July 28, 2006

Putting On My "Robert Novak" Hat

Hatched by Dafydd

We've never seen Big Lizards as a primary news source, or a newspaper, or anything of that ilk. We're not journalists, and we don't engage in reporting. Rather, we like to analyze news and current events, trends and motives, often days after the fact. (Our egocentric motto: "Never first, always final!")

But occasionally I like to put two and two together in a sort of predictive way. Mind, this is all wild speculation, and a substantial part of it comes from a somewhat untrustworthy source, NewsMax.com.

First, we have this:

Hizbullah steps up attacks: Hizbullah steps up attacks: For the first time since the fighting in the north began 17 days ago, Hizbullah launched five Fajr-5 missiles at Israel Friday afternoon. Police officials said that long-range missiles of this type can carry a larger amount of explosives than the rockets that had been fired at Israel so far. A short while later, the IDF reported it had destroyed the rocket launcher used for firing the missiles.

The missiles landed in open areas between Afula and the Beit Shean Valley, causing no injuries.

Wikipedia says that the Fajr-5 missile has a range "75 kilometers, or 50 miles," but this is probably an overestimate (especially as 75 km is actually 46.6 miles, not 50). GlobalSecurity.org gives it a range of only 45 miles (72 km). Still, this is a substantial jump over the 10,000 Soviet/Iranian Katyusha rockets (13 mile range) and the handful of Fajr-3s (25 miles) that Hezbollah has been using; they nearly double their range with the Fajr-5s.

(Additionally, Breitbart reports that Hezbollah has fired a rocket they call a Khaibar-1 -- a made-up name taken from a famous battle at an oasis where Mohammed attacked a settlement of Jews and enslaved them. I can't find out anything about the "Khaibar-1," but it may just be Hezbollah's name for the Fajr-5; the range seems to match up, more or less.)

The point is that Hezbollah is increasing the range and payload of their rockets and missiles. Clearly, their aim is to bring all of Israel into missile range -- especially Tel Aviv, the second largest city in Israel, with a population of 380,000 (Jerusalem's population is 725,000; Haifa has only 278,000).

I'm not sure what range Hezbollah would need to target Tel Aviv, because it depends where they're firing from. According to this distance-calculating website, the distance from Beirut to Tel Aviv is 134 miles (215 km)... so they still need a substantial increase in range, between two and three times what they have now, in order to seriously threaten that city.

But clearly, the Iranians are upping Hezbollah's arsenal; and Iran has many missiles that have a longer range than 150 miles: the oldest Shahab-3, for example, has a range that exceeds 1,300 km (808 miles), and that dates back to 2003; newer models have much longer ranges. It also packs a warhead that masses over 1,000 kg. (The Shahab-3 is derived from the North Korean NoDong-1.)

I suspect it's not a question of "if" but "when" will Hezbollah be able to directly attack Tel Aviv... and it's hard to imagine them having that capability and deciding not to use it. Which brings up the third point. From NewsMax.com (which I again caution is not exactly reliable; but I do believe this piece):

Additionally, Israeli sources say a line in the sand has been drawn: If Hezbollah is "stupid" enough to attack Tel Aviv or its suburbs, "then all bets are off."

While refusing to provide more details, the Israeli warned that if Hezbollah attacked Tel Aviv then the IDF will no longer have any restraints on prospective responses.

While recent Hezbollah attacks have rocketed cities south of the port of Haifa, all have fallen far short of Tel Aviv and its environs ... for now.

U.S. diplomats had no comment.

I do not have a window into the minds of the members of Israel's security cabinet, of course; but I suspect that "all bets are off" and no "restraint on prospective responses" means that if Tel Aviv is struck, the Israeli security cabinet would vote to extend the war directly to Syria, which they just refused to do yesterday. They would also likely vote to authorize close-air support, which they've been reluctant to do due to the probability of large numbers of "civilian" casualties and the PR-hit Israel would take.

This is pure speculation on my part; but I strongly believe that if Hezbollah missiles or rockets struck Tel Aviv, the Israeli people would absolutely demand a direct attack on Syria, which is allowing such trans-shipments from Iran to Hezbollah. If the Olmert government refused, the Olmert government would likely be history, and new snap-elections would put a Likud-centered coalition back in power.

Rather than risk that, I suspect Olmert -- a former Likudnik before helping Ariel Sharon to form Kadima -- would push such an expansion through the security cabinet.

