Guest Post: Opening Pandora’s Box: If Israel Strikes Iran, What About Hezbollah?

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by J. Michael Cole (@jmichaelcole1) via Far-Eastern Sweet Potato blog; originally posted at The Diplomat,

Hezbollah, through direct strikes on Israel or terrorist attacks, could complicate Israel's decision to attack Iran and spark an even greater regional crisis.


As the day approaches when Israel may decide to launch a preemptive strike against Iran in order to cripple its nuclear infrastructure, Israeli policymakers and their allies abroad would carefully assess how the Lebanese-based group Hezbollah would react.

Although Israel is unlikely to launch an attack on Iran prior to the U.S. Presidential election in November, the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is said to be running out of patience and is becoming more vocal in warning that Iran’s nuclear program could cross Israel’s so-called “red line” by next spring or summer at the latest. Other factors, including the outcome of the U.S. elections, the outcome of the P5+1- Iran talks that are expected to follow the U.S. Presidential Election, growing instability in neighboring Syria, and the outcome of the early elections that Netanyahu has just called, will all factor into Israel’s decision on whether to use force against Tehran, and if so, when.

But perhaps no single factor, besides Iran’s nuclear program itself, will be as important in influencing Israel’s strategic assessment as the realization that attacking Iran risks sparking a war on several fronts; that is, one that not only invites retaliation from Iran, but very likely from its regional ally and sometimes proxy, Hezbollah. With the debacle of the 2006 war against the Lebanese group still fresh in Israeli minds, the possibility that the Shi’a organization would renew hostilities against the Jewish state through cross-border raids, terrorism, or rocket attacks against its cities, will have to be part of Israel’s calculations for any “day after” scenario.

Besides helping create the “Party of God” on the anvil of the Lebanese civil war and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) invasion of Southern Lebanon in 1982, Iran’s support for Hezbollah has become multifaceted over the years, and now includes: military training, arms transfers, intelligence and, perhaps most crucially, financial support. Although a fair share of the funding provided by Tehran has gone towards building schools and hospitals, as well as the provision of social services in poor Shi’ite neighborhoods in Lebanon, the aid has also helped the organization’s militant wing. Moreover, Hezbollah fighters are known to have received extensive training from, and to be working closely with, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). While Hezbollah is now a political party competing in elections and an important social force in long-neglected parts of Lebanon, and while it has for the most part ceased serving as an extension of the Islamic Republic, its armed wing’s ability to inflict pain on Israel remains a powerful bargaining chip, if not an adequate deterrent against an Israeli attack on Iran. As journalist Nicholas Blanford wrote in a recent book on the organization:

“the billions of dollars Iran has spent on Hezbollah since 2000 was not an altruistic gift to help Lebanon defend itself against the possibility of future Israeli aggression … through Hezbollah, Iran has established a bridgehead on Israel’s northern border, enhancing its deterrence posture and expanding its retaliatory options in the event of an attack on the Islamic Republic.”

Indeed, Hezbollah packs a formidable punch. According to IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Naveh, Hezbollah today has at least 60,000 rockets and missiles in its arsenal, or about ten times the number it had during the 34-day war in 2006. While the organization had few rockets that were capable of hitting Tel Aviv during that conflict, today it is said to have several thousands in its arsenal capable of doing so.

In addition to the short- and medium-range rockets, Western intelligence assesses that Hezbollah has acquired a Syrian version of the Iranian Fateh-110 surface-to-surface missile, with a range of 200-300km, and may have received Russian-made SA-8 tactical air-defense systems. Hezbollah is also suspected of possessing a number of Chinese systems that were reverse-engineered by Iran or Syria, including the Raad anti-ship missile, the Misagh-2 MANPAD, and the B302 rocket, a Syrian version of the Chinese WS-1 multiple-launch rocket system (MLRS). Other rockets in Hezbollah's arsenal include the Iranian Fajr-3 (42km), Fajr-5 (~70km), and the Zalzel I/II(125/210km).

In recent years, Hezbollah has placed medium- and long-range rockets deeper inside Lebanon and further away from the border with Israel. According to Daniel Byman of the Brookings Institution, many of those are concealed in homes. Such an arsenal, added to geographical proximity, has led some Israeli security officials to argue that an attack by Hezbollah would be more dangerous than Iranian retaliation following a preemptive strike against Tehran’s nuclear facilities.

