January 19, 2015 | Quote

Tensions Between Israel And Hezbollah Are At A Boiling Point

The precision of the latest strike implies that the Israelis have likely still penetrated Hezbollah, in spite of Shawraba's discovery. And the attack is a continuation of a long-standing Israeli doctrine of striking outside the country's borders to take down potential threats to national security. Israel has repeatedly struck inside Syria and Sudan to prevent weapons transfers to Hezbollah and Hamas; meanwhile, Jihad Mugniya's father Imad was killed in what was likely an Israeli-plotted car bomb in Damascus in 2008.

Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider that “any one of them could have been targets of opportunity, meaning that they were on a list of targets the Israelis were tracking.”

It's also possible Iran wants Hezbollah to have a Golan staging area for attacks on Israel for reasons of its own. Such a strategic vantage point would allow Tehran to trigger a regional crisis almost at will — something the country's leaders may one day believe they have an interest in doing.

“Iran would probably welcome a conflict” between Israel and Hezbollah, said Schanzer, who previously worked as a terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Treasury Department. “It would distract from nuclear negotiations, it would take heat off Assad, and almost certainly cause the price of oil to spike. And, of course, any opportunity to strike at Israel is something the welcome.”

But Schanzer notes that “a second front for Hezbollah could mean Iran redeploying valuable assets away from Syria.”

With so many of its rising leaders and killed and the project of a Golan foothold threatened, the attack represents a setback for Hezbollah. And the group has a pattern of responding to Israeli actions against them.

The group unleashed a barrage of rockets on northern Israel when the IDF entered Lebanon to recover 2 soldiers the group kidnapped in July of 2006, sparking a month-long war. Hezbollah and Iran-aided attacks on a Jewish center and the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the early 1990s — killing 114 people total — were the group's response to Israel's killing of Hezbollah commander Abbas al-Musawi in 1992. And in 2012 Hezbollah killed 6 people in a suicide bombing of a bus full Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, possibly as revenge for Imad Mugniya's death.

“We know Hezbollah will retaliate. The question is how,” says Schanzer. “Their smartest move would be a strike abroad, like they conducted in Bulgaria. But whether they go with their safest bet remains to be seen. They are clearly bruising for a fight. And that is where mistakes can be made.”

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Hezbollah Iran Israel