The Mistakes Hezbollah Made

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The Washington Post has a long article dissecting the war in Lebanon and the terrible miscalculations that Hezbollah made all along the way. In the long run, the terror group was able to survive, but at enormous cost.

BEIRUT — The meeting on July 12 was tense, tinged with desperation. A few hours earlier, in a brazen raid, Hezbollah guerrillas had infiltrated across the heavily fortified border and captured two Israeli soldiers. Lebanon's prime minister summoned Hussein Khalil, an aide to Hezbollah's leader, to his office at the Serail, the palatial four-story government headquarters of red tile and colonnades in Beirut's downtown.

"What have you done?" Prime Minister Fouad Siniora asked him.

Khalil reassured him, according to an account by two officials briefed by Siniora, one of whom later confirmed it with the prime minister. "It will calm down in 24 to 48 hours."

More technocrat than politician, Siniora was skeptical. He pointed to the Gaza Strip, which Israeli forces had stormed after Palestinian militants abducted a soldier less than three weeks earlier. Israeli warplanes had blasted bridges and Gaza's main power station.

Calmly, Khalil looked at him. "Lebanon is not Gaza," he answered.

What followed was a 33-day war, the most devastating chapter in Lebanon's history since the civil war ended in 1990, as Hezbollah unleashed hundreds of missiles on Israel and the Israeli military shattered Lebanon's infrastructure and invaded its south. Nearly three months later, parts of the country remain a shambles and tens of thousands are still homeless as winter approaches.

There are some startling admissions here. Hezbollah failed to evacuate civilians leading to greatly increased loss of life. They say, apparently, that the failures occurred because they did not foresee the retaliation. But regardless of the reason, they are admitting they did not act and caused civilian deaths. There is also an interesting point made. The cross-border raid and kidnapping of two soldiers that prompted the war are totally out of character for Hezbollah, according to one long-time watcher of them.

Goksel, the former spokesman for the U.N. force, has watched Hezbollah's evolution since its incarnation in the wake of Israel's devastating 1982 invasion of Lebanon. He recalled an incident in 2001-02, more than a year after the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon. In two locales near the border, Khiam in the east and on the road to Naqoura on the coast, Hezbollah brought out excavation equipment and trucks, hauling away dirt. Men hung around, looking suspicious. And over as many as six months, in plain sight, tunnels were dug into the limestone of rugged southern Lebanon.

"We were meant to see these things," he said. "They were not making any effort to stop us looking."

At the time, he said he now believes, Hezbollah, farther from view, was digging other tunnels around Labouna, Aita al-Shaab and Maroun al-Ras, all along the Israeli border, that they employed for ambush and cover in combat to sometimes devastating effect during this summer's war.

"Looking back, they really fooled us on that one," Goksel added.


"They don't attempt adventures. They're not adventurous types," Goksel said. In every operation, they would project "what it means for Shiites, what it means for the party, what it means for Lebanon, what it means for Syria."

He paused. "One wonders if that process collapsed somehow," he said.

Note also the uselessness of the UN peacekeepers in stopping any of the Hezbollah activities prior to the war. Hezbollah built and fortified positions in plain sight of the UN. Even the Nasrallah dismisses it, it would seem obvious that Hezbollah was following orders. Many people, myself included, strongly believe Hezbollah was doing Iran's bidding as part of a proxy war meant to distract the world from Iran's nuclear weapons program.

It is a long article, but has a number of interesting items in it.

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