How the Israeli Withdrawal from Lebanon Aided Hizballah and Encouraged the Second Intifada

Yesterday marked the twenty-year anniversary of the IDF’s abandonment of its security zone in southern Lebanon, which it had held onto following the First Lebanon War of 1982. To Gershon Hacohen and Efraim Karsh, the withdrawal was a fateful mistake, effectively handing a victory to Hizballah, the Iran-backed terrorist group that had waged an eighteen-year guerrilla war on the IDF and its Lebanese allies:

With [Hizballah’s] secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah famously deriding Israel as “weaker than a spider web,” the organization launched repeated attacks on targets in northern Israel at a rate of half-a-dozen per year. These began as early as October 7, 2000—a mere four months after the withdrawal—with the abduction of three IDF soldiers on a border patrol (who, it later transpired, were killed in the attack), culminating in the July 12, 2006 abduction of two more soldiers (who, too, were killed in the process) and the killing of another three in a cross-border raid that triggered the Second Lebanon War. During that war, Hizballah fired some 4,000 rockets and missiles on Israeli towns and villages—the largest attack on the Jewish state’s population centers since the 1948 War of Independence—killing 45 civilians, inflicting massive destruction and economic damage, and driving thousands of Israelis to flee their homes to the southern parts of the country.

Moreover, argue Hacohen and Karsh, the dire consequences of the retreat extended beyond Lebanon:

[H]ad the humiliating flight from Lebanon not occurred, the second intifada might not have ensued in the first place, at least not on its unprecedented massive scale. Like most of their Arab brethren, the Palestinians viewed the Lebanon flight as a defeat of the formidable Israeli army by a small but determined guerrilla force. . . . Even Israeli Arabs were increasingly drawn into Hizballah’s widening terror and spying web inside Israel in the years following the withdrawal.

More importantly, the flight’s humiliating nature helped convince the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat . . . that the pros of reverting to wholesale violence far exceeded the potential cons, since Israel no longer had the stomach for a protracted conflict. If Israelis couldn’t bear 20 to 25 fatalities per year (less than a tenth of the death toll on their roads) in the fight against Hizballah, surely they wouldn’t be able to stomach the much heavier death toll attending a protracted all-out Palestinian “resistance campaign.”

Finally, the withdrawal took a toll on Israel’s military power itself:

[T]he flight from Lebanon not only brought a terror organization committed to Israel’s destruction within a stone’s throw of its border neighborhoods and made its dislodgement from this area exceedingly difficult: it also dented the IDF’s fighting ethos and operational competence. The daring, enterprising, and proactive spirit that had characterized this force from its inception gave way to a reactive, dogmatic, and passive disposition that responded to events rather than anticipating them and that contented itself with containing rather than defeating the enemy.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Hizballah, IDF, Israeli Security, Second Intifada, Second Lebanon War, Yasir Arafat

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy