The Stakes of Hizballah’s Next War with Israel

In recent months, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Iran’s Lebanon-based proxy army, has been speaking about the Jewish state with even greater bellicosity than usual, suggesting that, with the war in Syrian winding down, he might be readying to turn his attention southward. Most experts believe the subsequent conflict could be far deadlier than in 2006: an all-out attack by Hizballah could overwhelm, at least temporarily, Israel’s sophisticated missile-defense systems, especially if it were coupled with coordinated rocket fire from Gaza. By the same token, the IDF’s response would be devastating for Lebanon. Thomas Donnelly comments:

Israel has not faced such a powerful threat since the 1973 war, and confronting the Iran-Hizballah-Assad coalition will tax the IDF heavily. . . . [Such a conflict’s] daunting tactical challenges also, as in the past, generate strategic and geopolitical problems. The perception of victory often counts more than the battlefield result, both in the region and in the larger international contest.

Nasrallah excels at spinning defeat into victory. [In 2006, notwithstanding Hizballah’s considerable losses], survival became triumph, a bit of propaganda that caught on in outlets such as the Economist, which declared, “Nasrallah wins the war.” By now even many Israelis, especially on the political left, concur. . . . The standard of victory for Israel remains almost impossibly high.

Despite the gloomy view of the past and the foreboding about the future, it is also the case that since 2006 Israel’s northern border has been remarkably quiet. That’s even more remarkable considering the chaos that’s ripped Iraq and Syria apart and catapulted Iran to the fore. This is a ceasefire worth preserving. It particularly behooves the United States to try to do so. . .

At the same time, the looming war presents an important opportunity. . . . Should deterrence fail and conflict resume, it will be important for the United States to back the Israelis clearly and forcefully. . . . A decisive Israeli victory against the Tehran-backed Hizballah forces would be an unparalleled opportunity to stem the regional Iranian tide, thereby serving a prime U.S. national-security interest. Such a victory would both reassure and relax America’s Arab allies, particularly in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, and Egypt—those most nervous about a flagging U.S. commitment in the Middle East. It would also remind the world that, despite Vladimir Putin’s meddling, the United States remains the most powerful external force in the region. . . . Just as Israelis have begun to prepare themselves for this [prospective conflict], so should [the U.S.].

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Second Lebanon War, U.S. Foreign policy


Why the White House’s Plan to Prevent an Israel-Hizballah War Won’t Work

On Monday, Hizballah downed an Israeli drone, leading the IDF to retaliate with airstrikes that killed one of the terrorist group’s commanders in southern Lebanon, and two more of its members in the northeast. The latter strike marks an escalation by the IDF, which normally confines its activities to the southern part of the country. Hizballah responded by firing two barrages of rockets into northern Israel on Tuesday, while Hamas operatives in Lebanon fired another barrage yesterday.

According to the Iran-backed militia, 219 of its fighters have been killed since October; six Israeli civilians and ten soldiers have lost their lives in the north. The Biden administration has meanwhile been involved in ongoing negotiations to prevent these skirmishes from turning into an all-out war. The administration’s plan, however, requires carrots for Hizballah in exchange for unenforceable guarantees, as Richard Goldberg explains:

Israel and Hizballah last went to war in 2006. That summer, Hizballah crossed the border, killed three Israeli soldiers, and kidnapped two others. Israel responded with furious airstrikes, a naval blockade, and eventually a ground operation that met stiff resistance and mixed results. A UN-endorsed ceasefire went into effect after 34 days of war, accompanied by a Security Council Resolution that ordered the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to assist the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in disarming Hizballah in southern Lebanon—from the Israeli border up to the Litani River, some 30 kilometers away.

Despite billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer support over the last seventeen years, the LAF made no requests to UNIFIL, which then never disarmed Hizballah. Instead, Iran accelerated delivering weapons to the terrorist group—building up its forces to a threat level that dwarfs the one Israel faced in 2006. The politics of Lebanon shifted over time as well, with Hizballah taking effective control of the Lebanese government and exerting its influence (and sometimes even control) over the LAF and its U.S.-funded systems.

Now the U.S. is offering Lebanon an economic bailout in exchange for a promise to keep Hizballah forces from coming within a mere ten kilometers of the border, essentially abrogating the Security Council resolution. Goldberg continues:

Who would be responsible for keeping the peace? The LAF and UNIFIL—the same pair that has spent seventeen years helping Hizballah become the threat it is today. That would guarantee that Hizballah’s commitments will never be verified or enforced.

It’s a win-win for [Hizballah’s chief Hassan] Nasrallah. Many of his fighters live and keep their missiles hidden within ten kilometers of Israel’s border. They will blend into the civilian population without any mechanism to force their departure. And even if the U.S. or France could verify a movement of weapons to the north, Nasrallah’s arsenal is more than capable of terrorizing Israeli cities from ten kilometers away. Meanwhile, a bailout of Lebanon will increase Hizballah’s popularity—demonstrating its tactics against Israel work.

Read more at The Dispatch

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden