The initial Hezbollah attack on Northern Israel three days ago was an effort on the part of the Damascus-Tehran axis to reconfigure their influence in Lebanon. In part Israel has played into the plans of Damascus and Tehran by responding thus far solely against the infrastructure of Lebanon and Hezbolloah interests in Lebanon rather than the lifeblood of Hezbollah – the Syrian and Iranian regimes themselves. Of course if Israel was to strike at Damascus or Tehran it would be the initiation of a wider regional war and of course this would be best avoided, and thus Israel find itself in a difficult situation, a situation that has been on the cards since the election of Hamas as the Palestinian government in January of this year essentially giving the Tehran-Damascus axis the ability to open up a two front war with Israel whenever it so wishes.
Hamas and Hezbollah depend on outside forces for their existence: the leadership of Hamas and Hezbollah both are based in Damascus and receive financial support from both Syria and Iran; It is understood that any major tactical manoeuvres on the path of either Hamas or Hezbollah will have been sanctioned tacitally or – more likely – explicitly in the form of planning and support. Within Lebanon itself, Israel suspects that elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards are stationed amongst Hezbollah fighters and whilst protests in the wake of the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri forced Syria out of Lebanon last year it is certain that Syria maintains some culpable presence in Lebanon through its proxy militia Hezbollah and configurations of Syrian intelligence within its ranks.
Following the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon last year the Government of Prime Minister Siniora has brought Hezbollah into coalition in a beleaguered attempt to bring Hezbollah into the Lebanese political process. It could be suggested that Hezbollah acting within the sphere of a democratic Lebanese government free of overt Syrian influence in the country could moderate itself to some extent but this is not possible as UN Security Council Resolution 1559 “calls for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias” recognising that the mere existence of Hezbollah means a Syrian proxy in Lebanon and thus a denial of Lebanon’s sovereignty.
The fact that Lebanon has not disarmed Hezbollah may cause regret in some quarters but ultimately their capability to actually carry out such a feat must come into question as some analysts believe that the Lebanese security forces are markedly weaker than the Hezbollah fighters. Iran and Syria will want to maintain an armed Hezbollah for as long as feasibly possible, such a proxy provides great intelligence as well as an important strategic location to launch coordinated attacks (as the past few days have shown). Furthermore, the longer Israeli operations continue within Lebanon alone, the greater the opportunity becomes for Syria to re-enter Lebanon in some capacity – One scenario could see Syria attempt to drag Israel into another long and costly Lebanese expedition in the process reinforcing Hezbollah positions with teams of both Syrian and Iranian forces.
Israel does not just have Lebanon to worry about right now and to further illustrate the problematic situation Israel is in at the moment one only has to look at the Gaza strip. Hamas were elected as the Palestinian government this January. There is no need to debate Hamas per se but to realise that Hamas is an organisation that takes orders directly from Damascus. Ishmail Haniya the Palestinian Prime Minister is merely a ghost of the real Hamas leadership under Khaled Mashal in Damascus – Yes all roads point to Damascus. The election of Hamas has essentially allowed the fate of the Palestinians to be decided directly by the Damascus-Tehran axis. The Palestinians have become a pawn, an important pawn for Damascus and Tehran as it is their location in Gaza that allows a two front war to be fought (it must be understood that after the response to Corporal Shalit’s capture Israel would not be in the mood for prisoner trading whether initiated by Hezbollah or Hamas), presenting the “axis of terror” with a window of opportunity to act against Israel.
Israel finds itself in a difficult situation as proxies of her enemies make an awkward enemy. Israel cannot satisfactorily fight Hezbollah or Hamas – they are organisations which symbolise a larger regional struggle in the region and are not powers that exist in themselves and any damage done on the terrorist groups can be reimbursed by their parent regimes. Whilst Israel’s situation is difficult it is also worth noting that the longer the situation continues the greater the chance that Israel will take the decisive step of a strike on Damascus.
Lawrence Jasper is a Freelance Political Analyst in the United Kingdom, his website is http://westwaswon.blogspot.com
By Lawrence Jasper