and substantial financial support from Iran.
Hezbollah’s emphasis on anti-drone technologies is indicative of the evolving nature of modern warfare. At the recent event, the group unveiled two handheld anti-drone guns designed to disrupt smaller drones that traditional air defense systems struggle to detect. These anti-drone weapons are agile and cost-effective, making them particularly appealing to non-state actors like Hezbollah.
Hezbollah has previously demonstrated its ability to manufacture military drones, showcasing “heavy-lift” octocopters equipped with improvised air-delivered munitions. These drones can be used for both offensive and surveillance purposes, highlighting the group’s adaptability in leveraging modern technologies to further its goals.
A Hezbollah fighter displays a hand-held anti-drone gun before the media (Al-Manar TV/Twitter)
Hezbollah’s arsenal includes precision-guided missiles (PGMs) capable of more accurate targeting, reducing collateral damage, and increasing enemy casualties. While there have been public mentions of facilities for manufacturing these missiles, there is limited operational use or recorded testing, making their possession somewhat uncertain.
During the recent display, Hezbollah’s Safieddine issued a veiled threat, warning of PGMs “raining down” on Israel in the event of aggression. This underscores the group’s increasing focus on enhancing its offensive capabilities.
In addition to rockets, missiles, and drones, Hezbollah showcased a variety of weaponry during the event. Some of these weapons include:
- Anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs): Hezbollah has access to the Russian 9M133 Kornet and the Iranian Toophan. These ATGMs are used effectively against armored vehicles and structures.
- Multiple-barrel rocket launchers (MBRLs): Hezbollah displayed craft-produced MBRLs fitted to civilian trucks. These launchers can fire a large number of rockets over considerable distances.
- RPG-29 Vampir: A Soviet-era reusable rocket-propelled grenade launcher, capable of penetrating armored vehicles.
- Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS): Hezbollah displayed the Chinese-Iranian QW-18 series MANPADS, likely supplied by Iran.
- Anti-aircraft autocannons: The group showcased the Soviet ZU-23-2 twin-barreled 23mm anti-aircraft autocannon.
- Artillery guns: Hezbollah presented the AZP S-60 autocannon and the Iranian 130mm M-46, used for engaging vehicles, structures, and enemy forces in open terrain.
In addition to these conventional weapons, Hezbollah demonstrated its proficiency in ground warfare tactics, utilizing a range of rifles, including Russian-made AK-103 and AK-104 rifles, Orsis T-5000 bolt-action precision rifles, and crew-served light grenade launchers.
In addition to the wide array of weaponry showcased during the event, Hezbollah’s display also featured some notable additions:
- MK-19 Grenade Launcher: The group exhibited a more potent grenade launcher, the MK-19-pattern, capable of launching grenades with a maximum distance of 2,200 meters. However, its effective range against point targets is about 1,500 meters. Equipped with 40mm grenades, these projectiles have a lethal radius of approximately five meters, contingent on the specific model. The most commonly used grenades are of the high explosive, dual-purpose (HEDP) variety, known for their ability to penetrate approximately 50mm of armored protection. It is important to note that the MK-19 is not traditionally associated with Hezbollah’s arsenal, suggesting that it may have been diverted from Lebanese security forces. The presence of this weapon indicates the group’s willingness to enhance its offensive capabilities.
- M40-Type 106mm Recoilless Gun: Hezbollah’s display included M40-type 106mm recoilless guns, likely Iranian copies of the American M40. These weapons are versatile, serving anti-tank and anti-personnel roles. The M40s have long been favored by Iran and groups supported by Iran in the region, making them a common sight in Middle Eastern conflicts. Their presence in Hezbollah’s arsenal reaffirms the group’s adaptability and readiness for various combat scenarios.
Hezbollah fighters man M40-type 106mm recoilless guns (Hanna Davis/MEE)
The inclusion of these advanced weapons in Hezbollah’s exhibit not only showcases the group’s increasing military sophistication but also underscores its preparedness for a range of potential threats and conflicts in the region. The display serves as a clear message to regional players, highlighting Hezbollah’s determination to protect its interests and maintain a robust military posture.
In the event of an Israeli offensive in Lebanon, Hezbollah would be at a severe disadvantage due to Israel’s overwhelming firepower and control of the air. Hezbollah may resort to ambushing small Israeli units, particularly logistical and vulnerable ones, as part of its asymmetric strategy. Preventing Hezbollah from effectively moving personnel and supplies across the rugged Lebanese terrain could be a challenge for the IDF, especially if such movements are conducted at night.