So far, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has revealed little of his organization’s intentions vis-à-vis Israel should Iran be attacked, though he told Lebanese media in September that Iran would lash out not only at Israel proper, but also against U.S. military bases across the region. On the other hand, a senior military advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, recently said that Israeli leaders are placing their constituents “a step away from the grave” because “Hezbollah, will easily respond” if Iran is attacked. While we can only guess which account is most accurate, and though it may be tempting to imagine that Hezbollah would instantly spring into action if Iran was attacked, the group faces constraints of its own that could limit its options.

For one, both the Hezbollah leadership and the Iranian government would have to consider that an all-out attack by Hezbollah against Israeli would have deadly consequences for the organization and Lebanese state. In other words, if its militants were to unleash thousands of rockets and missiles against Israel, the IDF would conceivably respond with overwhelming force, triggering a war from which the Shi’a organization might not be able to recuperate. The Israeli military learned several valuable lessons from its misadventure in 2006, and we can expect that IDF forces will be far better prepared in the next war than they were last time.

For its part, even if the 2006 war bolstered its credentials as a resistance force across the greater Middle East, Hezbollah suffered a serious credibility blow at home for the systematic damage the war caused to Lebanon’s infrastructure. Nasrallah himself subsequently admitted his organization had miscalculated and that had he known of the IDF’s response beforehand, he likely would have called off the cross-border raids that sparked the war. In other words, Israel’s deterrent credibility this time around, added to Hezbollah’s need to act responsibly to ensure the welfare of ordinary Lebanese (what Blanford terms Hezbollah’s increasingly “Lebanocentric attitudes”), could persuade it against launching an all-out retaliation against Israel.

This underscores the central dilemma Hezbollah has faced in recent times: namely, its need to honor its commitments to the Islamic Republic without jeopardizing the crucial support it enjoys among its coalition partners and constituents in Lebanon.

In the context of responding to an Israeli attack on Iran, this dilemma could push Nasrallah towards the option that comports an element of deniability: terrorism. Rather than launch military strikes against Israel proper, Hezbollah, acting on its own or in cooperation with the IRGC, could decide to launch attacks against Israeli or American interests abroad, such as embassies, cultural centers, and so on. While the point of origin of a rocket can easily be traced, the intelligence work that is required to identify the individuals or organizations behind a terror attack can take months and will often times yield inconclusive results, thus making it more difficult politically for Israel to retaliate.

Consequently, while placating the Islamic Republic by attacking Israeli interest, Hezbollah would mitigate the risks of overwhelming retaliation against its positions within Lebanon. The group’s military wing, the Islamic Resistance, may have lost its terror master, Imad Mugniyeh, in a 2008 car bombing  (presumably the work of Israeli intelligence), but there is little doubt it retains the ability to orchestrate devastating attacks worldwide, such as the bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish community’s AMIA building in July 1994, in which 85 people were killed and more than 300 injured.

Some analysts have also speculated that Hezbollah could ramp up its militant activities outside Lebanon to destabilize the region and thereby complicate Israel’s plans to derail the Iranian nuclear program — a sort of preemptive move by Iran to nix Israel’s own preemptive attack. The ongoing uprising against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, an ally of Iran and Hezbollah, is proving both a threat and opportunity for the organization. A longtime backer of Hezbollah, Syria’s al-Assad regime has served as an arms conduit to the organization and propped it up politically within Lebanon, even after Syrian troops were forced to withdraw from Lebanon in 2005 amid political backlash from Lebanese citizens and demands from the UN following the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February of that year.

Because it is drawn largely from the Alawite sect, al-Assad’s regime, like Iran and Hezbollah, believes it is threatened by Sunni Muslims, including the rebel groups that are seeking to overthrow it. The war in Syria is quickly becoming internationalized, with Damascus and Tehran claiming that Israel, the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are actively aiding the rebels. Indeed, the regional and extra-regional ramifications of the uprising in Syria have been underscored by the ongoing exchange of mortar fire between Turkey and Syria over the past week.

Despite Hezbollah’s continued denials, there are strong reasons to believe that Hezbollah fighters are on the ground in Syria, to some degree or another. Moreover, Iran and Hezbollah do not want to see their Syrian ally fall and be replaced by a Sunni-led government or complete chaos. At the same time, the possibility that Syria could spiral out of control and spark a regional war could also convince Israel that the timing is not right to launch a preemptive strike against Iran, though delaying this attack would give Iran more time to make further advances on its nuclear program. In other words, Iran and Hezbollah could regard instability in Syria as a useful sideshow to prevent an attack by Israel, and thus could decide to add fuel to the flames of conflict there.

