War in Syria Diverts Hezbollah From War on Israel

Its leader Hassan Nasrallah claims that Hezbollah still stands ready to fight Israel, despite concentrating on fighting Sunnis in Syria. (Photo: Sajed / Wikimedia Commons)

Its leader Hassan Nasrallah claims that Hezbollah still stands ready to fight Israel, despite concentrating on fighting Sunnis in Syria. (Photo: Sajed / Wikimedia Commons)

Hezbollah recently announced that it had acquired advanced missiles from Iran. At Politico Magazine, Matthew Levitt writes that move is intended, in part, to deter Israel from striking Iran’s nuclear facilities. (While Levitt works for the conservative Washington Institute for Near East Policy, no obvious route exists for tuning the observations rendered in this article to political ends that favor Israel hawks.) Also, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah announced that Hezbollah still stands ready and willing to fight Israel. However, writes Levitt, what Nasrallah

… didn’t say, and is loath to publicly admit, is that Hezbollah desperately wants to avoid a full-blown military conflict with Israel right now and is therefore limiting its attacks on Israel to small and infrequent roadside bombs along the Lebanese border and attacks by local proxies on the Golan Heights.

In fact

… in its newest evolution, instead of its traditional strategy of attacking Israel and, occasionally, Western interests, Hezbollah has found itself consumed by the three-year-old war against Bashar al Assad’s regime in Syria where, together with Iranian operatives, it’s squaring off against Sunnis of all stripes, from Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIL to moderate Sunni rebels in defense of the Syrian regime.

Lest Israel breathe a sigh of relief, though, Levitt writes that instead:

Today Hezbollah is far more active targeting Israeli and Jewish interests—especially Israeli diplomats or tourists—in plots that can be carried out far away from Lebanon and executed with reasonable deniability.

In other words

Hezbollah’s new strategy, borne out of necessity rather than strength, is a mixed blessing. It marks a significant—and underreported—development in one of the longest-running proxy fights in the Middle East, ushering in an era that has increased the security of Israeli citizens at home while simultaneously boosting the risk faced by Israeli tourists and diplomats aboard—and potentially boosting the terrorism risk to US citizens around the world.

However legitimate many of its grievances against Israel are, Hezbollah has totally squandered what little street cred it had as revolutionaries by fighting in support of the Assad regime.