Israel Resource Review 27th July, 2006


Iran's War: A Prelude to the Spanish Civil War
Dr. Kenneth Timmerman

Haifa, Israel Some have suggested that the latest round of fighting between Israel and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah organization in Lebanon is the beginning of World War III.

Think again.

"This is more like the Spanish Civil War," says Daniel Seaman, an Israeli government spokesman. "What we are seeing is a series of conflicts that foreshadow a future world conflict, just as 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 military techniques and equipment on the battlefield, so Iran is using Hezbollah as its proxy to do the same.

Hezbollah is no longer a rag-tag guerilla group, but a veritable terrorist army. "They understand complex military tactics, and are pursuing combined military operations using ground forces, missiles, intelligence, and the media," Seaman said.

Over the past six years, following Israel's unilateral withdrawal from south Lebanon, Iran began supplying Hezbollah with massive quantities of long-range artillery rockets of a type never before used against Israel.

These Iranian-made Fajr-3 rockets have a range of around 43 kilometers, and carry a 50 kilogram warhead packed with thousands of deadly ballbearings.

These are terrorist mass-kill weapons, designed to kill as many civilians as possible. No one standing within 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 a July 16 attack that killed eight railway workers at a repair depot in downtown Haifa.

"When they showed me the small pellets packed inside, I thought they were showing me a suicide bomber belt," Haifa mayor Yona Yahav told me. In fact, Iran modeled the design of the Fajr-3 warhead on the suicide bomber belts, with the clear aim of maximum its lethality.

Syria supplied similar rockets to Hezbollah, packed with ball-bearings. Hezbollah purchased smaller rockets from Communist China, after they had been similarly modified.

How many terrorist groups can boast an arsenal of over 10,000 long-range rockets? Only those with the backing of a sovereign state, Iran.

Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni explained Hezbollah's aims with stark clarity here yesterday.

"While Israel is targeting Hezbollah, and during this operation, unfortunately it can lead to loss of civilian life, Hezbollah is targeting our cities in order to hit, in order to target civilians and to target Israeli population centers. This is a crucial difference."

This is a strategy Iran is testing out for a future war. Iran is testing Israel, probing Israel's reaction, and testing the response of the international community.

Let's recall how this all began. On July 12, a Hezbollah commando broke through the security fence at the border and snuck into Israel. In an operation that lasted scarcely five minutes, they ambushed 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 into Israel, hitting Haifa, Israel's third largest city. It was the first time Haifa had been attacked in such a manner.

How would the Israelis respond? Would they launch a massive ground assault into Lebanon? That was what the Iranians were hoping, because they believed it would catalyze the Muslim world against Israel, and position Iran as the new champion of the Muslim "resistance."

When the Israelis didn't bite, the Iranians ordered Hezbollah to step up the rocket attacks against Israeli cities, towns and villages. 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, striking the airport, cutting resupply routes into Syria, and attempting to knock out command bunkers where they believed Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was hiding. But none of this deterred Hezbollah, and for good 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 more sophisticated weapons stunned the Israelis by launching two sophisticated C-802 anti-shipping missiles against an Israeli SAAR-5 boat cruising some 18 kilometers off the Lebanese coast.

One of the missiles was apparently deflected by Israeli counter-measures, and hit a Cambodian merchant vessel that was 60 km from the coast and 44 km down range from the Israeli ship, according to a technical analysis of the attack published by the Israel Resource News Agency on Tuesday. The second seriously damaged the Israeli corvette, the INS Ahi-Hanit.

What terrorist groups possess third-generation radar-guided anti-shipping missiles? The Chinese-built C-802s were first shipped to Iran in 1995, and at the time generated concern among U.S. naval commanders in the Persian Gulf because at the time the U.S. had no defense against them.

The Israelis had electronic countermeasures on board the Ahi-Hanit that could have deflected the missiles, the experts believe, but had turned them off for fear of friendly-fire incidents against Israeli fighters flying overhead.

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 has probably heard the eerie wail of the air raid sirens that go off many times each day in Haifa and in smaller towns and settlements across northern Israel.

As many as 500,000 Israelis have fled the warzone. Most of Israel north of Haifa is deserted, while those remaining are living in underground shelters.

Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav estimated that the economic impact has been devastating "in the billions of shekels" of lost business for Haifa alone. That's roughly $500 million.