Lessons from the Syrian Civil War
General Hossein Salami, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, claimed in August 2019 that Hezbollah had developed the capability to “wipe the Zionist regime off the map” in any possible war. This assertion reflects the lessons Hezbollah learned during its involvement in the Syrian Civil War, where it honed its combat skills.
However, it is important to note that facing the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) would pose a significant challenge for Hezbollah. The IDF is better equipped and trained than the Syrian rebels encountered by Hezbollah in Syria.
Moreover, Hezbollah enjoyed air superiority in Syria thanks to Russian and Syrian air support, a luxury it would not have in a conflict with Israel. Instead, the Israeli Air Force’s F-15 and F-16 multirole fighter aircraft would dominate the skies and conduct precision strikes throughout Lebanon.
Hezbollah does possess some air defense capabilities, which could potentially shoot down a few Israeli aircraft, but these losses would not be sufficient to thwart the Israeli Air Force. Therefore, Hezbollah would need to adapt from a position of air superiority and external air support in Syria to a new reality in a potential conflict with Israel.
Assessing the Risks and Rewards
Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian Civil War came at a high cost, with over 2,000 of its fighters losing their lives. This sobering experience, coupled with the prospect of enormous damage to Lebanese towns and villages, deters Hezbollah from actively seeking a full-scale war with Israel. If Iran demands Hezbollah’s involvement in an attack on Israel, the group’s leadership may attempt to limit the scope of the conflict to minimize casualties and damage, both of which it can ill afford.
The Israeli Offensive Strategy: A Comprehensive Analysis
In April 2018, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) published an updated version of its Strategy Document, aiming for a decisive and swift victory in future conflicts. One of the most significant challenges this strategy addresses is the need to confront Hezbollah, a formidable adversary with deep roots in the Lebanese Shiite community.
The IDF’s primary fronts include Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and the complex dynamics involving Syria and Iran in the Golan Heights. In this article, we will focus on the IDF’s approach to dealing with Hezbollah in Lebanon, a formidable challenge that requires intricate planning and a strategic approach.
The Challenge of Hezbollah
Hezbollah, a Shiite militant organization, boasts significant military capabilities and support within Lebanon. Their stronghold, known as Dahiyeh, is located in a suburb of the Lebanese capital, Beirut, approximately 55 miles north of the Israeli border.
To understand the IDF’s approach, it’s essential to recognize that the last time the IDF reached Beirut by land was during the 1982 war, which took approximately a week of intense fighting and logistical challenges. In contrast, during earlier high-intensity conflicts in 1956 and 1967, the IDF was able to make rapid advances deep into enemy territory.
This discrepancy highlights the importance of Israeli forces’ ability to launch a massive offensive deep within hostile territory, should the need arise.
The IDF must be prepared to confront multiple adversaries on several fronts, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and potential threats from Syria and Iran in the Golan Heights.
While Israel’s military is highly capable, spreading its forces too thinly across these fronts could lead to significant challenges. Therefore, the fight in Lebanon, where Hezbollah poses a critical threat, remains the top priority. The question is how to approach this complex situation without overextending the IDF’s resources.
Overcoming Geographical Challenges
South Lebanon, where Hezbollah has established its strongholds, presents unique geographical challenges. The region is characterized by narrow and often winding routes that are susceptible to traffic congestion.
Even during combat, Israeli military vehicles could become stuck in traffic jams, hampering the overall effectiveness of the operation. Consequently, only the leading elements of the IDF columns would be able to engage in combat, while the rest would be immobilized, necessitating a reevaluation of strategic deployment.
Swift Penetration and Withdrawal
The IDF’s approach to confronting Hezbollah envisions swift penetration into Lebanese territory without an extended occupation. Israel seeks to avoid repeating its costly deployment in Lebanon and, instead, intends to remain in Lebanese territory only long enough to neutralize Hezbollah’s military infrastructure, particularly its arsenal of rockets and missiles. This approach emphasizes a surgical strike with a clear exit strategy, reducing the risk of becoming bogged down in an extended conflict.
