Saturday, January 03, 2009

Israeli Ground Attack

So when sun started to set, Israeli Army initiated the ground attack on Gaza on Saturday, January 03, 2009. The idea to start the attack in evening was to exploit the full ‘night visibility’ of a modern Israeli army compared to low-tech Hamas warriors. Early reports say that at least 30 Hamas worriers have died and Hamas claims that some Israeli soldiers have died too. It is unlikely that Israel would not take any casualties. Those are bound to happen. But Israel for ‘media management’ reasons would not come up with the news early. It is all psychological warfare. So much is indicated equally by the NYT reporter Taghreed El-Khodary as reported on CNN. (She is doing one hell of a reporting job, reminding Christina Amanpur who years back did the job in Bush’s Iraq war.) However, Israeli leadership is fully aware of the hard course ahead. Ehud Barak was explicit in his TV speech. There is the element of setting the correct tone compared to Israeli’s Hezbullah war two years back. Israel leadership is eager to demonstrate that it has learned the lessons of past wars; hence such upfront talk. Of course, we expect world to have learned lessons from the NeoCon follies of Paul Wolfowitz and the gang when they promised Baghdad with roses at the start of the last Iraq war. Tough and straight talk by Israeli leadership aside, we will see what military lessons Israel has internalized by looking at the end result of this war.

In these early days of the ground attack, Israel may find some military success. From the point of view of political window; that is the best chance. If Israel forces inflict quick and fatal blows to Hamas, that may give Israel something to bargain with. Any delay in achieving military effectiveness of this attack will start biting Israel. In these asymmetrical warfare, longer war / ground attack is generally not a good sign for the overwhelming force, in this case that is Israel.

Israeli objectives could be:
- to destroy locations of rocket launch pads in the northern part of Gaza or
- force Hamas to accept truce with international monitoring (which is kind of getting right attention globally) or
- to destroy Hamas ability to rule Gaza so that Gaza sovereignty can be passed back to PLO / Fatah / Abbas.
Success of Israeli ground attack will be determined against these goal posts. Next 3 to 4 days will determine if Israel is any nearer that or once again has to bite the dust. As some smart commentator said on Jerusalem Post – ultimately a war is not won by number of targets destroyed or number of enemies killed. It is won by attaining the political objectives.

Another thread to track while this ground attack unfolds is if Israel faces rocket attacks from the Northern front with implicit backing of Hezbullah. It is unlikely that Hezbullah, Syria and Iran will commit such a mistake to loose all the gains Hezbullah has attained over years. Such an attack will be a mistake because the sole purpose a new front can have is to loosen up Israeli grip on Gaza and the suffering of Hamas. Northern attack is not going to win anything for Hamas. On the other hand not only Israel will not loose an opportunity to flex it’s military might on both fronts; world opinion will go with Israel – the classic situation of 67 war; the brave Israel fighting against all side mischief. So the war will be restricted to Gaza only. In strategic terms, it is much more beneficial to enemies of Israel to get a result where it is seen that Israel could not wipe off Gaza in a restricted war. In that sense, the scope of this conflict will remain Gaza only.

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