Thursday, February 14, 2008

Keep an Eye on Hezbollah

Some of my more reputable intelligence sources (Stratfor, Global Security) have been hinting for a few months about the threat of a revived Israeli-Hezbollah war in northern Israel and southern Lebanon. Stratfor suggested that both sides were waiting for a spark; that Hezbollah had been rallying support after its surprising defence against Israel in 2006, and Israel has almost certainly been designing a new war plan to avoid a possibly humiliating repeat of 2006.

The spark has come, and both sides are on edge. After a well-placed bomb exploded under the car of infamous Hezbollah terrorist Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus, Hezbollah media has been quick to blame Israel's Mossad... and they might not be wrong, even if Israel is denying responsibility.

Mughinyeh, unlike Bin Laden, did not make media statements, but stayed in the shadows during his heyday in the 1980's and early 1990's, where he hijacked multiple planes, bombed multiple embassies, and bombed a US Marine base in Saudi Arabia, killing 241 marines: all this according to the US DoD. The US and Israel are certainly happy to see him go, even if he has not been active for some time.

Hezbollah is taking his death extremely seriously. Its leadership is not only blaming Israel for the attack, but has nearly declared war: Hezbollah chief Nasrallah said, "With this murder, its timing, location and method — Zionists, if you want this kind of open war, let the whole world listen: Let this war be open."

Given preparations by Hezbollah and Israel, war may soon break out. If Hezbollah carries through its threats to retaliate, the Israelil military is likely to make some sort of strike against Hezbollah positions (most likely starting with rocket-firing points).

But given the bitterness of the 2006 war, and Hezbollah's continued trouble-making for both Israel and Lebanon's pro-western elements, Israel may be hoping to break Hezbollah's militant force once and for all. With pro-western elements (largely) in charge, secret agreements might possibly have been made for Israeli forces to "breach and clear" southern Lebanon before the Lebanese military occupies and enforces law there... but this was tried in 2006, and with Hezbollah still a powerful force in the Lebanon parliament, decisive action will be difficult, at best.

But keep your eyes on Hezbollah and Israel. Fighting may ensue and escalate in the very near future, and this could lead to the biggest mess Israel has has on its hands in years.