Why the U.S. Must Assume a More Direct Approach to Rolling Back Iranian Power

Dec. 18 2017

Although the Trump administration has abandoned its predecessor’s commitment to partnering with Iran and respecting Tehran’s so-called “strategic equities” in Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere, it still follows an indirect approach to countering Hizballah. Tony Badran argues that Washington must start confronting the terrorist organization and other Iranian proxies more aggressively, and abandon its commitment to an illusory stability in Lebanon:

The area between Damascus, south Lebanon, and the Golan Heights is now an Iranian zone. And, most recently, Hizballah and Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have connected with their Iraqi units on both sides of the Syria-Iraq border.

These developments represent a strategic setback for the United States and its allies. . . . But the overriding U.S. interest in Syria has not changed: to disrupt this Iranian territorial link [with Lebanon via Iraq and Syria] and to degrade Hizballah, the IRGC, and their weapons capabilities in Syria and Lebanon. This is a priority that the United States still can, and should, pursue, even if it requires a more direct involvement today than it would have done a few years ago.

Iranian forces are vulnerable. They are overstretched and, in certain cases, they are operating in exposed terrain. The new military structures they are building are equally exposed. Israel has been exploiting these vulnerabilities to target military installations, bases, and weapons shipments, as well as senior IRGC and Hizballah cadres. The Russian presence has not deterred the Israelis. The United States should reinforce this Israeli policy by adopting Israeli red lines as its own. And, using the considerable elements of U.S. power in the region, it can expand this campaign against Iran’s and Hizballah’s military infrastructure, arms shipments, logistical routes, and senior cadres. Local Syrian groups in eastern and southern Syria, and their sponsors, should also be empowered to take part in this endeavor.

Having the United States behind this policy strengthens Israel’s position vis-à-vis the Russians and provides it with more room to maneuver, especially in the case of a conflagration with Hizballah that expands to Lebanon. Throughout the Syrian war, the U.S. position has held Lebanese stability sacrosanct, even as Lebanon was the launching pad for Hizballah’s war effort in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, and even as the group multiplied its stockpile of missiles aimed at Israel. Should the targeting of IRGC and Hizballah assets lead to an escalation that encompasses Lebanon, the United States should offer full backing to Israel as it destroys Iran’s infrastructure in Lebanon and degrades its long arm on the Mediterranean. Lebanon’s stability, insofar as it means the stability of the Iranian order and forward missile base there, is not, in fact, a U.S. interest.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy

To Israel’s Leading Strategist, Strength, Not Concessions, Has Brought a Measure of Calm

Aug. 14 2018

Following a long and distinguished career in the IDF, Yaakov Amidror served as Israel’s national-security adviser from 2011 to 2013. He speaks with Armin Rosen about the threats from Gaza, Hizballah, and Iran:

For Israel’s entire existence, would-be peacemakers have argued that the key to regional harmony is the reduction of the Jewish state’s hard power through territorial withdrawals and/or the legitimization of the country’s non-state enemies. In Amidror’s view, reality has thoroughly debunked this line of reasoning.

Amidror believes peace—or calm, at least—came as a result of Israeli muscle. Israel proved to its former enemies in the Sunni Arab world that it’s powerful enough to fill the vacuum left by America’s exit from the region and to stand up to Iran on the rest of the Middle East’s behalf. “The stronger Israel is, the more the ability of Arab countries to cooperate [with it] grows,” Amidror explained. On the whole, Amidror said he’s “very optimistic. I remember the threat that we faced when we were young. We fought the Six-Day War and I remember the Yom Kippur War, and I see what we are facing today. We have only one-and-a-half problems. One problem is Iran, and the half-problem is Hizballah.” . . .

In all likelihood the next Israeli-Iranian confrontation will be a clash with Amidror’s half-threat: the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hizballah, Iran’s most effective proxy in the Middle East and perhaps the best armed non-state military force on earth. . . . “We should neutralize the military capability of Hizballah,” [in the event of war], he said. “We should not destroy the organization as a political tool. If the Shiites want these people to represent them, it’s their problem.” . . .

“It will be a very nasty war,” Amidror said. “A very, very nasty war.” Hizballah will fire “thousands and thousands” of long-range missiles of improved precision, speed, and range at Israeli population centers, a bombardment larger than Israel’s various layers of missile defense will be able to neutralize in full. . . . This will, [however], be a blow Israel can withstand. “Israelis will be killed, no question,” Amidror said. “But it’s not going to be catastrophic.”

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Lebanon