yaacov amidror 88.
(photo credit: )
Israel went to war to remove Hizbullah's strategic missile threat on the Jewish state's northern border. Hizbullah has kept Israel hostage to its missile threat for the past six years, during which the terror group has transformed itself into a highly effective deterrent force. Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah decided to ignite the northern front 16 days ago on the assumption that Israeli war jitters would prevent the IDF from responding with its full might.
But while Israel is at war only to eliminate the acute strategic threat of some 13,000 to 15,000 short- and longer-range Iranian and Syrian missiles pointed at its major cities, this Israeli campaign must also achieve three additional and necessary outcomes that have far-reaching implications for the future of the Middle East region and the free world.
First, an Israeli victory over Hizbullah - meaning the uprooting of Hizbullah as an armed force that has become an army within an army - may offer the Lebanese people another window of opportunity to become a democratic sovereign state free from the fear and tyranny Syria and Iran, via Hizbullah, have imposed on it. That important process had picked up speed after the murder by Syrian operatives of Lebanese president Rafik Hariri last summer, followed by the million-person demonstration for freedom in Beirut's Martyrs' Square and the removal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.
HOWEVER, Lebanese prospects for freedom were stopped dead in their tracks as Hizbullah, backed by Syrian and Iranian patrons, remained the strongest armed force in the country - in direct contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls for both the disarming of all foreign militias in Lebanon and the removal of all foreign forces other than the Lebanese Army.
Moreover, several hundred members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards have remained in Lebanon as advisers and trainers of terror activity, including the launching of various Iranian medium-range rockets and the maintaining of Iranian Zelzal long-range missiles.
The uprooting of Hizbullah terror forces and their Iranian and Syrian advisers from Lebanon and the imposition of effective security arrangements by the international community must thus prevent the Iranian and Syrian return to the status quo ante in Lebanon.
Only this will allow Lebanon to move toward freedom, "normality" and stability within the international state system.
THE SECOND necessary byproduct of Israel's war against Hizbullah is the ripple effect it will have on the international axis of radical Sunni and Shi'ite Islamic networks. Radical Islam is nurtured by its perceived successes, as it is poisoned by its perceived failures. Unfortunately, since the 1979 Iranian revolution, and particularly following the defeat of Soviet forces by al-Qaida in Afghanistan in 1989, radical Islam has felt "well fed" by its successes against the West.
Osama bin Laden is alive and has been in command since the al-Qaida attacks of September 11. The United States is bogged down in Iraq. Al-Qaida scored qualitative hits in London and Madrid, and even caused a change of government in the Spanish elections.
Moreover, Israel's unilateral retreat from Lebanon in May 2000 was considered a major victory by Hizbullah, providing important encouragement to Yasser Arafat, who based his Intifada 2000 strategy on Hizbullah's terror war of attrition in Lebanon from 1982 to 2000.
Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in September 2005 was also clearly understood by the Palestinians as a vindication of the Hamas terror group's actions, and this led in no small part to the Hamas electoral victory in January this year. The Muslim Brotherhood has since refortified itself in Egypt and Jordan.
Indeed the West, in the mind of radical Islam, really does appear "weaker than a spider's web," to quote Nasrallah.
Therefore, and in no uncertain terms, the Israeli counteroffensive in Lebanon is one of the last stations at which the seeming runaway train of radical Islam can be stopped or certainly slowed in its tracks.
The West and radical Islam have reached a dramatic, yet still undetermined, turning point: An Israeli victory over Hizbullah would send a critically important signal to the American and Iraqi government forces fighting the radical insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan; to the Hamas terrorists in Gaza; and to its leadership and Syrian hosts in Damascus. An Israeli failure would have the opposite effect, strengthening Hamas's terror operations and radical Islamic groups in Europe, and increasing the threats against Jordan, Egypt and other Arab countries.
THE THIRD critical byproduct of a successful Israeli campaign would be a blow to Iran.
Israel must neutralize Teheran's strategic weapon - Hizbullah - which has been a lever by which Teheran could threaten to ignite the Middle East at will.
But aside from Iran's missile arsenal, Hizbullah is the most flammable match in Iran's weapons cache: If Israel can destroy the Hizbullah missile threat from Lebanon, Iran will have lost a key strategic deterrent weapon in which it has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in weaponry, infrastructure, training, command and control in order to "light up" the Middle East.
The stakes in the current war are very high, both for Israel and the free world. A victory would mean that radical Islam is sent an important message that red lines have been crossed and the free world will not hesitate to engage and defeat what is considered by many to be the most powerful and threatening Islamic terror axis.
However, if Israel is forced into a cease-fire before it has physically neutered Hizbullah - thereby isolating Iran and Syria's major command and control terror center - the implications for Israel, the Middle East and the free world could be devastating.
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Ya'akov Amidror, former head of the IDF Intelligence Assessment Division, is currently director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Dan Diker, defense and foreign policy analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, also serves as Knesset correspondent and analyst for Israel Television's Channel 1 English News.