Secondo la Stratfor
Lebanon‘s BekaaValley will play a critical role in the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. Its eastern edge forms the border with Syria, making a spillover of the conflict possible. It is also Syria‘s economic lifeline, one Damascus would hate to lose. And the valley’s easily defensible geography means Israel will face a tough struggle in its efforts to subdue the heartland of both Hezbollah and Lebanon‘s Shiite population.
Whether Israel Defense Forces (IDF) can root out Hezbollah strongholds in the
Given the nature of Hezbollah’s close relationship with
The Israelis have made it abundantly clear that they do not wish to engage
Bekaa is Hezbollah’s lifeline to the outside world (especially at a time of war). Moreover, any form of Syrian or Iranian assistance comes to Hezbollah through this area. Hezbollah’s training facilities are spread across the Bekaa — facilities that are vital, especially to a nonstate actor like Hezbollah, dependent upon support from Damascus and Tehran.
But the Bekaa is far more important for Syria, not just because of the country’s historic role as the patron of Hezbollah, but also because of its ambitions for Lebanon.
The Alawite rulers of Syria have long had deep economic interests in this region. The BekaaValley is among the world’s most renowned drug trafficking hubs. This fertile area is where rows of cannabis plants produce high quality hashish and marijuana, raw coca paste imported from South America is developed into cocaine and heroin is processed from opium poppies in laboratories. The labs are concentrated in the Bekaa towns of Hermel, Baalbek and Zahle, Hellanyeh, Niha, Abbasyeh, Barqa, Iaat and Kuddam, which are — not coincidentally — Hezbollah strongholds and the primary targets of Israeli airstrikes.
The highly lucrative drug business in Lebanon flourished under Syria‘s watch, as Syrian and Lebanese security and intelligence forces ensured cultivation developed without major disruptions. Now and then, the Syrian and Lebanese governments would publicize a major drug crackdown campaign, but this was mainly for international consumption. The Alawite-Baathist regime is not interested in seeing its economic lung, the BekaaValley, go up in smoke.
After Syria was forced to withdraw its military forces from Lebanon, the Bekaa became even more important to the country as the conduit through which it could maintain its influence and interests in Lebanon without a physical military presence.
Even in a scenario where fighting is limited to the region, this is Hezbollah’s home turf and IDF could get sucked into a protracted guerrilla war. Put differently, the goal of neutralizing Hezbollah’s military capabilities will first entail a prolonged ground war followed by a limited occupation. And an occupation force provides a target-rich environment for a subsequent insurgent movement.
Fighting in the Bekaa will cause a great many civilians to seek refuge in southwestern Syria. Given that the bulk of the Syrian-Lebanese border runs along the Bekaa, it is also the main conduit for trade between Syria and Lebanon. The road between Beirut and Damascus also runs through the Bekaa region.
From a tactical perspective, the BekaaValley presents one of history’s most intractable military problems: an enemy with the high ground. Geographically, the long, narrow valley constrains an attacker in several ways. Most importantly, it severely restricts lateral movement, limiting attackers’ tactical options. The LitaniRiver, which runs down the center of the valley, constrains those options even further. While the Litani is in many places only a few feet deep, it also has many deeper sections and creates difficult and impassible terrain features, like gorges.
Any crossing — and any movement within the valley at all — will be easily visible from observation posts in the mountains, and the entire valley floor will be in the sights of artillery and anti-tank missiles. Anti-air assets will also be in good position to engage Israeli aircraft. The mujahideen in Afghanistan liked to lure Soviet helicopters into just this kind of valley. The fighters did not even need their U.S. FIM-92A Stinger missiles; machine gunfire from positions above the helicopter sufficed.
The Israelis know this, and will probably not be lured in as the Soviets were. Even so, air assault is still Israel‘s best option. An air mobile campaign effectively circumvents many of the classic problems of attacking a valley and avoids both large armored formations and long vulnerable logistical trails down the valley. At least one insertion of reconnaissance units already took place near Baalbek late Aug. 1.
To the east is Syria, the border of which follows the peaks and crests of the Anti-LebanonMountains — the eastern edge of the Bekaa. Thus, just as the Israelis would be geographically constrained by the mountains, they would be politically constrained by this border — a constraint that would not inhibit Hezbollah. While Hezbollah fighters would be able to make insertions and assaults over the eastern mountains, Israel would be denied the same ability. Any move to use the mountains to the east as cover would put IDF units inside Syria — where the Syrian military naturally will be waiting.
Israel‘s best tactical option would be to come into the valley over the mountains to clear out observation posts and firing positions. It can only do this from the west, with observation and fire from the Anti-Lebanon range. As long as Hezbollah can use Syria as a secure right flank, Israel will be at an even greater disadvantage than the terrain itself presents.
Once Israel gets into the valley, it faces Hezbollah strongholds in the towns and villages there. While Hezbollah may have the same degree of prepared defensive positions found around Bent Jbail in southern Lebanon, the centers of these towns will themselves be a substantial tactical challenge, just as Bent Jbail was.