Insomnia (insomnia) wrote,
Insomnia
insomnia

My best guess assessment on what will happen in Lebanon.

Recently, someone suggested that Israel was bogged down in Lebanon, and that it might turn in to WWI era fighting. I disagree. That said, I don't think it will be very pretty what happens next in Lebanon. So... here's my take on it.

I don't think Israel is bogged down, per se, but rather that they have discovered that raids upon Hezbollah-defended townships will be a very expensive way to conduct this war. They want to minimize their casualties in order to keep their people happy, so they're going to take their time on the ground, and probably reduce their air sortees somewhat for the time being, to keep the rest of the world happy while they get ready for the real push.

If Israel wants to control urban centers, they'll have to fight at close quarters to do it. That means a lot of casualties, such as was seen recently, with 9 IDF dead and 30+ wounded in just one engagement, without even taking over the town in question.

That said, what isn't really contested is Israel's ability to move their troops -- and specifically their armor -- pretty much anywhere they choose that isn't in an urban center. There's a lot of space on a battlefield, and lots of ways to get armored forces through in sweeping, encircling, and flanking manouvers, while avoiding fixed enemy defenses. You generally follow such armored incursions with troops right behind, capable of both supporting the supply line for the armor, and forming a fixed defensive line, capable of implementing an encirclement.

Under the circumstances, there simply isn't a fixed, fortified defensive line in Lebanon capable of stopping the Israeli military, especially when they have total armored and air superiority. At the same time though, if you send that armor into an urban area of Lebanon, it's a potential victim, capable of being ambushed by infantry equipped with RPGs. Israel learned the lesson of sending their tanks directly up against masses of RPG-equipped soldiers back in '73, so they'll avoid all unnecessary risks.

So, Israel is left with two options, really:
1> Surround several individual pockets of Lebanon, impose severe hardship on those in the pocket, and then force its way into controlling the town, using air bombardments followed with armored thrusts to reduce potential for fatalities.

2> Surround a large chunk of Lebanon by sending in an armored thrust, followed by infantry to hold the line. Impose medium hardship on a whole section of Lebanon, hold the whole area under siege for awhile, and then start using air/armored to take down specific targets.

#2 is what I think Israel will try to do, assuming that it can't get a peace settlement through air power alone. The current likely peace settlement for Lebanon seems to be giving them control of the Shebaa Farms -- the last disputed Lebanese territory in Israel -- in exchange for Lebanon's agreement to let the Israelis (presumably followed by some vague international force) have their way with South Lebanon / Hezbollah. Checkpoints, lockdowns, armed searches, etc.

If air assaults don't bring peace -- and there's no sign that Israel wants peace right now without a convincing victory to back it up -- expect an armored push followed by infantry encirclement of South Lebanon, probably all the way up to the Litani River. Encirclement will not only keep those still in South Lebanon in, but it will also help keep the Lebanese army, Syria, or any other surprises out.

Infantry will follow the armor and solidify the defensive line. Air will be used to weaken anything in the way of the armored advance, and to attack any enemy troop formations that try to approach the defensive line.

Once the defensive line is in place, expect some pretty severe bombing in South Lebanon, ostensibly to weaken Hezbollah positions and target pockets of resistance. This will also tend to drive out those civilians who haven't left yet, who may find themselves attacked while trying to get out of the area. Expect lots of the refugees to be detained... especially men of fighting age.

The ramifications for those civilians still in the war zone will be pretty bad. Don't expect a lot of press coverage about this, however.

So, that still leaves encircled, poorly supplied resistance forces. Expect them to be attacked with armored incursions intended to either divide or to lure out the enemy, followed by aerial assaults when resistance forces mass to defend against the armor. Expect lots of Israeli snipers being escorted to / positioned on key buildings, etc. It will be pretty systematic and, at times, pretty brutal.

This explains, perhaps, why Israel are calling up so many troops.

**UPDATE**
tomscud pointed out links at Blood and Treasure and at Yorkshire Ranter, who seem to be thinking essentially the same thing I'm thinking... a flanking manouver to cut off South Lebanon is likely. The big difference is that they speculate that Israel might have intentionally attacked the UN observation post at Khiyam as it looked down on the Hula Valley to the south and up the corridor leading north to the Bekaa Valley, allowing the UN to enforce the peace and make sure that no military flanking manouver was possible in that area.

Now, of course, it is.

So, if Israel does send their troops through there in order to outflank the Lebanese, is it safe to say that they basically murdered the UN observers in cold blood... or would that be an anti-Semitic remark?
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