So, to recap (oops, I sound just like a Glenn Greenwald sock puppet!):

  • Hezbollah is improving its arsenal, nearly doubling the range of its missiles within the last two weeks;
  • The new missiles come from Iran, most likely trans-shipped through Syria;
  • They may soon get missiles from their patron, Iran, that have sufficient range to strike Tel Aviv;
  • If they get such missiles, Tel Aviv's safety will rely only upon the forbearance and restraint of Sheikh Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah (thought to be currently hiding in the Iranian embassy in Damascus, according to the Jerusalem Post). If such forbearance and restraint is as noticibly lacking as it has been since 1992, Tel Aviv will be struck;
  • If Tel Aviv is struck, the security cabinet is likely to vote to expand the war directly to Syria (the sourcing for this is iffy, but it's certainly not an extraordinary claim).

Thus, I would expect the expansion of the war to include Syria will occur if and only if Syria (or anyone else) allows Hezbollah to receive missiles with ranges sufficient to attack Tel Aviv. This could, of course, occur at any time, since Iran does indeed have such missiles and has shown no reluctance in the past to supply Hezbollah with weaponry to attack Israel -- a country that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmaninejad has said must be "wiped off the map," which is also a long-term policy of the ruling mullahs.

As I said, I think the expansion is a question of when, not if. The only worry is that Israel may come to its senses too late, for Syria is already preparing itself for a likely war.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 28, 2006, at the time of 3:19 PM

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The following hissed in response by: FredTownWard

I'd say your analysis is pretty sound right up until the end, Dafydd, "The only worry is that Israel may come to its senses too late, for Syria is already preparing itself for a likely war."

Uh, in what way do you see Syria "preparing itself" for a likely war? Assembling a huge arsenal of white flags? The IRANIANS are preparing themselves by working as fast as they can to get nukes, but what are the Syrians doing besides begging for ceasefires? Iran might be able to stare down or even survive a series of CONVENTIONAL Israeli air attacks although its nuke research would almost certainly suffer some damage, but Syria would get embarrassed in any sort of war with Israel, perhaps badly enough to topple the current regime both because of the loss of prestige AND the loss of military assets, the only thing keeping the regime in power at all.

I think that all that Baby Assad is preparing himself for is a successful escape if Iranian and/or Hezbollah lunacy results in the Israelis deciding to remove a potential threat while they've got a good excuse.

The above hissed in response by: FredTownWard [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 28, 2006 4:08 PM

The following hissed in response by: Papa Ray

Looking back, I recall how the defense pact that Syria and Iran agreed on was hardly covered in the news.

I wonder if at that time Syria knew that Iran was going to order the restart of the Hez-Israel conflict. I really doubt it, I think Syria is just finding out what it really means to be Iran's whore.

The terrible (but predicable) thing, is that Syria is being shoved out into the street to make the money, but from her perspective, Israel looks like a John that will wind up being a lot more trouble and pain than its worth.

Deals made with the devil usually turn out that way.

Papa Ray
West Texas

The above hissed in response by: Papa Ray [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 28, 2006 4:13 PM

The following hissed in response by: d_Brit

" The only worry is that Israel may come to its senses too late, for Syria is already preparing itself for a likely war."


Syria? Syria acts as the middleman and the real threat, the 800lb Gorilla in the room is unmentioned...

The missiles come from Iran. Until Israel takes it to the Iranians nothing is going to change. All of this is another 'hollow' Israeli victory.

When, if ever, is Israel going to wake up? When Tel Aviv is a glass parking lot?

The above hissed in response by: d_Brit [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 28, 2006 4:16 PM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

No time to lose

A good article...goes into Israel's past relationship with America during mid-east wars. Go! Stop!

"A rule of thumb in Lebanon," a member of the General Staff who fought in Lebanon said in mid-July, "is that every operation against Katyushas lasts approximately two weeks" - in 1981, 1993 and 1996. This week the general was asked what happened to the rule. I guess the finger has to be changed, he said - or whoever it's connected to.

The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 28, 2006 4:23 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

I don't know if it is a question of the Israelis coming to their senses or not. They have been dealing with threats like this for many years, they have a lot more experience in dealing with and responding to people like Hezbellah than anyone in the world, including the US. At least they are putting up a fight.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 28, 2006 4:41 PM

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