Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hezbollah's desperation

Hezbollah's desperation by Dr. Reuven Berko

Four years have passed since the assassination of Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughniyeh. Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, blamed Israel for the assassination of the Lebanese arch-terrorist, carried out on Syrian soil, and vowed to avenge his death. This vow has not yet been kept in the “dramatic” fashion that was promised.

But, in my opinion, the string of terror attacks that targeted Israelis in New Delhi and Tbilisi on Monday, and in Bangkok before that, aren’t just acts of vengeance for Mughniyeh’s death. In all likelihood, these are signs of desperation and collapse in Iran and Syria.

The growing international pressure that Iran and Syria currently face is a direct and existential threat to Hezbollah. Hezbollah has already declared that it would, if needed, initiate armed conflict with Israel to protect the current Syrian regime.

The string of attacks, apparently carried out by Hezbollah, indicate that the Lebanese organization is collecting debts on behalf of its patrons. The most recent attacks targeted Israeli targets in host countries, not on the front lines. On the one hand, this suggests that the deterrence Israel established in 2006 in the Second Lebanon War still holds. On the other hand, the daring selection of targets suggests that Hezbollah is also capable of activating its agents to attack European and American targets all over the world, and may do so in the very near future.

In intelligence circles it is an established fact that Hezbollah has terror networks ready in Africa, Europe, South America and other places, just awaiting orders -- which have now apparently been given. The three latest attacks should be seen by Western security agencies as a serious warning of Hezbollah’s ability, and willingness, to coordinate attacks at multiple sites and to expand the arena of confrontation with Israel and the West. Hezbollah is apparently also ready to carry out terror attacks in countries that host Shiite exiles, while recruiting agents from among these exiles.

The more pressure the world exerts on Iran, Hezbollah and the Syrian regime, and the closer their judgment day comes, the more multi-dimensional terror attacks we can expect against Western targets, especially Israeli and American ones. These attacks could be carried out as a part of an Iranian campaign, which is clearly escalating in the Strait of Hormuz.
Both the confrontation with Iran and the retribution for Hezbollah attacks require international cooperation -- they are not Israel’s business alone. It is safe to assume that Hezbollah knows that those who assassinated Mughniyeh in Damascus could inflict a world of pain on Hezbollah and its supporters wherever and whenever they choose.