The challenges posed by the Iranian nuclear program are numerous, with many of the different nodes being interrelated. The problem is made all the more intractable by an increasingly volatile region that is sharply divided along sectarian lines. Hezbollah is but one of the many players involved, but should it choose to do so, it has the capacity to inflict great harm on Israel. As such, any future plans by Israel cannot afford to not take the organization into account. And while several factors would militate against Hezbollah directly retaliating against Israel, Hezbollah has a number of other options — including intensifying the proxy war in Syria or conducting asymmetric attacks against Israeli interests in third party countries— by which it can complicate Israel’s choices before the Jewish state launches operations against Iran, or inflict pain should such a course of action be adopted.

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loveyajimbo's picture

Israel wants Lebannon's water BAD.  Wonder if the US will have to pay a big price for them to get it.  We need to take care of OUR issues... and with Obama... we have MANY.  Let's take a pass.

zerozulu's picture

Jews want everything of this world but without dropping a drop of their own blood.

francis_sawyer's picture

Jews [territorialy-wise] want the Suez Canal to the Tigris-Euphrates River outlet to the Persian Gulf (NOTHING LESS)... All the rest of the crap you read or are force-fed by the Jew controlled media is horseshit...

chumbawamba's picture

Do not fuck with a society that has incorporated into their flag an AK-47.


I am Chumbawamba.

Spirit Of Truth's picture

Jews want peace, but they just refuse to accept how to get it, i.e., the second commandment - love thy neighbor as thyself ===> value others as oneself.  That bit of sage advice from their Creator has fallen on deaf ears again and again.  Hence, the cycles of history.

I fear the chemical SCUD missile attack on Israel I've foreseen draws very near:

God I hope I'm wrong.

Disenchanted's picture




If Israel attacks Iran it's obvious that Israel is a lock for next year's Nobel Peace prize. /s

GetZeeGold's picture



Better hope Bam Bam doesn't get a whiff of that......he'll spike his football all over Iran.....after he sleeps on it.


Barry will show them what peace really means.


TwoShortPlanks's picture

Jews need to be forced to shower, regularly, otherwise the place starts to stink...and right now, it fucking stinks!

I have no idea as to why Americans fight for the Jew, but I do know this; that when things get bad people always ask questions and eventually wise-up. Then they realise the cause of their problems and take action. This is why the Jews have been persecuted so many times throughout history.

Perhaps if the Jews spent more time looking at the root cause of their problems (ie their fucking arrogant 'Chosen One' religion) and less time playing the victim-martyr, they'd have that peace they'd longed for-for millennia. Hello, common denominator fuck heads!

Smart enough to get others to suffer for them yet dumb enough to never find what they that's living a life of hell.

I say let them have their nukes and let them turn their holy land into a glass house.

PS. you can vote me down all you like, it doesn't change the truth. So go find a wall to cry on, maybe it will listen to you.

Composter's picture

Jews don't want peace - you are kidding  yourself.

Judaism has a 2000 year old history of Ritual Human Sacrifice.


The current US War of Terror is an apt example - where Jewish Neocon policy is implemented and American troops (mostly Christians) are sent abroad to kill civilians (mostly Muslims.)

Hammerabi's picture

Thanks for the input Adolf

d_taco's picture


The is no serious political annalist who think that  nuclear Iran will ever strike Israel. A nuclear Iran is completely free to support whoever its like to support.

Who talks about attacking Iran talks about Hezbollah.

With Mitt Romney the US will bring big offers for these to fulfill the Israelis wishes. In Europe there is absolute no support for US war politics. That is boring, you can not start nice discussions as we had in the past, everybody agrees US war politic is a complete failure.


Peter Pan's picture

The top 6 leaders of Iran and the top 6 leaders of Israel need to be put in a sealed room and given 48 hours to find a peaceful solution to their differences. If there is no solution after 48 hours then one member from each side should be shot. Every 24 hours after that the process repeats until a solution is agreed upon.

