Nyhet -

Rumors of war

By Dr Magnus Norell, Infosphere AB

We shall, in fact, work to turn the whole of Lebanon into a country of resistance, and the state into a state of resistance...

Hassan Nasrallah in an interview with Al-Watan al-Arabi, 11th of September 1992.

For the past few weeks, tension has been raising along the border between Israel and Lebanon. In a sense, the recent tension began with reports of new missiles being delivered from Syria to Hizb'allah. These reports originated with US intelligence sources, even though both Syria and Hizb'allah first tried to deny that any missiles had  been delivered, and then accusing Israel (whose media were quick to report the news) to be behind the rumors to raise tension.

Weapons – including missiles – being forwarded to Hizb'allah are certainly not news. Since the July-war in 2006, the Shi'te militia has replenished its stocks of weapons and upgraded its missiles (the alleged deliveries were said to include Scud-missiles). For Hizb'allah, it is paramount to keep the tension in the south on a high enough level to hinder any peace-initiatives to flourish. Denying that any missiles had been delivered at all apparently became to lame an excuse even for Hizb'allah, so on May 25, during the 10th anniversary celebrations in Lebanon over the Israeli withdrawal in May 2000, Hizb'allah head Hassan Nasrallah reverted to threats towards anyone who'd dare attack it and promised that any Israeli aggression would be met with equal retaliation.

 The balance Hizb'allah is trying to keep between keeping some tension on the border and avoiding all-out war is a hard act to follow. Four years ago, it failed and  drew Lebanon into a very large a dark hole. The country has slowly been climbing back up, but another round of fighting would probably be more devastating than in 2006 and possibly involve Syria as well. Clearly, Hizb'allah believes it is strong enough to withstand an Israeli attack, but that is far from clear. Israel has learned its lesson from the failure in 2006 well (as could be witnessed in Gaza last winter) and the real danger for a renewal of fighting is that, somewhere down the line, Israel might decide that the tens of thousands of missiles that Hizb'allah has, is too much of a threat to ignore. Should that happen, the risk of war would be imminent. It is equally clear that for Israel, the missile-threat on their border is viewed as more of a concern right now than any potential Iranian nuclear weapons in the future. These issues are separated and any decision to hit Hizb'allah will be taken independently of what might happen on the Iranian nuclear front.

 At the heart of the matter lies the role of Hizb'allah in Lebanon; an independent actor completely outside any control of the Lebanese government (a government in which, ironically, the organization has a two seats) and which is coordinating with both Syria and Iran in its policy-making. As long as the organization is bent on its long-term strategy of constant conflict with Israel, the danger of war will be a Damocle's sword hanging over Lebanon. Cutting Hizb'allah down to size ought to be the priority for Lebanon, but as long as the organization has the backing of Iran and Syria, and as long as the international community is not forceful enough to support such a move, nothing fundamental will change the present situation. The rumors of war can therefore be a self-fulfilling prophecy.


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