10 25, 2017

PRESENTATION OF THE HLMG REPORT: "Hizballah's Terror Army: How to Prevent a Third Lebanon War"

On October 25 the report was presented to the U.S. Congress, and was presented in a public event hosted by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Early this year, the High Level Military Group (HLMG), a widely successful project sponsored by the Friends of Israel Initiative, decided to assess the Hizballah’s threat to Israel and how Israel is prepared to confront a new escalation of hostilities. Reasons abound to be worried about a Third Lebanon war bearing in mind the evolution in Syria, and, above all, the Iranian interest in keeping the pressure on Israel through its proxy.

Last March, the HLMG went on a fact-finding mission to Israel, gaining an unprecedented level of access — as happened  in 2015, when the HLMG studied Operation Protective Edge. As a result, HLMG members visited training camps of Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) for urban warfare and toured the Syrian and Lebanon border. They were briefed by top level military officials in the IDF commands involved in the planning of an eventual engagement against Hizballah (the Northern Command, the Air Force, the Navy, the Home Front Command, the Intelligence, and the International Law Department.) The HLMG also met with Israel’s Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense in order to get firsthand information regarding the Hizballah’s threat.

To the original members, the HLMG has enrolled prestigious new members this year like General Lord Richard Dannatt, former Chief of the General Staff of the United Kingdom, and U.S. Lieutenant General Michael Barbero, former director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO).

In the mission, the HLMG was informed that, since the end of the 2006 Lebanon war, Hizballah has amassed 100,000 missiles (including mid- and long-range) and has also acquired game-changing, Russian-made, Yakhont anti-ship missiles (able to attack Israeli ships) nuclear facilities (as Hassan Nasrallah threatened last month) and gas fields in the sea. According to intelligence sources, Hizballah is also equipped with Iran-made Mohajer-4 drones.

The HLMG could clearly observe that if Hizballah starts again a massive launch of missiles against Israel, the IDF will face an asymmetric conflict against an enemy who fights inside urban populations and takes advantage of it. The IDF procedures and strategic planning, as observed by the HLMG, show that Israeli forces are well prepared to minimize civilian causalities and to fully abide by the rules of engagement established by the Laws of Armed Conflict — just as it has done in the past.

The HLMG learnt about the new military capabilities of Hizballah, and in its report underlined the devastating level of violence that a new conflict will entail. Long-range and very accurate missiles could now target most of Israel’s vital infrastructure and population centers. Furthermore, given the intertwined relationship between Hizballah and the Lebanese Armed Forces as well as the political influence of Hizballah in Lebanon, the HLMG came to the conclusion that keeping separate Hizbollah militias from the rest of the Lebanese State, will make very difficult for Israel to wage an effective campaign.

The Report: Presentations in Washington DC

The final report “Hizballah’s Terror Army: How to Prevent a Third War in Lebanon” (download here) is an invaluable tool to help Israel internationally in case of a new war against Hizballah. It not only raises awareness about Hizballah’s threat as part of Iran’s plan to dominate the Middle East and to destroy Israel, but also points to the viable military option the IDF must contemplate in order to achieve any victory over Hizballah. The report also offers recommendations for the international community to prevent the break-out of hostilities.

In order to present the major findings and to engage those responsible of the region, the HLMG has planned a series of private and public presentation in the US and Europe. On October 25 the report was presented to the U.S. Congress, and was presented in a public event hosted by  the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

The HLMG members General Klaus von Naumann, General Lord Richard Dannatt, General David A. Deptula and Colonel Richard Kemp briefed about the HLMG findings on Hizballah to Members of the U.S. Congress hosted by Rep. Michael McCaul (R- Texas) Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D – Maryland) member of the Committee on Appropriations and Congressman Rep. Joe Wilson (R- South Carolina) member of the Foreign Affairs and Armed Service Committees.

The briefing was attended by a broad group of lawmakers such as Rep. Scott Perry (R – Pennsylvania), Rep. Ron Estes (R – Kansas), Rep. Will Hurd (R – Texas), Rep. John Rutherford (R – Florida), Rep. Jaqueline Walorski (R – Indiana), Rep. Mike Gallagher (R – Wisconsin), Rep. Randy Weber (R – Texas), Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R – Missouri), and Rep. Clay Higgins (R- Louisiana).

The HLMG delegation warned in the Hill that a Third Lebanon War can still be avoided, raised awareness about the Iran’s involvement in Lebanon, and highlighted how Israel is preparing for an eventual unconventional conflict. General Naumann stated that Hizballah is “the crown jewel in Iran’s strategy of regional warfare by terrorist proxy.” General Lord Dannatt alerted the audience that “Hizballah’s massively expanded military capabilities are embedded among the civilian population of Lebanon in what amounts to a war crime. This is also a grave indictment of the inadequacy of the UNIFIL mechanism”.

In the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, General Klaus von Naumann, General Lord Richard Dannatt and Colonel Richard Kemp explained the key findings of the High-Level Military Group; the panel was conducted by the worldwide expert on Hizballah Mathew Levitt. During the presentation, the HLMG members outlined urgent steps for avoiding a highly destructive new conflict with Israel. Lord General Dannatt highlighted that Hizballah's firepower is centered on its rocket force of 100.000 rockets, some with accurate range up to 200-km and large payloads. General Naumann warned that Hizballah is rearming in plain sight and preparing to commit serious war crimes in any conflict with Israel. Colonel Kemp asserted that the West has the opportunity to stop a war before it starts. The whole event was broadcasted live on streaming, and it can be watched here.

Thanks to this project, Friends of Israel Initiative has been able to provide information decision makers and experts on the danger of a third Lebanon War and to alert that the time to prevent it is running out. Considering the difficult international position of the IDF in case of a war against Hizballah, these actions will help Israel’s case in support of its right to self-defense in the international arena.

Media impact

The event at the Washington Institute was broadcasted live (watch here). Both Gral. Dannatt and Naumman published the same day an op-ed at The Hill, detailing the major findings of the Report. The launc of the report and its main conclusions were echoed by the Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, and the Baltimore Post-Examiner, among other global newspapers.

New articles will appear in Europe around the events that are presently scheduled there, starting with London, Paris and Berlin.