Israel Must React Forcefully to Hizballah’s Provocations

On Wednesday, the IDF chief-of-staff Herzi Halevi and President Isaac Herzog separately toured the country’s northern border, evidently to send a message to Hizballah. The Iran-backed organization has been constructing tents just inside Israeli territory and engaging in other provocative activities in violation of existing cease-fire agreements. To Meir Ben-Shabbat, the situation resembles that on the eve of the 2006 Second Lebanon War, which began when Hizballah operatives crossed the border and kidnapped two IDF soldiers:

It’s hard not to see the similarities between what happened back then, almost exactly seventeen years ago, and the unfolding reality today, especially in light of the footage showing the balaclava-wearing terrorists moving freely so close to the border and observing Israel without even an inkling of fear. Although security officials have stressed that these operatives were never in breach of the border and posed no danger, this is hardly reassuring. Moreover, such statements only reinforce the feeling that the deterrent effect has been disrupted in Hizballah’s favor.

The spate of provocations by Hizballah attests to Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah’s ever-increasing confidence. Not only has he ratcheted up his public threats, but he has also escalated the situation along the border by trying to push the envelope with Israel. While it is far from certain that he seeks a flare-up, what is abundantly clear is that Nasrallah has been less cautious in trying to avoid it.

Hizballah’s conduct along the northern border serves its goal of optimizing its operational position should hostilities break out, with a particular emphasis on preparing a ground incursion into Israel. The way Israel has so far responded to its provocations has only encouraged it to continue, and even ratchet up, [these activities]. In view of this reality, Israel has no choice but to act in a way that would make Nasrallah conquer his impulses.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Second Lebanon War

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy