Hezbollah has promised that ‘thousands’ of foreign Shiite fighters will deploy to Lebanon to fight Israel in a next war. And they’ll use conflict as cover to bring them into Lebanon – and they won’t leave
Tensions remain high between Israel and Iran. Tehran vows to avenge an Israeli strike killing its soldiers in Syria; Jerusalem intends to respond disproportionately to any Iranian retaliation. In the event of a direct clash leading to a larger conflagration, Hezbollah will join in and seize the opportunity to bring foreign Shi’ite fighters into Lebanon. Yet rather than using these reinforcements to defeat Israel’s army, it may be planning to entrench them in Lebanon, in effect conquering parts of the country, after a quick cease-fire ends its hostilities with Israel.
Hezbollah declared its goal of bringing Shi’ite militants to Lebanon in 2017. Hassan Nasrallah promised that “thousands, even hundreds of thousands of fighters from … Iraq, Yemen, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan,” would battle Israel in Lebanon alongside his foot soldiers. Yemen’s Abdul-Malek al-Houthi was the first Shi’ite militia leader to pledge his fighters (and recently reiterated his promise). Others soon followed, including Sheikh Akram al-Kaabi, whose Iraqi Shi’ite al-Nujaba militia formed a “Golan Liberation Brigade” in March 2017.
Nasrallah’s threat is neither a bluff nor far-fetched. On Iran’s orders, thousands of foreign Shi’ite fighters converged on Syria to prop up the regime. Iran’s proxy militias in Iraq are fighting as a unified force, and Hezbollah and Iraqi Shi’ite fighters have deployed to Yemen to aid the Houthis. Hezbollah and Iran’s proxies could conceivably do this in Lebanon.
Nor will it be hard to bring in the fighters. Hezbollah smuggled Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Iraqi Shi’ite gunmen into south Lebanon during the 2006 war. It has spent the past few years turning Syria into a staging ground to bring in more. Hezbollah began uniting the Golan Heights and south Lebanon into a single front in early 2015. A year later it nearly completed arms smuggling tunnels linking Syria’s Zabadani to its Bekaa stronghold. Hezbollah could easily use these tunnels to move gunmen. If rumors of its training Houthi militants in the Bekaa are true, then it may already be doing so.
Source » haaretz