Centers of Gravity
In a conflict with Hezbollah, the IDF would need to identify and target Hezbollah’s centers of gravity, which may include military bases, command centers, and weapons depots. These objectives could be distributed across a wide area, necessitating a coordinated and multifront offensive. By launching an offensive across a broad front, the IDF can quickly engage multiple objectives, apply maximum pressure on Hezbollah, and save valuable time.
The rugged terrain of south Lebanon poses a unique challenge. The IDF would need to exploit any accessible roads to navigate the difficult topography. This maneuverability not only allows for the efficient deployment of forces but also helps the IDF gain momentum, a crucial factor in shortening the duration of the conflict. By swiftly advancing through the terrain, Israeli forces can maintain the element of surprise and catch Hezbollah off guard.
Manpower and the Corps: The IDF’s Preparedness for a Major Conflict
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are known for their rigorous training, advanced technology, and combat readiness. In a major war scenario, the IDF relies heavily on its manpower, both active-duty personnel and reservists.
The ability to mobilize its citizens under fire, even in the face of rocket attacks on their neighborhoods, is a testament to the commitment and resilience of the Israeli military. This chapter explores the IDF’s preparedness and capabilities, emphasizing the challenges it may face in a conflict with Hezbollah, particularly in Lebanon.
The Human Factor
The IDF’s strength lies in its people. The citizens of Israel, including active-duty and reservist troops, play a crucial role in the country’s defense. However, the prospect of leaving their families in the midst of rocket attacks presents a unique challenge.
The psychological impact of such a scenario cannot be underestimated, potentially causing hesitation among troops. Moreover, Hezbollah poses a significant threat to IDF bases, which are critical for supplying Israeli soldiers with weapons, vehicles, and materiel.
With Hezbollah’s rockets targeting roads to the front lines and assembly areas, Israeli troops must often rely on basic shelters like foxholes for protection. In some cases, soldiers may even have to dig their own cover. This highlights the need for a resilient and adaptable force.
Urban Warfare Preparedness
Over the years, the IDF has recognized the importance of urban warfare training, especially in light of Hezbollah’s deployment of rockets in towns and villages across Lebanon. In 2005, the IDF established an urban warfare training center at the Tze’elim Army Base in the Negev Desert, which has become one of the most technologically advanced training facilities globally. The center includes mock villages that replicate real-life scenarios, complete with homes, mosques, and various urban elements.
The IDF’s commitment to urban warfare training ensures that its forces are better prepared to engage in the complex and challenging environments they may encounter during a conflict with Hezbollah.
resource : https://www.jns.org/jns/topic/23/7/13/302347/
Command, Control, and Cybersecurity
The IDF boasts a sophisticated command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) network that greatly enhances the coordination of ground, air, and sea operations. While this technology provides a significant advantage, it also introduces vulnerabilities, particularly in the face of cyberattacks.
A delicate balance must be maintained, as relying too heavily on advanced technology can lead to officers being overwhelmed with information. As a result, the IDF has conducted training exercises where troops are forced to operate without cutting-edge gear, ensuring that they remain effective even in the absence of technology.
Importance of Infantry and Armor
In recent decades, the role of infantry has become increasingly significant due to the nature of combat against hybrid forces, particularly in urban areas. However, armored units, like the 401st “Iron Tracks” Brigade with its Merkava Mark IV tanks, remain essential to support infantry and provide momentum on the battlefield. The Israeli military industry also produces specialized ammunition for urban warfare, such as the M339 multipurpose tank cartridge.
Infantry brigades, such as the 1st “Golani” and the 35th “Paratroopers,” rely on heavy-armored personnel carriers like Achzarit and Namer, along with the outdated M113. The M113 is primarily used for troop transport rather than storming the enemy, as soldiers often feel safer walking alongside it.
Role of Combat Engineers
Combat engineers are indispensable in clearing routes from landmines and improvised explosive devices, as well as in paving new roads to bypass mined or damaged areas. They will play a vital role in crossing rivers and fighting underground in Lebanon. The potential sabotage of bridges by Hezbollah forces means that the IDF may have to construct new bridges under fire, requiring a high degree of preparedness to minimize casualties and delays.
The IDF will not only conduct ground offensives but also launch airborne operations, utilizing the new 89th “Oz” Commando Brigade established in 2015. These elite units will be transported by CH-53 Yasur and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, and parachuting is also an option. Other Special Forces and high-quality units will contribute to the attack on key targets and gather essential intelligence. Coordination between these units is crucial for the overall success of the offensive.
