ONE OF the groups supplied by Iran is Hezbollah..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Former senior defense officials from Britain, France, Germany, Australia, Italy, Spain and the United States warn of an exceptionally dangerous conflict between Israel and Hezbollah that they believe likely will be sparked by miscalculation.
Writing as members of the High Level Military Group, the former defense chiefs say in a report released on Wednesday that the Lebanese movement has stockpiled roughly 100,000 rockets and missiles since its last conflict with Israel in 2006; acquired antitank and unmanned aerial equipment; trained its men in combat alongside Bashar Assad in Syria; and spread its military assets among virtually every Shi’ite town in southern Lebanon.
Hezbollah, they say, “has begun engaging in operations along the border and started preparations inside Lebanon which may force Israel to react.
“A new and grave conflict is only a matter of time,” they continue.
The group, which includes several former army chiefs of staff from Western nations, originally was formed in 2015 to assess Israel’s asymmetrical war in 2006 with Hezbollah, a pseudo-state actor.
Included in the group are: Gen.
Lord Richard Dannatt, former chief of staff of the British Army and member of the House of Lords; Gen. Klaus Naumann, former chief of staff of the German Bundeswehr and chairman of the NATO committee; and Col. Richard Kemp, former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan and leader of the British Joint Intelligence Committee.
“Hezbollah’s massively expanded military capabilities are embedded among the civilian population of Lebanon in what amounts to a war crime. This is also a grave indictment of the inadequacy of the UNIFIL mechanism,” said Dannatt.
“With a leadership that controls decisions of war and peace for all of Lebanon, emboldened by Iran’s backing and battlefield experience in Syria, we must work urgently to curtail Hezbollah’s activities to help avert a potentially imminent new Lebanon war.”
Naumann characterized Hezbollah as “the crown jewel in Iran’s strategy of regional warfare by terrorist proxy.”
“We need urgent pressure – not least from Europe – on all aspects of Hezbollah’s activities and on the governments of Iran and Lebanon, or we will likely see a new Lebanon war of much worse proportions than the last conflict,” Naumann said.
Their report, released at an event at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on Wednesday, theorized that Hezbollah would prioritize bringing the next war onto Israeli soil – potentially holding ground deep inside the country for a period.
Israeli officials have warned that the next war will escalate quickly because Israel will be forced to preemptively strike at Hezbollah’s massive rocket stockpiles before facing an overwhelming barrage.
The report notes that Israel’s defense forces faced broad international criticism for their conduct in 2006 despite the unique challenges they faced in that conflict.
But “the international environment has changed since the previous war,” it continues, “and a defensive assault on Hezbollah, a terror organization now strongly associated with Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, will generate initial support not only from the United States, but also from other Western countries, in addition to tacit but increasing support from the Sunni Arab world.”