February 19, 2009

A Third Lebanon War?

The Lebanese-Israeli border has been calmer during the last two and a half years than it has been in decades. Hezbollah replenished its arsenal of rockets after the 2006 war, but has chosen to lay low in the meantime. Not one Israeli soldier has been kidnapped since the war’s end, and not a single Hezbollah rocket has landed in Israel. Nothing stays the same in the Middle East for long, though, and Israel and Lebanon may be headed for confrontation again.

One year to the day after Hezbollah military commander Imad Mugniyeh was assassinated by a car bomb in downtown Damascus, Alice Fordham published a piece at NOW Lebanon that makes for sobering reading. She quotes a number of analysts in both Lebanon and Israel who fear another round of violence is coming. Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah blames Israel for killing Mugniyeh, and he vows vengeance. His threat appears to be credible. Terrorist attacks against Israeli interests by Hezbollah cells have been foiled on three continents -- in Europe, Egypt, and Azerbaijan.

I wrote recently that Nasrallah appears to have been deterred by Israel’s devastating air and ground assault in July and August of 2006. “We did not believe,” he said on Lebanon’s New TV station, “even by one percent, that the captive operation would result in such a wide-scale war, as such a war did not take place in the history of wars. Had we known that the captive operation would result in such a war we would not have carried it out at all.” Not even during the recent war in Gaza, while the Israelis were busy and distracted fighting Hamas, did Nasrallah think it wise to risk a repeat of 2006. Unless every reported terrorist attempt since Mugniyeh’s assassination is fictitious, though, Nasrallah still seems to think it’s okay to attack Israel outside Israel.

Israel vows to retaliate inside Lebanon if Hezbollah inflicts any serious damage. “The Lebanese government bears overall responsibility, and any attempt to attack Israel will be met with a response,” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said. Even a relatively restrained response inside Lebanon by Israelis could escalate into a big war, as it did last time.

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at February 19, 2009 11:36 PM
Comments

I was just reading NOW Lebanon. It was great to hear about the "sea of people" filling Martyrs’ Square on February 14 to remember Hariri and to confirm commitment to Lebanese independence.

But it was alarming to read about the attacks against Middle East Airlines employees (a pilot was killed and an IT worker kidnapped) and the attacks (which may or may not be related) against people returning home from the February 14th commemoration. Could the predicted violence be an internal battle to intimidate voters?

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at February 20, 2009 1:26 PM
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