Israel has argued that the war against Hezbollah’s rocket arsenal was a defensive response to the Shi’ite organization’s threat to Israeli security, but the evidence points to a much more ambitious objective – the weakening of Iran’s deterrent to an attack on its nuclear sites.
In planning for the destruction of most of Hezbollah’s arsenal and prevention of any resupply from Iran, Israel appears to have hoped to eliminate a major reason the US administration had shelved the military option for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program – the fear that Israel would suffer massive casualties from Hezbollah’s rockets in retaliation for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
One leading expert on Israeli national-defense policy issues believes the aim of the Israeli campaign against Hezbollah was to change the US administration’s mind about attacking Iran. Edward Luttwak, senior adviser to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, says administration officials have privately dismissed the option of air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities in the past, citing estimates that a Hezbollah rocket attack in retaliation would kill thousands of people in northern Israel.
But Israeli officials saw a war in Lebanon to destroy Hezbollah’s arsenal and prevent further resupply in the future as a way to eliminate that objection to the military option, says Luttwak.
The risk to Israel of launching such an offensive was that it would unleash the very rain of Hezbollah rockets on Israel that it sought to avert. But Luttwak believes the Israelis calculated that they could degrade Hezbollah’s rocket forces without too many casualties by striking preemptively.
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