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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

Apr 15th
Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow Intelligence arrow What will the next war look like for Lebanon?
What will the next war look like for Lebanon? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Matt Nash   
Monday, 15 February 2010


An escalating war of words in recent weeks has many speculating that the next battle between Israel and Hezbollah may be just around the corner. And, as devastating as the month-long war during the summer of 2006 was for Lebanon, the next round will certainly be far worse.

Around the time of last summer’s parliamentary elections, Israeli politicians and military leaders began repeating the argument that the state of Lebanon as a whole will be held responsible and punished during any future war with Hezbollah. While Israel’s elected leaders have been mum on exactly what that means, influential voices in Israel have been arguing for a ruthless assault.

Back in 2008, the head of the Israel Defense Forces’ Northern Command Gadi Eisenkot laid out what became known as the “Dahiyeh Doctrine.”
Describing what he said was an approved plan, not a mere recommendation, Eisenkot said the IDF would use “disproportionate force on [Lebanese villages] and cause great damage and destruction there” should rockets from Lebanese sites target Israel.

The new modus operandi was on full display approximately one year ago during the catastrophic war in Gaza, according to the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, more commonly known as the “Goldstone Report.” 

But the “Dahiyeh Doctrine” is only part of what Lebanon can expect in any future fighting.

During last year’s Gaza war, Israel bombed the Gaza parliament building, arguing that Hamas, which came to power in a 2006 election and took control of the coastal strip after battling Fatah in 2007, is a terrorist group and that any institution or building it uses is a fair target. It seems Israel might make the same arguments about Lebanese government institutions.

“[The next] war will lead to the elimination of the Lebanese military, the destruction of the national infrastructure, and intense suffering among the population,” wrote Giora Eiland, a former head of Israel’s National Security Council, in a 2008 paper. “There will be no recurrence of the situation where Beirut residents (not residing in the Dahiyeh quarter) go to the beach and cafes while Haifa residents sit in bomb shelters.”

The heart of Eiland’s argument was that Israel could turn the Lebanese population against Hezbollah by wreaking more havoc on the country than it did during the 2006 war, when Israel killed some 1,200 Lebanese, destroyed scores of bridges and roads throughout the country and struck ports, a power plant and a few Lebanese army installations, among other targets. 

A recent article in the New York Times, which quoted Eiland and others, also suggested that any future war between Israel and Hezbollah would be seriously destructive for Lebanon and noted the lack of public debate sparked in Israel by such a policy.

David Schenker, an analyst with the US-based Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told NOW he thought “holding the state of Lebanon responsible” in any future fight would be limited to targeting infrastructure like roads, bridges and the power grid as opposed to the parliament building or other national institutions. He said he did not imagine the IDF targeting the Lebanese army unless the LAF fired first and argued against Eiland’s theory of turning the Lebanese against Hezbollah by severely damaging their country.

Indeed, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, in an interview with the BBC aired Wednesday, said that Lebanon would respond to any future war by uniting.

“I think [the Israelis are] betting that there might be some division in Lebanon, if there is a war against us,” Hariri said. "Well, there won't be a division in Lebanon. We will stand against Israel. We will stand with our own people."

Schenker also said that the Israelis will have to take into account the reaction of their most powerful ally, the US, which would presumably oppose high civilian casualties and widespread damage to civilian targets. He said Israel would certainly target Hezbollah weapons caches – which have allegedly been increasingly placed in the North of Lebanon and in the Bekaa Valley.

Perhaps the most difficult question to answer is what kind of ground operations the Israelis would launch. The IDF is increasingly training troops for urban warfare against a group like Hezbollah that combines elements of traditional military tactics with guerilla warfare.

Following the 2006 war, Israel’s ground operations in Lebanon were widely derided as poorly planned and executed, something Yossi Kuperwasser, formerly the head of the Research and Assessment Division of Israeli Military Intelligence, argued should not be repeated in a 2008 paper.

“If there is another round between Israel and Hezbollah, Israel will not be able to make do with standoff counter attacks on Lebanese targets and will probably have to launch a large scale ground operation […] to take control of the organization’s operational territories in southern Lebanon, including north of the Litani River, and if necessary, also in Beirut and the Bekaa Valley,” he wrote.

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