[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]“The tunnel theory” – The Iranian interest above all: How the IDF prevented the Iranians from sacrificing Lebanon.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Towards the second half of 2018, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was   summoned to Iran for an urgent meeting led by Supreme Leader khamenei and attended by Quds Force commander Qasem Suleimani.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”3756″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Throughout 2018, Iran made great efforts in establishing a constant military presence throughout Syria and had in fact acted to fulfill their old dream; the establishment of a continuous continental territory, under Iranian military control, leading from Iran through Iraq and Syria all the way to Lebanon.

Despite their many efforts, the Iranians ran into a problem that prevented them from establishing their dream in creating an uninterrupted continental continuum; First, the Iranians faced increasing economic difficulties due to the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA nuclear agreement (May 2018) and the imposing of severe economic sanctions.

Secondly, Israel, mainly through the IDF, operated extensively to thwart the Iranian dream by carrying out hundreds of military attacks, mainly airstrikes, which severely impaired Iran’s attempts in establishing itself throughout Syria.

The purpose of the meeting, which Nasrallah was summoned to, was an urgent consultation deliberating the course of action that should be taken against Israel’s highly effective activities. During the consultation, it was agreed that Israeli attention should be diverted to another arena, thereby neutralizing Israel’s effective efforts damaging to the Iranian expansion attempts. This concept would allow the continuous establishment of the continental corridor between Iran and Lebanon.

After examining a number of arenas (the Syrian Golan Heights – close to the border, Gaza, Palestinian Authority, Far East / South America / Europe and Lebanon), for the purpose of diverting Israeli attention and global attentiveness, it was decided to act, in order to coerce Israel into war, on two major fronts. Consequently, in Gaza, Iran ordered its proxy to intensify border riots and launch rockets into Israel in response to any Israeli attacks.

However, on the Lebanese border, where the Iranians hold  an “ace in the hole”, Iran instructed Hezbollah to take a course of action which would cause Israel to concentrate all of its military efforts there, an action, which would also cause international preoccupation and global attention to a war in Lebanon (similar to the war (July 2006).

The trio estimated that the aggressions in Lebanon would continue for a period of several weeks,  up to two months, an estimation based on previous campaigns in both Gaza (July 2014) and Lebanon (July 2006). This period, and particularly the time Israel would need for post-war recovery and rehabilitation, would allow the Iranians the time needed to achieve their goal without Israeli disruption, while reducing international pressure on them.

Please note that for Hezbollah, the Iranian order was not a simple one. Hezbollah wishes to brand itself as if it is acting in the interests of the Lebanese state and the Lebanese people; therefore, the organization has difficulty implementing active actions which are portrayed as serving its own interests and the Iranian interests. In this context, not only has the Israeli side enjoyed a quiet 13 years along the border, the Lebanese seem to understand that they have something to lose in another war.

Another issue is Hezbollah’s capability and operational ability to get involved in a war with Israel in the current situation. One should bear in mind that while Hezbollah gained considerable operational experience during its involvement in Syria, this involvement came at a valuable cost to personnel (more than 1200 killed and thousands wounded). Furthermore, it is unclear whether Hezbollah would be able to withstand further losses that would result from a confrontation with Israel, a confrontation that, in all opinions, would cause Hezbollah and the Lebanese vast casualties.

As far as the Iranians are concerned, Lebanon is a legitimate victim in the fulfillment of Iran’s strategic interest and Hezbollah is a means to that end. The fulfillment of the Iranian interests is above all and outweighs any other interests.

Although Hezbollah and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, did not intend to use the offensive tunnels as of yet, it had been decided in the meeting that this would constitute the platform for the new course of action.

In recent years, the array of tunnels had been laboriously built by Hezbollah’s construction infrastructure company “Jihad al-Bana’a” with a huge financial investment of millions of dollars of Iranian support. The array included six offensive tunnels penetrating into Israeli territory:[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”3760″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In Nasrallah’s many speeches, he made sure to prepare public opinion indirectly for this kind of event. Nasrallah threatened that in the next war many more surprises await Israel and that Hezbollah would conquer the Galilee by the insertion of Special Forces into Israeli territory. Among other things, Nasrallah threatened that; “Hezbollah is ready and prepared to intervene in the Galilee, and after the Galilee we are prepared for anything that will require a future war with Israel … The conquest of the Galilee is within the reach of Lebanese resistance …” . As part of the perception effort, the organization distributed videos on the subject, for the purpose of serving the information warfare and psychological warfare.

