With every passing minute, there are fears of an expansion of the scope of the war in the Middle East, and the most expected front is Iran, whether directly between Tel Aviv and Tehran or between Tel Aviv and one of Iran’s arms in the region, or more precisely Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. It is known that Iran has strong armed forces, including the Iranian Army, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the Iranian Air Force, and the Iranian Navy. Over the years, Iran has announced the development and testing of a variety of military systems including missiles and potential nuclear weapons. However, it must be kept in mind that accurate estimates of Iran’s military capability depend on many complex factors such as tactics, technology, training, financing, regional tensions, and international relations.
In any case, the most likely direction is Hezbollah’s proxy intervention in the currently ongoing war. Several factors may lead to expanding the scope of the war, especially if external parties intervene in the war, such as Iran or Russia, as the war is likely to escalate and spread to other fronts.
Observers believe that Hezbollah planned “thought-out clashes” across the border between Lebanon and Israel, to keep Israeli forces “busy.” So far, the Lebanese Hezbollah has been content with limited intervention in the war launched by Israel on the Gaza Strip, amid calls aimed at not opening a second front against Tel Aviv, and avoiding further tension.
Hezbollah has so far avoided luring Israel into very costly military action, especially since “Lebanon has lost the capabilities to withstand a large military operation or an open war because the country does not possess the capabilities that existed in 2006.” In addition, the decision to open the Lebanese front with Israel was taken by Iran, not Hezbollah. This could happen in two cases. The first is if Tehran feels that the fate of Hamas is at stake, and this depends on the results of the Israeli military operation in Gaza. The second case is in the event of a direct strike on Iran itself. Therefore, Tehran is not in a hurry to open a front now as long as Israel is in trouble unless the latter succeeds in its war on Gaza.
But if we look at the balance of power that changed in the wake of the increase of American fleets in the Mediterranean off the shores of Israel, the following becomes clear. “Iran and Hezbollah are not prepared to give Israel an arena for revenge to compensate for what it lost in Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, or to facilitate a way out for it. Therefore, all we are witnessing now is a warming up of the front for Hezbollah to say: We are ready, and partners in the victory that has been achieved by (Hamas). But if things get worse in Gaza, the Iranian order may come to open the southern Lebanese front.”
In a related context, an American intelligence document suggested that Hezbollah would not launch a large-scale attack on Israel. American intelligence analysts considered, in a “top secret” document dating back to last February, that “the balance between Israel and Hezbollah reduces the risk of a large-scale war breaking out during the current year.” The Washington Post also reported last week that these assumptions were put to the test in the wake of the attack launched by the Palestinian Hamas movement, last Saturday, on southern Israel, which the newspaper described as “almost completely surprising to Israeli and American officials alike.” The document stated that the analysis prepared by the US Intelligence Department for the Joint Chiefs of Staff last February considered that Israel and “Hezbollah” had “settled in a position of mutual deterrence since the conclusion of the historic agreement between Lebanon and Israel in October 2022, according to which the two countries agreed to demarcate their disputed maritime borders.”
According to the document obtained exclusively by The Washington Post after sharing it on the Discord platform, Israel and Hezbollah have taken steps to maintain “a state of alert for the use of force, but within the framework of historical patterns of engagement.” This means “avoiding casualties and responding to provocations in a balanced manner.”
The document stated: “For example, Israel may carry out sabotage operations in Lebanon, or fire into empty territory, while (Hezbollah) shoots down an Israeli march, or fires missiles at the northern part of Israel. Despite the provocation of these actions, they take into account avoiding casualties. This is where each side proves to the other that it is willing and able to strike without provoking broader hostilities.”
But the analysis pointed to other factors that could tip this balance, including Hezbollah’s inability to restrain Palestinian armed movements, such as Hamas, which also operates from within Lebanon, explaining that last April, 34 missiles were launched from southern Lebanon. Lebanon on Israel. This was the attack that the Israeli army attributed to Hamas members, whose leaders met with the party’s Secretary-General, Hassan Nasrallah, one day before the attack in Lebanon.
The intelligence analysis revealed that months ago “Israel realized that it was facing a great danger resulting from miscalculation due to the activities of Hamas members based in Lebanon.” Although Hezbollah may not be looking to go to war against Israel, this outcome is not entirely within its control.
There is a redefinition of the Israeli role in the region, and Israel cannot even enter into the issue of normalization and say that it has a role in protecting the region. I believe that all these military failures raise the question about Israel’s new function and role, and whether it can continue its aggression and turn its back on all attempts at settlement in the region, in accordance with United Nations resolutions, and give the Palestinians their independent state.
However, if Hezbollah wants to decide to go to war, I expect that the Palestinian resistance will lose its Arab dimension and the Arab countries will not be obligated to support Gaza and Palestine. Therefore, there is difficulty for Hezbollah to enter the war, and this is most likely so far.
Dr. Hatem Sadek: Professor at Helwan University