With the wars against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria driving the terrorist group from each country, the prospect of peace in the region is even less likely as a possible power vacuum in Syria is setting up Iran in a position of strength.
The government of Tehran has been propping up the government of Assad by lending support through their proxy, Hezbollah. Now, the Iranians will look to expand the Syrian civil war past the border and into Israel.
Eleven years ago this month, Israel went to war with Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanon-based Shi’a proxy militia. The fighting began when Hezbollah fired rockets at Israeli villages and missiles at Israeli armored vehicles patrolling the border. Three Israeli soldiers were killed. Two were kidnapped and taken into Lebanon.
They would be among the more than a thousand people killed during the 34 days that followed. Hundreds of thousands, in both countries, would be displaced.
The passage of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 on August 11 marked a halt to the conflict. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was expanded and granted the authority to use force to ensure that southern Lebanon became free of “any armed personnel, assets and weapons” not under the direct control of the Lebanese government or UNIFIL.
It soon became apparent that UNIFIL would fail to accomplish that mission. Today, Hezbollah has an estimated 150,000 missiles of varying ranges and accuracy pointing at Israeli villages and cities — about 10 times what it had in 2006. UNIFIL sees nothing, knows nothing and, of course, does nothing.
There has been one restraint on Hezbollah’s rearmament: Israeli intelligence sometimes learns of Iranian shipments of advanced missiles. Airstrikes have destroyed at least some of these shipments en route.
Now, however, Iran has a new plan: Over recent months, its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been building fortified, underground missile production factories in Lebanon.
For the moment, the Israelis are giving diplomacy a chance, for example by briefing members of the U.N. Security Council, warming that the next war is bound to be more destructive and bloodier than the last.
Among the reasons: Hezbollah’s presence now extends well beyond southern Lebanon. It has taken control of Beirut’s port and airfields. It is the most powerful faction in Lebanon’s government. To fight Hezbollah while sparing Lebanon is no longer possible.
In addition, Hezbollah’s leaders have installed their missiles in (and under) homes, schools, hospitals and mosques. Their use of “human shields” ensures a high civilian death toll and, incidentally, blatantly violates international law. But they are confident that many journalists, U.N. officials and “human rights” groups will reflexively blame Israel, not them and certainly not Iran for the carnage.
Another indication that Hezbollah may be preparing for a new conflict: It has set up observation posts along the Israeli border, claiming these are part of an environmental effort called “Green Without Borders.”
With the Iranians pouring foreign Shia fighters into Syria, the stage is set. Tehran has never made its plan to annihilate Israel a secret. Now they are planning on beginning that plan and to spread its revolution to neighboring Bahrain and Kuwait as well. They have also been sending fighters into Afghanistan, trying to gain influence there as well.
The US and the Trump Administration has some very difficult decisions to make shortly.
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