Iranian Imperialism and Jew-Hatred Could Spark New Israel-Hezbollah War
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s suspension of his surprise resignation has been reported as part of the power struggle between Shiite Muslim Iran and Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia. That conflict already featured coalition and proxy wars in Syria and Yemen, and growing Iranian influence in Iraq.
Hezbollah — Iran’s Lebanese surrogate — claimed that the Saudis hoped Hariri’s departure would destabilize Lebanon, provoking Israel to attack. They claimed that this would aid Riyadh versus Tehran.
Israel and Hezbollah did fight a 34-day war in 2006, sparked by the latter’s deadly raid to kidnap soldiers and launch of hundreds of rockets at Israeli civilian and military targets.
But it’s not just Iranian strategic maneuvers — including efforts to complete a “land bridge” from Tehran through Iraq and Syria to Beirut — that would underlie any second Israel-Hezbollah conflict. Ideology, specifically Jew-hatred, would also play a role.
Both Iran’s “Supreme Leader,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Hezbollah chief Sheik Hassan Nasrallah use Nazi-like language and imagery in describing Jews and their state. To the Third Reich, Jews were “bacilli” and “vermin” that had to be “exterminated.” Khamenei and Nasrallah describe Israel as “a cancer” that must be “cut out” of the Middle East.
Hezbollah’s apologists claim that the Shiite “Party of God” is anti-Zionist, not anti-Jewish. But Nasrallah has often discarded that pose, saying, “If the Jews all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.” He’s also opined, “If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice, I do not say the Israeli.”
If Israel were to fight a second war in Lebanon against Hezbollah, it probably would be devastating to both countries. Israeli Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel has said that recent improvements mean that in the first two or three days of conflict, his forces could undertake the same number of strikes made in the entire 2006 war.
Before that conflict, Israel estimated that Hezbollah possessed 10,000 to 15,000 short-range missiles and rockets. Today, it says that Hezbollah has 100,000 or more short- and medium-range missiles, some with greater accuracy and larger warheads than those available 11 years ago.
In 2006, approximately 500,000 Israelis temporarily evacuated homes in the northern part of the country. Israeli fatalities totaled 160, most of them combatants.
Lebanese deaths 11 years ago were put at approximately 1,200. Many news outlets then — and some even now — claim that most of those fatalities were civilians, but Israeli military figures and other sources estimate that at least half were Hezbollah members or other combatants.
Ironically, the defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria by a combination of forces allied variously with the United States, Russia, Iran and the governments of Syria and Iraq could make a second Israeli-Hezbollah war more likely.
Israel has said that its “red lines” for Syria include no Iranian or Iranian-allied forces (including Hezbollah) near the Israeli-Syrian border, no arms shipments from Iran through Syria to Lebanon and no raids into Israel.
Hezbollah has gained valuable experience fighting in Syria on Iran’s behalf to bolster the regime of Bashar al-Assad and its recent provocative actions make holding those red lines more complicated for Jerusalem.
Hezbollah is a US government-designed foreign terrorist organization. More than one year after Al Qaeda’s September 11, 2001 destruction of New York City’s World Trade Center and attack on the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Under Secretary of State Richard Armitage still called the “Party of God” “the A-team” of international terrorism.
Hezbollah’s goals complement those of its Iranian founders, funders and trainers. These include expanding Persian-Shiite influence and — if possible — dominance over the Arab-Sunni Muslim majority in the Middle East, ousting US forces from the region and eventually defeating the “Little Satan” and “Great Satan” of the Iranian ayatollahs’ ideology — Israel and the United States, respectively.
Iranian-Hezbollah supremacist, imperialist ideology is one reason that Israeli leaders like the Air Force’s Eshel warn that in a new conflict, Lebanon itself — and not just Hezbollah — would suffer widespread destruction. That’s because Hezbollah now dominates Lebanese politics and government, its militia is superior to the Lebanese military and it bases itself extensively among Lebanon’s civil population.
UN Security Council Resolution 1701, adopted at the end of the 2006 war, requires — among other things — that Hezbollah disarm. Iranian and Hezbollah threats against the Jews and their state would also seem to violate the UN’s 1951 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (General Assembly Resolution 260).
A key lesson of the past century has been that when anti-democratic leaders and movements threaten violence and possess the means to employ it, they should be taken seriously. The “international community” might want to think about actually enforcing resolutions 1701 and 260.
Eric Rozenman is communications consultant for the Washington, D.C.-based Jewish Policy Center. A longer version of this analysis appears at www.jewishpolicycenter.org.