Think about what it’s been doing with Hezbollah in Lebanon for the past decade or so. Since Israel and Hezbollah went to war in 2006, Iran has flooded its Shiite proxy on Israel’s northern border with weapons — specifically, with rockets and missiles. The last time Hezbollah squared off with Israel, it had fewer than 15,000 in its arsenal. During 2006’s 34-day war, it fired 4,000 of them at Israel, averaging more than 100 per day despite robust Israeli suppression efforts. The vast majority of these were inaccurate short-range systems that sought to target and terrorize civilian communities in northern Israel. Hezbollah’s much smaller number of medium- and longer-range missiles were largely destroyed in a lightning strike by the Israeli Air Force in the conflict’s first hours.
Nevertheless, some 160 Israelis lost their lives in the war — including almost 50 civilians killed by rocket fire. Hundreds of thousands fled their homes in Israel’s north. Hundreds of thousands more were forced into bomb shelters day after day. Thousands of homes, apartment buildings, businesses, and schools were destroyed or damaged. Economic losses were measured in the billions of dollars.
That was bad enough. But flash-forward to today. Estimates of Hezbollah’s rocket and missile force now range between 120,000 and 150,000. That’s an absolutely stunning number — especially when you consider that the United Nations resolution that ended the war in 2006 allegedly prohibited all efforts to re-arm the terrorist group. It’s also a chilling number that now includes a far larger force of more advanced long-range missiles, capable of delivering massive payloads — upwards of half a ton — to every corner of Israel.
Instead of just over 100 missiles per day, the next war is likely to see Israel experiencing barrages of up to 1,500 rockets and missiles per day. Even with the sophisticated, multi-layered missile defense systems that Israel currently fields (which didn’t exist in 2006), the likelihood that they will be overwhelmed by the sheer number of incoming explosives, at least in the war’s opening days, is very high. With potentially thousands of powerful warheads raining down on crowded population centers, some Israeli planners are preparing for “as many as hundreds” of civilian deaths every day during the conflict’s first week.
It gets worse. Among those longer-range missiles that it has acquired from Iran, Hezbollah almost certainly possesses some that can be classified as “precision” missiles, with advanced guidance systems capable of midflight corrections and a high degree of accuracy. How many is not clear. Relatively early in the Syrian conflict, when Israeli leaders publicly declared that one of their red lines would be efforts by Iran to transfer “game-changing” weapons to Hezbollah, stopping the delivery of these types of deadly missiles was uppermost in their minds. Of the more than 100 strikes that Israel has conducted in Syria against convoys, factories, and warehouses, the vast majority have almost certainly been to constrain what it has called the Iranian/Hezbollah “accuracy project.” But as vigilant as the Israelis have been, it’s almost certainly the case that some of those attempted transfers succeeded, with an unknown number of precision missiles finding their way into Hezbollah’s order of battle.
To foil Israel’s attacks on its extended supply lines to Hezbollah, Iran is now also building factories in Lebanon as well as Syria that would provide the group with an indigenous capability to produce large quantities of precision missiles closer to home. At least some of these factories are being buried deep underground — as much as 160 meters — in an effort to make them immune from aerial attack. Senior Israeli officials have been ringing alarm bells about the factories since last summer — with a strong hint that if the United States and the international community don’t take action to stop them, Israel is prepared to act pre-emptively to destroy the facilities before their production lines open. Indeed, there is evidence that several such factories have already been destroyed in Syria.
Source » foreignpolicy