Israel’s Looming War on Lebanon

As Israel joins Saudi Arabia and other Sunni sheikdoms in their sectarian war against the Shiites, Israel’s  new front may well be in Lebanon, with Israel attacking Hezbollah in a move that could also kill the Iran nuclear deal, as Trita Parsi and Paul Pillar explain.

By Trita Parsi and Paul Pillar

There are signs Israel may be at war again this summer. This time, not with Hamas in Gaza but with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Such a war may be the result not only of spillover from the Syrian war or ongoing Israeli-Hezbollah tensions. The deciding factor may be an Israeli calculation that war will shift momentum in the U.S. Congress decisively against the pending nuclear deal with Iran — a deal that critics say will increase Iran’s maneuverability in the region, including its support for Hezbollah.

In spite of AIPAC, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Saudis and some of its GCC allies having done everything they could to kill the pending nuclear deal with Iran, they have failed. The negotiations are on track. Many opinion polls show that a comfortable majority of Americans support President Barack Obama’s diplomacy with Iran.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting with his generals to discuss the offensive in Gaza in 2014. (Israeli government photo)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting with his generals to discuss the offensive in Gaza in 2014. (Israeli government photo)

If a Congressional vote on a resolution rejecting the nuclear deal were held today, President Obama probably would prevail — possibly without even having to use his veto to defeat the attempt by Republicans and pro-Netanyahu Democrats to scuttle the historic diplomatic agreement with Tehran.

Opposition arguments — from claiming that the deal is a capitulation to Iran to the notion that it is unacceptable to make a deal with a regime like that in Tehran — have not sufficiently resonated with the public to kill the agreement. This has caused some disarray in the opposition camp.

Indeed, if you are in that camp right now, it is reasonable to expect that the search is not for a new argument but for a game-changing development: an event so powerful it shifts the momentum in Congress back to AIPAC, Netanyahu, Saudi Arabia and the other opponents of a nuclear deal.

Arguably, a military confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah this summer could fit that bill. The argument that the deal — and the more than $50 billion that would be returned to Tehran — would strengthen Iran in the region and empower its allies would become much more potent if Israel were in an active conflict with Lebanon with Hezbollah rockets hitting Israeli cities, as was the case in 2006. Such a scenario can become the much desired game-changer that may cause many pro-Netanyahu Democrats to break with Obama.

All of this could be dismissed as speculative except for the fact that a case for a war with Hezbollah has been made in Israel for the past few months. On May 12, the New York Times  reported that Israeli is preparing for “what it sees as an almost inevitable next battle with Hezbollah.” An Israeli official added in comments to the Times: “We will hit Hezbollah hard.”

The Israelis argue that Hezbollah is engaged in a massive military buildup, and that Israel is publicizing Hezbollah’s armament “to put the problem on the international agenda in case there is another conflict.” According to the Israeli military, Hezbollah now has the capacity to hurl 1,200 rockets a day at Israel.

Israel has been pushing this angle for several months. In February, 28 U.S. lawmakers came to Israel’s aid and wrote the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, demanding that the UN stop Hezbollah from rearming. The letter accused the UN of failing to enforce resolutions, including one that requires the “disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.”

“The violence in the area caused by Hezbollah is horrific, and it results from the failure of the United Nations to enforce Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701,” the lawmakers wrote.

The case for preventive military action against Hezbollah was recently made by Ambassador Dore Gold, who is considered close to Netanyahu and was just appointed director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Accusing the UN of having failed to stop Hezbollah, Gold argues that “Either the IDF will have to destroy the weapons now being stored in southern Lebanon, or let Hezbollah fire thousands of rockets into Israel. What would you do?”

Hezbollah already seems overextended due to its involvement in the Syria conflict, and it could ill afford a war with Israel at this time. Nonetheless, if Israel attacks Lebanon, it is difficult to imagine Hezbollah not responding, despite its difficulties in Syria and despite the impact it may have on the ongoing Iran talks.

General Yahya Rahim Safavi, military adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned on May 21 that any Israeli attack would unleash a firestorm of missiles on its cities “Iran, with the help of Hezbollah and its friends, is capable of destroying Tel Aviv and Haifa in case of military aggression on the part of the Zionists,” he said.

Clearly, if Israel and Hezbollah do go to war, killing the Iran agreement would not be the only motivation. But the prospect that such a war would greatly support the rhetoric of those in the United States arguing against the deal with Iran would certainly be a major consideration in the minds of Israeli policymakers. The temptation of being able to kill the Iran agreement may become the deciding factor in Israel’s decision-making.

