Rein in Hezbollah

The region has experienced years of war, including 500,000 killed in Syria and millions pushed into refugee camps.

August 27, 2019 22:14
3 minute read.
Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah gestures as he addresses his supporters via a scr

Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah gestures as he addresses his supporters via a screen during a rally marking the anniversary of the defeat of militants near the Lebanese-Syrian border, in al-Ain village, Lebanon August 25, 2019. . (photo credit: REUTERS)

Hezbollah has threatened again to attack Israel, in a speech by its leader Hassan Nasrallah on Sunday after two drones crashed in Beirut. Hezbollah blames Israel for the drones, and Nasrallah said that Israel should be prepared for an attack on the border. “Wait for us,” he said, it is coming “in one day, two days, three.”

Wednesday is the fourth day. Along the border, security forces have taken precautions, and residents there are now wondering if 13 years after the 2006 Lebanon war, a new war is brewing.

It is incumbent upon the international community to send a stern message to Lebanon and Hezbollah to act with caution and restraint, and not allow them to set off a fuse.

The region has experienced years of war, including 500,000 killed in Syria and millions pushed into refugee camps. It has seen genocide in Iraq against minorities, and the horrors of ISIS. No one wants another war, and Hezbollah’s rhetoric, as well as its actions, are a violation of UN Resolution 1701 that ended the last war in 2006. It is essential that the international community hold Hezbollah and Lebanon to the same international standards as other states.

Lebanon’s political leadership – Michel Aoun, Saad Hariri, and Nabih Berri – have all been unhelpful in inflaming the situation, accusing Israel of violating the country’s sovereignty and even intimating that what happened was a “declaration of war.” Has Aoun forgotten the last Lebanese civil war in which he played a key role? Has Hariri forgotten who murdered his father? Has Berri
forgotten the hardships his Amal movement previously faced when Lebanon has seen conflict? Does this generation really seek to pay the price for Nasrallah’s extremism, while he sits ensconced in his bunker leaving others to face the result of his rash decisions?
Lebanon’s leadership feels free to inflame the situation with its comments and talk of “war,” because the country has not been sent a strong message from the international community that it must de-escalate tensions, as opposed to increasing them.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a warning to Nasrallah, and to IRGC Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani.

“I heard what Nasrallah said,” Netanyahu said on Tuesday. “I suggest to Nasrallah to calm down. He knows well that Israel knows how to defend itself and to pay back its enemies. I say the same to Qasem Soleimani: be careful with your words and even more so with your actions.”

Soleimani has worsened tensions in the region by encouraging Shi’ite militias in Iraq to stockpile arms, thereby endangering the militias and the Iraqi public who live near these dangerous munitions. Iraq now is also at risk amid the tensions for hosting militias that stockpile weapons on the orders of Tehran.

From Baghdad to Beirut, Iran’s “land bridge” of threats, including drones and precision-guided ballistic missiles, reveal the way Iran seeks to use neighboring states as staging areas to threaten Israel. It hollows out these countries, creating militias and political parties that become more a state-within-a-state than an institution helping the state. Exhibit A: Lebanon.

For years, Hezbollah felt that it could do whatever it wants – building tunnels into Israel, stockpiling weapons under the nose of the Lebanese army and the UN, sending its fighters into Syria to aid the crimes of the Assad regime – and there was no attempt to rein it in. This added to an increasingly tense situation in the region, and the future looks bleak.

Netanyahu means it, and not because Israel is in the midst of an election campaign. The Israeli airstrikes that rocked the Syrian village of Aqrabah, southeast of Damascus, on Saturday night destroyed an Iranian cell active in Syria commanded by Soleimani that was planning multiple, simultaneous armed drone attacks on northern Israel. When Israeli intelligence discovered the plot, the IDF did what it always does when faced with an imminent and real threat: it acted to wipe out that threat.

Now is the time for France, the US, and other countries that have an interest in peace in the region to make it clear to Hezbollah and its allies that they must de-escalate, and not make a mistake by attacking Israel. The world should fear the consequences for Lebanon if that happens.

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