Amphibious Assault Capability
The IDF has hesitated to develop its amphibious assault capability despite the lessons learned from its relatively substantial amphibious landing in 1982. The complexity of this operation, requiring tight coordination among air, sea, and land units, poses challenges. However, Lebanon’s extensive coastline offers an opportunity for the IDF to outflank Hezbollah from the sea and launch attacks from multiple angles, potentially changing the course of a conflict.
The IDF’s readiness for a major conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon relies on a combination of factors, including its well-trained and dedicated manpower, urban warfare preparedness, cutting-edge technology, and a balanced approach to the use of advanced equipment. While the challenges are significant, the IDF’s adaptability and commitment to improving its capabilities ensure that it remains a formidable force in the ever-changing landscape of modern warfare. To effectively counter Hezbollah’s hybrid warfare tactics, the IDF must continue to evolve and prepare for a range of scenarios, including urban warfare and amphibious assaults, while maintaining its core strength – its people.
Hezbollah/Iranian Strategy: Examining the Multi-Front Threat to Israel
The complex and evolving geopolitics of the Middle East have given rise to various military strategies employed by different actors, notably Hezbollah and Iran. The focus of this detailed article is to analyze Hezbollah’s evolving strategy, with Iran’s support, and its implications for Israel. Historically, Hezbollah has been known for its artillery rocket capabilities, but in recent years, the organization has expanded its arsenal, adopted a multi-front approach, and developed a more robust strategy, including ground operations.
Hezbollah’s Expanding Offensive Strategy
In recent years, Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has unveiled a new component of Hezbollah’s offensive strategy: the liberation of the Galilee, the northern third of Israel. A notional plan was even released in Lebanese newspapers, detailing a force of 5,000 soldiers organized into five infantry brigades, indicating a shift towards ground operations in future conflicts.
When Hezbollah was founded in the 1980s, its military capability was modest, but over the years, it has grown into a formidable force. As of 2017, Hezbollah’s military forces numbered around 45,000 men, with approximately half serving in permanent roles.
This formidable force has been involved in large-scale offensive actions and gained practical experience in the Syrian Civil War. Hezbollah has developed drone-based air force capabilities for reconnaissance and tactical bombing missions.
Ground Operations and Defensive Strategy
While Hezbollah’s military capabilities have evolved significantly, facing the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in a ground offensive will be vastly different from its engagements in Syria. In future conflicts, Hezbollah may attempt shallow gains against Israeli towns and villages near the border, possibly infiltrating small units further south to conduct terror and commando attacks aimed at disorienting and disheartening Israel.
However, it is more likely that the majority of Hezbollah’s ground forces will focus on defensive operations against an expected IDF ground offensive into Lebanon. Their primary objective will be to protect the strategic artillery bombardment of Israel’s civilian rear.
Southern Lebanon’s terrain, characterized by steep-sloped ridges and deep ravines, will pose a unique challenge. Hezbollah has fortified nearly every Shiite village in the region, equipping them with shelters, combat positions, and rocket launchers.
These fortified villages will be aggressively defended, potentially blocking passage for IDF ground forces. Israeli control of the air may slow the transfer of troops between fortified villages.
Expanding the Conflict: Syria and Gaza
Beyond Lebanon, the next conflict may not be confined to a single front. Iran’s presence and influence in Syria could lead to the involvement of Iranian proxies, creating a second front. The open terrain near the Syrian-Israeli border may make defending against rocket artillery more challenging.
A third front could emerge in Gaza, where Hamas, despite ideological differences with Iran, may collaborate to exploit Israel’s military attention being focused elsewhere. Hamas, with its artillery capabilities and significant combat forces, could require the IDF to reinforce the Gaza front.
Israeli Strategy: Navigating the Challenges of Deterrence and Defense
In the turbulent landscape of the Middle East, Israel has continually faced existential threats from neighboring entities, particularly Iran and its proxy organization, Hezbollah. The Israeli strategy has evolved over time, reflecting a complex interplay of defense, offense, deterrence, and adaptation. This article delves into the nuances of Israeli strategy, emphasizing its overarching objective: to deter aggressors and, if necessary, defeat them in a manner that enhances its security and recreates deterrence.