If so, it wouldn’t be the first time that an Israeli confrontation with Hezbollah would be motivated by a belief (or desire) that war with Iran was looming. In the midst of the Israeli-Lebanese war in 2006, Israel’s then-Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said Lebanon was all about Iran. ” War with Iran is inevitable. Lebanon is just a prelude to the greater war with Iran,” he commented.

Sneh was wrong. War with Iran neither was nor is inevitable. But a war with Hezbollah this summer can help Israel make sure that peace with Iran is beyond Obama’s reach.

Trita Parsi is the President of the National Iranian American Council and author of  A Single Roll of the Dice — Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran (Yale University Press, 2012). Paul R. Pillar is a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Center for Security Studies, Georgetown University. [This article first appeared at HuffingtonPost.]

21 comments for “Israel’s Looming War on Lebanon

  1. Morton Kurzweil
    June 2, 2015 at 16:13

    Neither Iran nor Israel will play a game with atomic warheads. The Mideast will not be habitable for the next 10,000 years. War mongers are those who feel that they can safely make claims from a safe distance. There is no safe distance from the next war.
    Let the United States have a referendum by instituting a new universal draft, and see how many
    patriots will join in a radioactive police action.

  2. Jimmy
    May 31, 2015 at 04:16

    Good lord! I see the trained hasbara trolls who keep coming up with the same old tripe. In any case Israel doesn’t have a right to exist. The land Israelis have planted their rear ends on is stolen land that rightfully belongs to the native Palestinians. Turning up from Outer Mongolia and claiming the land is yours because God said so, just doesn’t cut it.

    Most Israelis are self conscious of the fact that they’re on stolen land. Why else would they whine incessantly about their so called legitimacy being under attack?

    Isn’t it funny how every pro-Israeli comment is always, and I mean always, left by a paid-hasbara-trained-troll. Which means not only is Israel a fake nation but it’s support is fake also.

  3. traducteur
    May 30, 2015 at 10:43

    Irrational Jew-hatred, eh? Perhaps if the Jews were to discontinue their campaign of “encouraging the goyim to emigrate”–by confiscating their land, demolishing their homes, sluicing off their water, destroying their crops, denying them employment, education and health care, machine-gunning their children, and the like–resentment of Jews would be less noticeable. You never know, might be worth a try.

  4. consortiumnewsblocksproisraelposts
    May 29, 2015 at 19:22

    Iran as well as many other Arab countries want to annihilate Israel. Israel pursuing peace gave them back the land conquered in defensive wars which has no precedent in history. Arabs lost 5 wars and demand Jewish land. If Israel loose one war it cease to exist. If Arabs stop murdering Jews, peace will come. If Jews drop their weapon, every Jew will be exterminated with extreme brutality. To pretend otherwise, means to facilitate Jew murder. No rational person can see that this is about Muslim thirst for Jew murder. Christians now outsourced their Jew-murder function to Muslims believing they did fairly good job in murdering Jews over 2000 years. But Muslims will not stop with Jews. Look how they humiliate and exterminate Christians in Europe and Middle East. Still Christians support Muslims. Jew hatred is indeed irrational decease.

  5. Peter Loeb
    May 29, 2015 at 05:42

    ON BEING LEAD “BY THE NOSE”

    Why is there so much angst and concern about the so-called
    “Iran deal” In my opinion there is no such “deal” and will never
    be. Iran wants the US and the EU to lift sanctions and it has
    no intentions whatsoever of doing that. As a result, Iran will
    be cast in the role of the “bad guy”, not nations constantly
    issuing threats to bomb Iran etc.

    This is a piece of political/PR “gamesmanship” so common to
    Washington. Argue for an empty remedy filled with gigantic
    holes and maneuver critics and liberal/progressives to
    support it and fight for it. It is a terrible “framework” which
    the US Congress will never approve. And the helpless
    liberals/progressives will battle for it as though it were
    fighting for salvation itself.

    In addition to everything else Israel (and the US) feel
    they entitled to defy international law.

    There is nothing illegal with sovereign nations allying
    when there are common purposes. If there were, Israel
    would have to return all 1.9 BILLION dollars it has just
    just been given from Washington.

    I do not believe Zionist Israel has any “right to exist”
    at all. Zionism came into being to create an exclusive,
    Zionists-only state while ridding a place of its indigenous
    residents through massacre, rape, terror, home demolition
    etc.

    Israel hypocritically signed the UN Charter which prohibits
    precisely the kind of “preemptive aggression which it now
    advocates.

