The rocket attack on the Hezbollah stronghold in south Beirut marks a turning
point in the Syrian war and the clearest signal yet that the conflict is likely
to escalate and spread to Lebanon, already on a knife’s edge due to sectarian
divisions. Shi’ite- Sunni strife in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere is
manifesting itself in the Syrian civil war, dragging neighboring countries into
The rocket attack seems to be the opening salvo in Lebanon
by Sunnis against the Iran/Hezbollah/Syria axis.
Further examples of this
came on Sunday as Egyptian jihadist movements called on Mujahedeen from around
the world to go to Lebanon and fight Hezbollah, according to a report on Now
Lebanon’s website. And Bahrain’s foreign minister called Hezbollah leader Hassan
Nasrallah a “terrorist” a day after his speech on Saturday, which called for strongly
supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad, according to a report on Al-Arabiya.
Also on Sunday, Hezbollah MP Hasan Fadlallah said that the
resistance would “confront any attack against it from whatever side or place it
comes,” according to a report in the Lebanese Daily Star.
Javedanfar, a lecturer on Iranian politics at the IDC in Herzliya, told The
Jerusalem Post that the recent rocket attack on Beirut was most probably a
consequence of Nasrallah’s speech. “The Syrian opposition,” he said, “is trying
to create deterrence” against the advancing Hezbollah and Syrian
Countries supporting the Syrian opposition most probably gave
tacit approval for the attack as they would want Hezbollah to pay a price for
its support of Assad, according to Javedanfar.
What is clear is that “the
conflict has entered a new stage,” where the Syrian crisis is threatening
But, adds Javedanfar, in the short term it is Iran
which has the most to worry about from this development.
Perhaps Iran is
concerned that bringing the battle to Hezbollah’s home turf will diminish the
group’s ability to fight for Assad in Syria.
Chuck Freilich, a senior
fellow at the International Security Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School’s
Belfer Center and the former deputy national security advisor in Israel, told
the Post that the attack was a major escalation and that Israel should try to
stay out of it as much as possible.
According to Freilich, the Israeli
government’s policy to refrain from intervention seems to be the correct
There are more negatives than positives when looking at the option
However, it has no choice to intervene if advanced weapons
are being transferred to Hezbollah, he added.
Freilich believes that US
President Barack Obama is doing everything he can to stay as far away from this
as he can.
“There is a lot of room in the middle, between full
intervention and a policy of no involvement,” he said adding that a policy of
nonintervention “is a form of involvement.”
Freilich said that Syria is
potentially coming apart and Obama should try to do something, at least
minimally to try and shape events, but “now it is a bit late to get into the
“At what point to get involved? When Jordan’s king is under threat?
How bad does it have to get before getting involved?” For now Israel seems to be
acting like a referee at a boxing match – allowing each side to pummel the
other, just as long as no red lines are crossed.