July 17, 2006

Scarborough Country Special - July 16

SCARBOROUGH: Welcome back to our continuing breaking news coverage.

Now, let‘s bring in Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona. He‘s an MSNBC military analyst.

You know, Rick, a lot of people are focusing on the nine deaths in Haifa, Israel earlier today, but it seems to me of greater import is the fact that we‘ve now found out that Hezbollah has rockets that go far deeper into Israel than we suspected before. In fact, a million people now within range of Hezbollah‘s rockets.

What is the military impact of that?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: This is huge, Joe. This really complicates Israel‘s defense posture in the northern part of the country.

Whereas before they believed that Hezbollah had the Fajr-3 rocket, now they know Hezbollah has that rocket. In fact, they believe that they‘ve got the Fajr-5, which is even more capable than what we saw in Haifa.

These last two attacks, one in Nazareth and one in Afula, are a little bit outside the range of what we believe the Fajr-3 will go. So this puts a great percentage of the Israeli population under this threat.

So when the Israelis decide that they need to have a security buffer zone in southern Lebanon, it‘s not just going to be up to the Litani River. They‘re going to have to push the Hezbollah all the way up to the Zaharani, up to the Sidon area, and that‘s going to be a huge chunk of southern Lebanon that the Lebanese army is now going to have to own.

SCARBOROUGH: So if missile attacks continue, you‘re talking about the possibility of Israel having to deploy found forces north into the Bekaa Valley and pushing them up into Lebanon far enough away from their own people, so you don‘t have a million Israelis who could be killed at any time by these rockets.

FRANCONA: That‘s exactly right and that‘s what Israel wants to avoid.

Up until now, you‘ve seen the Israeli air force fully engaged, the Israeli navy is out doing the naval blockade. You‘ve got the Israeli army down on the border conducting these artillery raids.
But you‘re not seeing any ground incursion into southern Lebanon. That‘s something the Israelis would like to avoid.

That‘s why we saw this kind of feeler via the Italians today, is if you can get the Lebanese army into this buffer zone, move Hezbollah out of that area and give us back the two kidnapped soldiers, we might be interested in a cease-fire.

I think they‘re trying to avoid that ground incursion, which would be very bloody up in there.

Hezbollah, which is a low tech military organization, with some medium tech weapons - these are committed, hard, tough fighters and it will be a bloody, bloody battle up there.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, Colonel, for those that don‘t remember what happened back in 1981, 1982, talk about what happened the last time Israel went into Lebanon and what an absolutely terrible, terrible mess it was for that country.

FRANCONA: And I think they had an easier time then than they would have now.

In ‘82, they launched the “Peace for Galilee” campaign, which was to force the PLO out of that same area in southern Lebanon that was threatening the same towns. We‘re seeing a repeat of that same thing.

The Israelis are doing this a little bit differently. Whereas they launched a ground invasion and pushed them up that coastal road all the way to Beirut and then the international community stepped in and that‘s how we got involved in Lebanon in 1982, led to the introduction of the Marines and we saw how that played out.

This time, the Israelis are trying to do this without having to go in there on the ground, so they don‘t have to take that kind of bloody house-to-house fighting.

SCARBOROUGH: All right, thank you so much, Col. Francona. We greatly appreciate you being with us.