An Emboldened Hizballah Is Trying to Remake the Status Quo

Two weeks ago, a terrorist—most likely working for Hizballah—managed to cross into Israel from Lebanon and plant an explosive device near Megiddo that wounded a civilian. The attack, according to Matthew Levitt, is a sign of the Iran-backed militia’s increasing willingness to challenge the tacit understanding it has had with the IDF for over a decade. Such renewed aggression can also be found in the rhetoric of the group’s leaders:

In the lead-up to the 2006 war, [Hizballah’s] Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah famously miscalculated how Israel would respond to the cross-border abduction of its soldiers. According to Israeli analysts, however, he now believes he can predict the enemy’s behavior more accurately, leading him to sharpen his rhetoric and approve a series of increasingly aggressive actions over the past three years.

Nasrallah’s willingness to risk conflict with Israel was partly driven by domestic economic and political pressures. . . . Yet he also seemed to believe that Israel was unlikely to respond in a serious way to his threats given Hizballah’s enlarged precision-missile arsenal and air-defense systems.

In addition to the bombing, this month has seen increased reports of cross-border harassment against Israelis, such as aiming laser beams at drivers and homes, setting off loud explosions on the Lebanese frontier, and pouring sewage toward Israeli towns. Hizballah has also disrupted Israeli efforts to reinforce the security barrier in several spots along the Blue Line, [which serves as the de-facto border between Lebanon and the Jewish state].

This creeping aggressiveness—coupled with Nasrallah’s sense of having deterred Israel and weakened its military posture—indicate that Hizballah will continue trying to move the goalposts.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security

How America Sowed the Seeds of the Current Middle East Crisis in 2015

Analyzing the recent direct Iranian attack on Israel, and Israel’s security situation more generally, Michael Oren looks to the 2015 agreement to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. That, and President Biden’s efforts to resurrect the deal after Donald Trump left it, are in his view the source of the current crisis:

Of the original motivations for the deal—blocking Iran’s path to the bomb and transforming Iran into a peaceful nation—neither remained. All Biden was left with was the ability to kick the can down the road and to uphold Barack Obama’s singular foreign-policy achievement.

In order to achieve that result, the administration has repeatedly refused to punish Iran for its malign actions:

Historians will survey this inexplicable record and wonder how the United States not only allowed Iran repeatedly to assault its citizens, soldiers, and allies but consistently rewarded it for doing so. They may well conclude that in a desperate effort to avoid getting dragged into a regional Middle Eastern war, the U.S. might well have precipitated one.

While America’s friends in the Middle East, especially Israel, have every reason to feel grateful for the vital assistance they received in intercepting Iran’s missile and drone onslaught, they might also ask what the U.S. can now do differently to deter Iran from further aggression. . . . Tehran will see this weekend’s direct attack on Israel as a victory—their own—for their ability to continue threatening Israel and destabilizing the Middle East with impunity.

Israel, of course, must respond differently. Our target cannot simply be the Iranian proxies that surround our country and that have waged war on us since October 7, but, as the Saudis call it, “the head of the snake.”

Read more at Free Press

More about: Barack Obama, Gaza War 2023, Iran, Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy