Hezbollah's Miscalculation in Syria

Eiland argues that Hezbollah had little choice but to throw its weight behind Assad, since its own position will become highly untenable in the event that Assad falls. He sketched out three possible outcomes to the Syrian crisis: democracy; a Syria controlled by “very religious Sunnis, like the Muslim Brotherhood”; or a Syria that would splinter along ethnic lines. None of those outcomes augurs well for Hezbollah, so the logic is against its increasing its vulnerability by tempting the wrath of the Israelis right now.

In the case of the first outcome, democracy, Hezbollah’s advocates inside Syria would be hard-pressed to win over the Syrian people in an election after Hezbollah's performance during the uprising. The second outcome is also threatening, as an extremist Sunni regime might well believe it has a score to settle with the hostile Shia militia next door that took up arms against Syrian citizens. The third is dangerous by virtue of its sheer unpredictability.

Two other points argue against a reflexive move towards war by Hezbollah. First, unless Iran itself fills the vacuum in Syria following Assad’s departure, Hezbollah is going to have a tough time getting its hands on the large supplies of Iranian matériel that are stored inside Syria on its behalf. And second, there is little doubt that Sheikh Nasrallah vividly remembers that as a consequence of Hezbollah’s precipitate triggering of war with Israel in 2006, Iran slashed its budget by 50%. Nasrallah is not going to lift a finger against Israel without a green light from Teheran, and Teheran is waiting to see how Syria shakes out.

Continued vigilance is obviously required, but the odds are against Hezbollah starting any serious mischief with Israel in the immediate future.