Sunday, October 08, 2006

Preparing the Terrain?

Have the Israelis already “prepared the terrain” for a potential next round?

There is an excellent article in the New York Times that discusses facts about cluster bomb use in Lebanon. There is little to add to the piece, except from a purely military perspective. I would retain the following three facts:

1- Failure Rate

Cluster bombs tend to have a failure rate of less than 15%. They are designed to cause as much damage as possible on formations located in open areas. Those bombs are different.

The bombs dropped on Lebanon appear to have at least a 40% "failure rate". As a result, different newspaper reports now claim that between 500,000 and 1 Million unexploded devices remain in Lebanon.

A note of caution; To the best of my knowleedge, those number were first reported by an unnamed Israeli officer, who was ”quoting his battalion commander, the rocket unit head stated that the IDF fired around 1,800 cluster bombs, containing over 1.2 million cluster bomblets”. A friend of a friend of a friend... I am not sure if the other reports are based on "on the ground estimate", or on the same thing.

Whatever the true number, however, the situation remains dire in southern Lebanon; "as of October 3, 124 people had been killed or wounded by unexploded bombs". This will place more pressure on the persisting crisis...

2- Dispersion pattern: A New Road Map?

What I saw initially as inefficient, confused use of weaponry, may have been an efficient mining of Southern Lebanon, on a large scale. Add the following factors;

- Take into account the earlier minefields, of which have not been cleaned completely.

- Look at the roads of Lebanon, which show the most practicable avenues for logistics.

- And consider that the mandate of the UNIFIL is officially weak. With Hezb flexing its muscles and complicating their task, it is likely to be unable to disarm Hezb, and will have little choice but to stand by when the war comes back. And the resistance will protect us. Again.

3- The Rainy Season is Upon Us

So far, only 4,000 have been cleaned, this leaves at least 496,000 bombs that will easily sink into the ground when the rain comes. Many will then be left dormant, waiting for someone to step NEAR them. Or to be activated(?)

From a civilian standpoint, they would be worse than regular mines. From a military standpoint, mines are already obsolete.

Road Map for Invasion?

Add all these factors, and you have potential avenues for the next invasion, if and when it comes. This one will be different, however; since Hezb insists on keeping its state within the non-state, the already weak internal Lebanese consensus would have all but vanished.

When will it all re-start (Follow-Up: Oct. 10/2006)

In the meantime, however a tenuous peace will hold. But it will not last long; in an interview with Spiegel Online, The RAND Corporation's Bruce Hoffman stated that he does not feel Hezb's choice is an "'either/or-question" of it "changing into a political party [or staying] a terrorist threat".

Since the party has now "become a major regional political force", they do not feel the need to give "up their military potential", having taken "acquitted itself well against the Israelis this summer and having gained as much as they can for now: international attention, an improved standing with Shiites and even Sunnis across the Muslim world". Hoffman furhter states that Hezb is "likely to see the time right now as best used to consolidate these gains", an analysis corrobarated by thier move to impose a "National Unity" Government on Lebanon. An excellent piece in Lebanon's l'Orient Le-Jour also backs this up; A "National Unity" Government, or Else.

I also see much evidence of this in their increasingly confident displays in Beirut, well summarized by Abu Kais, particularly the unholy trinity of Aoun-Nasrallah-Berri. Aoun has gone from Liberator to Nasrallah's "إجر كرسي".The same service Geagea renders the Hariris…

By playing the squeaky wheel, Aoun may get the grease, and force Hariri to make some conciliatory moves towards the Chrisitians, but his obsession with the presidency may not be as disingenuous. The guy wants the "chair", regardless...

How the mighty have fallen… May God help Lebanon; with a party that claims His name, on est mal partis...

Stingy Bastards? (Follow-Up: Oct. 10/2006)

Fubar pointed out an interesting article; the whole thing may related to a stingy supply officer, who decided to offload some old stock.

Still, the same newspaper talks about preparation for a coming round.


R said...

Hmmm, I am sure that the cluster bombs were not thrown for no reason, especially that they were dumped in the last hours of the war. So the question "why" is definitely worth asking. It could be what you said that they are preparing the ground for something to come, but I am not so sure about that. Then again, I am no military expert. It could also be that they simply wanted the people of south Lebanon to "remember" them. "Mess with us or support HA, and this is what happens." That type of thing...

As for the Unifil being "weak". I donno about that either. There are going to be 15000 troops half of them from NATO nations, well armed. Also the interest the russians are showing in Lebanon is itself interesting. Count on foreign secret services to be running rampant in Lebanon. All this attention aimed at Lebanon is disconcerting. Add to that the reports of close to one billion dollars (albaladonline somewhere)being allocated by Kuwait and Saudi for the training and arming of the Lebanese army over the next 3 years.
Something is definitely brewing...

e said...

Every ten years or so, the Israeli generals feel a great pressure to go to war. After all, it is war that makes military careers and helps people advance. Another very important factor is that the life cycle of a weapon system is about 10-15 years. What the generals really hate is developing a new system without first testing the old one in battle. Battle is the only real test for a system.

