Hezbollah Threats to Israel ‘Emboldened’ by Improved American-Iranian Ties, Expert Says
by Ben Cohen
Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has delivered a fiery speech emphasizing that the Lebanese Shi’a terrorist group is ready for a renewed war with Israel, despite the fact that much of its military resources are being consumed in its defense of Bashar al Assad’s regime in Syria.
“Israel’s threats of another war on Lebanon do not stem from its power because it has lost hope and is concerned,” Nasrallah said in a televised address to hundreds of thousands of Shiites gathered in Beirut’s southern suburbs following the traditional march to mark the Ashura holiday.
On the contrary, “the resistance is a real threat to Israel,” he said, according to a report on the Naharnet website.
Nasrallah reiterated that Hezbollah “is fully ready in southern Lebanon” despite the presence of the party’s fighters in Syria.
Hezbollah’s secretary-general also pledged that the Shiite organization’s rockets would force Israel to close its sea ports and main airport in the next conflict.
“Israelis are saying in the media that they would have to close down the Ben Gurion Airport and the Haifa port and yes, that’s true,” said Nasrallah, Lebanon’s Daily Star reported.
“You should close all of your airports and your ports because there is no place extending on the land of occupied Palestine that the resistance’s rockets cannot reach.”
A leading Middle East analyst in Washington, DC told The Algemeiner that Nasrallah’s brazenness was partly triggered by the improvement in relations between the US and Iran, Hezbollah’s main sponsor.
“Clearly, the new regional environment created by an American detente with Tehran has not tamed Hezbollah’s worst instincts, but is emboldening them,” said Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi, a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and an expert on Iran and Hezbollah.
Asked if Nasrallah’s threat should be taken seriously in military terms, Ottolenghi observed that Hezbollah has “long range missiles, and has been getting better and better over the years in terms of military capability.” Ottolenghi pointed out that the failure of the United Nations to disarm Hezbollah in accordance with successive Security Council resolutions is another worrying factor.
“But the real problem is political – we are in a situation where the US is acquiescing to Hezbollah’s defense of the Assad regime in Syria,” Ottolenghi continued. “Rather than countering Iran and its proxies, the US is giving them free rein, which is why they are so bold in their statements.”
Hezbollah’s most recent attack on Israel took place on October 7, when two Israeli soldiers were wounded by a bomb planted along the Lebanese border. In a statement to the media after the attack, Hezbollah Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qassem called the incident a message, noting, “Even though we are busy in Syria [defending the Assad regime] and on the eastern front in Lebanon [battling Sunni militants], our eyes remain open and our resistance is ready to confront the Israeli enemy.”
Analyzing the meaning of the October 7 attack, Dr. Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy noted in a briefing that the message behind the bombing “was likely aimed at Hezbollah’s domestic audience as much as Israel.” Wrote Levitt: “The Lebanese public may be forgiven for thinking that the group’s attention is focused solely on Syria at the moment. Nasrallah has issued numerous statements affirming Hezbollah’s commitment to the war next door, and while he has been careful to note that the group is ‘defending Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria,’ it is difficult to sell the idea that fighting Sunnis in Syria constitutes defending Palestine.”