- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Israel’s offensive against Hezbollah is sure to be among the most formidable military challenges the country has ever faced. While the Israeli military is among the best in the world, it is facing an armed organization with upwards of 1,000 hardened fighters and 15,000 reservists — terrorists who have embedded themselves among Lebanon’s civilian population.

During the six years since Israel unilaterally withdrew from southern Lebanon, Hezbollah has dug dozens of bunkers, some as much as 130 feet deep in order to withstand the impact of Israel’s bunker-buster bombs. They are fitted with supplies and communications equipment enabling operatives to remain in contact with headquarters and stay below ground. In addition, this armed terror group possesses unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as 13,000 rockets and missiles, and its operations are assisted on the ground by Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Moreover, even as Israel destroys Hezbollah’s weapons, Iran and Syria are apparently replenishing Hezbollah’s arsenal by sending in supplies through the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon.

When all is said and done, for Israel’s military offensive to be a success, it will need to result in the destruction of Hezbollah as a fighting force capable of menacing Israel from Lebanese territory. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Sunday the goal is to have Hezbollah disarmed either by Israel or an international force. Given the fact that no international force actually exists at the present time, it is up to Israel to do the job.

The United States and other nations that are serious about defeating Islamofascism have a vital interest in helping Israel succeed in crippling Hezbollah and should be generous in providing Israel with what it needs to get the job done. Only if Israel prevails decisively on the battlefield and a mechanism is utilized to prevent Tehran and Damascus from replacing HezboIlah’s weaponry could an international force (which will have to be a far more serious entity than the ineffectual UNIFIL) actually have a realistic chance of overseeing Hezbollah’s disarmament. We will analyze this subject in more detail in future editorials.

One positive result of the Israeli offensive has been a Lebanese backlash against Hezbollah. According to Michael Young, editorial page editor of the Beirut Daily Star, the Lebanese (including many Shi’ites in private conversation) blame Hezbollah and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, for triggering the current violence and the hardships they are now enduring. Writing in the British Spectator magazine, Mr. Young said that one Lebanese politician told him privately that Israel must not stop its military campaign now, saying, “for things to get better in Lebanon, Nasrallah must be weakened further.” We agree, and people should keep this in mind when evaluating whether calls for artificial deadlines on Israel make any sense at all.

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