Vol. 6, No. 9 August 23, 2006
- Instead of the war being about Israel’s right of self-defense, Hizballah was able to turn it around so that the issue on the international agenda became Israel’s destruction of Lebanon. Israel should have been seen as the victim. We were being attacked. We were the ones who fulfilled all of the requirements of the game. We were true to the international border, we restrained ourselves, we held back. Why should it be that once we start attacking, we immediately start to lose in the diplomatic arena? Because Nasrallah and his patrons in Iran successfully integrated the “ABCs” of public diplomacy into their long-term strategic war doctrine.
Nasrallah ordered his men to remove their uniforms and blend into the population and continue to fight from within the population. In this way, when Israel attacks Hizballah, the scene is one of Israel moving against what appears to be a civilian population, even though rockets fired from these villages are striking Israel. Attacks on what looks like civilian targets can then be called “crimes against humanity” and “war crimes.”
Israel now faces the “special forces” of the Iranian military, the best guerilla warfare units, in front-line positions. The whole concept of how they operate on the battlefield and in public diplomacy is directed by Iran. Over the last twenty-five years Iran has gradually created a global network, first forming an axis with Syria and then building up Hizballah, with Lebanon serving as a regional theater, part of Iran’s global design in its confrontation with the West.
Israel had been operating on the assumption that Hizballah was a terrorist organization like Hamas or the PLO that had to be neutralized in order to bring about stability. But these are not merely terrorist gangs. This is an army – a well-trained, well-organized, and ideologically indoctrinated guerilla army – and Israel did not make that point strongly enough at the beginning of the war, neither to the world, nor to itself.
The conflict with Hizballah in Lebanon is a testing ground – like Spain in 1936 – for weapons, tactics, and doctrine of how Iran is going to fight the war when it comes to confront the West. Hizballah in south Lebanon with its 13,000 missiles represents a front-line position of Iran. Not surprisingly, Nasrallah reportedly found refuge in the Iranian embassy in Beirut when his underground headquarters came under Israel Air Force bombardment.
From the minute Israel left Lebanon in May 2000, Iran began to implement its initial plan for a takeover of Lebanon by Hizballah. First, it got into the political system and then from within it is trying to take over. Israel struck over two thousand Hizballah targets, and not only in south Lebanon. Hizballah is fully deployed in south Lebanon, Beirut, the Bekaa Valley, and on the border with Syria. By looking at the targets that Israel struck, one can see the extent of the Hizballah takeover.
Changing Perceptions: From a Theater of War to a Crime Scene
Public diplomacy for any country, not just Israel, has gone global. While the conflict may be determined in local terms, such as Israel’s fight against Hizballah, the ramifications of the action itself are global in nature. Therefore, public diplomacy must be geared toward the global scene.