.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Will Hezbollah attack Israel to loosen pressure on Syria?

From Reuters:
Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group is preparing for a possible war with Israel to relieve perceived Western pressure to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, its guardian ally, sources close to the movement say.

The radical Shi'ite group, which has a powerful militia armed by Damascus and Iran, is watching the unrest in neighboring Syria with alarm and is determined to prevent the West from exploiting popular protests to bring down Assad.

Hezbollah supported pro-democracy movements that toppled Western-backed leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, but officials say it will not stand idly by as international pressure mounts on Assad to yield to protesters.

It is committed to do whatever it takes politically to help deflect what it sees as a foreign campaign against Damascus, but it is also readying for a possible war with Israel if Assad is weakened.

"Hezbollah will never intervene in Syria. This is an internal issue for President Bashar to tackle. But when it sees the West gearing up to bring him down, it will not just watch," a Lebanese official close to the group's thinking told Reuters.

"This is a battle for existence for the group and it is time to return the favor (of Syria's support). It will do that by fending off some of the international pressure," he added.

...While Hezbollah's fate is not linked exclusively to Assad's future, his departure would make life more difficult for the group, which depends on Syria's borders for arms supply.

"Syria is like the lung for Hezbollah...it is its backup front where it gets its weapon and other stuff," said another Lebanese official who declined to be named.
This is certainly something to be concerned about.

Then again, some of the analysts interviewed in the longish article are idiots:
While he dismissed the possibility of a regional war, Augustus Richard Norton, author of a book on Hezbollah, said an Israeli Lebanese war may be possible, adding he believed Israel was likely to strike first.

"It is not too challenging to imagine a scenario for a Israel-Lebanon war to erupt, especially given the Obama administration's diffident and permissive approach to Israel.

"...It is far more likely that Israel will pursue a war with the goal of crippling Hezbollah and punishing Lebanon than that a war will be intentionally provoked by Hezbollah," he said.
Norton is a Hezbollah apologist.