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Cablegate: Defense Intelligence Chief: Israel Is Changing

Carol X Weakley 07/27/2006 01:03:55 PM From DB/Inbox: Carol X Weakley


S E C R E T TEL AVIV 02893




DE RUEHTV #2893/01 2061901
O 251901Z JUL 06

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 TEL AVIV 002893


E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/25/2016

Classified By: Ambassador Richard H. Jones for reasons 1.4 (b,d).

1. (S) Summary: Chief of Defense Intelligence (CDI) MG Amos
Yadlin told U.S. Representatives Peter Hoekstra, Jane Harman,
Rick Renzi, and Darrell Issa, Chairman and members of the
House Permanent Select committee on Intelligence,
respectively, and the Ambassador July 22 that the GOI's
military goals in Lebanon are: to teach Hizballah the proper
"calculus" in its determining whether to engage Israel in the
future; to weaken Hizballah militarily and as an
organization; and, to change the security situation on the
northern border in such a way as to diminish the likelihood
of future attacks against Israel. He warned that long-range
missile attacks on Tel Aviv are still possible. Yadlin
asserted that Syria continues to supply missiles to Hizballah
and confirmed that he had sent warnings to the SARG via his
"channels". He explained that the initial conflict between
two schools of thought within the GOI over whether to attack
the GOL or Hizballah and the compromise that was reached to
focus on Hizballah, but not to let it hide behind the
civilians aiding it. End Summary.

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GOI's Goals in Hizballah Conflict

2. (S) Chief of Defense Intelligence MG Amos Yadlin
emphasized to Codel Hoekstra July 22 that the situation with
Hizballah is serious, but he made the point of referring to
the conflict as a (large) military operation not a war.
Yadlin said that Hizballah interpreted Israel's 2000
withdrawal from Lebanon as weakness and has been trying to
provoke Israel ever since then. He said that Israel had
foiled three attacks by Hizballah in the north, including the
failed attack in November 2005 on Ghajjar. The GOI's goal
now, he said, is to change the "balance of deterrence" with
Lebanon and Hizballah. Through its military campaign, Yadlin
claimed, Israel had re-established its deterrence vis-a-vis
Hizballah. Israel is now engaged in a conflict with a
"circle of evil," he said, stretching from Beirut to
Damascus, that uses terror and what he termed WMD to pursue
its goals. Yadlin said that the GOI's current military goals
are: to teach Hizballah the proper "calculus," meaning risk
assessment, in planning any future attacks against Israel; to
weaken Hizballah both militarily and as an organization; and,
to change the security situation on the northern border in
such a way as to diminish the likelihood of any future
attacks against Israel.

3. (S) Yadlin stressed that the GOI also has the goal of
eroding Hizballah leader Nasrallah's personal myths,
including that he has defeated Israel and that he is
Lebanon's protector. Nasrallah has failed to understand that
the post-intifada Israeli public is less willing to yield to
terrorists than before, Yadlin said. It is true, he said,
that Israel does not want to return to Lebanon, but, he
added, that if need be, Israel will break what he termed the
myth that Israel will not return. Yadlin asserted Hizballah
had "lied" by claiming that the IDF killed only seven of its
fighters, when, according to Yadlin, the number is closer to
70-100. Yadlin asserted that the IDF "could go to Beirut and
drag Nasrallah out of his bunker, but we won't." He added
that the IDF is weakening Hizballah as an organization at all
levels. A weakened Hizballah, Yadlin said, will change the
political balance of power within Lebanon and set the stage
for renewed diplomacy under new rules of the game.

Current Operational Context

4. (S) Hizballah had been planning for this operation for
years, Yadlin asserted, adding that Hizballah has built
bunkers, placed IED's and installed four tiers of missiles
throughout South Lebanon. Yadlin said that in order of
increasing range these tiers include: various types of
Katyushas; Iranian Fajr 3 and 5 missiles, as well as similar
302 mm rockets from Syria; Nazad 6 and 10 missiles from Iran;
and Zelzal 1,2 and 3 missiles, and, perhaps, Fatah 110
missiles, also from Iran. Israel has hit the longer-range
missile tiers hard, he said, but added that Israel cannot
guarantee that they have all been destroyed. He said that
Hizballah missile launches against Tel Aviv and the Dan
region of Israel are still possible. Any such attacks, he
said, would lead to real pressure to attack Lebanon as a
state. Yadlin noted that the IDF has been surprised that
Hizballah has made so little use of the Fajr 3 missiles and
not fired a Zelzal. He speculated that Hizballah has not
done so due to the IDF's preemption efforts, or, perhaps,
because Iran had not given them permission. He said he could
not rule out future attacks. In response to a Codel query,
Yadlin said that the Iranian missiles fall between the cracks
of IDF's defensive system. He noted that they fly too low
for the Arrow and the Patriot systems to attack them. He
added that those missiles are also too large for a laser
defense even if Israel had one. In this case, Yadlin
remarked that "the best defense is a good offense."

