Washington seems to have promised Israel that it will break Hizbollah as a price for the nuclear deal with Iran but this will not pass, says Ali Shehab in Lebanese leftist daily as-Safir
(translated by Mideast Mirror Ltd)
There is nothing on the ground at this juncture that suggests that Israel intends to open a front with Hizbollah. Neither the maneuvers to evacuate settlements in the Upper Galilee; nor the growing talk of scenarios for a future war in the Israeli press; nor the increasingly rapid revelation of modern systems designed to deal with Hizbollah’s pilotless drones or the creation of new elite units that are meant to detect rockets and missiles before they are fired; nor anything else that has emerged publicly in the Israeli media over the past two months can be classified as a serious sign that a confrontation is imminent.
But Israel’s preparations for war are worth noting, not only by way of preparing for the worst, but also because the signals issuing from within the Israeli military establishment and the domestic front point to major faults that need time to be remedied before Israel is ready to fight a war whose outcome will be already decided on the northern front.
Two days ago, some 500 Israeli officers discussed the various scenarios for a supposed war on the northern front. It was worth noting that most criticisms were focused on the Israeli units’ logistical supply lines for fighting such a war and that are meant to provide military equipment and rations and transport the dead and wounded from the battlefront.
The conclusion reached by senior Israeli officers is that, so far, it is not possible to do without the air force and its special units in fulfilling the aforementioned missions. And this means that the ground forces are still unable to fulfill the tasks required of them without affecting their positions on the ground. And these assessments derive their importance from the fact that they provide rich material that can be used in confronting the escalating psychological war that Israel has been waging on Lebanon and Hizbollah for weeks.
When speaking about a month ago, Hizbollah Secretary-General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah expected the coming months in the region to be ‘difficult’ and ‘heated,’ and he based his assessment on a realistic reading of the conditions in more than one regional confrontation. These include the undeclared international understanding on the need to destroy ISIS, as well as the Syrian regime and its allies’ ‘unhurried’ advance in the Syrian arena. Washington is fully aware of the implications and consequences of that advance, especially if it continues in a gradual manner. And this is to say nothing of developments on the ground in the Iraqi arena.
It is clear that an American decision has been taken to put an end to ISIS during the current year, as President Barack Obama himself has declared. Previous American pressure to reduce the role of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in Iraq confirms that the U.S. is rushing to reap the fruit of ISIS’s defeat. Moreover, the U.S.-led coalition’s revitalized air raids in Syria and the race towards Raqqa confirm this as well.
The only new development in the region has to do with the form that this confrontation is taking. And the main factor influencing this development is the fact that the U.S. wants a price in return for ‘facilitating’ ISIS’s defeat. This price is: Hizbollahs’ head.
U.S. President Barack Obama effectively tops the list of the most intelligent American presidents in the history of the White House. It is not easy to manage U.S. interests in an unstable Middle East. Obama enabled his country to overcome the financial crisis phase in 2008 by containing domestic public opinion via a series of economic, livelihood and social measures and laws, and by repositioning U.S. forces outside the country. And he developed new frameworks for relations with his country’s allies in the region and around the world.
The ‘Obama Doctrine’ represents a desire to bend all parties’ will, while sitting in the observer’s seat watching endless conflicts that rage under a ceiling that is calibrated by Washington’s interests. This explains his advice to Saudi Arabia to accept Iran as its partner in influence in the Middle East. But one fixed principle has to do with the U.S.’s continued embrace of Israel. After the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Obama administration tried to contain its smaller ally’s anger by promising to get rid of Hizbollah and Hamas.
Despite all that has been said about tension in relations between Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu and Obama, Obama has not deviated from the role of a U.S. president who knows better where Israel’s interest lies: Let the nuclear agreement pass and you can get whatever you want on your northern front!
On a parallel track, no reliable reports have reached the media yet regarding the scenarios for Lebanon’s fate at the table of negotiations between the major powers. All previous talk of the fate of the Syrian refugees was no more than an expression of European desires concerning this issue; it did not reflect a decision that had already been taken regarding Lebanon alone, as it later transpired.
The above conditions converge on a single joint aim: It has become necessary to find a solution for Hizbollah as part of the effort to rearrange the Levant as required by the borders of the New Middle East that is being built on Syria’s ruins.
The scene of a collapsed state in Lebanon is alluring from the Israeli perspective. It is true that Lebanese politicians usually measure the country’s fate by ‘taking the pulse’ of international envoys in general, and American envoys in particular. It is also true that they have yet to detect any immediate international desire to ‘abandon Lebanon,’ as these politicians like to say. But it is also true that an agreement on the country’s fate at the major powers’ table will basically be based on a measurement of the country’s weight.
And amidst the ruins of the collapsing state and regime structure in Lebanon, Hizbollah appears to be the sole card that is capable of bestowing any regional weight upon Lebanon.
The Americans are well aware of this, having tangibly experienced it on the battlefield in Syria. And since Israel’s military option is currently postponed (for various reasons), there is no better option than to bet on stripping Hizbollah of its weight and weakening it by turning its constituency against it via banking sanctions. These will not end with lists to which new names will be added every month. They are more fundamentally dependent on another of Barack Obama’s schemes announced in 2014 under the banner of Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund. Hizbollah heads the list of targets of that fund.