RIA Novosti : Moscow, Aug 11 – Lebanon, a harmless state that has always wanted to be an island of tranquility in the turbulent Middle East, has become the site of an Israeli-Iranian spat. RIA Novosti
Pyotr Goncharov, RIA Novosti political commentator
Moscow, Aug 11 – Lebanon, a harmless state that has always wanted to be an island of tranquility in the turbulent Middle East, has become the site of an Israeli-Iranian spat.
Radzhab Safarov, director of the Iranian Studies Center in Moscow, said the radical Shiite group Hizbollah, which Israel is fighting in Lebanon, is modeled after the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC – Pasdaran-e Inqilab). Therefore, “its supreme authority is not the Lebanese government, but the leaders of Iran,” Safarov said.
Israel attained political and military domination in the first stage of the Lebanese war. It decided the extent of special operations, the potential duration of the war, possible truce conditions, the depth of the buffer zone in southern Lebanon, and the deployment conditions and strength of the planned international peacekeeping force.
But there are reasons to assume that the Lebanese war will end with an Iranian finale.
Why did the Lebanese-Israeli border, where no signs of potential escalation were visible, explode overnight? Hizbollah’s raid, in which eight Israeli soldiers were killed and two taken hostage, could not have been the sole reason.
Some analysts say the raid did not come as a surprise to Israel, which used it as a pretext for tracking down and liquidating Hizbollah. Others see an Iranian connection in the Lebanese tragedy and say: “The keys to a settlement in Lebanon are hidden in Tehran.”
Israel’s prelude in Lebanon was not successful, as it resulted in the destruction of civilian infrastructure (bridges, roads, an airport, and other facilities) worth more than $10 billion. Worst of all, more than a thousand peaceful civilians have died. Innocent Lebanese have become the victims of Israel’s retaliatory strike, even though it was Hizbollah that provoked it.
The inefficient attempts by the Israeli air force to neutralize Hizbollah or destroy its infrastructure are making Israel a hostage to its desire to fight the war to a victorious end. In this situation, it should either speed up the war or search for a diplomatic way to end it. The lightning campaign has apparently failed, and Israel has no diplomatic instruments to end the war without losing face.
At the same time, Iran has proved unable to use the Lebanese conflict to strengthen its position in the Middle East. Moreover, its standing in Lebanon has been seriously undermined, and now Tehran will have to do something to build it up again.
Arab leaders have listened to Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s call for the formation of a united front against Israel but have done nothing to implement it. A leading Russian expert on modern Iran said the adoption of an anti-Iranian resolution (over Iran’s nuclear program) by the UN Security Council would “encourage Iran to take more active steps in the Middle East” and “what is now a local Israeli-Lebanese quarrel may develop into a big regional war.”
Fortunately, not all expert forecasts come true. The Arab League has decided to denounce the Israeli aggression in Lebanon but refused to invoke their charter’s provisions on military assistance to an affected member.
The Lebanese crisis looks controllable and is not in danger of turning into a bigger Arab-Israeli war, for the paradoxical reason that the fighting involves Israel and the pro-Iranian Hizbollah.
Iran will have to do something to save Hizbollah, which it has been nurturing. The crisis provoked by the radical movement has endangered the government of Lebanon, which balanced the country’s clan and religious interests. That fragile balance suited everyone in Lebanon and the region, but Hizbollah’s opportunist move has disrupted it.
Hizbollah remains a leading political force in the country, but it may lose the right to maintain its own armed militia.
It is difficult to say what Iran would do if that happened, but so far it has intensified its operations in all spheres in Lebanon.