    It would serve Israel right if Iran and others could strike
    deep into the heart of Israel. Unfortunately it does not have
    the military power. It would have the power to fight back
    to protect itself and its allies. Unfortunately some Israelis
    might become “collateral damage” Evidently no “lesson”
    was ever learned from the US engagement in Indochina
    where, despite superior firepower, Washington finally
    turned tail and ran in disarray and defeat.

    Fighting for a so-called “deal” that can never take
    place unless completely controlled by the US Congress
    as if it were a treaty of abject surrender of Iran is no “deal”
    at all. The US and West have not made clear what sanctions
    they would give up and when.

    Perhaps these issues will come under discussion when
    Representatives of Russia, China and Iran meet in
    Tehran soon.

    —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

  6. JWalters
    May 28, 2015 at 19:06

    More on the Pillar/Parsi analysis –

    “Many observers have expressed concern that Israel could sabotage the Iran deal: fomenting a war with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, and soon, so that the Israel lobby flips out in the U.S. and Iran and the United States are suddenly at dagger points rather than at the table.”
    http://mondoweiss.net/2015/05/turning-israels-against

  7. traducteur
    May 28, 2015 at 14:19

    With any luck, Hizbullah will defeat the Zionists, as they did in 2006. The Zios will bomb a lot of villages (blasting defenceless people is what they’re good at), maybe Beirut as well, but my guess is that Hizbullah will make it very costly for them. Indeed, this fresh campaign of aggression (if it happens) may be the beginning of the long-awaited removal from the Near East of the abscess of mass theft and genocide currently styling itself ‘Israel’. A sigh of relief all round.

    • Zachary Smith
      May 28, 2015 at 14:48

      The Zios will bomb a lot of villages (blasting defenceless people is what they’re good at), maybe Beirut as well, but my guess is that Hizbullah will make it very costly for them

      This is my own opinion as well. Israel really stepped in it back in 2006, according to former Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

      Asked to comment on the Second Lebanon War of 2006, Barak said it was launched recklessly and without the necessary prior calculations. “A country is not supposed to go to war without counting to ten, or because three soldiers were kidnapped and a tank drove over a mine,” he said.

      It’s true that Israel has become even more ‘nuts’ since 2006, but it’s difficult for me to believe they’re willing to stir up that particular hornet’s nest – even now.

      Hezbollah is bound to have increased its capabilities, and IMO would do more harm to Israel than in 2006. More missiles, and more accurate ones could have that outcome.

      • art
        May 29, 2015 at 19:19

        Iran as well as many other Arab countries want to annihilate Israel. Israel pursuing peace gave them back the land conquered in defensive wars which has no precedent in history. Arabs lost 5 wars and demand Jewish land. If Israel loose one war it cease to exist. If Arabs stop murdering Jews, peace will come. If Jews drop their weapon, every Jew will be exterminated with extreme brutality. To pretend otherwise, means to facilitate Jew murder. No rational person can see that this is about Muslim thirst for Jew murder. Christians now outsourced their Jew-murder function to Muslims believing they did fairly good job in murdering Jews over 2000 years. But Muslims will not stop with Jews. Look how they humiliate and exterminate Christians in Europe and Middle East. Still Christians support Muslims. Jew hatred is indeed irrational decease.

    • Sayan
      May 29, 2015 at 02:26

      Hezbollah wont be fighting Israel, it’ll be fighting NATO- like Assad is. Tho in Lebanon, the JEWhadis will be overtly assisted by Israel, EU,UN and GCC. They wont have to pretend anymore that they sprang up out of nowhere spontaneously on their own and are fighting for ‘democracy’ or some such garbage.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6G_AJ_zWV0

  8. John P
    May 27, 2015 at 18:52

    I had the same thoughts Joe. It seems quite strange that the two parts of the puzzle appear at the same time.
    As for war with Lebanon, they want the Lebanese land south of the Litani river which they occupied after the 82 war but Hezbollah turfed them out. They consider it part of greater Israel. God knows where international law and sanity go when Israel is concerned.

  9. Joe Tedesky
    May 27, 2015 at 16:10

    Last week I read a couple articles descripting how FIFA was possibly going to eliminate Israel from the World Soccer Matches. This was brought about by complaints of discrimination by Palestinian soccer players. Some may recall how this was reminiscent of what happened years ago with South Africa. Only, now FIFA was messing with Israel. Apparently this was a dumb move, because now the US Attorney General is arresting FIFA executives over charges of corruption. I know, I know, these two things could never be related! Although, is there a connection, well it just goes to show how much influence Israel has over this American government.

    When it comes to Lebanon my heart goes out to those people and their children who will no doubt suffer greatly from whatever warring actions Israel will wage upon these poor individuals. I truly wonder if Israel and the US government is trying to get everyone in the world to hate them. We Americans really should take back our government away from these crazy corrupt AIPAC politicians of ours.

