Commentary Magazine


Topic: Hassan Nasrallah

Really, Mr. Carter?

At a book promo event yesterday at Emory University, a student asked our worst ex-president if he thinks Iran is a threat to Israel. “Iran is quite distant from Israel,” said Carter. “I think it would be almost inconceivable that Iran would commit suicide by launching one or two missiles of any kind against the nation of Israel.” Carter appears to be operating under the delusion that Hizballah, which receives over $100 million per year in Iranian funding, is some kind of independent operator.

On this score, Carter disagrees with Hassan Nasrallah himself, the leader of Hizballah, who only a month ago told Iranian TV:

We are ready to become dismembered limbs to keep Iran strong and dignified, for we are strong if Iran is strong. I am but a small soldier for Imam Khamenei. . . . The youth of Hizballah acted in the name of Imam Khomeini and invoked Imam Hussein, and saluted the Iranian people.

Carter also offered up what is perhaps the most lamely-formulated statement of opposition to the Iranian nuclear program I’ve ever seen: “Obviously, we all hope we can do whatever we can to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear power.” Almost Churchillian.

At a book promo event yesterday at Emory University, a student asked our worst ex-president if he thinks Iran is a threat to Israel. “Iran is quite distant from Israel,” said Carter. “I think it would be almost inconceivable that Iran would commit suicide by launching one or two missiles of any kind against the nation of Israel.” Carter appears to be operating under the delusion that Hizballah, which receives over $100 million per year in Iranian funding, is some kind of independent operator.

On this score, Carter disagrees with Hassan Nasrallah himself, the leader of Hizballah, who only a month ago told Iranian TV:

We are ready to become dismembered limbs to keep Iran strong and dignified, for we are strong if Iran is strong. I am but a small soldier for Imam Khamenei. . . . The youth of Hizballah acted in the name of Imam Khomeini and invoked Imam Hussein, and saluted the Iranian people.

Carter also offered up what is perhaps the most lamely-formulated statement of opposition to the Iranian nuclear program I’ve ever seen: “Obviously, we all hope we can do whatever we can to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear power.” Almost Churchillian.

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The Good News About Lebanon

First the good news. The United States, Britain, and France are asking the UN Security Council to instruct UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to find ways to stop weapons flowing into Lebanon. The text they are proposing also calls on Syria to do more to control its border with Lebanon and for Iran to abide by an arms embargo on shipments to Lebanon.

Here is the critical paragraph:

The Security Council, in this context, expresses grave concern at persistent reports of breaches of the arms embargo along the Lebanon-Syria border. It expresses deep concern about reports, which have not been refuted, that suspected armed Hizballah elements are alleged to be constructing new facilities in the Bekaa Valley. The Council takes note of the detailed information conveyed by the Government of Lebanon about the dangerous activities of armed elements and groups, in particular PFLP-GC and Fatah Intifada, and reiterates its call for the disbanding and disarmament of all militias and armed groups in particular in Lebanon. It underscores the obligation of all member states, particularly the Syrian Arab Republic and Iran, to take all necessary measures to implement paragraph 15 resolution 1701 to enforce the arms embargo.

Now for the bad news.

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First the good news. The United States, Britain, and France are asking the UN Security Council to instruct UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to find ways to stop weapons flowing into Lebanon. The text they are proposing also calls on Syria to do more to control its border with Lebanon and for Iran to abide by an arms embargo on shipments to Lebanon.

Here is the critical paragraph:

The Security Council, in this context, expresses grave concern at persistent reports of breaches of the arms embargo along the Lebanon-Syria border. It expresses deep concern about reports, which have not been refuted, that suspected armed Hizballah elements are alleged to be constructing new facilities in the Bekaa Valley. The Council takes note of the detailed information conveyed by the Government of Lebanon about the dangerous activities of armed elements and groups, in particular PFLP-GC and Fatah Intifada, and reiterates its call for the disbanding and disarmament of all militias and armed groups in particular in Lebanon. It underscores the obligation of all member states, particularly the Syrian Arab Republic and Iran, to take all necessary measures to implement paragraph 15 resolution 1701 to enforce the arms embargo.

Now for the bad news.

First, the proposed action is a mere Security Council “policy statement”; it does not even have the force of Security Council Resolutions, which also typically languish unenforced.

Second, the statement itself must be agreed to by all fifteen members of the Council, which means that already weak tea is likely to be further watered down.

Third, the statement itself is already nonsensical in a characteristically nonsensical UN way. Calling on Syria to do more to control its border with Lebanon, and Iran to abide by an arms embargo, is like asking wolves to become vegetarians.