It has regularly crossed my mind that these maniacs who call themselves leaders are only interested in their rhetoric and their positions. As far as I am concerned it is far better that they be sacrificed in the search for peace rather than have their youth sacrificed by the thousands with all the attendant destruction to innocent humans and infrastructure.

RichardP's picture

You need to include in your scenario leaders from all countries who want to see Iran blocked from developing a nuclear weapons program.  Israel is not the only country that wants this.

Treeplanter's picture

The goat fuckers and Nazi trash role ZH. 

Colombian Gringo's picture

Oh Yeah, here we go again, another failed war of conquest where the US taxpayers are milked dry, and our soldiers bled dry, based on another phony 'existential' threat to Israel.  Only the military industrial complex, and a very few insiders benefit while schools are closed and infrastructure falls to pieces.

prains's picture

exactly, and for sure there is some neocon white paper somewhere these guys are passing around which completely belittles any third/fourth party threats as inconsequential>>>see we told you not to worry here look

TwoShortPlanks's picture

The day the 3rd Reich collapsed was the day the Jews created the 4th Reich. At least Hitler came out into the open.

India has the common courtesy to confine their Caste System to their own ethnicity, whereas the Jew applies their Caste System to everyone except the Jew. If you're not a Jew, then you're there for the Jew. That's baked into judaism at the most fundumental level...'Chosen', and above all others.

Religious Bigotry manifests as curse.

PS. you can vote me down all you like, it doesn't change the truth. So go find a wall to cry on, maybe it will listen to you.

LetThemEatRand's picture

The system is crumbling.  They are feeding us positive job numbers, consumer confidence numbers, bank profits, etc, ahead of the next big war which will then be used to explain the ensuing collapse.   

Monedas's picture

War is socialist stimulus gone parabolic !

LetThemEatRand's picture

Too bad we can't go back to the days of Kings and Queens when the people were all covered in gold coins and there was no war.

jeff montanye's picture

you make a good point but the more one sees of those ruling nations today, the better genghis or kublai khan looks.  

SgtShaftoe's picture

It's fucking blowback for 2 centuries of westerners arbitrarily line drawing on maps. Your gold coin kings queen statement makes no sense. Elaborate

RichardP's picture

Your gold coin kings queen statement makes no sense.

It makes sense big-time.  When you have learned history, you too will understand.  Hint: as a rhetorical device, sarcasm is the employment of words to mean the opposite of what they would normally mean.  Throughout history, kings and queens never fought??

BigJim's picture

Frankly, there wasn't much difference between now and then. Only the weapons have changed. Americans think war isn't happening now because of 'democracy', but that's patently bullshit. We're waging plenty o'war, it's just we're doing it all offshore, on the periphery of our empire.

There wasn't much war within the Roman Empire, either, which, after Julius, was essentially monarchical.

Democracy doesn't stop wars of choice and conquest; two centuries of US military history show that very clearly.

Uncle Remus's picture

Well, when we see Hezbollah recruiting blurbs before the trailers in the movie house, we know it's game on. Rumor has it Hez is offering a lifetime Dhimmi tax exclusion as an earthly reward.

Monedas's picture

I think the Syrian distraction gives Israel cover !  These Muzzlim Fucks have passed their aptitude grade !   Attack while they're confused .... even more than their default confusion !      Go for 'em .... like OJ with a Stiletto .... slitting throats and and nicking neckbones !

SgtShaftoe's picture

I'd pay your plane ticket to go over there so you can spout your bullshit. You'd either end up carved up like a Christmas turkey, or so humbled and changed you'd go become a silent monk. Either way, it would be fun to watch.

BigJim's picture

What would be 'fun to watch' would be the cessation of his ZH posts.

DaveyJones's picture

I think muzzlim simplifications gives lots of interests cover

putbuyer's picture
Hezbollah will be crushed
john39's picture

Like in the 33 day war?

knukles's picture

Another repeat of the Shock and Awe in Iraq.

hmmtellmemore's picture

Wasn't that a guerilla war on Lebanese soil?  It would be very different if Hezbollah invaded israel.  Firing a couple hundred rockets will be scary for Israelis, but its far from being a catastrophic attack.  Even chemical or biological weapons would probably kill more Hezbollah than Israelis.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

If Hezbollah launched thousands of rockets and some number of drones into Israel, Israel would have respond and invade Lebanon.

BigJim's picture

Maybe, maybe not. When the chips are down, Israel will call on our own dear leaders to pull their chestnuts out of the fire, and O'Romney will ask: How high?

