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Hezbollah's relocation of rocket sites to Lebanon's interior poses wider threat

A Lebanese soldier inspects the site of an explosion, at the entrance of a building in Kfar Fila village, a Hezbollah stronghold in southern Lebanon.
A Lebanese soldier inspects the site of an explosion, at the entrance of a building in Kfar Fila village, a Hezbollah stronghold in southern Lebanon. (Ali Hashisho - Reuters)

With Iran backing and supplying Hezbollah and the United States backing and supplying Israel, "the battlefield is Lebanon," said Marwan Hamadeh, a Lebanese member of parliament and supporter of a government coalition that is trying to curb Hezbollah's arms and limit Syrian and Iranian influence in the country. "This is where the Iranian missiles sit, and this is where the Israeli air force can reach."

Israel, meanwhile, lost more than 100 troops and uncharacteristically large numbers of tanks, helicopters and other equipment -- prompting it to rewrite its war doctrine and adjust its perception of Hezbollah's militia. Military analysts now see Hezbollah not as primarily a guerrilla force but as an organization that practices "hybrid war," mixing classic guerrilla tactics with the strategy, equipment and capability of a standing army.

In a 2008 report for the U.S. Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute, analysts Stephen D. Biddle and Jeffrey A. Friedman concluded that Hezbollah had performed more effectively in 2006 than any of the Arab armies from Egypt, Syria or Jordan that had fought conventional wars with Israel over the years, and better in some ways than the Iraqi army in its two wars with the United States.

A wider struggle

In Beirut, politicians and analysts agree that the group has only grown stronger since 2006. As they hear Hezbollah's secretary general, Hasan Nasrallah, speak of a conflict that will "change the face of the region," many assume that the IDF will not allow the organization to rearm, recruit and train much longer before striking.

In Israel, Hezbollah is seen as part of a wider struggle for regional influence between Iran and U.S.-allied moderate Arab states, given the group's ties to Iran and Syria and arms supplies assumed to run through both countries.

There is no reason the current calm cannot continue, said retired Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser who is now a senior researcher at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies.

But if a conflict does break out, "Israel will not contain that war against Hezbollah," Eiland said. "We cannot."

Given Hezbollah's capabilities, he said, "the only way to deter the other side and prevent the next round -- or if it happens, to win -- is to have a military confrontation with the state of Lebanon."


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