Israeli officials believe the Iranians gave the go-ahead for the kidnapping and the rocket war. They point to the unannounced arrival in Damascus the night before Hezbollah launched its attacks by the head of Iran's National Security Council and Iran's intelligence minister.

For Dr. Michael Oren, author of a forthcoming book on the history of the U.S. relationship to the Middle East, the current conflict is just a stage in the war against Iran. "People need to realize this is not a bilateral conflict. It is part of the broad regional and international conflict between the West and Islamic fundamentalism championed by Iran," he told me.

Dr. Oren is a senior fellow at the Shalem Center for Strategic Studies in Jerusalem. He is also a major in the Israeli Defense Forces reserves. He was called up for active duty on July 21, but asked for a three day extension so he could finish his new book, Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East from 1776 to the Present.

He believes the stakes of Israel's effort to smash Hezbollah as an effective fighting force in Lebanon go way beyond the immediate impact on Israeli or Lebanese civilians.

"If we don't win in Lebanon, Iran will be well on the way to creating an arc of influence extending from the Indian border to the Mediterranean," he said .

Those are the stakes.

Iran launched this war to deflect attention from the G-8 summit in Saint Petersburg from its nuclear weapons program. But at the same time, it launched this war to try out new weapons and new tactics for future conflicts.

The next step, should the West fail to step up to the plate: how about 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 Israel have had on Israel's economy?

Can you imagine Parisians or Romans taking to the bomb-shelters? Sending their children to stay with relatives living overseas? Can you imagine them resisting Iran as Israel is doing?

Unchecked, Iran will continue its march toward nuclear power, and it will use terrorist proxies to conduct war against the West. In the future, those proxies will have nuclear weapons.

This is the "hurricane" Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised the world earlier this week in Tehran, in yet another "mein kampf" statement.

Kenneth R. Timmerman President, Middle East Data Project, Inc. Author: Countdown to Crisis: The Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran Contributing editor: Tel: 301-946-2918 Reply to: Website:

This piece ran on on July 27, 2006

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Middle East News Line,

Israel's military has identified the source of most Hizbullah rocket attacks against the Jewish state.

Israeli military sources said Hizbullah has been using the southern city of Tyre for rocket strikes against Haifa and the rest of northern Israel. The sources said Hizbullah gunners, based in residential areas, have been firing a range of Katyusha-class rockets, including the Syrian-origin 220 mm Grad, with a range of 70 kilometers.

"Most of the Hizbullah rocket sites have been neutralized," a military source said. "A major holdout has been Tyre."

Over the last day, Israeli warplanes struck three Hizbullah rocket sites in Tyre. The air force also destroyed Hizbullah's command and control center, a six-story building.

The air force strikes have eroded the effectiveness of Hizbullah rocket attacks, the sources said. They said Hizbullah gunners, wary of Israeli fighter-jets and attack helicopters, have rushed their fire and failed to strike strategic facilities in Haifa.

As a result, the sources said, most of the rockets fired over the last three days have landed in open areas. The sources said Hizbullah, which has called for a ceasefire, has been firing between 100 and 150 rockets per day, far fewer than the militia's plan to pummel Israel with up to 1,000 rockets daily.

"Hizbullah's rocket fire has been increasingly ineffective although they have thousands of rockets left," a source said. "If it was up to Hizbullah, there would be nothing left in the north [of Israel]."

On Wednesday, Hizbullah fired about 130 rockets in which more than 30 Israelis were injured. Hizbullah resumed rocket fire on Thursday morning.

The sources said Israeli intelligence has also identified and tracked Hizbullah mobile medium- and long-range rocket launchers around Beirut.

They said most of these sites, identified by the Mossad and military intelligence, have been destroyed.

"Hizbullah has built special rooms inside ordinary residential buildings used to launch rockets," former Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon said in an address to the Washington Institute last week. "But they didn't know that we know that, and were surprised."

On Thursday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert convened his ministerial security committee to plan the next stage of the war. Officials said most senior Cabinet ministers have opposed the widening of the ground war in Lebanon.

The brunt of the military's ground operation in Lebanon has been Bint Jbail, where eight Israeli soldiers were killed in a Hizbullah ambush on Wednesday. Military sources said the battalion sent to the Lebanese city of 35,000 was proportionally far smaller than the size of military units deployed in the Gaza Strip earlier this month.

