Israel Kills 38 Civilians on Eve of Ceasefire
Hersh: Israeli Campaign Dress Rehearsal for War on Iran
250 Hizbullah Rockets Slam into northern Israel, Kill 1
Seymour Hersh says that sources knowledgeable about Israeli and Bush administration planning maintain that the Israelis laid out last spring in Washington and gained administration support for a plan for a bombing campaign against Hizbullah in Lebanon based on the Kosovo campaign. Moreover, the exercise was intended as a demonstration project and a preparation for a Bush administration war on Iran. The campaign against Hezbollah would have two major benefits. It would remove Hezbollah’s rocket capability, which was a form of deterrence against Israeli or American bombing of Iran. And, what Israel learned from attacking Hezbollah would be useful in formulating tactics in the American assault on Iran.
Let me say this loud and clear, drawing on Pat Lang. Any US attack on Iran could well lead to the US and British troops in Iraq being cut off from fuel and massacred by enraged Shiites. Shiite irregulars could easily engage in pipeline and fuel convoy sabotage of the sort deployed by the Sunni guerrillas in the north. Without fuel, US troops would be sitting ducks for rocket and mortar attacks that US air power could not hope completely to stop (as the experience of Israel with Hizbullah in Lebanon demonstrates). A pan-Islamic alliance of furious Shiites and Sunni guerrillas might well be the result, spelling the decisive end of Americastan in Iraq. Shiite Iraqis are already at the boiling point over Israel’s assault on their coreligionists in Lebanon. An attack on Iran could well push them over the edge. People like Cheney and Bush don’t understand people’s movements or how they can win. They don’t understand the Islamic revolution in Iran of 1978-79. They don’t understand that they are playing George III in the eyes of most Middle Eastern Muslims, and that lots of people want to play George Washington.
By the way, Hersh maintains that US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has at least some inkling of all this, which is one reason he hasn’t been enthusiastically cheering on the Lebanon war.
I had this second hand, from someone who knows someone in the know. It confirms Hersh’s account:
‘ Rumsfeld is very uneasy with the unquestioning support for the Israeli offensive because of the impact it will have on American troops in Iraq. His point to Bush and Rice is that Iraq’s Shias will not stand by while their Lebanese Shia brothers are destroyed. He has pointed out to them — to Rice and Bush — that there are close family and political ties between the Moqtada al-Sadr family and the Musa al-Sadr and the close friendship between Maliki and Nawaf Moussawi, the foreign minister of Hezbollah. That Hezbollah worked to free the Dawa 17 at one point in its history was a surprise to Rice, as well as to Bush. With American casualties mounting in Iraq Rumsfeld does not believe we need to make enemies of the Shia. The demonstration of last week shook him — and American commanders. ‘
If Hersh and my correspondent are correct, we are beginning to see an “India Office” effect in the US government. When Britain ruled India, the British Government of India often developed its own foreign policy and priorities that were not the same as London’s Foreign Office. Rumsfeld does have Iraq interests for which he has to speak, however much he hates Hizbullah and Iran.
As for the Israelis, the Kosovo analogy is plausible, since Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has instanced Kosovo as justification for his actions. The irony is that the Israelis misunderstood Kosovo. Hizbullah is like the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), not like Milosevic’s Serbs. If Wesley Clarke had bombed the KLA, the Kosovo war would have failed completely. More ironically, in its decision to expel the Shiite population from the area of Lebanon south of the Litani river, and to make nearly 1 million Lebanese homeless, the Israelis acted more like Milosevic himself than like NATO.
Hersh reports that Bush and the Israelis expected the rest of the Lebanese to turn on Hezbollah and police them for Tel Aviv and Washington, and they expected Sunni Arab powers like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan to help with curbing Hizbullah. Although Saudia condemned Hizbullah adventurism early on, the Saudis and others soon began calling for an immediate ceasefire once they saw the damage the Israelis were doing to the Lebanese infrastructure.
