At the end of the day, the key to what happens on the northern border in the wake of the Israeli attack in Syria on Sunday lies in Iran’s hands.
If Ali Khamenei and the Iranian leadership want an escalation, then an escalation there will be. If Tehran isn’t looking for one, then it simply won’t happen.
And further on:
Iran’s dilemma right now is whether or not to allow Hezbollah to respond with force, which could well lead to a general escalation. A Hezbollah response is not necessarily what Iran wants, especially when the White House is pressuring Congress not to enact new sanctions on Iran. Tehran does not want to be seen as responsible for a regional deterioration, which could bring about new sanctions. In addition, it doesn’t want to get Hezbollah stuck in another active front while the drop in oil prices has left Iran with less and less money to fund its operations in Syria. What’s more, Hezbollah continues to lose men fighting the Islamic State and other jihadist organizations.
On the other hand, ignoring the incident will be taken as weakness, even cowardice.
There look to be several unexpected benefits of the drop in oil price!
It’s noteworthy that the sanctions on Iran have had a real effect. Without them, there would be less reason for that nest of vipers to temper its thuggish behavior.
What about the tree?
Here comes the tree:
Hezbollah itself will want to respond, of course, even though it has an even more difficult dilemma. It may be that the decision would be easier were it not for the stupid, arrogant interview Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah gave on Friday to the friendly Al-Madayeen channel. As he usually does, Nasrallah explained how strong Hezbollah is, and how its ability to strike Israel is limitless. He described his advanced Fateh-110 rockets as outdated, and claimed that his organization already had those weapons in 2006, and that today it has much more advanced weapons.
What’s more, Nasrallah promised that any Israel attack on Syria would lead to an attack by Hezbollah, in a time and place of its choosing.
And now, only two days after the interview was aired, Israel has made it clear how high the tree is that Nasrallah climbed. Israel assassinated one of his senior commanders, and a major symbol no less: Jihad Mughniyeh’s father founded Hezbollah’s military wing, and was considered for more than two decades one of the Middle East’s biggest terrorists.
Now, Nasrallah is seemingly bound to respond, at least to show he stands behind his word.
I share the writer’s hope that the Israeli military leaders who approved the strike knew what they were doing. They knew what was going on in the Golan Heights, and the strike doesn’t appear to have directly prevented any immediate attack by Hezbollah or other forces. So why attack Hezbollah now?
We poor citizens are not in possession of all the facts, and can only guess the reasons for the undoubted ratcheting up of the tensions there. Perhaps Hezbollah is in a worse state than is thought? Perhaps Nasrallah’s speech was a bluff, and Israel decided to call the bluff?
I guess we will know soon enough.