Iran and Hezbollah’s Response to Israeli Threats: Assessing the Geopolitical Landscape

By Elijah J. Magnier:

Iran and Hezbollah face an increasing barrage of threats from Israel. Amid the shifting geopolitical dynamics, Iran has de-escalated tensions with Arab states and neighbouring countries such as Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Armenia. This strategic shift is aimed at consolidating Tehran’s influence in key areas while strengthening the anti-American and anti-Israeli axis in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Israel, however, remains concerned, especially given America’s focus on its proxy conflict with Russia in Ukraine and its preparations to confront China. As a result, Israel has recently stepped up its warnings of an attack on Iran and expressed the potential danger of targeting Lebanon and Hezbollah, fuelling fears of a large-scale regional conflict in the Middle East. Major General Aharon Haliva, the head of Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate (Aman), has accused Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah of being on the verge of “making a mistake that could lead to war in the Middle East” because Hezbollah might not be alone in fighting Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s habit of vociferously threatening Iran and accusing it of approaching a nuclear weapons capability is nothing new. Netanyahu has persistently pursued this policy for years, despite the International Energy Agency’s assertion that such claims are unfounded. This rhetoric is aimed primarily at an Israeli domestic audience that is increasingly dissatisfied with the prime minister and his government. There have been growing calls for Netanyahu to resign or replace extremist ministers, but he has refrained from taking such action to prevent his government from collapsing. As a result, Netanyahu is resorting to creating crises with Palestinian organisations, orchestrating assassinations and committing massacres against Palestinian leaders and civilians in order to divert attention from internal issues by focusing on security concerns.

Subscribe to get access

Read more of this content when you subscribe today.

In the coming days, the International Energy Agency is expected to release a report on its monitoring of Iran’s nuclear activities. This development could potentially undermine Israel’s accusations, but it will not alleviate the underlying ideological animosity between Tel Aviv and Tehran. Israel’s main concern is the sporadic – albeit small – rocket attacks from Lebanon, which serve as a clear message from Hezbollah signalling its willingness to join forces with the Palestinian resistance if necessary. However, Hezbollah may not take into account other factors, such as Lebanon’s deteriorating economic situation, when it comes to acting and responding as one front with all the members of the “Axis of Resistance”. Israel is well aware of Iran’s widespread influence in various countries in the Middle East, which adds to its concerns.

Moreover, the Israeli government is particularly alarmed by Iran’s growing ties with Middle Eastern states, which it interprets as acceptance of Iran’s unassailable role in the region. Through its allies, Iran has secured access to the Strait of Hormuz, the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. This positioning allows Iran to potentially strike Israel from multiple theatres, as evidenced by past attacks on Israeli ships and the use of drones from Syria. Furthermore, Iran’s unwavering support for resistance movements in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen adds to Israel’s concerns. The recent statement from Sana’a, Yemen, claiming that its main adversaries are the United States and Israel, while expressing its readiness to join the fight against Tel Aviv alongside Palestine, strengthens the unity of the various fronts against Israel. Tel Aviv tried to defeat Iran in many theatres, especially in Syria, but failed dramatically.

Recent events in Syria have shown a remarkable change. Syrian resistance forces fired on an Israeli drone, signalling a significant response to the warnings of Netanyahu and his defence minister, Benny Gantz, who vowed that their threats would not go unheeded. Iran has succeeded in establishing an ideologically aligned auxiliary force in Syria, fully equipped and trained according to the methodology of Hezbollah’s special forces, the “Radwan”. This force is strategically positioned along the Lebanese border and recently carried out military manoeuvres simulating the occupation of an Israeli border settlement.

The demonstration underlines that the next battle will not be limited to Lebanon, with a mere exchange of rockets, missiles and drones. The battle would be transferred to occupied Palestine, with the Radwan Special Division launching attacks on Israeli settlements. Netanyahu and his government, who for years have refrained from targeting Hezbollah members in Syria and engaging in clashes along the Lebanese border, find this development deeply worrying.

Israel’s Chief of Staff, Herzi Halevi, said Hezbollah had been “deterred” and acknowledged that the group understood Israel’s strategic thinking. “This understanding encourages Hezbollah to challenge Israel,” he said. However, Israel has been deterred from acting against Hezbollah in Lebanon to the extent that it has refrained from accusing the group of orchestrating rocket attacks – a clear signal of Israel’s failure to challenge Hezbollah. In response to Hezbollah’s provocation, Israel carried out air strikes on an abandoned banana plantation to avoid escalation and Hezbollah retaliation.

Netanyahu’s verbal escalation against Iran coincided with the G7 summit and a meeting in Jeddah attended by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This timing suggests an attempt to attract attention, especially given that Israel would only launch an attack on Iran with American support. Israel is therefore postulating that it can attack Iran, which understands Tel Aviv’s limitations. 

However, this does not rule out the possibility that Iran will definitely retaliate, especially given its past actions, such as the attack on the main US military base in Iraq after the assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani and his associates. Can Israel effectively cripple Iran’s military capabilities through an attack? Can it prevent Iran from effectively using its nuclear expertise and scientific advances now that it has enriched uranium to 60% purity? There is a long way to go between threatening to bomb Iran and actually doing so.

Iran has announced the possession of the Khormshar-4, a strategic missile with radar evasion capability, a range of 2,000 km and a destructive capacity of 1,500 kg of explosives. In addition, Iran, in cooperation with its powerful allies in Asia, is actively developing formidable supersonic missiles to enhance its deterrent capabilities and effectively target any adversary, regardless of its air superiority. Iran’s hypersonic missiles cannot be intercepted by any current system. This development highlights Iran’s ability, with its allies, to bypass Israel’s Iron Dome and strike any target inside Israel in the event of war, after flooding Israel’s interception systems. Iran has the capability to launch hundreds of missiles against any of the dozens of US military bases in the Middle East and Asia in the event of war. Iran has created a ring of allies to call on for support if needed, a plausible possibility that both Israel and the US are aware of and would like to avoid at all costs.

Israel’s past assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and attempts to sabotage nuclear facilities have failed to halt Iran’s missile development or its progress in nuclear technology. Iran has achieved the capability to produce advanced missiles and versatile drones, even exporting them to Russia. Neither Israel nor the United States has stopped Iran’s march towards military deterrence. 

While Netanyahu is trying to create tension, Iran is taking a different approach. It is hosting an Asian-African regional conference to promote the replacement of the dollar and the euro with local and alternative currencies due to inflationary pressures in Western countries, including the US. Iran has also signed strategic agreements with Russia for weapons development and with Moscow and Beijing for economic growth, energy and transport development. It has also signed an agreement with Indonesia for the exchange of goods between the two countries to reduce the use of hard currencies (US dollars and euros) and for energy and trade cooperation. Tehran sees Netanyahu’s provocations as insignificant in the light of its broader ambitions.

Israel’s threats against Iran and Hezbollah are met with varying degrees of concern and readiness. Iran, with its regional alliances and growing capabilities, poses a complex challenge to Israel. While Israel seeks to project strength and maintain regional influence, the geopolitical landscape and Iran’s strategic moves suggest that the response of Iran and Hezbollah should not be underestimated, making the threat by Netanyahu and his military commanders a tempest in a teapot.