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December 12, 2018 3:23 pm

Report: Despite Iranian Goading, Hezbollah Not Seeking New Full-Scale War With Israel

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

An Israeli soldier stands near the border with Lebanon, Dec. 5, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Ronen Zvulun / File.

Despite growing concerns about Iran’s transfer of precision-guided missile technology to its Lebanese Shi’a terror proxy Hezbollah, the organization is in fact deceptively weak, and does not want a full-scale war with Israel, a new report published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) think tank said.

The report’s publication came amid the IDF’s ongoing efforts to locate and destroy tunnels dug by Hezbollah under the Israel-Lebanon border.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed evidence of precision-missile factories in Beirut during a speech to the UN earlier this year and the Jewish state has made it clear that the production of such weapons in Lebanon was a red line.

Hezbollah, however, is hemmed in and averse to sparking a new war with Israel, the WINEP report stated. While “enhanced precision targeting capabilities would allow Hezbollah to conduct more effective wartime strikes deep into Israeli territory, including against military targets, critical infrastructure, and population centers,” this would likely spark a much wider war than the 2006 conflict it fought with the IDF.

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“The group is not prepared for such a conflict,” said the report. “It’s dilemmas are manifold.”

First, the flood of refugees from Syria has led to international “donor fatigue,” and thus funds would likely not be forthcoming to reconstruct Lebanon after such a devastating war, in which Israel would likely use far more firepower than it did in 2006.

Second, Lebanese Shiites, who are Hezbollah’s power base, “are done with war.” Since the 2006 conflict, “they have enjoyed a period of relative peace … leading many of them to start thinking about the future, make long-term investments, and develop a business mentality that does not align with talk of war.” Should this be disrupted by a Hezbollah-sparked war, they would blame the organization for the consequences, the report said.

Moreover, the Lebanese population in general was “becoming more aware of the precision project’s growing presence within their borders,” the report noted. “Domestic pressure on the group could rise significantly if its core Shia constituency weighs all the risks that the project poses to their way of life.”

What is pushing Hezbollah in the direction of escalation, however, is Iran. The Islamic republic’s machinations in Syria have been largely thwarted by Israeli strikes.

“In this context,” the report said, “moving the precision project to Lebanon became a more favorable option. Tehran’s current objectives seem to be twofold: in the short term, building up Hezbollah’s forces under the deterrent umbrella of its ‘no hostilities inside Lebanon’ dynamic with Israel; and in the long term, equipping the group with better military capabilities for a future war.”

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