Leading U.S. military analysts have determined that Hizbullah achieved major gains in its 33-day war with Israel.

The analysts, including some who serve as consultants to the Defense Department, have concluded that Israel’s military failed to significantly weaken Hizbullah.

They said the military was surprised by Hizbullah’s acquisition of and skills in anti-tank missiles and surface-to-surface rockets.

The most far-reaching assessment was issued by retired Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Hoar. Hoar sent a letter to President George Bush signed by 21 retired military commanders and national security consultants that called for U.S. negotiations with Hizbullah’s sponsor, Iran. “The problem that existed for the last month between Hizbullah and Israel and its effect on Lebanon makes the need to negotiate [with Iran] even more critical,” Hoar said in a briefing. “Hizbullah is clearly coming out of this a winner.

Anthony Cordesman, a former Pentagon official and now a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Israel’s failure to defeat Hizbullah would not harm strategic relations between Washington and Jerusalem. Cordesman told a briefing on August 17 that Israel’s military and government failed to properly manage the war and would have to learn from the counter-insurgency experiences of Algeria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

“I don’t think that there has been any significant change in U.S. and Israeli relationships,” Cordesman said. “There will be a question coming out of this as to what the Bush administration was told by Israel as to its initial goals, the timing. But the question for everybody will then be it certainly probably was not deception of the United States. If there were mistakes made, it was self-deception of Israel communicated to the United States.”

“The Israeli government is not the kind of government that provides clear and effective management of war,” Cordesman said. “The same message is one that is being communicated about the senior command of the IDF [Israel Defense Forces].”

Cordesman said Israel’s military had been unprepared and relied too much on airpower against Hizbullah. He said Israeli troops were insufficiently trained and improperly deployed in southern Lebanon. “From the Hizbullah’s viewpoint, they have got to get more modern weapons in, longer-range missiles and rockets, rockets and missiles with guidance systems and more lethal warheads,” Cordesman said. “They have to get as many longer-range fire systems as they can. They have to prepare to fight in-depth and along the roadways and roads that Israel occupied and to deal with vertical envelopment from helicopters, all of which they can do and prepare for if there is not a very aggressive effort to solve this.” “From Israel’s viewpoint, you have to use force even more against civilian targets,” Cordesman added. “You have to attack deep. You have to step up the intensity of combat and you have to be less careful and less restrained.”

Michael Collins Dunn, editor of the Washington-based Middle East Journal, said Israel sustained a major intelligence failure. Dunn said Israel failed to assess Hizbullah’s missile and rocket capability, particularly that of the C-802 cruise missile.

“After years spent fighting the second intifada, in which anti-tank weapons were unknown and rockets were limited to the homemade Kassams, the IDF was unprepared for a well-equipped and trained Hizbullah,” Dunn said.