  10. alexander
    May 27, 2015 at 15:23

    Why does Israel have to be at war with any of these people ?
    Why is Israel always attacking everybody..
    .insisting it is pre-emptive self- defense?
    Who else says that ?
    Is Israel suggesting, this time,that if they do not start “another” war with Lebanon, they will be attacked by Lebanon?
    Really ?
    Would you attack Israel if you were Lebanon?..
    .And why does it always refer to its attacks against another country as an attack against a militia within that country ?….And why do we never hear that narrative in reverse ? -Like….Lebanon is planning to attack a “Stern Gang terror unit “in Israel ? or… Lebanon is preparing to pre-emptively attack the “Irgun Terrorists ” in Tel Aviv.?.or .Palestine is staging an attack against ” Zvai Leumi” terror cells” in Hebron , or Sderot ?
    If Israel is always doing the” attacking” and the “other guy ” isn’t, how is Israel not ,without a doubt, the “Terrorist” in the conflict?
    Does anyone really think that starting a war is NOT a terrorist act ?
    Why are all our narratives so pre-packaged for us ?…are we not ALLOWED to think for ourselves?
    How stupid is all this really ?

    • Russ
      May 28, 2015 at 06:01

      Iran has stated unequivocally that it does not recognise Israel’s right to exist – neither does Hezbollah, the military organisation it openly funds. How many nations today face such a threat? Imagine if a European country stated that Germany had no right to exist for whatever reason, referred to it as “the Ayrian Entity” & funded military organisations that sought to do it harm. Even after the events of WW2, Europe would at any point in time, countenance such talk against Germany. Israel has a right to exist. Look at the talk coming out of the Khomeinist International Union of Resistance conference, where scholars refer to the “cancerous tumor of Israel”. Israel is certainly not dealing with rational people who uphold it’s right to exist. It appears they want to finish the work Hitler started. Israel is recognised by international law and any nation that preaches it’s destruction should be isolated from the international community, until it conforms.

      • Anonymous
        May 28, 2015 at 14:36

        “How many nations today face such a threat?”

        Quite a few; Syria, Libya and Iraq spring to mind, their national sovereignty attacked by Western nations, advocated for by self-declared Israeli supporters.

        Also, don’t you think it is hypocritical in the extreme of any Israeli to barrage the UN Security Council for failure to enforce resolutions relating to Lebanon when Israel itself fails to honour resolutions constantly?

        The violence in the area caused by Israel is horrific. And they are always the first to strike against others. Their hypocrisy is shameless and disgusting.

      • John P
        May 28, 2015 at 15:59

        Russ, it was shown that the Iranian leadership said no such thing, it was a miss translation exploited to the nth degree. It was in fact saying Israel shouldn’t exist the way it is today in reference to racism, bullying and the breaking of international law at the expense of others.
        The extreme Zionists should learn to live within the world as a whole like so many Jews who don’t buy into the Zionist story. Instead Zionist reinforce the old fears in the vulnerable and then use them for their own cause. Alan Hart titled his series of books, “Zionism: the Real Enemy of the Jews.” I think that is especially true today with all the advances we have in communication, the world is more aware of ugly abuse of power. And Alan Hart was a friend of both Golda Meir and Arafat.

      • analdo
        May 28, 2015 at 18:59

        You need to tie a platic bag around your head and breathe deeply, Hasbara. Israel is a terorist country that thrives on war and killing. No matter what they do, it is never considered as wrong, is it? Some troll or Hebrew uber alles twit is always there to explain to us how israeli barbarism is justified.

      • Alec
        May 29, 2015 at 03:32

        “Israel is recognised by international law …”

        If that is justification for its existence then Israel should abide by other international laws such as the right of return and return of stolen Palestinian property.

      • JACK
        May 29, 2015 at 10:32

        I ALSO do not extend a ‘right to exist’………….to any zionist entity. PROUDLY ‘ANTI-SEMETIC’……………….MOST PROUDLY ‘ANTI-SEMETIC’ and anti-kharzian too.

        KILL ALL BANKSTERS. KILL ALL BANKSTERS. KILL ALL BANKSTERS.

      • Alan
        May 29, 2015 at 11:06

        A-hole! I am highly critical of Israel’s actions, but you are still an A-hole.

      • Bob the Nob
        June 1, 2015 at 00:09

        What rubbish.

        Most of the greatest evils that man has inflicted upon man have come through people feeling quite certain about something which, in fact, was false.
~ Bertrand Russell, British philosopher and mathematician, 1872-1970

Comments are closed.