Tuesday night Israel hit several locations in Syria, assumed to be weapons depots which possibly contained a shipment of Fajr-5 rockets from Iran. But it’s also being reported that “senior Hezbollah personnel” were hit, shortly after boarding a plane for Tehran, where they were planning to attend a funeral for an Iranian ayatollah. There is even a rumor – probably not true – that Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s “Quds Force,” was present and was killed in the attack. If only!
Soleimani is a legendary figure in Iran, and the Quds Force is responsible for extraterritorial activities of the IRGC, including aiding terrorist groups like Hezbollah and various Iraqi militias, as well as carrying out terrorist operations all over the world. The Quds Force has been accused of providing the explosively formed penetrators used in IEDs with deadly effectiveness against US troops in Iraq. As a strategist and commander, he is highly competent and dangerous, and should be a prime target in an Israel-Iran war.
The beginning stages of the war are already underway. The Iranian regime’s strategy seems to be to first improve its strategic position as much as possible without triggering open hostilities: it has built up Hezbollah’s rocket arsenal – and continues to try to improve it by retrofitting accurate guidance systems. It is preparing to manufacture guidance systems and/or rockets on Lebanese soil. It dug attack tunnels under the Lebanese border with Israel, which the IDF is exploding or filling with concrete as I write. It is working to improve its supply systems to Hezbollah via its newly secured land bridge through Iraq and Syria (the small American force that Trump has promised to withdraw served as a partial deterrent to the use of this route, which is one reason Israel sees the withdrawal as a problem). The regime supports Hamas and other terrorist groups in the territories. And it is continuing to prepare for the day that it can openly deploy nuclear weapons. Ultimately, its goal is to see Israel destroyed by its proxies, underneath its own nuclear umbrella.
Israel’s approach so far has been to try to interdict the shipment of advanced weapons, destroy attack tunnels, and to keep up pressure on Iranian attempts to establish herself militarily in Syria. Israel is aggressively collecting intelligence on the location of Iran’s and Hezbollah’s assets in Lebanon and Syria, so that in the event of war she could quickly destroy rocket launchers and other targets. Probably there are also targets in Iran herself, such as nuclear facilities.
I hope so. Iran would like to see the next war fought on Israel’s territory. It would like to see the casualties on its side being Lebanese, Palestinian, and Iraqi, not Iranian. It would like to see Israel wounded, but itself come out unscathed. It is up to Israel to ensure that this doesn’t happen.
Israel’s greatest weakness is her lack of strategic depth. There is nowhere to fall back to, and an invasion from Lebanon or Syria would quickly reach populated areas. Israel is no Russia, which on several occasions has been able to count her enormous size and bitter winters as her greatest allies.
This is one reason why “2-state solutions” are unacceptable, even if the Palestinian Arabs were trustworthy (which they are not). I have a relief map on my wall that I point to when anyone talks about the various 2-state ideas. It shows how the Golan Heights and the Jordan Valley (more precisely, the hills on our side of it) are natural barriers to invasion, and provide a strategic advantage to whoever controls them. It also shows the importance of the hills in Judea and Samaria, which overlook the most heavily populated parts of Israel.
The Golan Heights are particularly important. Had Israel not been in possession of them at the start of the Yom Kippur War, Syrian tanks would have rolled through Israeli cities and towns, with murderous results. More recently we would have had to deal with raids by ISIS and similar groups.
There is currently talk of a Munich-like Syrian peace deal in which part of the arrangement would include the return of the Golan to Assad’s Syria! In order to prevent this, Israel and some American politicians would like to see the US recognize Israel’s permanent ownership of the Golan. In the final analysis, only Israel’s steadfastness and willingness to fight can protect her, but it would certainly help to have the diplomatic backing of the US.
When the war finally does heat up, Israel must bring it to Iran’s homeland. But Iran is a big and populous country, and Israel does not have the ground forces to invade it. We are certainly capable of launching a full-scale nuclear assault, but this would contradict our strategic doctrine, which calls for the use of nuclear weapons only in retaliation for an attack against Israel with nuclear or other WMD, or as a last resort when the country is in danger of being overrun. There would be moral concerns about killing 28 million Iranians. One can also guess the likely response of the international community.
However there is another option, which is an attack aimed to destroy infrastructure, such as electrical grids, industrial plants, government offices, financial centers, oil fields, pipelines, refineries, transportation and communications facilities, and so on. Bombing of key targets could be combined with cyberattacks and an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. If done carefully, such a campaign would directly kill few people, but could create chaos and effectively destroy the Iranian economy to the extent that it would take decades to recover. I believe that Iraq is still suffering the effects of infrastructure bombing carried out in the first days of the US-Iraq war in 2003.
Israel is quite capable of carrying out such an attack, and this capability could serve as an effective deterrent, one which is much more likely to be employed than a massive nuclear attack. Iran directly controls Hezbollah, and the regime must be made to understand that an attack by its proxy against our homeland would result in an immediate response against its own.
In the meantime, I hope we are carefully tracking the movements of Qassem Soleimani. He has plenty of American, Israeli, and other blood on his hands. It would be a shame (for the regime) if anything happened to him.