Hezbollah, Syria and the Golan Heights

EU blindness to Hezbollah’s threat is a repetition of what happened in the 1930s.

February 19, 2013 22:01
4 minute read.
Lebanon's Hezbollah supporters gesture as they march in Beirut, November 2011

Hezbollah march, fighters 370. (photo credit: Reuters/Khalil Hassan)


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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.

Attacking 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 demands.

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 wall.

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 instability.

The refusal of EU to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization is, therefore, crucial; it gives them approval and legitimacy.

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.

Syrian 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.

Isolated, Israel’s 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.

Attacking Israel 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.

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