Despite the current relative calm exhibited between Israel and its arch-enemy, Hezbollah, appearances within this context may be spurious at best. The dynamics of the “neighbourhood” and the fluid nature of the current situation in Syria increase the likelihood of conflagration vis-à-vis the aforementioned parties.
For its part, the defeat of Daesh and ISIS-related forces in Syria has meant a repositioning of Hezbollah’s perspective from a focus of “on the ground” support for Assad’s military and Iran’s expeditionary troops in that country, to its more traditional “Resistance” mantra, defending Lebanon from Zionist aggression.
Despite losing upwards of 2,500 fighters in the Syrian conflict, Hezbollah has emerged as a battle-hardened, experienced, and well-organized military force, ever-prepared to undertake its master, Iran’s, bidding. Radical by nature, beholden to the mullahs in Tehran, and fervent in belief, Hezbollah cannot be expected to fit within the typical pragmatic constraint of a state actor.
By analogy, Israel views The Party of God as an existential threat, a staunch ally of Iran (a sworn enemy intent on Israel’s destruction) with as many as 40,000 fighters and auxiliaries capable of launching upwards of 150,000 short-and-medium-range missiles on a swift path to striking major population centres, thereby inflicting unacceptable civilian casualties on a mass scale.
The de-escalation in Syria, coupled with the reinstatement of sanctions on Iran by the Trump administration and Israel’s demonstrated willingness to strike at Iran’s assets (be they fixed or air-launched) in the Syrian arena, suggest an increased likelihood that Hezbollah, as a proxy bidden to Iran, will be forced to act.
An Inevitable Scenario
Given the inevitability of such a scenario, Israel’s military doctrine must be first-strike in nature; swift, devastating, and contrary to its 2006 conflict of “fighting with one hand behind one’s back,” must take a “no holds barred” approach.
Hezbollah, as a socio-political actor in the Lebanese polity landscape, should be considered, de facto, an integral part of the state. The same rules of engagement that Israel followed historically, in 1967 and 1973, must in effect become its strategy herewith.
A Resolve for Israel’s Safety
For Israel to successfully eliminate Hezbollah as a threat, the coming battle must in essence, forcibly rip apart the Party of God from the fabric of Lebanon, eliminate the military threat therein, and ensure a modicum of coactus pax on Israel’s northern border.
In continuing, this would necessitate the use of overwhelming military force throughout Lebanon, exploiting the quick deployment of air and missile assets, the dissemination of thousands of ground troops, the widespread targeting of Lebanese infrastructure (both civilian and military), and the infliction of Lebanese casualties, military, and collateral.
An occupation of Lebanon, up to its northern border, would follow. Messy, but war usually is.