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7 Jan, 2024 18:16

US spies believe Israel wouldn't defeat Hezbollah – WaPo

The IDF would be spread too thin if it attempted to fight a war on two fronts, American agents reportedly believe
US spies believe Israel wouldn't defeat Hezbollah – WaPo

A secret assessment from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in Washington has found that Israeli forces would find it “difficult to succeed” in a two-front war against Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have engaged in tit-for-tat exchanges of fire with Hezbollah militants since the start of the war with Hamas in October. Initially limited in scale, Hezbollah's pounding of an Israeli intelligence base with missiles on Saturday in response to Israel assassinating a senior Hamas leader in Beirut several days earlier, has marked a significant escalation.  

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to make a “fundamental change” to the security situation along the Lebanese border, American officials have privately warned him against opening a second front, the Washington Post reported.

“If it were to do so, a new secret assessment from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) found that it will be difficult for Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to succeed because its military assets and resources would be spread too thin given the conflict in Gaza,” citing two anonymous officials and a classified report by the DIA.

Israel’s military is relatively small in peacetime, relying on reservists to swell its ranks in times of conflict. The IDF called up around 360,000 reservists when the war with Hamas began, although a senior Israeli official told Reuters last week that an undisclosed number would soon be released from duty.

Amid this drawdown, Hezbollah has been open about its role in the conflict. The group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, claimed in November that his forces had tied up around a third of Israel’s troops along the Israel-Lebanon border, preventing them from being deployed to Gaza. He added that Hezbollah’s continued skirmishes with the IDF were causing “a state of anxiety, anticipation, panic, and fear among the enemy's political and military leadership.”

Multiple US officials told the Washington Post that they fear Netanyahu may attack Hezbollah in order to save his political career. The Israeli leader faced widespread protests before the start of the war, and was criticized afterwards for failing to pre-empt Hamas’ October 7 assault, which left around 1,200 Israelis dead.

“A full-scale conflict between Israel and Lebanon would surpass the bloodshed of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war on account of Hezbollah’s substantially larger arsenal of long-range and precision weaponry,” the paper stated, citing officials who also warned that the militant group could launch missile attacks on Israeli petrochemical plants and nuclear reactors. 

Washington also fears that such a conflict could draw in Iran – Hezbollah’s principal backer – and eventually the US, the paper’s sources said. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Jordan on Sunday, ahead of visits to Israel, the West Bank, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. “We have an intense focus on preventing this conflict from spreading,” he said, before meeting Jordanian King Abdullah II and Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi.