Don’t destroy Lebanon to stop the main problem
The strategy promoted by the Israeli political and military echelon in the confrontation with Iran and Hezbollah in the north – the threat “to return Lebanon to the Stone Age” by massive destruction of civilian infrastructure and causing many casualties among the Lebanese population – is, in my opinion, dangerous and ineffective.
It is clear to every professional observer that in the event of a war in the north and the materialization of Hezbollah’s threat to launch tens of thousands of long-, medium- and short-range missiles at Israel, including precision missiles at strategic targets, there will be massive civilian casualties and infrastructure damage.
The vast arsenal of 100,000 to 120,000 missiles that Iran has provided to Hezbollah over the years is not meant to protect Lebanon but rather to deter Israel from attacking the Iranian nuclear infrastructure, and to allow Hezbollah to take control of Lebanon.
In this sense, the leadership of Hezbollah is, ideologically and strategically, part and parcel of the Tehran regime, even when the organization’s activities, such as its involvement in the Syrian civil war, endanger the lives and interests of the Lebanese people in general and the Shi’ite community in particular.
Therefore, a massive Israeli military operation that threatens to destroy the civilian infrastructure in Lebanon and inflict thousands of civilian casualties will not impress Iran’s and Hezbollah’s leaders, who are committed to destroying Israel.
The ayatollahs will be ready to sacrifice every single Lebanese citizen, and Lebanon as an independent state, on the altar of its supreme strategic interests, and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah will not hesitate to act according to Iran’s orders.
The destruction of Lebanon by the IDF will cause hatred against Israel for generations, not only among the Shi’ite community, but also among the Sunnis, Christians and Druse, who in some scenarios could be able to change the balance of power against Hezbollah’s control of Lebanon.
There is also no doubt that the international community will not accept Israel’s policy. It will press Israel to end quickly the military campaign, which will be difficult and complex anyway, before reaching a decisive victory or significant achievements on the ground. And after the ceasefire, the public and political pressure to condemn Israel for violations of international humanitarian law and accuse it of massacres and “genocide” will isolate Israel in the international arena.
Therefore, Israel should deter Iran, if not prevent altogether war in the north, at least to prevent the nightmare scenario of thousands of missiles falling on Israeli territory.
Israel should target Iranian cities, Tehran and other major ones, which should pay the price of massive Hezbollah Iranian-made missile fire on Israel. The military threat should be accompanied by a massive public campaign toward the Iranian people to convince it of the madness of their leaders’ policy, which endangers their security.
There is a historical example that supports this strategic approach. Ayatollah Khomeini, the first supreme leader of the Islamic Republic, decided to end the bloody eight-year war with Iraq in 1988, only after the failure of Iran’s many “final” failed attacks, the crumbling war economy and a campaign of 520 Scud missiles fired on Tehran which exacted many casualties and pushed 30% of the residents to abandon the capital. Khomeini declared then: “The acceptance of this issue [the cease-fire with Iraq] is more bitter than poison for me, but I drink this chalice of poison for the Almighty and for His satisfaction .... ”
The Iranians are very sensitive to the number of casualties even among their forces stationed in Syria, especially the Revolutionary Guards, and therefore prefer to recruit, finance and dispatch tens of thousands of Shi’ite militias.
It is also important to note that the popular riots in January 2018 in Iran took place against the background of the difficult economic situation in the country and the calls by the demonstrators to stop the war aid to Syria, Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemen.
Among Israeli politicians only Education Minister Naftali Bennett recently expressed support for “consistent fighting against the forces of IRGC and Iran, the head of the octopus,” in order to reduce the likelihood of war, shorten the duration of the campaign if imposed on us, and save lives.
The tense military events of the past days in the north after the downing of an Iranian “stealth” drone in Israeli airspace, only strengthen the need to change Israel’s strategy against the Iranian threat.
It should be noted, that the Israeli government has acted well these past two years in defining its red lines against Iran’s infiltration into Syria and Lebanon, has made clear its intention to the great powers, most of all to President Vladimir Putin of Russia, and to the Israeli and international public, and has reacted accordingly during the last battle.