Two pieces I put out from 2009 I think…. the Arab revolts changed the timing on all this, of course, delay matters for a bit and now accelerating things in a dangerous way… but this is how I view hizbullah’s strategic view in general… mainly extrapolating from Nasrallah’s own discourse (so beware of the limitations!)
Well it has finally come to this…. sadly since this situation of course could have been averted if the far far stronger power – the US – had forged a grand bargain with its far far weaker adversary – primarily syria in 2000 and of course iran in 2003… and Hizbullah in 2005
No matter: a great read in Al-Monitor.
This article sounds roughly correct in my view in assessing Hizbullah’s stance right now.
The problem – among many – is that even if US policymakers and the military “get it right” and somehow thread this very tight needle and fall within the safe zone of not provoking a massive escalation – as the article and may other sources now make clear is THEORETICALLY POSSIBLE – this is anything but a clean model context for testing out theories that depend on some many things to go exactly right!
The key point: There are simply too many actors on ALL side who want things to go wrong, push over boundaries etc.
This means that although in theory it is possible for a limited US strike to not entail escalation and regional war – and in theory it could offer some measure of deterrence while also exhausting the energies of the Resistance Axis to a degree that MAY pave the way towards a negotiated solution, especially if the US axis relaxes its position somewhat – this is just very very unlikely to work out!
When you have elements – strong elements – on all sides pushing for a clarifying war – Saudis of course, Gulfies (some), some in the Israeli establishment, some in Washington, some in turkey, many in Al-Qaeda, many in the FSA linked groups, some in Assad’s clique, some in Hizbullah, some in Iran…..and even possibly some in russia and china – well all of this means the chances of not opening the pandora’s box of a great war are slim at best.
Almost all the myths of the past 2.5 years of the war in Syria have now fallen – so you have a good idea about the response to the US-led attack
In the beginning, despite warnings from many of us actually in the Middle East and closer to the actors involved, it was said that:
1) Russia would not really back Assad – that myth fell, as expected.
2) That Hizbullah would not get involved – that myth fell over time, as the existential nature of this conflict was revealed, as expected. I remember being chided on this at my LSE talk and by leading oppositionists last fall!
Listen to the podcast debate here:
3) That Hizbullah was a paper tiger – that myth fell in Qusayr – although one could only have looked at the July 2006 War to know this since a force – hizbullah – essentially beat one of the strongest army in the world – Israel – to a standstill.
4) That Assad would not go to extreme levels of violence to protect the regime – anyone who lived in syria and knew the regime – and hizbullah knew this VERY well – knows how cruel the regime has always been.
5) That Assad would fall quickly or at some reasonable point – this myth fell as people realized that the Resistance Axis architecture is deep and enduring and will not fall easily – even via decapitation as per the july 2012 assassinations.
6) That Syria did not have WMDS – I remember being chided on this at a talk in paris at AUP.
7) That the “samson” option was never possible – and that Assad or others would never introduce such weapons in the field… well they got introduced as expected when the whole edifice of everyone fighting in syria is degrading into hell.
8) That the US and allies would rapidly intervene – well it took some prodding, BUT the US congress may yet stand in the way….
9) That violent jihadists would not control the field – that myth is over
10) And my favorite – that if we had only attacked assad earlier, the outcome would have been just great – no jihadists, the regime falls, a nice sunni replaces him, iran and hizbullah are screwed, israel is unscathed and liberal feminists rule in Damascus, although they still believe in an acceptable form of “market socialism.”
BUT THE BEST MYTH has yet to fall – WHAT WILL HIZBULLAH AND IRAN DO in response to a strike?
The myth circulating now is the SAME, essential root from all the above: they are paper tigers and its better to act decisively and with great force and everything will be ok… or at least better than it is now.
Then you read… you talk to the actors, reflect on conversations with the actors and read what THEY have said and are saying.
http://www.alraimedia.com/Article.aspx?id=461116&date=02092013 (translated by mideastwire.com)
These bits of the information war are NOT likely to be mere posturing.
The likely response is from WITHIN SYRIAN lands into Israel – and Israel will be forced to decide on escalation and escalation into Lebanon also.
This will be a fatal mistake – but the Israelis are likely to take the step and the Amerians are unwittingly or not paving the way for this liklihood.
A last Myth that will probably fall in this scene – That israel is well prepared in terms of missile defence and the homefront to adequately withstand the escalation.
Exactly… translated from our MIDEASTWIRE.COM in tonight’s briefing:
On August 28, the independent Al-Rai al-Aam daily carried the following report: “Official sources in Hezbollah indicated that the party has been placed in a state of high alert in bracing for the near term arrival of the western war ships and their entry to the Mediterranean. The sources also told Al-Rai that “the command of Hezbollah is closely following the developments of the situation in light of the decision taken by the western countries, which stepped over the Security Council.”
“The sources revealed that “Hezbollah is interested in learning the extent of the western movement and whether the war will consist of a punitive strike against the Syrian regime or whether this will consist of a strike with the aim of breaking the balance.”
“The sources further insisted that “in the event that the United States and Britain decide to deal a military strike in order to tip the balance in favor of one party in Syria, then Hezbollah will not be able to just stand still and watch the threats to the heart of the Resistance axis.” The sources threatened that “any reaction carried by Hezbollah will not aim at deviating the world’s attention from the Syrian situation and will rather be based on the common destiny [between Hezbollah and Syria].”