The Asymmetric Nature of the Conflict
The conflict between Israel and its adversaries, particularly Iran and Hezbollah, is highly asymmetric. Iran and Hezbollah have made it clear that their ultimate goal is the complete annihilation of the state of Israel.
Their strategy centers on a gradual psychological exhaustion of Israel’s population, whereas Israel’s strategy takes a reverse approach, aiming to exhaust the belief of Iran and Hezbollah in their ability to achieve their political goal.
Creating and Recreating Deterrence
Israel’s primary objective in every confrontation is to create and recreate deterrence. It recognizes that it cannot annihilate its enemies entirely, and therefore, it seeks to defeat them time after time, gradually convincing them that destroying Israel is either impossible or prohibitively expensive. Deterrence, however, is not a static achievement. It is contextual, perishable, and must be continually maintained and enhanced.
The Role of Confrontations
Throughout its history, Israel has been under constant attack. The nature of these attacks has varied, from sporadic small-scale assaults to large-scale offensives. Each confrontation must conclude in a way that not only improves Israel’s security concerning the immediate threat but also sends a message to other potential aggressors.
The Strategic Environment
Israel’s strategy takes into account the geopolitical and military environment. The next major confrontation, especially against Hezbollah and its allies, would require a multi-faceted approach, including both defense and offense. To achieve its objectives, Israel employs two complementary defensive activities and two offensive operations.
Anti-Rocket Defenses: Israel has invested in a unique rocket interception system, including Iron Dome, to defend against incoming rockets.
This is complemented by passive defense measures like building bomb shelters into most buildings. The success of anti-rocket defenses is intrinsically linked to the success of Israel’s offensive operations.
Ground Defense: Given the complexity of the borders with Lebanon and Syria, preventing the penetration of hostile forces into Israel requires a significant deployment of ground forces. Evacuating local populations is crucial to ensure the freedom of action for Israeli forces.
Aerial Offensive Operation: Israel’s Air Force aims to target Hezbollah’s artillery and strategic assets, reducing the rocket threat and demonstrating the cost of war to Hezbollah’s local supporters.
Ground Offensive: To locate and destroy rocket launchers and arsenals, Israel may need to conduct a large-scale ground offensive. Time is of the essence, and the IDF would seek to complete the mission as swiftly as possible.
Hezbollah and the Delicate Balance of Deterrence and Escalation in the Middle East
In the complex and volatile landscape of the Middle East, the situation between Israel and Hezbollah remains one of the constant sources of concern for the international community. In this early phase, it seems that Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite militant group in Lebanon, aims to keep its actions, both declared and undeclared, below a certain threshold to avoid compelling Israel into a more powerful retaliation.
However, the real decision-maker in this delicate situation is Iran, which recognizes Hezbollah as its most potent external asset and a key component of its deterrence architecture against a potential attack by Israel or the United States.
The unstable balance between these two regional powers is maintained by the fact that neither Iran nor Israel appear to desire a large-scale conflict at the moment. Iran is unlikely to want to expend Hezbollah in a war with Israel to support Hamas in Gaza, and simultaneously, Israel is engaged in a conflict with Gaza and does not seek to open a second front in Lebanon.
However, the risk lies in the fact that Hezbollah may feel compelled to increase its operational tempo, inching closer to a “threshold” of provocation as the conflict in Gaza intensifies, and destruction and loss of human lives mount, especially in the event of a major Israeli ground incursion. The closer Hezbollah gets to this critical point, the greater the possibility of a miscalculation that could trigger a war that neither party desires.
Israel, on the other hand, has long recognized that the use of air power alone would not be sufficient to defeat Hezbollah. A war with Hezbollah would require a considerable commitment of ground forces for a deep incursion into Lebanon, with the inevitable cost of high combat casualties. Simultaneously conducting large-scale air and ground offensives in both Gaza and Lebanon would be a difficult decision for the Israeli government, particularly because it would not be limited solely to Lebanon and Israel. A war with Hezbollah could easily become regional, involving the Syrian front and potential attacks from Iraq, Yemen, and even Iran.
From Hezbollah’s perspective, if the dynamics change and Iran orders a large-scale attack on Israel, the organization would comply, given the strict discipline inherent in the concept of “wilayat al-faqih,” which is a pillar of the Iranian governance system. However, a large-scale war would have disastrous consequences for Hezbollah, Lebanon, and could trigger a strong cross-sectarian backlash against Hezbollah, even from its Shiite electoral base.