Therefore when war happens every weapon is tested. I think what happened in the last few days was that the generals wanted to find out if the cluster bombs were effective or not. When they saw that they were not very effective, they continued firing primarily to figure out what was not working and secondarily to get rid of the old ammunition and force the question of developing a new system or purchasing the old stuff again. They will develop a new system based on the experience gained from using the old one extensively.

I am quite sure that there was no political motivation involved. Alas, Lebanon became a testing ground for cluster bomb systems just because that is where the war was fought.


Jeha said...

I see the potential weakness of the UNIFIL is not in its arsenal, but in its so far unproven ability to fight and take losses.

I see your point, but cluster bombs were designed for open areas, not where they were dropped. Also, a 40% failure rate is suspiscious.

fubar said...


40 percent failure is not suspicious, but I don't buy e's use it or lose it argument either. Maybe for a few but not wholesale use.

The cluster bombs left the area basically unusable for guerilla fighting. Tough to tip toe through the cluster bomblets in the middle of the night while trying to hide. Simple as that. Keeps everyone on the roads and cleared pathways for some time. No sneaking around at night. Easier to watch that way.

With UNIFIL in the area now, if another round breaks out, Israel will ignore the south for land invasion and jump over for any land invasion. Meanwhile, Hezbollah does not have the ability to jump over and therefore would have to get through the bomblets and UNIFIL.

So, the bomblets basically deprive Hezbollah the opportunity to rapidly rebuild (must debomb first), to sneak around at night (roads and populated areas debombed first), and to use the south as a launch pad into Israel. The bomblets cause Israel no problem should they choose to invade.

R is right to be thinking about all the interest being shown in Lebanon. The Russians, indeed. There are more spys operating in Lebanon now than probably at any time in recorded history. And not all allegiances are apparent on the surface. Some are UNIFIL, some are not. Some operate on land, some only at sea. Who is reporting to who? And what? Interesting questions.

bashir said...

"state within the non-state"
Exactly the situation and the description I was looking for.

Free Cedar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Free Cedar said...

Preparing a new invasion? Am not so sure about it. Don't really see it happening. If a second round is to happen in Lebanon, it will, sadly, most probably be a shia-sunni internal strife.
I personally can't understand at all Israel's use of cluster bombs. Perhaps they prepared to avoid or limit a second front of conflict in case of war with the Syrian neighbor.
Or limit HA's reach to the border if a strike, from the US, against Iran is to happen.

Katrin said...

The invasion has taken place. Not by the Israeli but by Iran/Hezbollah. Syria is waiting at the gates.

But just go ahead phantasizing about Israel. It's your country and your future. If you chose to speculate about the wrong enemy, don't complain that democracy is burried when the whole thing is messed up.

Jeha said...

Fubar, R,

My suspicions is that the Israelis seem to be "hedging" their bets. As Von Moltke said it; "The best plans never survive the first contact with the ennemy". It appears they have adjusted their earlier plans, and apparently taken steps that will result in either facilitating a future invasion, or provoking a civil war.


It may be worse than this; we are not much occupied by Iran as a battlefield between forces beyond our comprehension. We do not really have ennemies in this fight; we're passive, basically a doormat to others. Even Syria may not be really in a position to "wait at the gates"; their regime is in it deep, and busy digging itself deeper.

Free Cedar,

The civil war we fear may have already started, in a sort of "cold civil war". The bombing has succeded in rendering the South inhospitable to more than subsistence economies. One immediate effect on a ruined country is the fact that meagre resources will be now be diverted to cleaning up the mess, thus raising tensions among an already divided population.

Katrin said...

We do not really have ennemies in this fight; we're passive, basically a doormat to others.

Only if you allow them to be used as a doormat, no? You've hit the nail, though. Since outbreak of the war I was puzzled why Lebanese were so helpless, yes, passive.

Neither UNIFIL nor anybody else will be able to help you unless you don't take a determined position against those who don't respect democratic rules. In my opinion the invitation of Hezbollah into government has proven to be a grave mistake. You can't embrace undemocratic elements without finally loosing democracy.

Even Syria may not be really in a position to "wait at the gates"; their regime is in it deep, and busy digging itself deeper.

It's been pushed at the gates by Lebanon and UN. Even though it seems that it still likes blowing up your politicians and journalists, and blame the Mossad, it's a lot less inside than it used to be.

What I meant is Assad is waiting to come back as Lebanon's saviour just like his father did once.

Jeha said...


Essentially, I agree with you.

As each Leader runs to their own tribal corner of Lebanon, people are "resisting" by remaining "passive", or leaving. The net result is that we end up being a doormat to all. That is, until new leaders emerge; I feel that those who lead the different communities are "burnt out"; they are now pigeonholed in roles that they cannot grow out of.

Assad may be waiting to "come back", but he made too many mistakes and reneged on too many deals. Syria could still get back after some adjustments in its regime makeup, but Assad has been clever enough to eliminate serious contenders.

Sophia said...

The cluster bombs were given or sold to Israel by the US (it is all the same because even when they are sold to israel they are paid with money donations form the US). It is known that they expired since they are part of an arsenal dating back to the Vietnam war era. This might explain their failure rate.
And another explanation to their massive use is that the US wanted to get rid of them in an 'efficient' way...Over Lebanese bodies...

fubar said...

Anonymous said...


Fast track. Certain types of linguists in hot demand.

Just something to consider...