The presence of a reported 50,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Syria to
support President Bashar Assad is an indication of what Iran and Hezbollah have
in mind – the preservation of Syria as a strategic asset in the regional power
struggle. Losing Syria would leave Hezbollah isolated in Lebanon; a
Syrian-Lebanese alliance, on the other hand, would allow Hezbollah to fortify
Iranian interests in both countries.
A future Syrian government would
then comprise a Sunni-Hezbollah alliance, similar to the political structure in
Lebanon, without Assad and the Alawites, who would become a minority protected
by Hezbollah. Following the Lebanese model, Hezbollah in Syria would be a
state-within-a-state, with its own army and political structure, allied with a
weak, fragmented Islamist Sunni-dominated state. For Hezbollah this is the
perfect solution; it allows them to function covertly without the inconveniences
of diplomatic restrictions.
Hezbollah can and will attack Israel, as it
did in the Second Lebanese War (2006), protected by its parent state and
entrenched within Syria, with vastly expanded capabilities.
Israel proper would incur diplomatic censure, but there is a more “legitimate”
target: the Golan Heights.
Regardless of who ends up nominally in control
of Syria, one of their first priorities will be to demand that Israel return the
Golan Heights as a precondition to any negotiations regarding borders. The US,
EU and international community will then be faced with a stark choice: either
recognize Israel’s legitimate rights to the Golan, or support Syrian
As Egypt weighs in, along with Turkey and other Arab countries,
and the issue becomes entangled with Arab Palestinian demands for Israel to
withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines, Israel’s back will be against the
An Israeli refusal will no doubt trigger heavy diplomatic pressure
and perhaps even economic sanctions. Led by EU countries, the UN and the ICRC –
which provides a legal basis for condemning Israeli “occupation” as a violation
of the Fourth Geneva Convention (GC IV) – the international community will fault
Israel for undermining the new Syrian regime and contributing to regional
The refusal of EU to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist
organization is, therefore, crucial; it gives them approval and
Islamists, both Sunni and Hezbollah/Shi’ites, will smell
blood and prepare for the next war against Israel – this time from the north.
Aided directly and indirectly by Turkey and Egypt who support the Sunni
Islamists in Syria, Hamas in Gaza, and a robust Moslem Brotherhood in the region
they will be joined perhaps by Iraq and nominally by Jordan, as well as
terrorist groups from Libya and other Arab and Muslim countries.
demands would provide an opportunity to direct the Islamist revolution, al-
Qaida and Hezbollah against Israel. Weak and/or complicit central governments
would allow myriad militias and gangs similar to those operating in the Gaza
Strip to attack the Golan, Israel and Western interests, as well as each other.
Iran, meanwhile, waits with the ultimate threat.
survival will be at risk, not only by the combination of enemy forces and the
massive amounts of weaponry at their disposal, but by President Barack Obama and
the international community who seek to bring Israel to its knees. The Golan
Heights is the next objective in this struggle.
diplomatically over the Golan, rather than engaging in military confrontation,
may be preferable – at least until the dust settles. But Hezbollah can put
missiles and heavy weapons in the hands of its supporters in Syria, who could
act under the umbrella of and with the assistance of any government in Syria. It
would be difficult if not impossible for Israel to hold anyone accountable for a
“rogue” (officially unauthorized) terrorist operation. Moreover, Hezbollah will
have access to huge quantities of chemical and biological weapons in Syria, as
well as Scud missiles.
These WMD increase the danger that they would be
used against Israel. As a buffer, the Golan is critical for Israel’s security.
But standing up to diplomatic pressure will not be easy.
Until the Syrian
WMDs are eliminated, however, not simply transferred to another Islamist regime,
everyone in the region is at risk.
Hezbollah’s increasing role in Syria,
therefore, is a clear and present danger. The failure of EU countries to
understand and recognize this threat will lead to conflict not only with Israel,
but one that will engulf the entire region, and more attacks like that in
Bulgaria throughout the world.
EU blindness to Hezbollah’s threat is a
repetition of what happened in the 1930s – and, with radical, violent Islamist
cells throughout Europe, the results will be disastrous. Iran and Hezbollah’s
war against the Jews will not end there. Once Iran gets the bomb, they and
Hezbollah will be in a powerful, decisive position – and, at that point, it will
be too late.
The author is a PhD historian, writer and journalist living in Jerusalem.