Analysts are starting to worry about the rise in Hezbollah’s power with the support of Iran and Russia operating in Syria. One article in particular discusses the next northern war that will feature Hezbollah launching missiles to provoke a response, then hide their assets in civilian territory and let Israel try to operate in that tough environment. Then Hezbollah would likely use resulting negative media coverage to delegitimize Israeli’s offensive operations and further isolate them in international community. I agree with this analyst as this is a tactic that terrorists and seemingly willing international observers have used to attack American actions.
For example, civilian casualties mounted in the City of Mosul as a result of the ongoing war with ISIS and its dense civilian population. Describing the ruins of what used to be a prosperous city and a dramatic battle was newsworthy. But the focus of the media resulted in a blatant double standard as civil rights groups attacked American airstrikes, but failed to condemn the war crimes of terrorists that led to the battle in the first place. The UN war crimes investigators concluded that Bashar al-Assad used sarin nerve gas over 20 times in the past four years, killing at least 83 civilians. The investigators also attacked the U.S. for its supposedly reckless attacks on civilians, particularly an airstrike in Mosul that killed 83. This shows an organization that is largely impotent, except in myopic moral condemnation that can’t distinguish between a brutal dictator gassing dissidents and a democratic power fighting thugs and rapists while attempting to follow the rules of war.
But I strongly questioned the author’s analysis of what the analyst called “game changing missiles.” The link in his article is interesting as there is no evidence or pictures presented. It is simply the puffing that comes from a charged political rally among likeminded radicals. The claims are so vague that I couldn’t even find what missile Hezbollah is supposedly using to change the game. At least in cases of Chinese fear-mongering there are some hard numbers such as speed and range that can be assessed. Syria does have SM-300 missile sites, but these are defensive surface-to-air missiles placed by the Russian military, not surface-to-surface missiles obtained by Hezbollah used to attack Israel. Another article claims that Hezbollah has large numbers of the Fateh 110 missile supplied by Iran. This missile has a longer range and more accuracy that can target the Israeli power grid, and they can fire ten times as many as they did in the 2006 war. Yet this article’s only primary source was a member of Hezbollah and the rest was fear-mongering analysis that didn’t take into account advances in Israeli interceptor technology.
Israel continues to upgrade its Iron Dome technology by increasing capacity and adding the Tamir interceptor. It already has an amazing 85 percent interception rate which will likely increase with the upgrades. They don’t rely on a single system, and the Israeli’s multi-layered defenses have added the Arrow 3 interceptors as well. The Arrow 3 enables longer range, higher altitude (exo-atmospheric) and more precise ballistic missile engagements. This shows that for whatever advances in accuracy Hezbollah fields, the Israelis counter with advances in the accuracy of interceptors. While unsuccessful this year, they also continue to test new upgrades for the Sling system. And these are land-based interceptors that don’t include the reportedly combat ready F-35s and other platforms.
Needless to say, I tend to trust the verifiable upgrades of multi-layered missile defense systems from a military with a proven track record over the unverified boasting of terrorist leaders uncritically accepted by analysis. Israel has a right to be concerned about heavily armed terrorist groups on its border with the potential to launch thousands of missiles a day on their population. But they have numerous reasons to believe that the game hasn’t changed, it has simply featured upgrades and counter upgrades.