By Zaher Mahruqi
Israel’s attack on a Hezbollah convoy which resulted in the killings of an Iranian general and several Hezbollah fighters could have several meanings. If we consider that the attack is on Syrian soil and Hezbollah fighters killed with the Irani General were most assuredly of senior levels then the attack is nothing short of declaration of war against Hezbollah, Iran and Syria. Why would Israel take such an action at this point?
The most dealt theory is that Netanyahu is playing politics and feels that the attack would score him a few valuable points’ weeks before the elections. Yes Netanyahu does strive on the “tough” image he created over his bloody years in office but that theory has serious weaknesses. Given that the reaction of the trio of Hezbollah, Iran and Syria is unknown then this would be a very risky election tactic.
Whilst Israel might go against the US in matters related to illegal settlements or the blockades against Gaza for instance, Israel can never start a war that the US doesn’t approve of and as such the attack must have been consulted with US officials and been approved.
The fact of the matter is that the US and Israel consider the chaos taking place in Iraq and Syria as a golden opportunity to degrade- beyond repair- Hezbollah’s capacity to threaten Israel and since Hezbollah is considered the first line of defense for Iran then its ruin would be the initial phases for future direct aggression against Iran’s nuclear installations.
The US-Israeli alliance sees Hezbollah’s challenges at present as vulnerabilities of the group that must be exploited. What are these challenges?
First, Hezbollah is simultaneously facing too many enemies. Apart from Israel and “moderate” Syrian opposition, the group faces ISIL, Al Nusra Front and other “hard line” groups. Unlike Israel which Hezbollah can attack with its rockets at the place and timing of its choosing, its other enemies in Syria and Iraq are far more numerous, illusive, far more scattered and far more ferocious.
Israel and the US understand that Hezbollah is pretty much cornered and has too many balls to juggle. For Israel, the likes of Al Nusra Front and the Islamic state do not pose any direct danger to it. In fact, the war against those groups is not Israel’s war at all, that is a war that the “coalition” is fighting.
Fighting in Syria and for Syria highlights the fact that Hezbollah takes the fall of Syria to be an existential threat to itself and that brings me to the second point. With Syria in utter chaos, the major route for Hezbollah rockets replenishment is almost non existent. That being so one major war with Israel could send Hezbollah back by decades in terms of rocket power.
This mayhem in Syria, Iraq and soon Lebanon is seen not only as an opportunity for Israel and the US but for other enemies of Iran such as Saudi Arabia. Therefore and indirect coordination, via the USA, between the Saudis and the Zionist state is likely. This is where money and weapons meet against Hezbollah and its allies.
Third, with no clear passage for weapons transportations into Lebanon, biting sanctions against Iran, oil price crash, the dangers from ISIL to Iran’s own security, Iran’s capacity to stand by Hezbollah is being gradually and steadily curtailed. Assad’s fate being all but sealed compounds the matter to irreparable levels for Hezbollah.
Assad’s fate is a matter of time not if and in such a scenario, alliance of Hezbollah and Iran would have received a major blow placing the Shia group in its most serious existential threat yet. Hezbollah definitely understands what its enemies are wishing for and as such retaliation against Israel that amounts to war is not likely as that would be too many fronts to deal with.
However, if the Americans and the Zionists see Hezbollah’s challenges today as a once off opportunity to seriously weaken it and by default weaken Iran, then Israel will continue acts of aggression to incite a stronger retaliation from Hezbollah and an eventual war.
The question is not whether Israel and the US see this as an opportunity to deal a major blow to Hezbollah, the question is whether Israel is ready to withstand the most brutal rocket attack in its history and do so for long enough such that Hezbollah rockets are irreversibly reduced.
With Syria and Hezbollah under attack in case of a war between Israel and Hezbollah, Iran’s reaction would most likely be similar to that of Hezbollah in relation to Syria. The fall of Syria and Hezbollah as allies simply cannot be accepted by Iran leaving doors open for more dangerous scenario in the region.
Where and when ISIL and other groups are keeping Hezbollah busy, one cant help but think that Israel considers this to be the best opportunity that it ever had to significantly weaken Hezbollah. Hezbollah war against ISIS, Jabhat Al Nusra and other opposition groups is of a totally different format than its wars against Israel. Whilst Hezbollah can attack Israeli cities using increasingly accurate missiles, Hezbollah can not use the same tactic against the groups in Syria and as such Hezbollah will be kept quite busy for sometime and that is if it manages to survive.
Hezbollah is by no means a weak organization or its weakening a done deal but it is surely facing the most serious challenge in its history.
Ironically, the very groups, Jihadists, that have as a major goal the removing of Israel from Palestine are the ones fighting each other and inadvertently benefiting Israel.