Fourth, the evil the statement aims to prevent appears to have already occurred. Over the past year, despite UN-imposed restrictions, Syrian and Iranian smuggling of rockets and missiles never ceased. This past Monday, the leader of Hizballah, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, boasted that his group possesses an arsenal of projectile weapons that can reach all of Israel. Senior Israeli officials deny this, saying only that Hizballah’s missiles can reach northern Tel Aviv. Hizballah also boasts of possessing 33,000 shorter-range rockets of the kind that rained down on northern Israel last summer. Whether this number is an exaggeration or not is both unclear and irrelevant. Even if the tally is not 33,000, it is evident that Hizballah does have a huge number of rockets in its possession, many of them smuggled into Lebanon over the past year.

Fifth, the UN statement, for the sake of being balanced and evenhanded, will express concern over “the increase in Israeli violations of Lebanese air space.” But these alleged “violations” are one of the principal means by which Israel and the rest of the world have any measure of the scope of the smuggling that the UN will now ineffectually strive to halt.

In other words, the missile threat Israel is facing is likely to get worse, despite the best efforts of the UN, such as they are. MTHEL remains all the more urgent. Click here to find out about MTHEL.

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Who Won the Second Lebanon War?

Who won last summer’s Lebanon war, Israel or Hizballah? A year after combat ceased that question remains hotly controverted. If nothing else, the continuing debate is testimony to the ambiguous nature of the outcome between one of the world’s most powerful armies and the rag-tag Islamic militia that it faced.

Since neither side suffered a knock-out blow, what indicators, short of total defeat and surrender, can be employed to evaluate the conflict? Because Hizballah was fighting a rocket war, firing a variety of projectiles into Israel’s north, one key question that must be posed is: how effective was Hizballah’s rocket campaign, and how effective was Israel’s response?

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Who won last summer’s Lebanon war, Israel or Hizballah? A year after combat ceased that question remains hotly controverted. If nothing else, the continuing debate is testimony to the ambiguous nature of the outcome between one of the world’s most powerful armies and the rag-tag Islamic militia that it faced.

Since neither side suffered a knock-out blow, what indicators, short of total defeat and surrender, can be employed to evaluate the conflict? Because Hizballah was fighting a rocket war, firing a variety of projectiles into Israel’s north, one key question that must be posed is: how effective was Hizballah’s rocket campaign, and how effective was Israel’s response?

One exceedingly well-researched answer comes from Uzi Rubin, who served as the first director of Israel’s Missile Defense Organization in the 1990’s, where he managed development of the Arrow missile-defense system.

The picture that emerges from Rubin’s analysis is of an Islamic militia force that was astonishingly well prepared for the conflict, and which had thought carefully about matching means and ends. Even if Hizballah’s head, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, had misjudged the scope and scale of Israel’s response to the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers, Hizballah’s basic approach was vindicated by the course of the fighting.

“[I]t can now be seen,” writes Rubin, that Hizballah had “devised a two-pronged strategy to overturn Israel’s predominance in terms of manpower, machinery, and technology.” In the first prong, “massive rocket fire was used against Israel’s homeland in order to provoke Israel into launching a ground offensive.” In the second prong, “well-entrenched defense in depth was employed in order to defeat the ground offensive.”

In other words, Hizballah, “aimed to bait Israel into entering its carefully laid trap with rocket fire.” The key for Israel would have been successfully suppressing the rocket fire that for 33 days rained destruction on its north, thereby avoiding having to pay the “butcher’s bill” for an incursion on the ground.

But even as the Israeli air force succeeded in destroying most if not all of Hizballah’s longer-range missiles, it was unable to deal with the short-range ones. On the final day of the war, to demonstrate that it had preserved quite a few arrows in its quiver, and that its lines of communication had survived Israel’s best destructive efforts, Hizballah launched a coordinated salvo, hurling a record 232 rockets over the Lebanese border at one time.

What can be learned from the war? Israel’s adversaries are certainly studying it carefully. Rubin notes that the outcome

may well prompt the Palestinian factions to intensify their already ongoing rocket attacks against southern Israel, both in terms of quality and quantity. Hamas in Gaza is already stocking up on longer-range rockets, and may well adapt the Hizballah’s two-pronged strategy. Syria, a patron of the Hizballah with its own vast stockpile of rockets and ballistic missiles, might be tempted to devise a doctrine of attrition by rocket and missile fire instead of a full-scale, 1973-style invasion, to gain back the Golan Heights.

Israel has been studying the conflict, too. The most obvious lesson, as Rubin writes, is that “[a]s long as simple, unsophisticated, cheaply produced rockets cannot be overcome, they are now and will remain in the future a veritable strategic threat to Israel’s national security.”

What is to be done to counter this strategic threat? Click here to learn about MTHEL. It is not a silver bullet, but one vital component of a successful Israeli response.

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