Since May of 2013, Hezbollah has sent thousands of fighters into Syria to help out the Basshar al-Assad regime. Since that time Hezbollah's estimated losses in Syrian conflict are 1500 dead and 5000 wounded.

In 2008, when Lebanon's  government moved to shut down Hezbollah's private communications network and remove Beirut airport's security chief over ties to the group. Terrorist group responded by seizing much of the capital and fighting rival Sunni groups. To end the sectarian clashes that left 81 people dead and brought Lebanon to the brink of a new civil war, the government backed down and a power-sharing agreement gave Hezbollah and its allies the power to veto any cabinet decision.

In 2011, Hezbollah and its allies forced the collapse of the unity government led by Saad Hariri, a leader of the Sunni bloc, with Hezbollah warning that it would not stand by as four of its members were accused of involvement in the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Harriri.

There are seven main political parties in Lebanon.  These parties, are divided into two main political blocs. March 8 is a pro-Syria, Iran-backed umbrella group that includes the militant group Hezbollah and the Christian Free Patriotic Movement party. On the other side there’s Western-backed March 14, dominated by the Sunni Muslim majority Future Movement party, and two large Christian parties, Lebanese Forces and Kateab. Hezbollah,  holds 12 seats in the Parliament. 



Hezbollah's Second Front  

As the 10th year anniversary of the Second Lebanon War approached it was met by Israeli public with the mixed feelings. Even thought it was referred to as Lebanon war, the actual battle took place between Israel and the terrorist group, Hezbollah. It began on July 12th of 2006 as a result of Hezbolla's cross-border incursion into Israeli territory that resulted in killing of three Israeli soldiers and kidnapping of another two.

War has lasted for 34 days and cease fire was agreed upon between Lebanon and Israel as per UN Security Council Resolution 1701. It called for the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces and "disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon so that there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State." In addition the UN peacekeepers (UNIFIL) were deployed in Southern Lebanon in order to ensure that designated areas were not used by Hezbollah for hostile activities.

       IDF Forces Returning From Lebanon by Moshe Milner. Government Press Office, Israel.

Even though, since the end of the war ten years ago the Israeli-Lebanese border has remained relatively quiet, many political observers and military analysts caution that the third Lebanon War is still a strong possibility. Unlike the conditions in 2006, there are many more players and a lot of weapons contained in relatively small space between Lebanon and Syria.

All of that is happening within the immediate proximity to Israel who to this point has remained mostly neutral. But at the time when there is an unannounced proxy war raging between Saudi Arabia and Iran anything can happen at any time and even a small miscalculation or provocation can force Israel into the renewed conflict with it's northern neighbor.

Hezbollah is currently bogged down in Syrian conflict and one would think that it would not be prudent for them to open up a second front with Israel. But prudency and logic do not rule the Middle East, especially when it comes to Hezbollah and it's long time leader Hassan Nasrallah, notorious for his adventurism. Back in 2006, he admitted that had he know how Israel would react to Hezbollah's provocation, he would have thought twice before going ahead with it.

Hezbollah is a fully owned subsidiary of Iran who is almost daily beating a drum of destruction of the state of Israel. Given the unpredictability of the current state of affairs in Syria, at any moment Iran may decide to inject Hezbollah into confrontation with Israel for the political gains. Hezbollah is not in the position to say no, as without Iran there is no Hezbollah.

In the speech broadcasted on June 24, 2016 Hassan Nasrallah has admitted as much: “We are open about the fact that Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, come from the Islamic Republic of Iran. As long as Iran has money we will have money,” Nasrallah added.

Abandoned Tiran 5 Tank With Khomeini Poster

   An abandoned Tiran 5 main tank in South Lebanon displaying a poster of Ayatollah KhomeIni 

Hezbollah, or Party of God, is a purely Shia Islamic movement with Pan-Arabic ambitions. It's creation was inspired by the Iranian revolution of 1979 which under the leadership of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini shook up the entire Middle East and set a political Islam in the region on fire. Hezbollah was one of the entities that emerged out of that fire.

They are responsible for many terrorist actions, both in Lebanon and abroad, the most notorious ones being the killing of 241 U.S. Marines in Beirut and the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafik Harriri, who was calling for disarmament of the radical group.

Initially Hezbollah armed itself under the premise of liberating Lebanon from Israeli occupation. They are still claiming that it is the main reason for them having their own military force, independent from the Lebanese army, even though Israel completely withdrew from Lebanese soil back in 2000.

The fallacy of their claim was exposed when Hezbollah fighters were ordered into action to revive the flailing Assad regime in Syria. They were called to help the regime that occupied Lebanon for 29 years and was forced to withdraw only after the Cedar Revolution of 2005. Syrians still maintained a powerful influence over Lebanon as they left behind armed to the teeth Hezbollah forces who were more loyal to Iran and Syria than they were to their own country.