Given these circumstances, there is the possibility that clashes could deteriorate into several days of protracted fighting, remaining localized in southern Lebanon and northern Israel, without escalating into full-scale war. In this scenario, Hezbollah could organize cross-border raids, while Israel might respond with airstrikes on Lebanese infrastructure targets and limited armored incursions across the Blue Line. However, such a scenario carries the risk of miscalculations that could lead to an uncontrolled spiral of violence.
The Complexity of Multi-Front Operations
In a multi-front war, operations in Syria and Gaza would be smaller versions of those on the Lebanese front. Their timing and intensity would depend on the IDF’s assessment of what is needed to defeat Hezbollah and the available resources.
Israel’s strategy is a dynamic and adaptive approach that reflects the unique challenges it faces in a volatile region. The emphasis on deterrence, coupled with a robust mix of defensive and offensive measures, serves to protect its citizens and maintain its security. In the face of evolving threats, Israel’s strategy remains a testament to its resilience and determination to secure its future in a complex and challenging geopolitical landscape.
The Concept of Wilayat al-Faqih: A Detailed Exploration
Wilayat al-Faqih, often translated as “Guardianship of the Jurist” or “Islamic Government,” is a significant and complex concept within the realm of Islamic jurisprudence. This concept plays a central role in the governance and political structure of the Islamic Republic of Iran and has generated widespread debate and controversy both within and outside the Muslim world. This article aims to provide a comprehensive exploration of the concept of Wilayat al-Faqih, its historical development, its theological foundations, and its practical applications.
To understand the concept of Wilayat al-Faqih, we must delve into its historical origins and development. This concept can be traced back to the early days of Islam, with the idea of religious leadership and governance playing a crucial role in the Muslim community. In the absence of the Prophet Muhammad, the Muslim community faced the question of leadership, leading to a historical divide between the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam.
Wilayat al-Faqih, in its modern form, is most prominently associated with the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Khomeini proposed the idea of an Islamic state led by a qualified jurist as the Supreme Leader, who would assume both religious and political authority, based on his understanding of Islamic jurisprudence.
The theological foundations of Wilayat al-Faqih draw upon several key Islamic principles and concepts. The concept rests on the following theological pillars:
- The Authority of the Jurist (Faqih): At the core of Wilayat al-Faqih is the belief in the religious expertise and moral authority of qualified jurists. These jurists are considered capable of interpreting Islamic law (Sharia) and ensuring the implementation of divine justice on earth.
- The Hidden Imam (Imam al-Mahdi): For Shia Muslims, the belief in the twelfth Imam, who is in occultation and will return as the Mahdi, significantly influences the concept of Wilayat al-Faqih. The jurist is seen as a temporary custodian until the reappearance of the Mahdi.
- Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh): Islamic jurisprudence, as interpreted by the jurist, forms the basis for legal and political decisions in an Islamic state following the Wilayat al-Faqih model.
Wilayat al-Faqih has been primarily implemented in Iran, where it has shaped the political and social landscape for several decades. The practical applications of this concept are multi-faceted:
- Supreme Leader: The highest-ranking religious authority in Iran is the Supreme Leader, who holds vast powers in various realms, including the military, judiciary, and media. The Supreme Leader is chosen by the Assembly of Experts, a council of clerics.
- Guardianship Council: The Guardian Council is responsible for ensuring that all legislation passed by the Iranian Parliament (Majlis) is in accordance with Islamic principles and the constitution.
- Islamic Judiciary: The judiciary in Iran is heavily influenced by religious principles and is responsible for interpreting and enforcing Islamic law.
- Revolutionary Guards (IRGC): The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps serves as a paramilitary force to safeguard the Islamic Revolution’s principles and protect the state.
Critiques and Debates
The concept of Wilayat al-Faqih has sparked extensive debates and criticisms, both within the Muslim world and outside of it. Critics argue that the concentration of power in the hands of a single religious authority can lead to authoritarianism and a lack of accountability. They also point to potential abuses of power and the suppression of dissent.
Additionally, there is a broader debate about whether Wilayat al-Faqih is applicable beyond Iran, and whether it can serve as a model for governance in other Islamic countries with differing cultural, political, and religious contexts.