Learning the Lessons of Israel’s Long, Unnamed War in Lebanon

The upcoming twentieth anniversary of the IDF’s withdrawal from Lebanon has sparked much discussion about the nameless war that lasted from 1985 to 2000, during which the Jewish state held on to a strip of territory in the southern part of Lebanon, together with its local allies, and fought a protracted, low-grade conflict there. Having served as a battalion commander on the ground in this conflict, and later having overseen units involved in it, Gershon Hacohen admits that, in hindsight, he did not pay sufficient attention to the strategic dilemma Israel faced:

The IDF found itself pulled in three different directions by three different goals. The first and most important: to secure our ‎communities in [northern Israel from PLO and Hizballah rockets and terrorist infiltrations]. The second: to ensure that [Jerusalem’s ally], the South Lebanese Army (SLA), remained intact ‎and to secure the civil population in the security zone while minimizing harm to IDF and SLA troops. ‎The third: attacking Hizballah’s forces and reducing its battle capabilities. Hizballah identified the ‎tension playing out between those three missions and maximized the potential that lay with keeping it ‎running high.

Starting in the early 1990s, when Hezbollah entrenched itself in a way that allowed it control over ‎southern Lebanon, a major change took place. While the IDF was still defending border communities . . . from incursions by terrorists, Hizballah was focusing its activities toward a goal, ‎openly declared, of liberating its homeland [from Israeli occupation]. Secretly, . . . under the direction of Iran, Hizballah wanted to end the Israeli presence in south ‎Lebanon and thereby strike a blow to Israel’s image of military superiority by underscoring its ‎inefficacy in either winning or defending all its vulnerabilities.

For years, the IDF has been criticized for supposedly neglecting the desire to achieve victory. The ‎expression “Let the IDF win” is a simplistic slogan that prevents an in-depth understanding of the [problem at hand]. A renewed look at the war in the security zone provides a vital lesson ‎in understanding the change that Hizballah instituted in how wars against Israel are fought, . . . at a ‎time when it is urgent to form the concept of Israeli security necessary for victory.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Hizballah, Israeli grand strategy, Israeli Security, Lebanon, PLO, South Lebanese Army

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy