Hezbollah's dilemma

Dr. Norman Bailey

With its grip on Lebanon suddenly in doubt, Hezbollah will have to think more than twice before launching an assault on Israel.

The gigantic series of explosions which destroyed the port of Beirut and severely damaged much of the rest of the city has, of course, been extensively commented upon. I don't presume to know what caused the explosions, although it's clear that the first set off the second and the second set off the third. When events like this happen, it is usually useful to follow the ancient Roman maxim of cui bono , that is, who benefits? Even that is not clear in this case.

What is clear is that the explosion will have a significant effect on what happens in Lebanon in the near future, especially with reference to the position of Hezbollah. Hezbollah, until recently, was riding high. It had honed its military skills in the Syrian civil war, it was well-financed through Iranian transfers and its own smuggling activities, it had amassed a huge arsenal of rockets and missiles, and most significantly, it had taken over all the civil and security bases of the Lebanese state, including the Lebanese armed forces.

More recently, however, Hezbollah has suffered serious setbacks. Funding is down because the Iranians have their own financial crisis, and now with the port in ruins; smuggling will be disrupted. it is obvious that Hezbollah has lost most of whatever support it once may have

had in the population in general; and it is no longer capable of administering or financing its myriad civilian functions.

A cornered tiger is more dangerous than a free-roaming one. Hezbollah is now in the position of not only a cornered, but a wounded tiger, and it is quite possible that it may attempt to respond to its compounding problems by staging a major attack on Israel, either by barrages of rockets and missiles, or by combining that with an actual ground invasion. It is possible that Iran will simultaneously order Hamas to attack in the south

Faced with hundreds if not thousands of missiles fired daily from southern Lebanon, Israel's missile defenses would be overwhelmed and it would have no choice but to retaliate massively, with significant civilian damage and casualties. A reoccupation of at least southern Lebanon, to the Litani River, would be unavoidable, and advances farther north would be a distinct possibility

The resulting chaos would destroy Lebanon as a functioning entity and force other countries to get involved. Unfortunately, the countrries in the best position to do so, are Russia, with substantial naval and air power in the vicinity, and Turkey. In the case of Russia, its intervention would not be openly anti-Israel, but in the case of Turkey it certainly would be.

The tiger is wounded and cornered, but it may decide that it is still better off than being destroyed, as it certainly would be if it attacked Israel. It should also be kept in mind that terrorist organizations never die, they just disperse, as we have seen with al-Qaida, ISIS and the Taliban. Hezbollah remnants might well survive in Syria and elsewhere to fight another day.

Dr. Norman Bailey is professor of Economic Statecraft at the Galilee International Management Institute,  and adjunct professor at the Institute of World Politics, Washington DC. Dr. Bailey was a senior staff member of the National Security Council during the Reagan administration and of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence during the George W. Bush administration.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on August 19, 2020

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2020

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