Contemplating Syria, Hezbollah retaliation

Syrian attack on Israel could deflect focus from internal crisis.

Airstrike in Syria 370 (photo credit: Courtesy of Facebook)
Airstrike in Syria 370
(photo credit: Courtesy of Facebook)
The alleged attacks by Israel against Syria, supposedly targeting an arms facility and advanced Iranian surface-to-surface missiles believed to be headed for Hezbollah, raises pressure on the Syrian regime and the Lebanese terrorist organization to make a concrete attack against Israel.
With what could be reportedly ongoing Israeli bombardments of Syrian territory for the entire world to see, it is now hard to fathom that Syria and Hezbollah would allow for much more loss of face before responding.
In what is reported to be the third attack by Israel on Syria this year, and with more strikes possibly coming, the pressure is increasing for some sort of response. While it is possible that Hezbollah could resort to attacking soft Jewish or Israeli targets abroad, as it has done before, it also may respond directly against Israel.
The Shi’ite axis of Hezbollah and Iran have suffered tremendously in the eyes of the Sunni world for its support of Syrian President Bashar Assad. It seems shared animosity has, for now, trumped Israel’s alleged actions against Assad’s regime, which is viciously defending itself against a Sunni-led opposition.
Perhaps quietly, many of the Sunnis were cheering the attack, but publicly, the Arabs fell into line.
Assad and Hezbollah are now desperate for a new public relations program.
According to an article by Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a speech last week by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah shifted the group’s rhetoric to focus on its protection of Shi’ite shrines in Syria and its role in the resistance against Israel.
In this light, stated Badran, Nasrallah’s second trip to Iran in the past two weeks was perhaps a chance for Iran to offer its partner strategic guidance on refocusing on a winning slogan – resistance against Israel.
“Hezbollah’s effort to link its role in Syria with the struggle against [the Jewish state] explains [its] decision to send [a] drone over Israel last week,” Badran said.
This was also confirmed on Sunday by a report in the Lebanese daily An-Nahar, which stated that the Islamic Jihad, which is closely allied with Iran, said it would respond for the attacks on Syria.
“Syria has its hands full, but I’m surprised the regime hasn’t attacked Israel already as a way of deflecting attention to the common Israeli enemy,” Matthew Levitt, a senior fellow and director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Stein Program on Counter-terrorism and Intelligence, and the former deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the US Department of the Treasury, told The Jerusalem Post.
“As for Iran and Hezbollah, they’re already at full tilt in a shadow war against Israel and the West,” he said.
A move to deflect the focus from the Syrian battle to the Israeli front could provide relief for the constant media and international attention that has been focused on the Syrian conflict.
At the same time, Hezbollah and Syria know they would pay severely for any direct attack on Israel, but how much longer can they absorb Israeli attacks without responding?