Secondo la Stratfor
The Ground Offensive
August 01, 2006 17 07 GMT
By George Friedman
Israeli forces are well into their main ground offensive into Lebanon. It is difficult to hide a strategic offensive of this size, but Israel has made no attempt to hide this one at all. The three-week air offensive, followed by the pseudo cease-fire and disagreements in the Israeli Cabinet on strategy, made it necessary for Israel literally to announce its offensive. Ultimately, this gave Hezbollah little advantage. It might have wanted to halt fighting at this point, but it certainly knew that for precisely this reason Israel would have to intensify the fighting. There might be elements of tactical surprise, but strategic surprise is gone.
Hezbollah is now fighting the war it wanted and prepared for. Its forces are well-dispersed and dug into bunkers. Supplies for extended combat have undoubtedly been distributed in these strongholds so they require no re-supply. Certainly the Israelis will do everything they can to prevent it. Command has clearly devolved to the lowest possible unit, so contact with central headquarters is not necessary for fighting. Hezbollah is not going to be engaged in maneuver. It will fight where it stands.
As we have said before, the strategy looks more like the way the Japanese defended Pacific islands against the U.S. Marines during World War II than anything else. Hezbollah fighters are defending in depth from interlocking strong points. They have constructed these strong points in order to survive artillery and airstrikes. They are forcing the Israelis to close with the strong points and take them in close combat. The Japanese did not necessarily expect to survive the battles. Their goal was to inflict disproportionate casualties on the attacking troops in order to force reconsideration of the strategy of island-hopping and set the stage for a political settlement. The Japanese failed because they underestimated the U.S. capacity for absorbing casualties and the size of the force available. But the strategy, while ineffective, was based on a real confidence that their own forces would be willing to engage in battles of annihilation when it was their own annihilation that was certain, and when their mission was to delay and impose casualties on the enemy.
There are many differences here, but Hezbollah’s core strategy appears to be the same. Its deployment has enormous value if its forces are prepared to fight to the end, imposing time penalties and casualties on Israel. If its strong points can hold out for extended periods of time, some of them firing missiles at Israel, then the Israelis have no option but to close and engage in intense sequential firefights that will take time and cost lives. If it can fight a battle of annihilation yet delay and hurt the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Hezbollah might well force a political settlement. If not, it can still gain a political victory by being the first Arab force to force Israel into high attrition combat.
Therefore, Israel‘s strategy must be twofold. First, it must end the war with the catastrophic destruction of Hezbollah’s military capability. It could survive as a political force, but its military strength, and therefore its coercive presence in Lebanon, must be ended. Second, Israel must do this in a time frame and at a cost in casualties that does not allow Hezbollah to claim victory regardless of the consequences to its own forces. Third, it must carry out this operation before U.S. political interests in the region (pressure from allies in Iraq, the Saudis and so forth) force the United States to compel Israel to agree to a genuine cease-fire, as opposed to the pseudo cease-fire engineered by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that actually bought Israel more time.
In other words, Hezbollah’s strategy is to force Israel to fight a war that takes as long as possible, using Israeli time urgency to force Israel to move rapidly against strong points incurring maximum casualties. Israel‘s strategy is to use its greater mobility and firepower to break Hezbollah as quickly as possible with minimum casualties. The issue is how well-prepared Hezbollah’s defenses actually are and how well-motivated its troops are after a three-week bombing campaign. How long can Hezbollah maintain its tempo of operations on a tactical level?
Israel‘s strength is in its firepower and its mobility. Its mobility has value primarily when fighting against a force with a substantial logistical tail. Cutting nonexistent supply lines against a force that has its supplies organically attached to it does not allow encirclement to take place. This limits the utility of dynamic mobile operations in most senses. There is one sense, however, that allows this to go on.
One of Israel‘s strategic goals, apart from crushing Hezbollah, is eliminating Hezbollah’s ability to fire rockets and missiles into Israel, and particularly to Haifa and points south. It is difficult to know precisely the range of Hezbollah’s rockets and missiles and how many they have, but it is clear that simply attacking Lebanon south of the Litani River will not solve that problem. To guarantee an end to rocket attacks, we estimate Israel will have to push Hezbollah back to Riyaq to end the threat from Zelzal-2 rockets, to Baalbek to protect Tel Aviv, and to Hermel to protect Haifa. To protect against the Fajr-5, Israel will have to push as deep as 10 miles north of the Litani along the coast. It is possible to bomb launchers and storage sites, and Israel can hit what it knows about, but the problem is it cannot have certain knowledge of what it knows unless it goes in on the ground. Intelligence is never as good as going and seeing.