Saturday, July 15, 2006

Hezbollah attack on Israeli missile boat

Latest news is that it was a Chinese-designed Iranian missile that Hezbollah launched against an Israeli Saar V missile boat, rather than a drone. Hezbollah had been experimenting with the use of drones in the past, which probably accounts for the initial confusion.

The implications of this is that the Iranians are not just providing Hezbollah with support and weapons, but rather advanced weapons at that--among the most advanced they have. Large anti-ship missiles have tended to be limited to state actors. What we are seeing now is the emergence of non-state actors in the international system similar to what existed before the 19th Century, when the British Navy and European land powers put an end to the mercenaries, privateers and pirates that traditionally had a role in European politics.

7 comments:

Kohler said...

For the devil's argument:

Couldn't you argue that since Hezbollah started as a combatant in a civil war (essentially now representing nearly the entirety of Lebanese Shia) that providing such arms is entirely valid?

Seen under that lens it becomes less an unprecedented level of tech given to a non-state actor, but rather Iran endorsing the belief that Lebanon should be ruled by Hezbollah (much as Pakistan gave support to the Taliban, making much the same statement in regards to Afghanistan) or else form a separate Shia state in South Lebanon. (which the Israelis could then use as a large bombing range)

After all, is it really more than, say, the USSR providing jet aircraft and other high-level tech to the East Germans during the period where everyone was still mouthing the fiction that Germany was one nation broken into occupation zones instead of being two separate governments...

M.D. Fatwa said...

Well, there's a difference between being an actual government (even if de facto) and saying that an outside power believes this group should be the actual government. With the latter, that group is still not the government. Also, the latest news is that the Iranians were actually providing advisors on the ground to assist in firing the missile. [http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/I/ISRAEL_ATTACKED_SHIP?SITE=7219&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2006-07-15-07-28-21]

This is more akin to the Germans and Soviets providing not just equipment, but also soldiers and pilots, to each side during the Spanish Civil War. Sure, not unprecedented. But in this case, we've got one side attacking Portugal. That is unprecedented.

And, taking your argument, if Hezbollah is a de facto southern Lebanese government, then that government, with the support of its Iranian allies, just attacked another state.

Kohler said...

Then shouldn't Israel limit it's strikes to Southern Lebanon instead of kicking the crap out of Beirut?

William M. Razavi said...

The Lebanese could have solved this issue long ago by nationalizing Hezbollah and basically using it as a kind of official National Guard.
The real issue with Hezbollah being on the border seems to be that it sticks in the craw of Israelis to have to look over the border at the only organized military force that has ever forced it to retreat under fire.
Of course they'd rather be looking across the border at the little cedar flag of a government whose air space is routinely violated by IDF planes, whose borders are penetrated by anyone and everyone, and whose forces are a cobbled together little group that couldn't defend itself in a room full of unarmed invalids.
And why is Israel holding onto 9000 Lebanese prisoners?
And what about Shebaa Farms. Israel says that Lebanon has no right to it because it belongs to Syria, which makes it perfectly reasonable for the Israelis to be holding on to it?
And on another note--what ISN'T a threat to Israel's security? Why don't we just let them take away gunpowder technology from every group of people between Benghazi and Bangalore?

William M. Razavi said...

And actually, Hezbollah was created specifically as a resistance to foreign occupation in the aftermath of 1982.

The reasoning behind its creation was that Amal (the Lebanese Shia movement founded by Imam Musa Sadr--distant cousin of the Sadrs of Iraq) had become infiltrated by collaborators--so Hezbollah was created with a more tight-knit structure and discipline--one which has become very difficult to penetrate, obviously.

Amal has continued to exist, but with less and less popularity as more and more of the people most inclined to Amal's original message have found everything they're looking for in Hezbollah.

The success of Hezbollah in being at the very least an irritant to Israel speaks for itself. One might also note that in the course of its existence it refrained from getting involved in the civil war per se, with the singular exception of fighting the SLA (South Lebanon Army) which was created by Israel. You might also note that after the IDF left Lebanon the Lebanese government started trying the SLA as traitors.

Oh, yeah, one more thing--at the height of the conflict (circa 1996) the best estimates from places like Jane's and whatnot said that Hezbollah had 960 fighters at the time.
960? Either the best estimates of the international defence intelligence wonks severely underestimated the numbers involved ("the Fremen are more numerous than we had thought") or less than 1000 people managed to get the IDF to withdraw from Lebanon.

As for Hezbollah attacking Israel in the first place--just who are we kidding as to the state of peace along that border from 2000-2006?

IDF routinely (Look up the instances) violated Lebanese airspace from 2000-2006.

Exchanges of fire of all sorts have been common on that border.
So common that as long as it was concentrated on Shebaa Farms it seemed to not warrant comment unless major casualties were caused on either side.

Olmert will inevitably have to declare victory loudly, say a lot about punishing "evil people" and then quietly work out a prisoner exchange before Haifa starts looking like Beirut and vice versa.

Let's not get too excited about Israel's ability to "finish the job."
If we can't "finish the job" in Baghdad, what makes us think Israel can do it in Lebanon?

As for Iran's involvement--what real difference does it make?
Do we really believe now that Israel has the capacity to fight a sustained war with a country several hundred miles away?

Or are we just diddling with the odds of Olmert "teaching the world a lesson" with a nuclear first strike?

M.D. Fatwa said...

Israel doesn't have the capability to engage Iran directly. But it can take it to the Syrians, and it may be able to cut Hezbollah off from the Iranians. If it does that, and cuts them off from Syria (because the Syrians refuse to let them in), then it could give the Iranians a black eye because their main client in the area would be out of business. And Iran needs that client at the moment if it is going to play the role of the Muslim powerhouse taking on the Zionists and Crusaders in an otherwise Sunni Arab world that doesn't really care for them.

Also, keep in mind that it is much more difficult to control an area if you are unwilling to destroy it. The Israelis were unwilling to do the kind of damage to Lebanon, or Gaza, or the West Bank, that, say, the Americans were willing to do to Germany and Japan in WWII, or that the Russians are willing to do to Chechnya now. But the Israelis may be willing to do that to southern Lebanon. And if your goal is a buffer zone so that Haifa isn't a target any longer, the IDF's goals are far more limited.

Anonymous said...

Well, maybe the real answer is for Lebanon to establish a 25 mile buffer zone in Northern Israel.