Foreign Affairs: Nasrallah's MiscalculationSave this online in Del.icio.us. [?] Vote For this Post
By Elliot Chodoff of Middle East on Target
Wars are all too often started as a result of a minor miscalculation, and the current violence in the Middle East provides an excellent example of this fact. Wednesday's Hizbullah attack on an IDF patrol that left three soldiers dead and two captured was an attempt by the Lebanese Shiite terrorist organization to achieve a number of strategic objectives at a limited price.
With one assault, Hizbullah hoped to improve its position in Lebanon and the rest of the Arab world, show its support for Hamas as it battles the IDF in Gaza, and divert attention from Iran as the world pressures that country to cease its efforts to develop a nuclear arsenal. In order to accomplish all of the above, Hizbullah executed a bold ambush on the Israeli side of the border, with a quick escape back to Lebanon with its IDF captives.
Having accomplished its mission, all that remained was to hunker down and outlast the anticipated weak Israeli response as Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah announced that he had no interest in an escalation of violence and was prepared to negotiate to exchange the IDF captives for terrorists held by Israel. Nasrallah miscalculated. Big time.
To be fair, Israel contributed its share to the miscalculation. In a day of fighting last month, Hizbullah initiated an unprovoked attack against Northern Israel, and the IDF responded with heavy fire against the terrorists' positions across the border, destroying nearly all within sight. Late in the afternoon, Hizbullah requested a cease fire, and Israel responded immediately in the affirmative. Nasrallah understood that he was capable of igniting the violence and extinguishing it at will. On that assumption, he launched last Wednesday's attack. Israel's response was significantly harsher than he anticipated.
Despite Hizbullah's ability to launch multiple barrages against civilian targets in Israel (as of this evening, over 760 rockets have landed in Northern Israel, killing four Israeli civilians and wounding dozens), the IDF has devastated Hizbullah targets with attacks from the air, land and sea, as well as inflicting significant damage to Lebanon's national infrastructure. Nasrallah himself was apparently trapped in the bunker beneath his destroyed headquarters, and has not been heard from since another IAF air strike on the same target late this afternoon.
The message being transmitted to Lebanon and Hizbullah as well as the rest of Israel's enemies in the Middle East is a clear one: anyone can easily start a war with Israel, but that adventure may be a costly one, and ending it can be a far more complicated affair. The issue is not simply the return of the captured soldiers and retaliation for the deaths of their comrades; it is whether Israel's sovereignty can be violated with impunity by an organization with aspirations to annihilate the Jewish State. Hizbullah and Lebanon are currently learning the answer to that question and the lesson will likely continue for at least the next few days.
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