The Mideastwire Blog

Excerpts from the Arab and Iranian Media & Analysis of US Policy in the Region

(Finally) an Israeli think tank piece that’s compelling on Hezbollah: But “Mutual Restraint” approach is unraveling

Benedetta Berti and Yoram Schweitzer have a good analysis piece from INSS here that I finally got to. It was especially interesting reading it of course this weekend after the Israeli strike.
I will appear tonight on Al-Jazeera’s Inside Story to discuss the issue here:

Suffice it to say that the IAF strike that killed several major hizbullah and Iranian figures is particularly interesting and dangerous because of the way it is starting to be received here in Lebanon – a line of thinking that Hizbullah officials made clear in our recent meetings: Israel’s role on the side of and in coordination with radical Islamist rebels, and other rebels (although the level of military coordination is still not as solidly known), is emerging as a new, and especially explosive arena of the Hizbullah-Iran-Israel conflict.. and that arena is steadily moving more widely into Syria itself as well as in the Golan region.

This strike needs to be seen in that overall context and NOT JUST in the context of Hizbullah-Israel  tit-for-tat, deterrence, rules of the game etc.

The bottom line is that heating up this region FURTHER with conflict, and widening the scope of miscalculation and contingency – deepening the Israeli involvement in the Golan and southern syria and elsewhere in Syria, and necessarily drawing in Hizbullah to the zone further as well – is a particularly bad idea for all actors involved and underscores the need for a negotiated political solution with no preconditions in Syria.

This weekend, we saw clearly that the Israelis – or some aspects of the Israeli leadership – is willing to push the boundaries of “mutual restraint” that all parties benefited from since the 2006 war. The problem with this of course is that in this situation of incredible, escalating and morphing conflict, the ability to control events is lessening by the day for all concerned.

The region and people and the various systems of power that are multiplying and in conflict are all over-taxed, to say the least, which threatens a much wider, systemic breakdown.

KEY POINTS FROM THE INSS piece:

“…At the same time, it is a mistake to assume that the extensive war preparations since 2006 (on both sides) should serve as an indication of the parties’ eagerness to engage in another round of war. Quite the contrary: since 2006 both Israel and Hizbollah have shown a common interest in preventing another war, resulting in a generally restrained attitude, motivated in turn by the mutually shared assumption that the next round of hostilities will be far more severe and intense than any previous confrontation between the parties. The system, based on mutual deterrence, has de facto been in place since 2006, resulting in an uneasy yet almost undisturbed calm across the Blue Line…”

“…Therefore, in the short term, this combination of domestic pressure and external involvement will likely help lower Hizbollah’s interest in confronting Israel even further. Of course, this does not exclude the possibility of a war breaking out, either as result of a gross miscalculation by Israel or by Hizbollah, or in response to a dramatic development on the Iranian-Israeli front…”

“…In the long term, it is far from clear whether Hizbollah’s current involvement in Syria will help or hinder its future performance in a war with Israel. Hizbollah has been entangled in Syria, with an estimate of roughly 3,000-4,000 fighters involved in the hostilities,15 a high number for an organization whose force is believed to comprise roughly 5,000 full time fighters and between 15,000 and 20,000 part time/reserve officers.16 Also, the organization is suffering from significant losses in Syria…”

“…Indeed, due to the dramatic differences, both qualitative and quantitative, between Hamas’ and Hizbollah’s arsenals, and considering the latter’s far more precise and sophisticated rockets and missiles, Israel may choose to react from the initial stage of the fighting in a more extensive way in the context of a confrontation with Hizbollah, leading thus to an all-out war resulting in greater civilian casualties (on both sides) and extensive damages to infrastructure. Similarly, Israel would likely not tolerate the closing of its aerial or maritime space and would presumably react to break the “siege” at almost any cost. A wrong translation of Israel’s relatively limited offensive policy in Gaza could be especially risky for Hizbollah if it were to lead to yet another miscalculation, which, much like in 2006, would cost Lebanon dearly, only this time in a much more lethal scope…”

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Written by nickbiddlenoe

January 19, 2015 at 5:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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