5. (S) Yadlin said that thus far, the IDF had not really
struck at Lebanon's infrastructure, e.g. electricity sources,
fuel distribution, and transportation networks have been left
untouched. He said that the IDF has only really hit bridges
and the airport. He underlined that the IDF cannot rule out
a more aggressive action, such as larger scale land
operations, in the future. Yadlin explained that right after
the July 12 Hizballah cross-border attack, the GOI considered
two possible responses: (1) To attack Lebanon as a state for,
what Yadlin termed, its failure to curb Hizballah. Yadlin
noted that Hizballah had become a member of the government,
and asserted that Lebanese PM Siniora had lost his earlier
determination against Hizballah. (2) To attack Hizballah
directly, which was much harder from a military perspective.
Yadlin said that the GOI chose the second option, but, at the
same time, it decided not to give Hizballah "immunity" when
it sought to hide behind civilian shields. For example, he
said, Minister of Defense Amir Peretz took the difficult
decision to approve attacks on residences harboring Fajr
missiles in villages throughout the south.

6. (S) The Codel conveyed U.S. congressional support for
Israel in its conflict with Hizballah. In response to Codel
questions, Yadlin said that the IDF had planned on its
operation against Hizballah lasting about eight weeks. In
response to the Codel's question as to whether the IDF would
speed up the pace of its operations if it had a deadline,
Yadlin said that the IDF is trying to minimize collateral
damage, and that, in his view, the tempo of IDF operations
could be increased and include more ground operations. The
release of the two IDF soldiers kidnapped by Hizballah could
hasten a ceasefire, Yadlin said. He added that the IDF is
ahead of its schedule in some areas, but behind in others.
Yadlin said that the IDF had made progress by re-establishing
deterrence with Hizballah as well as weakening it. He said
that the IDF is now in the process of clearing the perimeter
of Israel's northern border. The IDF could stop now, Yadlin
said, but, he added, that the longer the IDF continues its
operations, the more progress against Hizballah it will make.

Lebanese Civilian Involvement

7. (S) Responding to another Codel query, Yadlin said that
after the April 26th Understanding of 1996, Hizballah
realized that Lebanese villages were off-limits to IDF
attacks and that it could store missiles in these sites
safely. Yadlin said that Hizballah stored missiles in Shi'a
villages only (not in Christian or even Sunni ones). This,
Yadlin said, was part of the whole structure that Hizballah
created in the South over the past ten years. In fact,
Yadlin asserted, the IDF normally preferred to attack
infrastructure, because this led to fewer civilian
casualties. The compromise the IDF reached, according to
Yadlin, was to attack targets that were the source of the
threat, but warn the civilians to leave in advance. In
response to CODEL's query, Yadlin said that the IDF was
constrained in showing the public Hizballah's tunnels,
bunkers and other infrastructure, as it does not want to
compromise intelligence sources and had not yet secured
enough "of the ground" where they were located. He said the
IDF would do so, however, at the right time.

Iranian and Syrian Involvement

8. (S) Yadlin asserted that Iran helped plan Hizballah's
kidnapping of the two IDF soldiers as well as Hizballah's
missile launches, especially the C-802 anti-ship cruise
missile. According to Yadlin, Iran is Hizballah's main
supporter, providing that group some USD 100 million
annually, plus training and equipment. Iran trained
Hizballah's strategic rocket teams in Iran, he said. Yadlin
asserted that Iran wants to distract the world from its
nuclear weapons program, adding that, "I can sleep at night
with Hizballah having rockets, but I could never sleep with
an Iranian nuclear bomb." He stressed the importance of
distancing Iran from Israel's border. Syria, he added, is
afraid that the "fire in Lebanon" will spread to its border.
"We are seeing increasing military activity there," Yadlin
said. Yadlin underscored that the GOI does not want to
expand its operations to Syria. He said that Syria does not
want a fight either, but, he added, a situation like this
could lead to a miscalculation, such as that in 1967, when
"Russia" gave Syria false intelligence. Hizballah wants to
draw Syria in, Yadlin asserted, e.g., by using its
Syrian-provided 220 mm rockets, such as the one that killed
eight Israelis in Haifa. Yadlin said that such activity
forces the GOI to ask itself whether it should hit convoys
bringing weapons to Hizballah in Syria or wait until they
enter Lebanon.
9. (S) The CODEL queried as to whether the GOI had
communicated at all with Syria about this concern. Yadlin
said that the GOI had sent a message through the UN Truce
Supervisory Organization (UNTSO) and Yadlin added that he
sent warnings through his own channels. Yadlin repeated
that an immediate ceasefire depends on the release of the two
IDF soldiers. He added that a ceasefire also needs a firm
basis to endure and that implementation of UNSCR 1559 would
provide such a basis. Yadlin also raised questions within
this context including, whether a multinational force would
be created to replace UNIFIL; whether the GOL would deploy
its army to the South; what would be the rules of engagement
in the South?; who would rebuild Lebanon? Yadlin expressed
strong doubt whether Syria or Iran would be involved in any
long-term solution to the conflict and noted his preference
that Lebanon rather be isolated from Syrian and Iranian
influence. In response to CODEL's query, Yadlin assessed
that Syria would be an easy military target for the IDF, but
that Iran would be a more "substantive challenge."
10. (U) CODEL Hoekstra did not have an opportunity to clear
this message before departing post.

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