Since that time, many Lebanese politicians have been calling for Hezbollah to disarm or integrate their forces into the regular Lebanese army. Unfortunately some of those brave politicians have suffered the same fate as Rafik Harriri. Back in 2008, Hasan Nasrallah famously threatened to "cut off the hands that dare touch Resistance's weapons". He certainly kept his word.

For all practical purposes present day Hezbollah is holding the entire country of Lebanon hostage and turned once the most progressive country in the Arab world into an Iranian colony. Their long term goal is to turn Lebanon into an Islamic Republic in the mode of Iran.

Hezbollah's leadership feels very confident that they can be successful should another war with Israel come about. Even though they lost a lot of fighters in Syria they also gained a great experience on the real battleground. Hezbollah has always been a guerrilla force and combat experience fighting alongside of the Russian Special Forces against Syrian rebel groups and ISIS is providing them with a know-how of conventional war tactics which they can utilize against Israel.

Since the war of 2006, despite the cease fire agreements and UN resolutions, Hezbollah kept rebuilding their military arsenal. On July 12th of 2016, Israeli Ambassador to UN, Danny Danon, informed the Security Council of the following: “I have the unfortunate task of informing this Council that 10 years later, the situation has gone from bad to worse. The government of Lebanon never stopped Hezbollah, and Hezbollah never stopped its military buildup."

Danon also informed them that Hezbollah, now possesses about 120,000 missiles, compared to 7000 ten years ago. He also presented to the Security Council the aerial photographs of where the rocket launchers are hidden between homes, near the schools and in mosques.

Back in February, Hezbollah leader boasted that while he is not seeking another confrontation with Israel, their arsenal includes long distance missiles that can hit ammonia storage tanks in Haifa resulting in massive casualties equivalent to those caused by nuclear explosion.

It is very difficult to take Nasrallah the peacenik at his words regarding Hezbollah's intentions when you have a nonstop call to arms emanating from his Iranian bosses. Any chance they get, from Grand Ayatollah Khamenei to Revolutionary Guard commanders, the Iranians are warning that they will not stop the military buildup until Israel is annihilated. That kind of rhetoric coupled with 120000 Hezbollah missiles aimed at you are not confidence builders for peace.

Hezbollah sign over the highway in South Lebanon near the Litani River PD

                        Hezbollah sign over the highway in South Lebanon near the Litani River

A dramatic increase in Hezbollah military capacity means a much greater stakes for both sides. The massive missile arsenal in possession of the terrorist organization would mean a much greater chance for many Israeli casualties. Hezbollah has no moral dilemma with purposely targeting the civilian population. For them just to survive the confrontation would be enough to claim the victory, no matter how many Lebanese people die or how many cities and villages are destroyed.

In March of 2016, the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, known as the GCC, have designated Hezbollah as a "terrorist" organisation, citing "hostile actions" by the Iran sponsored movement. GCC Secretary General Abdullatif al-Zayani said that the six predominantly Sunni Gulf monarchies, namely Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, undertook the move because "Hezbollah militia recruited young people from the Gulf for terrorist acts".

A month earlier Saudi Arabia halted a $4 billion dollar military aid to the Lebanese army because Lebanon did not condemn the attacks on Saudi diplomatic mission in Iran following the execution of the prominent Shia cleric by the Saudis. They also noted the "hostile Lebanese positions resulting from the stranglehold of Hezbollah on the state".

It was a pretty radical move taken by one Arab country against the other given the diversity of the Lebanese population, good portion of which is represented by Sunnies. But all is fair when you are engaged in the proxy war the way Saudi Arabia and Iran are fighting for the control of the Middle East. The two bitter rivals are on the opposing sides in the sectarian conflicts is Syria and Yemen that have no end in sight.

This move by the Gulf states is especially poignant because of the dire situation Lebanon finds itself in while hosting over a million Syrian refugees. For the county with native population of only 4.5 million people it's a huge burden. But while the military aid was aimed at modernizing the Lebanese army, Saudis did not want to take a risk of some of those weapons falling into Hezbollah's hands and used against Saudi allies on Syrian battlegrounds. In addition Saudis simply wanted to punish Lebanon for the perseived disloyalty.

If asked who is their worst enemy, most Lebanese people will point to Israel, given that in recent years they fought two wars with the Jewish State. The wars, Lebanon fought with Israel were the results of non stop terrorist activities emanating from Lebanese soil by PLO in 1985 and by Hezbollah in 2006. But the reality is that if left alone Israel poses no threat to Lebanon and the only conflict two countries would have otherwise is over who makes a better humus.

