Hezbollah Took a Gamble in Syria, Raising the Stakes for Israel

Relatives and comrades pray as they surround the Hezbollah flag-draped coffins of Shiite fighters who were killed in Syria, Nabatiyeh, Lebanon, Oct. 27, 2015 (AP photo by Mohammed Zaatari).
Relatives and comrades pray as they surround the Hezbollah flag-draped coffins of Shiite fighters who were killed in Syria, Nabatiyeh, Lebanon, Oct. 27, 2015 (AP photo by Mohammed Zaatari).
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Hezbollah has taken risks in fighting for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, but those risks are paying off. Israel, however, is on the losing end of this gamble. Find out more when you subscribe to World Politics Review (WPR).

With the Syrian civil war entering its final phase, the conditions are in place for a conflict between Hezbollah and Israel that neither side wants. As Hezbollah fighters begin making their way home after a costly but apparently successful effort to help save the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, there are growing signs that the status quo is about to change.

The Israelis, whose attention is sharply focused on Hezbollah and Iranian installations along Israel’s border with Syria, are becoming increasingly concerned with Lebanon. The most recent war between Hezbollah and Israel ended in a stalemate in 2006. Israel officials believe that since then Hezbollah has stockpiled about 150,000 rockets, enough to hit every house in Israel. There is little doubt on either side of the border that another war will erupt.

War between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon may not be imminent, but it is extremely likely sometime down the line. Now that Assad’s survival is essentially assured, with Hezbollah and Iran regrouping, the outlines are emerging for a new conflict between Hezbollah, battle-hardened by its experience in Syria, and Iran, bolstered by the survival of its crucial Syrian ally, against Israel, determined to prevent them from further fortifying their positions along its border.

To learn more about impending conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, read All the Ingredients Are in Place for Another War Between Israel and Hezbollah for FREE with your subscription to World Politics Review.

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Hezbollah Grows Into a Formidable Threat

For Hezbollah, the gamble of becoming involved in the fighting in Syria seems to have paid off, but that was not always so clear. Formerly hailed across the Islamic world as the champion of resistance to Israel, Hezbollah is now vilified by Sunni Muslims for its support of the Assad regime. Once respected for its financial probity, Hezbollah in recent years has seen the cancer of corruption take root within its ranks as the organization has grown in size and power. On the other hand, Hezbollah has swelled enormously in terms of manpower and weaponry. It has the capability in the next war to bring normal life to a halt in Israel. Hezbollah’s cadres have amassed new weapons and war-fighting skills in Syria and, most importantly, have gained critical combat experience in a brutal theater. Israeli military officials acknowledge that Hezbollah constitutes the Jewish state’s most formidable threat, illustrating that the military power of this non-state actor is comparable to that of a state.

To learn more about Hezbollah’s gamble fighting for Assad, read Will Syria Be Hezbollah’s Proving Ground, or Its Undoing? for FREE with your subscription to World Politics Review.

Hezbollah Emerges Politically Strengthened in Lebanon

For the first time in almost a decade, Lebanese voters went to the polls in May and delivered a subtle but important message with regional ramifications. The results did nothing to ease tensions, instead sharpening enmity between Saudi Arabia and Iran while marginally increasing fears of an impending confrontation between Israel and Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah. The biggest winner in the election, the most powerful man in Lebanon, was not on the ballot: Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah was quick to declare the vote “a great political and moral victory.” Following Hezbollah’s controversial intervention in Syria, that outcome was far from assured. But May’s election strengthened the hand of Hezbollah, the militant Shiite organization and political party with deep links to Iran that Israel considers its biggest national security threat.

To learn more about Hezbollah’s political ascendancy in Lebanon, read Lebanon’s Elections Show Hezbollah Survived Its Intervention in Syria for FREE with your subscription to World Politics Review.

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After the Syria Standoff, a Pivot Back to Lebanon?

After seven years of civil war, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad looks set to emerge victorious thanks to the support he received from Russia, from his patrons in Iran and from Iran’s Lebanese ally Hezbollah. The war is not over, but the focus on what comes next is already underway, and one change is now plainly visible: Iran, Damascus and Hezbollah are pivoting their attention to Lebanon’s future—and so is Israel. In December, a flurry of military and political activity shifted to Lebanon, confirming that the tiny country—which has for so long been caught in the vice of regional tensions, often with disastrous consequences—is once again feeling the pressure. Lebanon has been listening to the threats and counterthreats exchanged by Hezbollah and Israel, watching military activities along its borders, tracking mysterious flights by Iranian aircraft, and following a fraught political drama that shows no end in sight.

To learn more about how Hezbollah-Israel tensions are heating back up in Lebanon, read As Syria’s Civil War Winds Down, Israel, Iran and Hezbollah Pivot to Lebanon for FREE with your subscription to World Politics Review.

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Editor’s Note: This article was first published in August 2018 and is regularly updated.

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