The sources said combat helicopters took six hours to evacuate the injured soldiers. They said the Hizbullah force consisted of 30 fighters, equipped with anti-tank weapons, mortars, improvised explosive devices and assault weapons.

"At this stage, I am against expanding ground operations," Justice Minister Haim Ramon said. "Our advantage over Hizbullah is in our firepower and not in fighting them face-to-face."

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Analysis: Now is the time for a better use of air power

A hard and fast rule of war is that the use of ground forces in urban combat is directly related to loss of life. In Gaza, the IDF has somehow learned to go in and get out with few casualties. Hizbullah is a different enemy, with different equipment, a different surrounding population and, perhaps, a greater motivation to fight.

Wednesday's casualties in Bint Jbail may indicate that Hizbullah has managed, yet again, to neutralize the IAF's technological advantages. The proper use of air power against a terrorist or guerrilla formation takes time, and herein lies Israel's problem.

Last week in Maroun a-Ras, several soldiers died fighting Hizbullah around their fortified bunkers. The correct use of military power in that situation would have been to use small special forces teams equipped with nothing more than GPS trackers, laser pointers and Uzi submachine guns.

The elite forces, instead of going into the bunkers, could have laser-painted the bunkers' positions to the IAF, which would have destroyed them. That would be the correct way to leverage Israel's technological advantage.

The massive bombings - the IAF's use of brute force - has its limitations with respect to high-value targets, and the deployment of ground troops neutralizes our advantages. When a soldier meets a soldier, when a Kalashnikov meets an M-16, when the fight is eye to eye, there are no technological advantages. It will always be like this.

Hizbullah has no qualms about losing 50 fighters, whereas we Israelis do, and the Islamists know it. Wednesday's battle will give Hizbullah a huge morale boost - regardless of how many fighters they have lost.

During the Lebanon War, I was in charge of the air force's underground command bunker. Every time the infantrymen got themselves into trouble, they would call on the IAF to "open the roads."

This usually entailed civilian casualties. The air force chief at the time, Maj.-Gen. David Ivri, demanded that the ground forces provide quality intelligence to ensure that civilians were not being accidentally targeted.

That is still the key now.

Counterterror air warfare strategy has developed a great deal in recent years. It is now based on new intelligence technologies that have enabled airborne systems to locate small mobile vehicles such as rocket launchers, and even a pair of terrorists trying to launch a Kassam rocket, and precision-guided munitions, which have made it possible to hit such targets quickly and accurately.

The most important characteristic of these systems is their ability to preserve the lives of innocent people located near the targeted terrorist.

To find, designate (by laser-painter, for example) and hit terrorists in a limited time frame, teams of special forces should join the battle. The new strategy integrates intelligence, air power and special forces into a combined force that plans its missions as surgical operations.

Intelligence officers search for the highest-value targets, including leaders of the terrorist organization, its training infrastructure, professionals who produce dangerous bombs, and those who recruit suicide bombers.

The strategy is based on the assumption that it is almost impossible to demolish terror organizations in a short, intense war. On the contrary, the preferred scenario is a war of attrition. Step by step, operation by operation, the light at the end of the tunnel becomes brighter. Counterterror air warfare doctrine emphasizes using air power in a different way than in large-scale conventional warfare. The new doctrine prefers a longer but lower-intensity conflict.

The Israel Air Force's operations in the current campaign do not even come close to conforming to this concept. The government is attempting to use the air force's brute force to crush Hizbullah and to compel the powerless Lebanese government to control southern Lebanon with its own toothless army.

Throughout military history, there have been gaps between doctrine and reality. In the current case, the gap is particularly large, created by the government's ignorance of the appropriate strategy. The cabinet is ignoring, or simply doesn't understand, the principles of modern counterterrorism, especially those relating to air power.

The cabinet needs to take into consideration the strengths and weaknesses of the intelligence/air power/special forces mixture. It is the duty of the IDF General Staff to acquaint the civilian leadership with the limitations and capabilities of air power. The government need to have the information to set the goals, which will then dictate the military means and strategy.

There is no alternative. -------- Dr. Shmuel L. Gordon, a colonel (res.) in the IAF, is head of the Technology and National Security program at the Holon Institute of Technology, and an expert in national security, air warfare and counterterrorism. He is also the author of The Vulture and the Snake: Counter-Guerrilla Air Warfare: The War in Southern Lebanon.


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