Unfortunately Israel and Lebanon do not exist in the vacuum. Iran and it's vassal, Lebanese Hezbollah, are not going to rest for as long as Israel is part of the Middle East map. Even Hezbollah's involvement in Syrian civil war is portrayed by terrorist group's Secretary General, Hassan Nasrallah, as a war against Israel.

UN Peacekeepers in Southern Lebanon

                                        UN Peacekeepers on Patrol on in Tyr, Lebanon.

Ironically, he calls the Syrian rebels, terrorists and an Islamic State a creation of Zionists and Americans aimed at fracturing the Islamic movement. How many Arabs are buying this nonsense is tough to tell, as often times the feelings of Arab street are very different from official positions of their governments. In addition, people in the Middle East love the conspiracy theories, especially when it involves Israel.

The opinion of the Arab street, both Sunni and Shia, is very important to Hezbollah. For just surviving the 2006 war with Israel, they were hailed as heroes throughout the Middle East and they carried themselves as the leaders of Pan Arab power spreading their tentacles all over the world. Their influence in the Arab world grew exponentially as did their ambitions.

Unfortunately for Hezbollah the Syrian civil war broke out and to save the Assad regime from collapse, they were ordered by the Iranians into Syrian sectarian quagmire where they are often times are pitted against the Sunni versions of themselves. While they were instrumental in protecting Asad, along the way they lost a lot of the cache gained with Sunni Arabs over the last couple of decades.

That is why Hezbollah is constantly bragging about tens of thousands of rockets aimed at Israel. They are desperately trying to keep alive the narrative of being the most effective force in the region capable of inflicting damage on the Jewish state. Not all of is just for show. Hezbollah genuinely hates Israel and would love nothing better than to test their newly accumulated arsenal on the Israeli cities.

The reality of current affairs in the Middle East dictates the different priorities for the terrorist group. The most important priority is to retain a complete control over the political life of Lebanon and keep the rest of the country hostage to the Iranian interests. The second priority is to keep the Assad regime alive as without strong Syrian state and their support, the chances of Hezbollah to be successful in any military campaign with Israel will greatly diminish.

Israelis have signaled many times that any major provocation by Hezbollah will be met with a very strong response. If they do go to war with Hezbollah, this time they will likely go all out knowing full well how commited their sworn enemy is to the Syrian conflict, which is not going to see resolution any time soon.

Question is if Hezbollah is willing to stretch itself thin and open a second front with Israel. If they do decide to get into conflict with Israel, that decision is going to be purely political and not strategic. Israel does not represent any threat to Lebanon's territorial integrity nor does it compete with Iran over religious and political influence over the Middle East. That role belongs to Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states.

Does it mean that the chances of another war between Israel and Hezbollah are greatly diminished? Not at all. You do not accumulate over 100 thousand missiles and rockets just for fun or for show. One of the main reasons for Hezbollah's existence is to destroy the Jewish state and that will never change. They just got sidetracked when one of their bosses got into serious trouble.

If another war with Hezbollah breaks out, Israel will do a lot of damage to Hezbolla's capabilities, but at the same time will be subjected to the barrage of thousands of missiles from the Lebanese side. Israel is going to eventually prevail and will weaken the radical group for the number of years just as they did after the 2006 war. Unfortunately that is all they can hope for.

Hezbollah cannot be destroyed entirely for a couple of reasons. First, it's a grassroots Islamic organization that has a fiercely loyal following from a majority Shia population of Lebanon. And the second reason is that Western countries will not allow it.

Just like Hamas, Hezbollah has perfected the art of victimhood. Most of their rocket launchers are situated in residential areas, which would mean that any retaliation from Israel will inevitably lead to civilian casualties. Those casualties will be paraded all over television sets and laptop computers until the so called allies would begin anti-Israel blame game and demand to end the conflict.

We all know how this movie ends for Israel as we already have seen the previous episodes. What is different for Lebanon this time is that the entire Middle East is currently in great turmoil and even people who have been following the region for many years have trouble figuring out all the players and shifting alliances.

Lebanon is a country of many religions with a dreadful history of the civil wars. Add to that the sectarian conflicts all around them and you get a witches brew that will be very difficult to digest. Hezbollah needs to be very careful not to open up the Pandora's box inside their own country. The potential for bad situation in Lebanon getting worse is much more real that it was in pre-civil war Syria.

All Israel can do at this time is hope for the best, but prepare for the worse. Nobody wants to see enter Israelis or Lebanese die in unnecessary conflict that unlike the situation in Syria will not make any significant changes to the existing status quo. Ball is in the hands of Hezbollah leaders and their Iranian minders.