There has been much speculation of late as to the likelihood that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will launch a war against Israel as a diversionary tactic to deflect attention from his brutal crushing of the Syrian popular uprising. A corollary concern is Hezbollah, which is allied with Assad and which uses Syria as a conduit for Iranian arms.
Hezbollah, too, has the capability to divert attention, both domestic and international, from its assorted crises by picking a fight with Israel. And there is little question that the walls are starting to close in on Hezbollah.
Hezbollah has thrown in its lot with Assad against the Syrian people, supplying gunmen to execute Syrian soldiers who refuse to take part in the killing of Syrian citizens. By siding so unequivocally with the Alawite dictator over his captive, predominantly Sunni population, and in a dispute that has nothing to do with Israel no less, Hezbollah has exploded its carefully constructed image as the standard-bearer for the Muslim common man against the Zionist enemy. Outraged Syrians are now being filmed burning posters of Hezbollah’s chief, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.
Hezbollah’s image has been looking a little frayed for some time. It is an open secret that Hezbollah members were instrumental in the assassination of popular former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. This revelation confirmed that when necessary, the group will take the gravest of measures to secure its position, even measures that are in direct opposition to the will of the Lebanese people. The discomfiture this exposure caused Hezbollah threatens to be revived now that once-quashed rumors are reappearing that Assad ordered the hit.
And as if all that weren’t enough, Hezbollah is now dealing with an internal crisis: several senior members have been arrested on suspicion of spying for Israel.
So is a diversionary aggression against Israel by Hezbollah in the cards, then?
No, it probably isn’t.
IDF Major General Giora Eiland, former head of the Israeli National Security Council and now senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said yesterday in Jerusalem that the squeeze Hezbollah is currently experiencing makes the likelihood of their starting a war lower, not higher. The Syrian crisis, Eiland believes, is “even more helpful” in this regard.