Anyone else feel that there’s a creepy symbiosis about Israel and Hizbullah’s messaging strategies these days? Take this little tidbit from al-Manar’s website, which cites an article in The Times (a Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper) about Hizbullah’s growing arsenal.
The original piece states:
According to Israeli, United Nations and Hezbollah officials, the Shia Muslim militia is stronger than it was in 2006 when it took on the Israeli army in a war that killed 1,191 Lebanese and 43 Israeli civilians.
Hezbollah has up to 40,000 rockets and is training its forces to use ground-to-ground missiles capable of hitting Tel Aviv, and anti-aircraft missiles that could challenge Israel’s dominance of the skies over Lebanon.
There are several theories about what purpose this new and improved arsenal serves. Some argue that it is part of an Iranian defensive strategy to prevent an Israeli attack on its nuclear sites. You hit us, and we’ll get Hizbullah to lob a couple hundred missiles at Tel Aviv, so the theory goes.
Others say that the missiles are meant to serve as a deterrent against an attack on Lebanon. Hizbullah is betting that Ehud Barak may think twice about authorizing another round of the so-called “boss-has-gone-mad” policy — which worked pretty well in Gaza last year (and, some argue, was successful in Lebanon in 2006) — if the rockets coming back aren’t Qassams but rather Iranian-built Fateh-110’s, which carry a 500kg payload. This is the mutually assured destruction theory.
I don’t buy the first explanation. Given that Hizbullah did not so much as fling a pebble over the border when the IDF flattened Gaza last year, who could imagine that they would launch a full-scale attack in the event of an Israeli strike against Iran? Such a move would be deeply unpopular in Lebanon (assuming there were any Lebanese left after Israel’s counter-attack). Coming to the aid of innocent Palestinians is one thing; keeping Khamenei’s nuclear hopes alive is a much harder cause to sell, particularly these days.
As for the second theory, it is certainly more plausible, but I’m still left wondering about the value of a deterrent that increases the chances of war. With so many missiles crowding the demilitarized zone and hundreds of fighters on a hair trigger, aren’t the chances of a confrontation much higher? Furthermore, the thought of mutually assured destruction only works as a deterrent if destruction is…well, mutually assured. That this would not be the case here hardly needs to be argued.
What makes more sense to me is that the actual strategy is the old, tried and true, let’s-keep-the-pot-boiling game plan that everyone benefits from (the Syrians, the Israelis, the Iranians) except the Lebanese, of course. The next Lebanon war won’t be ignited by an Israeli attack on Iran or an orchestrated repeat of the July War or Operation Cast Lead. It’ll be brought on by a felling of an Israeli aircraft or drone a couple of weeks after Obama’s peace process falls apart. And the cycle of destruction and recriminations will repeat itself.
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