The shadow war against the Iranian-Hezbollah armament program

Israel faces a daily dilemma on when to intervene to stop Hezbollah's armament program – a step that could trigger a wider conflict – and when to step back and allow the force buildup to continue.

November 1, 2013 11:56
1 minute read.
IAF F15 fighter jet (Illustrative)

IAF F15 fighter jet 311 (R). (photo credit: Baz Ratner / Reuters)


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Thursday’s strike on a Syrian air defense missile base near Latakia could be the latest chapter in a long, covert Israeli campaign to disrupt Iran’s massive program to arm Hezbollah via Syria.

Iran continues to try to supply Hezbollah with advanced weapons for use against Israel, and the Assad regime, which owes its survival to Tehran and Hezbollah, has never been more compliant with Iranian requests to transfer or provide weapons to the Shi’ite terror organization in Lebanon.

With Hezbollah already in possession of 80,000 rockets and missiles, some of which can strike any target in Israel, Jerusalem faces a daily dilemma on when to intervene to stop the armament program – a step that could trigger a wider conflict – and when to step back and allow the force buildup to continue.

In principle, low-profile strikes allow for pinpoint action to disrupt the arms flow, without getting dragged into a wider conflict.

If a decision is taken to intervene, it would be when security chiefs feel that strategic arms are en route to Hezbollah, weapons that would allow it to cause serious damage to the Israeli home front or the IDF in the next round of fighting.

Such weapons might include advanced surface-to-air missiles, surface-to-sea missiles and guided surface-to-surface missiles – which would give Hezbollah the ability to hit sensitive strategic targets in Israel.

According to international media reports, the last alleged Israeli attack in Syria occurred on July 5 in Latakia, targeting advanced Russian-made surface-to-sea Yakhont missiles.

Unnamed American sources told The New York Times that this strike did not destroy all of the missiles it targeted, that Bashar Assad ordered his army to set fire to the site to try and hide that fact, and that another attack would be needed to complete the mission.

It remains unclear whether Wednesday night’s reported blasts are linked to such claims.

What is clear is that Iran, the Assad regime and Hezbollah are working to assist one another, and that Hezbollah’s efforts to increase its threat to the Israeli home front cannot go unchecked indefinitely.

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