Israel, Iran, and Hizbullah

(World Politics Review) Andrew Exum - The assumption that Hizbullah would respond to an Israeli strike on Iran by attacking Israel remains a good one. However, even if Hizbullah's senior leadership continues to pledge its fealty to the supreme leader in Tehran, there is ample reason to doubt Hizbullah is enthusiastic about attacking Israel again. People living in southern Lebanon and the predominantly Shiite suburbs of southern Beirut have a lot more to lose today, materially. Hizbullah knows this, and it knows the war in 2006 was painful for its constituency. Israelis worried in the aftermath of the war in 2006 that they had lost their deterrence capability. They could not have been more wrong. From the perspective of Hizbullah, each major Israeli offensive in Lebanon has been progressively more severe. All of them laid the groundwork for a pretty credible deterrent threat. In fact, in 2006, the Iranians just might have lost their deterrent capability. Israelis weathered the war relatively well, with very few civilian casualties despite a 34-day bombardment of northern Israel by Hizbullah's missiles. If the cost of a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities were a similar assault from southern Lebanon, that would be a price Israel could live with. Another scenario, also quite possible, is one in which Israel pre-empts any action by Hizbullah by attacking targets in Lebanon - specifically, sites suspected of housing Hizbullah's medium-range rockets - simultaneous to an attack on Iran. The writer is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

2012-03-29 00:00:00

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