The following video published in Lebanon, shows the streets of Metula on the Lebanese border with Nasrallah’s voice-over in the background:[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/6Mj1iIoVtlE”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In his speeches, Nasrallah conveyed an indirect message to Lebanese citizens saying they must be prepared for a harsh Israeli response as the result of the organization’s activities and its severe consequences for Lebanon in general and the civilians in particular. According to Nasrallah’s directive, Radwan forces and parts of Unit 133 were preparing for action.

Radwan Force is Hezbollah’s Elite commando unit for special missions. The unit was established in light of the lessons of the July 2006 war.

Unit 133 is Hezbollah’s operational intelligence gathering unit. The unit specializes in intelligence gathering through special operations, focusing on the border with Israel.

The area that was chosen for the action was the eastern section of the border with Israel, where the Kfar Kila tunnel was excavated. This tunnel crossed the border south of Kfar Kila towards the Israeli town of Metula. The work on this tunnel was almost completed and in fact it was considered a finished tunnel ready for activity.

The planning of the operation included infiltrating the Radwan unit combatants through the tunnel into Israeli territory, conducting a raid on the Israeli community of Metula, taking control of the surrounding area while laying siege on the town. At the same time, the roads leading to Metula would be seized, with an emphasis on route 90, the sole road leading in and out of Metula.

The objective of Hezbollah’s forces was to hold as much territory as possible while fighting IDF forces on Israeli soil.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”3763″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Over the years, Israel had intensively monitored Nasrallah’s threats of “conquering the Galilee” and the tunnel project. Israel had worked extensively to detect intelligence and physical indications in the area to the extent of being able to identify the tunnels’ locations. At the end of 2018, indications in Israel began to confirm the decision made by the Iranians and Hezbollah to utilize the tunnels sooner rather than later.

In order to thwart the use of tunnels and the potential  deterioration to war, and in order to allow itself to continue its momentum and maneuvering space in Syria and even to expand it into Iraq in 2019, (as attributed in various publications), Israel decided to launch operation “Northern Shield” on December 4th 2018. The objective being the neutralization of the offensive tunnels, starting with the exposure and neutralization of the Kafr Kila village tunnel…

The chain of events above present a research theory that claims that Israel’s actions to thwart Iran’s establishment in Syria during 2018, in addition to the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear agreement, (May 2018), and the tightening of Iran’s economic sanctions had prompted an Iranian decision to use Hezbollah’s offensive tunnels to deteriorate the area to war. This act would divert global attention in general, Israeli and American attention in particular, from Iran, a diversion that would serve Iran’s interests.

Arguably, the words of the Revolutionary Guards commander, General Hussein Salami of September 30th 2019 suggest that Iranian intentions in general and the Iranian decision as presented in the above theory are confirmed;

Iran’s Islamic Revolution is expanding and conquering new spaces … the active resistance strategy has deprived our enemy of the ability to concentrate their forces … we must push the enemy lines back.”

The Iranian standpoint states that the best defense is offence. In order to preserve the achievements of the revolution and to preserve their survival, the Iranians are actively pursuing attacks outside their territory and not just actively defending their territory.

For Israel, exposing and neutralizing Hezbollah’s offensive tunnels on December 18 prevented the region from deteriorating into war, allowing Israel to continue its efforts to impair Iran’s establishment in Syria and Iraq and even intensifying those efforts.

In light of the continued Israeli activity against Iranian consolidation of territory and in view of the toughening of the economic sanctions during 2019, it is likely that the Iranian decision to deteriorate the region to war is still relevant. Therefore, we see that efforts to heat up the border with Gaza have not ceased and any attempt to produce an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire has encountered Gaza’s violations that lead to escalation and rocket fire towards Israel. At this point in time, Iran’s interests do not appear to be changing.

Even in the Persian Gulf, Iran is now carrying out more daring actions and acting very aggressively as it has recently acted against the oil tankers in the Hormuz Straits, the downing of the U.S. drone in the Persian Gulf and the attack on oil facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia.

The Iranian attack on Saudi oil facilities remained unanswered by a U.S. or Saudi response.

It is possible that Iran will choose to execute a similar attack as it carried out in eastern Saudi Arabia against infrastructure facilities in Israel.

Such an attack would force Israel to respond harshly against Iran and its proxy forces and hence the road to war is short. The Israeli cabinet has already convened exceptionally, in a situation where there is no sworn government in Israel and at a time Israeli citizens are on vacation due to the  Jewish holidays. According to publications, the urgent discussion in Jerusalem dealt with the above possibility.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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Tal Beeri

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