The next war between Israel and the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah will be more destructive than previous conflicts, thanks to a massive Hezbollah arms build-up that includes a 150,000-rocket arsenal, and is likely to begin with a minor flare-up that escalates to an all-out confrontation, according to a report from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), issued today.
Its authors, Jonathan Schanzer, Tony Badran, and David Daoud, note that Israel is now torn between the desire for continued calm on its northern border and concerns that Hezbollah must be confronted before it becomes too strong.
Israeli decision makers are also concerned that the window for dealing Hezbollah a critical blow may be closing — before Iran takes advantage of the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement (JCPOA) and develops a nuclear weapons capability. This could potentially restrain Israel in a future conflict with Iran's top proxy, Hezbollah.
The authors warn that U.S. policy in Syria, which has allowed Iran and Hezbollah to expand their regional aggression, must shift toward defeating the Iranian-led efforts there.
The authors observe that, for now, Hezbollah is constrained by its regional military commitments. Thousands of Hezbollah forces are currently committed in the ongoing Syrian civil war, and more than a thousand have returned to Lebanon in body bags, making it extremely difficult for the organization to justify a two-front war.
“FDD has long been concerned that the JCPOA has put Tehran on a patient pathway toward atomic weapons capability,” said FDD Executive Director Mark Dubowitz. “This report underscores how the deal poses other long-term threats. A nuclear umbrella for Hezbollah would drastically alter the balance of power in the Middle East and undermine American interests.”
While conflict is generally viewed by both sides as inevitable, the authors provide recommendations that could delay conflict or help guide it to ensure a more positive outcome.
“Congress has taken important steps in recent months to impose sanctions on Hezbollah and to constrain it in other ways,” said FDD vice president for government relations and strategy Toby Dershowitz. “The proactive and sound suggestions included in this report should help guide the policy discussion in a positive direction.”
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The Foundation for Defense of Democracies is a non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)3 policy institute focusing on foreign policy and national security. Founded in 2001, FDD combines policy research, democracy and counterterrorism education, strategic communications and investigative journalism in support of its mission to promote pluralism, defend democratic values and fight the ideologies that drive terrorism. Visit our website at www.defenddemocracy.org and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.