Iran’s Militias in Iraq Threaten Israel

March 8 2019

Following the defeat of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Tehran began organizing and arming Iraqi Shiite militias to fight the U.S. and its allies and to undermine the newly emergent government. These forces went on to play a key role in the fight against Islamic State (IS) and, to a lesser extent, against rebel forces in Syria. In collaboration with other Iranian proxies, they have secured control over both sides of an important border area between the two countries—operating, as always, under the direction of the Islamic Republic. It is likely, according to Lazar Berman and Jonathan Spyer, that the militias will next be used against Israel:

[Israel’s] next war in the north may well be a long slog in which its advantages in firepower and numbers only come into play after the IDF wears down and begins to break apart Hizballah’s rocket array and ground forces. . . . But when Hizballah enjoys an Iranian-controlled corridor through which thousands of combat veterans from the Shiite militias can flow, Hizballah fighters will be in a position to withstand much more. . . . So long as they believe that help is potentially on the way, they will likely keep firing. . . .

Israel’s ground forces—in terms of actual combat soldiers—are smaller than many realize, even with the reserves activated. Israel will need significant ground forces if it intends to capture the territory from which Hizballah rockets are launched at Israel. . . . This overstretched ground force will be under even more stress when thousands of Shiite militiamen are thrown into the fight.

Of course, the Shiite militias have never faced an enemy like the IDF in open warfare. Any attempt to rely on ground maneuver as they did successfully in Iraq [against IS] will turn into target practice for Israeli air and armored forces. They will be fighting a highly advanced, highly capable military that is able to target them rapidly with massive firepower. . . . Still, if the Shiite militias learn from Hizballah, and use pre-prepared defenses and tunnels to ambush advancing IDF ground troops, and remain largely underground or in urban areas, they will make Israel’s already daunting challenge in Lebanon even more difficult.

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Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Iraq, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Syria

Despite What the UN Says, the Violence at the Gaza Border Is Military, Not Civilian, in Nature

March 22 2019

On Monday, a UN Human Rights Council commission of inquiry issued its final report on last spring’s disturbances at the Gaza border. Geoffrey Corn and Peter Margulies explain why the report is fatally flawed:

The commission framed the events [in Gaza] as a series of demonstrations that were “civilian in nature.” Israel and its Supreme Court, [which has investigated some of the killings that occurred], framed the same events quite differently: as a new evolution in Israel’s ongoing armed conflict with the terrorist organization Hamas. Consistency and common sense suggest that the Israeli High Court of Justice’s framing is a more rational explanation of what occurred at the Israel-Gaza border in spring 2018.

Kites, [for instance], played a telltale role [in the violence]. When most people think of kites, they think of a child’s plaything or a hobbyist’s harmless passion. In the Gaza confrontation, kites [became] a new and effective, albeit low-tech, tactic for attacking Israel. As the report conceded, senior Gaza leaders, including from Hamas, “encouraged” the unleashing of waves of incendiary kites that during and since the spring 2018 confrontations have burned thousands of acres of arable land within Israel. The resulting destruction included fires that damaged the Kerem Shalom border crossing, which conveys goods and gasoline from Israel to Gaza. . . .

Moreover, the incendiary-kite offensive was an effective diversion from the efforts encouraged and coordinated by Hamas last spring to pierce the border with Israel and attack both IDF personnel and the civilian residents of the beleaguered Israeli towns a short distance from the border fence. . . .

The commission also failed to acknowledge that Hamas sought to use civilians as an operational cover to move members of its armed wing into position along the fence. For IDF commanders, this increased the importance of preventing a breach [in the fence]. Large crowds directly along the fence would simplify breakthrough attempts by intermingled Hamas and other belligerent operatives. The crowds themselves also could attempt to pour through any breach. Unfortunately, the commission seems to have completely omitted any credible assessment of the potential casualties on all sides that would have resulted from IDF action to seal a breach once it was achieved. . . .

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Read more at Lawfare

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Laws of war, UNHRC, United Nations