"The Best Guerrilla Force in the World"
Hezbollah's irregular fighters stood off the modern Israeli army for a month in the hills of southern Lebanon thanks to extraordinary zeal and secrecy, rigorous training, tight controls over the population, and a steady flow of Iranian money to acquire effective weaponry, according to informed assessments in Lebanon and Israel.
"They are the best guerrilla force in the world," said a Lebanese specialist who has sifted through intelligence on Hezbollah for more than two decades and strongly opposes the militant Shiite Muslim movement.
Hezbollah was entrenched in friendly Shiite-inhabited villages and underground bunkers constructed in secret over several years, a withering Israeli air campaign and a tank-led ground assault were unable to establish full control over a border strip and sweep it clear of Hezbollah guerrillas -- one of Israel's main declared war aims. Largely as a result, the U.N. Security Council resolution approved unanimously Friday night fell short of the original objectives laid out by Israel and the Bush administration when the conflict began July 12.
Moreover, Hezbollah's military leadership carefully studied military history, including the Vietnam War, the Lebanese expert said, and set up a training program with help from Iranian intelligence and military officers with years of experience in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. The training was matched to weapons that proved effective against Israeli tanks, he added, including the Merkava main battle tank with advanced armor plating.
Wire-guided and laser-guided antitank missiles were the most effective and deadly Hezbollah weapons, according to Israeli military officers and soldiers. A review of Israel Defense Forces records showed that the majority of Israeli combat deaths resulted from missile hits on armored vehicles -- or on buildings where Israeli soldiers set up observation posts or conducted searches.
Most of the antitank missiles, Israeli officers noted, could be dragged out of caches and quickly fired with two- or three-man launching teams at distances of 3,200 yards or more from their targets. One of the most effective was the Russian-designed Sagger 2, a wire-guided missile with a range of 550 to 3,200 yards.
It seems very likely that Hizbullah's Iranian allies have taken these lessons to heart and are preparing a similar welcome for us should we invade Iran. I only hope that our own senior military and civilian leadership have as well. Iran is 150 times as large as Lebanon, and twenty times as populous. Moreover, it controls a very significant portion of the worlds oil and presents a serious strategic threat to the crucial straight of Hormuz.
It has been America's fate to have confronted some serious challenges during the Presidency of George Bush. He has failed miserably at most of them, but Iran dwarfs all the others.