Will Hezbollah Join The Conflict? 3 Reasons It’s Hesitant| USA TODAY

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Will Hezbollah join the conflict? 3 reasons it’s hesitant | Originally published in USA Today | as well as in more than 100 newspapers (online & print) across North America.

The ongoing war in Southern Israel and the Gaza Strip has raised a crucial question: Will Iran order its proxy, Hezbollah in Lebanon, to enter the battle and officially open a second front?

To understand the potential involvement of Hezbollah, we must examine the broader context and recognize the connection between Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. These organizations share a common goal — the violent destruction of Israel — and they are trained, armed, funded and receive logistical support from the Iranian regime, which also seeks Israel’s demise.

Iran, aspiring to become a dominant regional power, devised a strategy rooted in perpetuating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This strategy involves building a military presence around Israel, with the intent to wear down and weaken Israel through repeated, short military engagements. The ultimate objective is to create a “ring of fire” encircling Israel, ready to strike from all directions when the time is right. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza serve as pivotal components in this network and Hezbollah, based in Lebanon, serves as a crucial component.

As of now, Hezbollah has refrained from actively engaging in the ongoing conflict with any significance. Instead, it employs a strategy characterized by launching gradual, small-scale and carefully controlled threats. This approach appears aimed at deterring Israel from launching a military campaign to eradicate Hamas. It may also reflect Iran and Hezbollah’s hesitancy regarding full engagement in the conflict.

There are several reasons contributing to this hesitancy:

  • Firstly, Hezbollah lacks the element of surprise, because almost immediately following Hamas’ incursion this weekend from Gaza, Israel has been bolstering its military preparations, shoring up its northern defenses for a potential Hezbollah attack.
  • Secondly, the images of the devastation in Gaza resonate with Hezbollah’s commanders as they know a similar fair would await their power centers in Lebanon. On top of that, Lebanon is already teetering on the edge towards its own internal civil war and significant devastation to what Israel is unleashing on Hamas is Gaza would likely lead to the final disintegration of Lebanon and foster an internal civil conflict Hezbollah would have to allocate its paramilitary forces towards, thus splitting its manpower and weaponry across two battlefronts of its own.
  • Lastly, the United States has delivered a resolute message to Iran and Hezbollah by strategically staging significant U.S. military assets in the area and making firm public commitments to supply Israel with necessary resources to defend itself, sending a strong message to both Tehran and Hezbollah — “Stay Out.”

But Hezbollah’s current gradual, controlled threat strategy will encounter its moment of truth.

Based on current indicators, Israel’s intent is to systematically dismantle the military and organizational capabilities of Hamas over time. Iran will face a tough choice: accept the loss of Gaza as part of its “Ring of Fire” or commit Hezbollah into the fight to support Hamas and Islamic Jihad, while risking severe repercussions for Hezbollah, one of the regime’s most crucial operational assets. While Hezbollah’s entry into the conflict is a plausible scenario, it remains uncertain at this stage.

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The war between Israel and Hamas is a seminal event in the history of the Middle East. The event is already sending shockwaves throughout the region and the world. Hezbollah’s joining the battle, or its remaining on the sidelines, will further enhance the geopolitical impact of this war on the Middle East.

Avi Melamed is a former Israeli intelligence official who went on to serve as deputy and then as senior Arab affairs adviser to Jerusalem Mayors Teddy Kollek and Ehud Olmert, operating as a negotiator during the first and second intifadas. He is the author of “Inside The Middle East | Entering A New Era,” and his latest docuseries, “The Seam Line,” available on the Izzy streaming platform, focuses on Jerusalem’s flashpoints and his work during the intifadas.

Will Hezbollah join the conflict? 3 reasons it’s hesitant | Originally published in USA Today | as well as in more than 100 newspapers (online & print) across North America.

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Avi Melamed
Avi Melamedhttps://insidethemiddle-east.com
Avi Melamed is an expert on current affairs in the Arab & Muslim World and their impact on Israel & the Middle East. A former Israeli Intelligence Official & Senior Official on Arab Affairs, Fluent in Arabic, English, and Hebrew, he has held high-risk Government, Senior Advisory, Intelligence & Counter-Terrorist intelligence positions in Arab cities & communities - often in very sensitive times - on behalf of Israeli Government agencies. He is the Founder & CEO of Inside the Middle East | Intelligence Perspectives - an apolitical non-partisan curriculum using intelligence methodology to examine the Middle East. As an Author, Educator, Expert, and Strategic Intelligence Analyst, Avi provides Intelligence Analysis, Briefings, and Geopolitical Tours to diplomats, Israeli and foreign policymakers, global media outlets, and a wide variety of international businesses, organizations, and private clients on a range of Israel and Middle East Affairs.

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