Lebanon: Hezbollah Will Respond to Assassination
By: Ibrahim al-Amin
Published Thursday, December 5, 2013
Who made the decision to strike such a painful blow to the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon by assassinating one of its military commanders, Hassan al-Laqqis? Who planned the operation, and who decided on carrying it out at this particular time? On what basis, and in whose interest? And what were the intended goals of this potentially explosive action?
All indications are that Israel was behind the assassination, with a slim possibility that another party was involved. That’s why it did not take long for Hezbollah – based on its long experience with the Israelis – to point the finger at Tel Aviv, even though the occupation’s Foreign Ministry was quick to deny its involvement.
On the same day as the attack, Western diplomatic sources were reported to be worried that Israel’s intent goes beyond removing one of its opponents, suggesting that the Western-Iranian nuclear agreement was the real target of the operation. Israel is angry that its Western allies would go so far in exposing its strategic interests to danger, revealing deep contradictions in their relationship to the Zionist state for the first time.
But let us look at how Israel conceived of this particular adventure.
First, Israel knows well that it could not have carried out such an attack against Iran directly, given that the West is not in a position to back such an action after having reached the conclusion that the military option in dealing with Tehran is no longer possible.
And if Israel had chosen instead to eliminate an Iranian nuclear scientist, as it has on more than one occasion, it would have only put it in an awkward position with its Western allies, without achieving much politically or otherwise.
Tel Aviv’s intent was to send a message to the West that Israel is not prepared to fall into line with the priorities of its allies, by maintaining its margin of deterrence against its enemies, while at the same time telling Iran that the war on its nuclear program and regional influence is not over.
Second, Israel has come to understand that Damascus and its allies have made a strategic decision that the occasional Zionist airstrikes on Syrian targets are not worthy of a response – at the given time, at least – in light of the global war being waged on the country.
Israel was therefore left with limited and potentially dangerous options that nevertheless served its goals, and it decided to assassinate a prominent military leader in the Resistance, sending a direct message to Hezbollah that the Zionist state is still capable of striking painful blows without anyone’s help. In the case of Iran, Tel Aviv wants to make it clear that it rejects all that was agreed to with the West.
The assassination was also intended as a message of solidarity to Israel’s “new allies,” such as Saudi Arabia, telling them “our enemy is one” and encouraging them to stand up to Western pressures on Iran and Syria. It’s as if Tel Aviv wants to reassure Riyadh: “We are with you in the trenches, not just through statements.”
But how did Israel consider Hezbollah’s response to a crime of such proportions?
Here, we can only speculate. Was the assassination intended to spark a regional war that Israel believes is in its favor, given that Hezbollah and Iran are busy defending the now exhausted regime in Damascus? It is also possible that Tel Aviv calculated that, like the Syrian regime, the Lebanese Resistance is in not prepared to risk a wider war at this time and therefore will not respond in kind.
But there are indications that Israel may have miscalculated on this last point. The way Hezbollah announced the martyrdom of Laqqis, and the speed with which he was buried in unexceptional circumstances – without, for example, any positions declared by Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah – all suggest to those who know how the Resistance operates that in fact its response is not long in coming. Let us wait and see.
Ibrahim al-Amin is editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.