Hizbollah prepares for war

30Jan10

This week gave a brief highlight of intertwined news. From one end, Hizbollah upgraded its military capability as Israel is accused of assassinating a senior Hamas commander. Obama approved arms sales to Taiwan. And, the US Senate backed tougher sanctions against Iran.

What concerns our readers throughout the world, was last Saturday events. Hizbollah’s commander in southern Lebanon, Sheikh Nabil Kaouk, said that the guerrilla force branch was upgrading its military capabilities. Kaouk also stated that Israel feared retribution for the assassination of Imad Mugnieh and that its repeated threats against Lebanon raised the real prospect of war that would engulf the entire region. Analysts have highlighted the relocation of Hizbollah rocket sites to areas north of the Litani river, with some caches north of Beyrouth, suggesting that any future conflict with the Shi’a movement would lead to a broader conflict between Israel and Lebanon.

This Friday, the Islamist political movement Hamas claimed that Israel’s intelligence service, Mossad, was behind the killing of one of its senior operatives in Dubai last week. Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was one of the founders of Hamas’ military arm, and was personally responsible for the kidnapping and murder of two Israeli soldiers in 1989.

Israel does not discuss details relating to Mossad operations, but it is a widespread assumption that assassination has long been a tool of state policy. Certainly both Mugnieh and al-Mabhouh would be regarded as high priority targets for such a policy. After a lengthy career planning and carrying out terrorist acts, including bombings, Hamas unabashedly disclosed that Al-Mabhouh played a “continuous role in supporting his brothers in the resistance inside the occupied homeland” until his death. Mugnieh was operations chief for Hizbollah’s own military wing, and has been described by former CIA operative Robert Baer as “one of the most capable” opponents the CIA had ever encountered.

It is unlikely that Hizbollah would instigate another conflict with Israel. The movement’s general secretary, Hasan Nasrallah, has said that, had he known the consequences of the border incursion that led to the 2006 Summer War with Israel, he would not have permitted it. Hizbollah’s freedom of movement has been hindered significantly by the 10,000 strong UN peace keeping force deployed to south Lebanon in the wake of that conflict. It also has much to gain from continued stability; although Lebanon’s confessional electoral system cost the Hizbollah-led coalition victory in the 2009 general election, it won a majority of the popular vote.

Israel regards Hizbollah as an Iranian proxy, wholly directed by Tehran’s Revolutionary Guards, a situation which the assassination of Mugnieh has ironically exacerbated. The neutralisation of Hizbollah is considered by many commentators as a sine qua non for military strikes on Iran; many believe the reason for the Bush administration’s support for the Summer War was due to plans being formulated at the time for such an attack in 2006. It is not difficult to imagine Israel using rocket attacks from Palestinian camps in southern Lebanon, over which Hizbollah has no control, as a cassus belli. The Israeli invasion of 1982, justified by the attempted assassination of Israel’s ambassador to the UK by the Abu Nidal group to destroy the PLO, is a useful precedent.

The assassination of key leadership figures, the mobilisation of reserves in Syria, the IDF’s reinforcement of its northern frontier reported last week, the relocation and fortifying of Hizbollah’s missile forces all prophesise war. In the context of a continuing diplomatic standoff over Iran’s uranium enrichment programme, Sheikh Nabil Kaouk warning of renewed conflict in Lebanon may be fulfilled.



2 Responses to “Hizbollah prepares for war”

  1. 1 Craig

    Seems a bit ironic to see Hezbollah complaining about assassinations. It’s a shame nobody kidnaps HA folks. Seeing the reaction from that would be interesting…

  2. I like this post. Good, clean analysis. It is no secret that “somebody” has been assassinating or abducting key figures from Lebanon, Syria and Iran. What is interesting is the absence of any direct response from Hezbullah because of this, leaving the air pregnant with expectation. This is not going to go away. The only question we can ask is when, not if, a conflict will erupt. What I am waiting to see is what Hezbullah has prepared this time. Israel will be characteristically brutal in its bombing of Lebanon and possibly Syria or Iran but the response this time from Hezbullah is the unknown factor. They have built up enormous expectations from the people, will they be able to deliver again?


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