“The sources also indicated that “some Lebanese parties are anxiously waiting for the western strike against Syria since they erroneously believe that this kind of development will flip the balance in Lebanon.” The sources added that “this is impossible and a mere illusion.”"
I just returned to Tunis from Beirut where we met a variety of figures.
The Hizbullah officials and supporters we talked with (after ruweiss bombing but before the wmd events) reiterated what we have been told for more than two years: This is existential, there are significant enemies all around who want to destroy Hizbullah, Shiites and Resistance, not to mention Iran, Assad etc.
This is the climatic confrontation, now – Hizbullah proved in syria already that this is existential, that it is not a paper tiger and that it will not hesitate (as obama does) to go in deeply and violently.
Should the strike by the US-led groups really attempt to significantly alter the current balance of power, then the counter reaction will be equal or even more by the Resistance Axis, especially in terms of its destabilizing effect (considered from a US interests point of view).
There is the possibility that a PR-type light strike could contain the response. But more than that – especially if it puts the Axis position in serious jeopardy – and we will likely be in a spiral escalation that will be very very hard to stop in this particular context.
There is an alternative, vis a vis US policy…. more on this tomorrow!
When you watch these folks writing from far far away, its amazing, but you understand how the US and other great powers continually make the same mistakes over and over again, continue to hurt their (our) interests, and continue to wreck havoc on the rest of the world as a result of the sometimes bad analysis and bad policies.
Cordesmen starts with this incredible graf:
“The U.S. has hard choices to make in Syria. Even if the U.S. does intervene militarily, the time window for its best option has already passed. President Obama may have had reason to be cautious and play King Log to President Bush’s King Stork, but the U.S. did not intervene when the rebels were strongest, the Assad regime most fragile, and limited U.S. support to the then dominant moderate rebel factions might well have pushed Assad out of power without dividing Syria along sectarian and ethnic lines.
Every option today comes up against the reality that Assad is now far stronger, the country is increasingly being split into Assad and rebel controlled sections, the rebels are fractured and rebel forces have strong Sunni Islamist extremist elements, and the nation is increasingly polarizing into an Alawite and more secular Sunni and minority bloc, a Sunni Arab bloc, and a Syrian Kurdish bloc. In practice, this means there is no way the U.S. can quickly use any amount of force to destroy the Assad regime with any confidence that Syria will not come under Sunni Islamist extremist control, or divide into Alawite, Sunni, and Kurdish blocs in ways that prove to be even more violent and lasting than such sectarian and ethnic divisions have in Iraq.”
– As some of us have long argued, the idea that the Syrian regime was weak last year, or at the start of the revolt is illogical. They have been greatly degraded over the last 2.5 years. They were much stronger, and a strike would have had far less legitimacy…. AND dont forget that the regime has always already had the WMD capabilities.
Indeed, the logical conclusion that follows from this is that a strike earlier would have provoked a stronger regime who would have had even more legitimacy to respond widely and strongly.
A strike now is still a dumb idea, but it was a really really dumb idea when the regime was much much stronger and the case by the US and others was weaker.
This is, in fact, the MAIN reason why there was not a strike earlier. If it had been easier as Cordesman suggests so effortlessly, then the Libyan option might have been exercised.
The military folks knew an earlier strike was stupid, however, and the political folks in DC agreed.
But Cordesman continues to circulate this nonsense.
Stephan Biddle Just Does Not Get It: Terrorist response is the last thing to worry about in this next Great War
Stephan Biddle could not have looked more detached from the realities of the region sitting, as he was, in a nice Washington office on Jazeera.
Remember Biddle’s masterful work which managed to divine Hizbullah’s INTENTIONS in the july 2006 war with literally ONE footnote reference to a speech/statement by anyone in Hizbullah – no joke, ONE nasrallah quote in the 200 plus pages!…
He said the following today:
“my hunch is that they will talk more and kill less” after a strike.
Amazing that this passes as serious analysis.
He amazingly did not even mention 1) the Samson Option of the regime and/or its allies pulling the house down on everyone if the scale of the strike is high enough (via WMDs and/or involving Israel etc) nor does he even mention 2) the EASE by which the Resistance Axis actors can and likely will provoke/bait Israel into entering the war some of the Israeli leaders desperately want as a means to smash hizbullah (and possibly Iran).. not to mention Assad. (and that some in the Resistance axis equally want.)
But what he really fails to realize in this is that the Axis response – the highly likely deepening of a great conflict in the Holy Land – goes way way beyond mere terrorist responses around the globe (he talked about embassy attacks in a serious way!).
Biddle and many analysts who know little directly about the actors – the “bad guys” – does not realize that a substantial US-led attack will provoke a substantial counter-attack.
This will go way beyond terrorism: with the holy land involved, several of the actors having real WMD capabilities, a deep and historical hatred of each other, and a cocktail of actors willing and able to provoke whatever they want… AND the entire region literally on fire… how could ANYONE be comfortable that this will be a nice CNN war, or a “terrorism” case or two…. or even the JULY 2006 war?
More on these points more coherently tomorrow.