The Israeli attacks on the Lebanese infrastructure, and the disregard for civilian life in the urban bombing campaigns, were the biggest miscalculations of the war, in my view. They clearly would have the effect of weakening the Siniora government and of strengthening Hizbullah politically. They also had the effect of uniting Lebanese public opinion against Israel. In short, they were stupid strategy from a political point of view, and weren’t of much use militarily, either, as Sunday’s barrage of 250 rockets against Israeli cities by a still-defiant Hizbullah demonstrated.
In the end, Hizbullah is unbowed, and there is no early prospect of its being weakened. Although the Lebanese government is demanding that it disarm, no one can understand how they think they could make it, given the weakness of their army (can they do something Israel cannot?)
Israel is launching an immediate diplomatic blitz aimed at ensuring[Ar.] that Hizbullah is not allowed to re-arm. Since the re-arming would be done by Iran and Syria, who are not open to Israeli blandishments, it is hard to see how this will work very well. Nor is it clear that Hizbullah’s armaments have been exhausted to begin with.
Al-Hayat draws on Defense News and other sources to conclude that Israel’s carefully nurtured image of military invulnerability has been badly tarnished, with perhaps important downstream effects. This article suggests that the key lesson of the Lebanon War was that anti-tank weapons are back after two decades of innefectuality. The Russian RPG-29, in use by the Russian army since 1989, and the Iranian Tufan and Ra’d- T, all in Hizbullah’s arsenal, succeeded in destroying a fair number of Merkava tanks and Israeli armored troop transports. (RPG = rocket propelled grenade). In contrast, Iraqi guerrillas fighting US Abrams tanks only had RPG-7s, and their shells just bounced off the tanks. The RPG-7s were largely useless when wielded by Palestinians against Israeli Merkava tanks, as well.
Hizbullah’s successful use of a Chinese-designed guided missile to hit an Israeli ship must also give pause to anyone thinking of deploying the Fifth Fleet against Iran in the Persian Gulf (al-Hayat also says that there are problems with US minesweeping capability in the Gulf.)
Anthony D’Amato, a law professor at Northwestern U. analyzes the UN Security Council ceasefire resolution.
Naharnet/ AFP write:
‘ A U.N.-brokered ceasefire to end the month-old conflict in Lebanon came into force on Monday but intense fighting continued right up to the deadline for the guns to fall silent. In the first reaction to the truce, Israel Army Radio said the Jewish state’s naval and air blockade will remain in effect for the present, Haaretz reported.
Israel launched an 11th-hour wave of air strikes on Lebanon and Hizbullah fighters unleashed a barrage of rockets just hours before the agreed “cessation of hostilities” took effect at 8 a.m. Beirut time (0500 GMT).
Israeli forces shelled areas around Tyre and Khiam in the war-battered south of the country, while combat jets flew over Beirut, dropping warning leaflets, and bombarded the ancient eastern city of Baalbek.
At least 38 Lebanese civilians and four soldiers were killed by Israeli fire Sunday as fighter jets kept up their deadly bombing in Beirut and across the country. Five Israeli soldiers were also killed in action. ‘
In one of the villages hit, Brital near Baalbak, Israeli planes collapsed 3 buildings and it is feared a lot of civilians were in them. Naharnet continues:
In one of the deadliest raids Sunday, at least 15 people were killed, including three children, by Israeli air strikes that hit eight buildings and a mosque in Beirut’s southern suburbs, emergency services said . . .
At least eight people were also killed near Baalbek in eastern Lebanon, security officials said. ‘
The Lebanese state led by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora is using the $800 mn. in aid given it by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to help Shiite refugees from the south who are living in schools and makeshift shelters in Beirut and elsewhere. There is a race, al-Nahar suggests, between the government and Hizbullah for the loyalty and affection of this large displaced population, amounting to hundreds of thousands of persons.
Hizbullah rained 250 rockets down on Israel on Sunday, mostly without hitting much of anything. But they did kill one man (a Palestinian Israeli) and injured 52.
I’m a grizzled old bird by now, having lived through wars and riots and having lost friends to everything from revolution to AIDS. But this story about David Grossman’s son being killed in the Lebanon war brought tears to my eyes. Grossman, a writer with a conscience, is a noble man. As a father with a son, I cannot imagine or understand, only share the horror.
Thousands of Americans protested the Lebanon War in Washington over the weekend.