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The U.S. Can Best Restrain Hizballah by Pressuring Beirut

Sept. 15 2017

While Hizballah might now be too involved in Syria to desire conflict with Israel, writes Tony Badran, it is only a matter of time before the organization decides to turn its attention southward. And it will do so from a position of much greater strength, leading to disaster in Lebanon. The U.S. can, and should, try to prevent war:

[T]he war [in Syria] has significantly boosted Hizballah’s strategic position, because it has boosted Iran’s, and Hizballah is simply an extension of Iran. So despite its serious losses, Hizballah has managed to . . . establish territorial contiguity and strategic depth through western Syria. Hizballah and Iran have expanded their direct control over Syrian areas adjacent to the Lebanese border and the Damascus area with its airport. They [also] expanded their presence in southern Syria and are trying to move on eastern Syria to connect with Iran’s assets in Iraq. . . .

Iran and its proxies [now] need time to connect their Iraqi, Syrian, and Lebanese assets. Hizballah will then use that territory for, among other things, striking Israel, transforming its presence in Syria from a constraint to an enormous advantage. The clock is ticking for Israel. . . .

U.S. policy in the region needs an urgent adjustment to tackle the strategic mess of President Barack Obama’s policy of realignment with Iran. This means that priority should be given to undoing Iran’s position in Syria, and to preventing its deployment of strategic weapons and establishment of military infrastructure there.

Our current failed Lebanon policy should also be radically revised, as it has resulted in the consolidation of Hizballah’s control and in the growth of its military capability. The notion that we can coddle the Lebanese “state,” which Hizballah controls, and support the Lebanese military, which works directly with Hizballah, and then say we’re weakening Hizballah and rolling back Iranian influence simply doesn’t add up. Hizballah is using our investment in Lebanon and the Lebanese Armed Forces to its advantage. That should end.

Read more at Cipher Brief

More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Lebanon, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy

 

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen