FrontPageMagazine.com| July 27, 2006
Haifa, Israel – Somehave suggested that the latest round of fighting between Israel andthe Iranian-backed Hezbollah organization in Lebanon is the beginningof World War III.
“This is more like the Spanish Civil War,” says DanielSeaman, an Israeli government spokesman. “What we are seeing isa series of conflicts that foreshadow a future world conflict, justas the Spanish Civil war prefigured the Second World War.”
Seaman’s analogy is worth exploring.
Just as Hitler used Franco as his proxy in Spain to test new militarytechniques and equipment on the battlefield, so Iran is usingHezbollah as its proxy to do the same.
Hezbollah is no longer a rag-tag guerilla group, but a veritableterrorist army. “They understand complex military tactics, andare pursuing combined military operations using ground forces,missiles, intelligence, and the media,” Seaman said.
Over the past six years, following Israel’s unilateralwithdrawal from south Lebanon, Iran began supplying Hezbollah withmassive quantities of long-range artillery rockets of a type neverbefore used against Israel.
These Iranian-made Fajr-3 rockets have a range of around 43kilometers, and carry a 50 kilogram warhead packed with thousands ofdeadly ballbearings.
These are terroristmass-kill weapons,designed to kill as many civilians as possible. No one standingwithin a 50 meter radius of one of these incoming rocket can survive,Israeli bomb experts say. The Fajr-3 was used with great success in aJuly 16 attack that killed eight railway workers at a repair depot indowntown Haifa.
“When they showed me the small pellets packed inside, I thoughtthey were showing me a suicide bomber belt,” Haifa mayor YonaYahav told me. In fact, Iran modeled the design of the Fajr-3 warheadon the suicide bomber belts, with the clear aim of maximum itslethality.
Syria supplied similar rockets to Hezbollah, packed withball-bearings. Hezbollah purchased smaller rockets from CommunistChina, after they had been similarly modified.
How many terrorist groups can boast an arsenal of over 10,000long-range rockets? Only those with the backing of a sovereign state,Iran.¬Ý
Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni explained Hezbollah’s aimswith stark clarity here yesterday.
“While Israel is targeting Hezbollah, and during thisoperation, unfortunately it can lead to loss of civilian life,Hezbollah is targeting our cities in order to hit, in order to targetcivilians and to target Israeli population centers. This is a crucialdifference.”
This is a strategy Iran is testing out for a future war. Iran istesting Israel, probing Israel’s reaction, and testing theresponse of the international community.
Let’s recall how this all began. On July 12, a Hezbollahcommando broke through the security fence at the border and snuckinto Israel. In an operation that lasted scarcely five minutes, theyambushed an Israeli army Humvee on patrol, killed three soldiers,kidnapped two others, and escaped back across the border.
Shortly afterwards, Hezbollah launched six long-range rockets intoIsrael, hitting Haifa, Israel’s third largest city. It was thefirst time Haifa had been attacked in such a manner.
How would the Israelis respond? Would they launch a massive groundassault into Lebanon? That was what the Iranians were hoping, becausethey believed it would catalyze the Muslim world against Israel, andposition Iran as the new champion of the Muslim “resistance.”¬Ý
When the Israelis didn’t bite, the Iranians ordered Hezbollahto step up the rocket attacks against Israeli cities, towns andvillages. On day two, they launched 133 rockets into northern Israel,108 on day three, and 126 on day four.
In response, Israel launched air strikes deep into Lebanon, strikingthe airport, cutting resupply routes into Syria, and attempting toknock out command bunkers where they believed Hezbollah leader HassanNasrallah was hiding. But none of this deterred Hezbollah, and forgood reason: the Iranians had prepared them to fight a long war,dispersing their weaponry across Lebanon.
On July 15, Iranian advisors in charge of Hezbollah’s moresophisticated weapons stunned the Israelis by launching twosophisticated C-802 anti-shipping missiles against an Israeli SAAR-5boat cruising some 18 kilometers off the Lebanese coast.
One of the missiles was apparently deflected by Israelicounter-measures, and hit a Cambodian merchant vessel that was 60 kmfrom the coast and 44 km down range from the Israeli ship, accordingto a technical analysis of the attack published bytheIsrael Resource News Agency onTuesday. The second seriously damaged the Israeli corvette, theINS Ahi-Hanit.
What terrorist groups possess third-generation radar-guidedanti-shipping missiles? The Chinese-built C-802s were first shippedto Iran in 1995, and at the time generated concern among U.S. navalcommanders in the Persian Gulf because at the time the U.S. had nodefense against them.
The Israelis had electronic countermeasures on board the Ahi-Hanitthat could have deflected the missiles, the experts believe, buthad turned them off for fear of friendly-fire incidents againstIsraeli fighters flying overhead.¬Ý
More lessons learned for the Iranians.
And how did Israel respond to the rocket attacks?
Anyone who has been watching television over the past two weeks hasprobably heard the eerie wail of the air raid sirens that go off manytimes each day in Haifa and in smaller towns and settlements acrossnorthern Israel.¬Ý
As many as 500,000 Israelis have fled the warzone. Most of Israelnorth of Haifa is deserted, while those remaining are living inunderground shelters.¬Ý
Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav estimated that the economic impact has beendevastating – “in the billions of shekels” of lostbusiness for Haifa alone. That’s roughly $500 million.
Israeli officials believe the Iranians gave the go-ahead for thekidnapping and the rocket war. They pointtothe unannounced arrival in Damascus the nightbefore Hezbollahlaunched its attacks by the head of Iran’s National SecurityCouncil and Iran’s intelligence minister.
For Dr. Michael Oren, author of a forthcoming book on the history ofthe U.S. relationship to the Middle East, the current conflict isjust a stage in the war against Iran. “People need to realizethis is not a bilateral conflict. It is part of the broad regionaland international conflict between the West and Islamicfundamentalism championed by Iran,” he told me.
Dr. Oren is a senior fellow at the Shalem Center for StrategicStudies in Jerusalem. He is also a major in the Israeli DefenseForces reserves. He was called up for active duty on July 21, butasked for a three day extension so he could finish his new book,Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East from 1776 tothe Present.
He believes the stakes of Israel’s effort to smash Hezbollah asan effective fighting force in Lebanon go way beyond the immediateimpact on Israeli or Lebanese civilians.
“If we don’t win in Lebanon, Iran will be well on the wayto creating an arc of influence extending from the Indian border tothe Mediterranean,” he said¬Ý.
Those are the stakes.¬Ý
Iran launched this war todeflect attention from the G-8summit in SaintPetersburg from its nuclear weapons program. But at the same time, itlaunched this war to try out new weapons and new tactics for futureconflicts.
The next step, should the West fail to step up to the plate: howabout long-range Shahab-3 missiles in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley,aimed at Europe? And how do you think the Europeans would respond,seeing the devastating impact far smaller rockets fired into Israelhave had on Israel’s economy?¬Ý
Can you imagine Parisians or Romans taking to the bomb-shelters?Sending their children to stay with relatives living overseas? Canyou imagine them resisting Iran as Israel is doing?
Unchecked, Iran will continue its march toward nuclear power, and itwill use terrorist proxies to conduct war against the West. In thefuture, those proxies will have nuclear weapons.
This is the “hurricane” Iranian president MahmoudAhmadinejad promised the world earlier this week in Tehran, in yetanother “mein kampf” statement.
Now is the time to draw the line.