It would be bad for PR but I can see the US flattening Lebanon with daisy cutters. After all, AhMeDinnerJacket is the New Hitler! Or is that Nasrallah? Can there be two Hitlers at once? Can his incarnations bilocate?

I get so confused. Maybe Henry 'kiss-off' Kissinger can help us out with some of this tricky ethics stuff. Worked out pretty well in Cambodia, as I recall.

blunderdog's picture

We can't "level" Lebanon.  There are CHRISTIANS over there!

SgtShaftoe's picture

The pictures of maimed and dying lebanese kids on international news be a magnet for every piece of ordnance not tied down, and even some that are on tel aviv. Israel would be committing suicide. It's a very tragic situation for the innocents. Netanyahu should burn in hell for eternity. He and many others in that government have blood of millions on their hands. Fuck, this makes me mad.

SgtShaftoe's picture

From a historical context, Israel would've in a slightly different situation if/when they can no longer rely on the us empire. Imagine a time when the us no longer dominates the world's seas, and stops giving them the world's most sophisticated weapons systems. They are surrounded. It would be wise to start making friends with their neighbors. I pray more sane people get power there, otherwise, the human suffering could be heartbreaking.

Theosebes Goodfellow's picture

~"It would be wise to start making friends with their neighbors."~

And you sir, know Jack shit about Islam.

Qur'an 5:51  "Believers, take not Jews and Christians for your friends."

Qur'an 60:4 "We reject you. Hostility and hate have come between us forever, unless you believe in Allah only.'"

Qur'an 8:12 "I will terrorize the unbelievers. Therefore smite them on their necks and every joint and incapacitate them. Strike off their heads and cut off each of their fingers and toes."


Sarge, you're going to have to explain how you "make friends" with that ideology.

RichardP's picture

... explain how you "make friends" with that ideology.

You turn all of the land currently under Zionist control over to Sweden* (a neutral country) and withdraw all of your people to a non-muslim land(s).

* saves the Zionists from having to decide whether to turn the Zionist-occupied lands over to Hamas or Fatah or Hezbollah or ...

On the other hand, if you've decided that you want to ensure that the Nation of Israel survives, then you must do whatever it takes to defend against those who would destroy it.  When rocket launchers are installed on school playgrounds, hospital parking lots, and private homes, a decision to defend the country necessarily means a decision to kill many innocents (whose blood would be upon the hands of those who installed the rocket launchers).  The only othe option, as stated, is to give the occupied lands to a neutral third party and walk away.  I don't think the Zionists will do that.

lolmao500's picture

You mean the Lebanese civilians will get crushed right? Because the first thing Israel started bombing in 2006 was critical infrastructure... water plants, power, bridges... yeah let's do collective punishment on the Lebanese people!! Let's do war crimes!! YAY!

I mean, it's like if a bunch of republican from New York city attacked the White House and then the US army started carpet bombing the isle of Manhattan... because you know... it's the fault of New Yorkers for not taking out those radical republicans before they committed their crimes!

john39's picture

They can't stop themselves. The irony of it, Israel provokes its neighbors then cries victim. It treats the Palestinians like animals and worse, then demands reparations for allegedly receiving the same treatment by the nazis. They spread hatred war and division and yet believe they were chosen to bring peace and justice to the world. The only logical conclusion I can draw is collective insanity.

jeff montanye's picture

israel: hitler's most enduring legacy.

DaveyJones's picture

hypocrisy is what separates man from the animal kingdom

BigJim's picture

You don't understand, John. It's all the other Arab's fault for not giving a home to those displaced Palestinians. Who are all Egyptians, anyway. Or something. Land without a People! People without a Land!

It's like, if your brother and his family get turfed out of their house by robbers in a home invasion, and are consequently homeless, do you blame the robbers? No, of course not - they're victims of society! No, it's YOUR fault they're homeless... cause you didn't build them a new house!

Or something. 

RichardP's picture

Either you do know the history of Palestine and are being intentionally misleading.  Or you don't know the history of Palestine but are speaking out anyway.  I don't know which option reflects on you the worst.

BigJim's picture

Please do set me straight.

Joseph Jones's picture

The great exposer of Judaism, Michael Hoffman (a so-called "Judaic" himself) calls it "Rabbincal Psychodrama." 

Do members like this term?