The biggest loser may well be the Hezbollah. Neither Iran nor Syria is prepared to risk a bigger war in order to save it from destruction. This was made clear Friday, when Ahmadinejad, speaking in a provincial tour, called on the “international community” to end the conflict by “restraining Israel.” This was strange coming from a man who, before the current fighting, had vowed to destroy Israel on more than a dozen occasions.
Inside Lebanon, Hezbollah has failed to enlist the support even of its formal allies, including Nabih Berri, leader of the more moderate Shi’ite Amal Movement, and Gen. Michel Aoun, the Maronite politician who had signed an alliance with Nasrallah.
Ahmadinejad, Assad and Hezbollah may well have planned for a limited conflict with Israel, one in which the Jewish state would back down, handing them a moral victory. Their plan may have been based on the assumption that Israel would not dare widen the scope of the war triggered by Hamas and Hezbollah.
I think that the map in the Middle East is changing. At one point, the divisions in the Arab world between Shi’ite and Sunni were secondary to pan-Arab nationalism and anti-Israel sentiment. Today, those divisions have come back with a vengeance, not only in Iraq, but across the Arab world. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other predominantly Sunni states failed to strongly support Hizb’Allah last week when the fighting broke out. Syria is ruled by a clique of Alawite Shi’ites in a country that is predominantly Sunni. The situation in Iraq has degenerated into a state of low-level civil war between Shi’ite militias backed by Iran and Sunnis who are incredibly coming to the US for protection. The biggest threat to the Middle East over the long term may not be an Israeli-Arab conflict, but a Shi’ite-Sunni one.
Hizb’Allah was undoubtedly hoping that the rest of the Arab world would come to their aid – which hasn’t happened. The Israelis may have to deal with Syria at some point, but it won’t be today. Nobody has much intention of widening this war beyond its current boundaries, which means that for all the bluster about destroying Israel, no one is willing to risk the anihilation that such an action would invariably bring. The Arab world is slowly drifting away from the heady days of pan-Arab nationalism as ethnic conflict spreads from Iraq to Iran to Lebanon.
The Israelis have every intention of making sure that Hizb’Allah poses no threat to them, now or in the future. The old status quo of Hizb’Allah basically having southern Lebanon as a state unto themselves is no longer tolerable, either to Israel or to Lebanon. The divisions in the Arab world are showing, and not even the old predictable method of inflaming anti-Semitic sentiment is working as well as it once did.
I agree with Taheri. Hizb’Allah took a gambit and lost. If the Israelis offer help in rebuilding Lebanon and literally and figuratively working to rebuilt burned bridges, Hizb’Allah will be finished as an effective terror organization. Their backers in Damascus and Tehran may talk tough, but at the end of the day they know that a direct attack on Israel would be national suicide, and so far even the firebrand Ahmadinejad is subtly backing down. Terrorism’s cachet is slowly diminishing as the only things that groups like Hizb’Allah and al-Qaeda have been able to achieve are their own destruction.
The only way that Hizb’Allah can win is if Israel backs down and allows them to survive. They appear to have to intention of doing that – Hizb’Allah is on the path of destruction, and that should send a lesson to anyone else who wishes to follow in their footsteps.