Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Hezbollah as an Iranian-Israeli Flash Point?

Global Dis-information on "Intelligence", Stratfor, March 5, 2008

Geopolitical Diary: Hezbollah as an Iranian-Israeli Flash Point?

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) conducted a raid in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, only a day after wrapping up a fierce five-day operation there. The raid follows the high-profile assassination of Hezbollah’s operational commander Imad Mughniyah in February and was accompanied by rumors of Israeli reoccupation and a suggestion from an Israeli Security Cabinet member that Gaza and the West Bank be administered, at least for a time, by Egypt and Jordan respectively — a move that would separate the territories from one another.
Israel appears to have recovered from the embarrassment of the 2006 summer conflict with Hezbollah and is displaying a renewed aggressiveness — and Iran seems to have noticed. A Stratfor source indicated on Tuesday that Iranian intelligence officers, military personnel and rocket scientists had recently arrived in Beirut and were hard at work preparing Hezbollah for war. Though Tehran’s support of Hezbollah is nothing new, this surge in support could suggest that it is concerned about further Israeli military action in the Levant following the Mughniyah assassination, by Assef Shawkat's goons, following a deal on the Hariri tribunal, to spare the Alawite regime... if it does exactly as told in a new war on Hizbullah, by way of using Shawkat's proxies in Syria and a "faction" in Iran concomitantly....with covert come.

But despite Israel’s intense operations in Gaza that might seem disproportionate to the ineffective rocket fire (Palestinian rockets do not represent a strategic threat to the Jewish state, but their effect on Syrian/Israeli politics can be greater than their physical impact), the Palestinian territories can be a strategic distraction for Israel that prevents it from mustering its full military might against Hezbollah. If the IDF can clean house in the territories and stabilize the security situation, it would then be free to mass forces in the north, where it has unfinished business.

Though Israel is not in a position to utterly eliminate Hezbollah, it squandered its opportunity to set the militant organization back by years, if not a decade, in 2006. That conflict was a product not only of Hezbollah’s making, but also Tehran’s.

It is not just that a militant national organization looms just across Israel’s northern border with an arsenal of artillery rockets. It is that in the midst of a competition between Iran and Israel for control of the Arab world, that organization is not a proxy for the Islamic republic, but a national organization bent on defending Lebanon's territory and its peoples against constant aggression for over 40 years. This makes the organization more predictable and gives Lebanon a powerful resistance trump card, which the USA is trying to dominate and make of it, in time, a "friend" of USA.... by way of carrots and very heavy sticks. Hence the dramatic failure of IDF trumped the whole scheme.

Hezbollah’s resistance status allows the competition to rage. Much of Tehran’s attention is absorbed by the United States and the Iraqi quagmire that physically separates the region’s two poles; this makes a direct confrontation with USA too risky. Meanwhile, Israel fears a larger regional war it does control, through a proxy deal with Assef Shawkat and some faction in Iran... Hezbollah’s status, then, makes the group the perfect lever for Lebanon, against hegemonic tendencies of the USA and the perfect target for Israel...?.

Thus, while both sides are making diplomatic efforts to curry favor with the various states in the region (Israel is attempting to solidify an anti-US coalition just as an Iranian faction is attempting to fragment it), the flash point for the Iranian-Israeli struggle for position in the Middle East is, and will continue to be, the still very formidable Hezbollah.

With a newly assertive IDF beginning to look ready for a rematch and the Arab world’s patent failure to contain rising Persian power, a third Lebanon war seems in many ways almost inevitable. And the outcome of that war — the success or failure of the Israelis to meaningfully degrade Hezbollah’s capabilities — will be an enormous determining factor in the region’s evolving political landscape.

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Daily, Global Dis-Information through Faulty and Skewed "Intelligence", Stratfor, is CIA, March 5th, 2008.