A war between Israel and Hezbollah will be the most devastating ever for both sides, and what about Russia?
Key words: Israel, Hezbollah, Hizballah, Syria, Iran, Lebanon.
Damascus, by Elijah J. Magnier – @EjmAlrai
“Hezbollah and Syria will find themselves partnered in any future war aiming to hit the Iranian proxy in its bases in Lebanon and Syria because they share the same destiny”.
This is what a decision-maker in the Syrian Capital told Al Rai when asked about the reason behind Hezbollah’s escalation threat against Israel issued by Secretary General Sayed Hasan Nasrallah. Nasrallah warned that the Dimona nuclear reactor and ammonia containers in Haifa will be targeted by the hundreds of long range missiles provided by Iran, if Israel decides to go to war against his group.
Hezbollah maintains a solid military presence in Syria with all its various branches and institutions related to the presence of tens of thousands of its militants since 2013. The mountains dividing Lebanon and Syria provide excellent shelter for hosting and protecting the highly destructive Fateh-110 4th generation and other similar solid fuel missiles, which are capable of carrying between 250 to 500 kg of explosive and cover the entire geography of Israel. For years, Hezbollah has been involved in constructing underground shelters for its missiles launchers in Syria, an essential stage that Hezbollah and the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed upon in the case of a future war.
Israel maintains over 200 atomic bombs at the Negev Nuclear Research Centre referred to as the Dimona reactor. This nuclear reactor was built in the 50s with the French assistance, following the Protocol of Sèvres agreement. Israel has never acknowledged its possession of nuclear arms. It was only in 1986 when Mordechai Vanunu, a former technician at Dimona, fled to the United Kingdom, that top-secret evidence about the Israeli’s nuclear facility and capability was revealed.
Iran, Syria and Hezbollah believe the US President Donald Trump is aiming to cripple Iran in the Middle East and is escalating its (for now) verbal attack with the full support of the Middle Eastern countries. This verbal attack may well be translated into serious attacks against Iran proxies in the Middle East but not necessarily a direct attack on Iran. The possibility of a military campaign against Iran is ruled out by Iran’s retaliatory capability, with effects that could seriously damage several countries of the Middle East. It would be more appropriate to attack Hezbollah – it is believed – which represents the main and strongest Iranian arm in the Middle East.
Hezbollah is on the “terror list” of the US, some European countries, but it is feared above all, by Middle Eastern countries, including the Arab League who have it on their own list. Therefore, any attack against Hezbollah would be viewed positively by the main countries of the region (i.e. Saudi Arabia, Emirates, Bahrein) and could also be supported financially. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his speech last September to the United Nations General Assembly: “Many other states in the region recognize that Israel is not their enemy. They recognize that Israel is their ally. Our common enemies are Iran and ISIS (the “Islamic State” terrorist group)”.
“So countries in the Middle East are ready to finance a war against Hezbollah, considered a terrorist organization and a spoiler of their plans in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. And Hezbollah’s forces prevented the fall of Damascus in 2013 when al-Qaida and rebels were in the heart of the capital. Hezbollah was and still is the spearhead of forces in Quseyr, Qalamoun, Zabadani, Homs, Aleppo, Lattakia, Daraa- all over the Syrian geography, in fact. The war against ISIS and al-Qaida is far from over. It would be a blow to Syria itself if Hezbollah were attacked and pulled away from the Syrian war. Therefore, there is no doubt that Syria will be part of any war between Israel and Hezbollah,” said the source.
“Israel bombed Syria more than 15 times during recent years. It is Syria’s right to retaliate, regardless of the consequences. Targeting Hezbollah means targeting the stability of Syria and the possibility of ending the war in that country”.
Syria and Hezbollah believe that a war with Israel would force Russia to intervene not in favour of one side against the other but to stop the war. A war in Syria would destabilise the Russian plan in Bilad al-Sham, aiming to end the war and establish Russia in the Middle East for at least the next 50 years.
“Hezbollah is not willing to start a war. Nasrallah’s words on “red lines” and his will to target Haifa and Dimona aim at creating a strategic balance: the destruction on both sides would be devastating, therefore it is better to avoid starting a war. It doesn’t mean he wants war. Both sides are aware of the impossibly high loss of life and damage to infrastructure. His words therefore serve as a reminder of the destructive scenario which will ensue if Israel, supported by direct US military assistance and the blessing and finance of Middle Eastern countries, decides to go to war”, said the source.
The Hezbollah threat was indeed on the schedule discussed between Netanyahu and Trump at the White House. Nasrallah believes Trump wants to be part of the history and is focusing on Iran. Hezbollah, representing of Iran’s arm in the Middle East, has lost over 1,600 men and 8,000 wounded in Syria and could be under strain. Therefore, there will be a time (if the US were to be a direct participant in this war) maybe around this coming summer, when the best opportunity presents itself.
This is the scenario that Hezbollah believes feasible, but it can’t be adamant about it happening. The military apparatus in Hezbollah offer Israeli banks of objectives that are constantly updated, and recalled back to Lebanon some of the most experience special forces units, the “Ridwan forces”, freed from several parts of Syria due to reconciliation between the government and rebels around Damascus and in other parts of the country.
The long war in Syria and the presence of a non-hostile (to Hezbollah) new Lebanese President, Michel Aoun have spared Lebanon a much more aggressive Hezbollah approach toward the many hostile groups in Lebanon. This organisation is much stronger than the Lebanese Army or any other non-state group in the Middle East. It is better armed, superior in men and infrastructure, and managed to control a surface larger than Lebanon during its war in Syria. Hezbollah is exerting a very high level of self-control so far, and is navigating in the middle of a boiling Middle East with overwhelming sectarianism. The umbilical cord linked directly to Iran imposes on Hezbollah a state-like behaviour rather than a group or organisational impulsive attitude, domestically. The 7 Mai 2008, when Hezbollah took control of the Lebanese Capital in few hours with minimum casualties was the only moment when Hezbollah showed some of its real strength and demonstrated highly sophisticated planning in the way Beirut was occupied. If wounded by any war – which is impossible to eliminate because it is embedded in the Shia population and certainly not detached from it – will Hezbollah be able to continue exerting such a control? That is the question!