In the span of three and a half weeks, two senior Iranians showed up in Beirut and held talks with their proxy— Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah.
In between those high-ranking visits an Iranian parliamentary delegation led by the Chairman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Wahid Jalalzadeh, which also included Hossein Assadi, the secretary of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee in the Shura Council, arrived in Lebanon on August 10 and, among other activities, held a meeting with the Hezbollah chief as well.
First to come was Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force Commander Brigadier General Esmail Qaani who arrived on August 6. Right on his heels, on August 31, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian arrived in Lebanon to also meet with Nasrallah.
Israeli government officials have publicly warned that the visits came as part of an Iranian effort to pressure Hezbollah to continue its provocations on the Lebanese border.
For example, Reuters reported that Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi, in an Aug. 7 media briefing, said Hezbollah was becoming “more and more brazen”, speculating that Iran was trying to convince the group “to take more and more risks, and we would be sucked into this conflict even though we don’t want any conflict in Lebanon”.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was even more emphatic. During a meeting in New York in late August, he reportedly told the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that Iran was pressing its proxy group Hezbollah to attack Israel along its northern border.
These warnings, however, are likely to be off the mark. In fact, at best they may be motivated by both domestic and international political considerations. At worst, they may reflect a profound misunderstanding of the increasingly effective strategy Iran is pursuing to accomplish its deadly goals, and the acute danger it is already posing to Israel.
First, the question must be asked: Why would Iran need to send senior officials to pressure Nasrallah to continue provocations? In the past few months, the Hezbollah chief showed ample signs he was highly motivated to act to humiliate and intimidate Israel.
Undoubtedly, he assesses that pressing Israel is helping him domestically by solidifying his image as the preeminent protector of Lebanon’s territorial rights. Thus the question must be asked: What did the mullahs detect that gave them an inkling Nasrallah is about to change course and needs reminding of his wholesale dependence on Tehran so as to submit to its demands?
Second, Iran must take into account that Hezbollah might be severely damaged in a confrontation with Israel, even in a short-lived one. It is uncertain how Iran assesses the probability of an Israeli preemptive attack currently.
Although it can be argued that in view of the internal crisis in Israel, it may see such an attack as less likely, the opposite is also possible. Namely, the mullahs may fear that Netanyahu’s incentive to attack is greater now as a means to export his domestic troubles and unite a divided nation. Moreover, Iran is now closer than ever to crossing the nuclear threshold — a transformation which, in theory at least, inevitably raises the odds of an Israeli attack.
At any rate, Iran’s unceasing efforts to arm Hezbollah, in particular the upgrading of the latter’s arsenal of precision-guided rockets and suicide drones, strongly indicates it continues to see the organization as a strategic deterrent vis-a-vis Israel.
A confrontation with Israel that ends up destroying critical elements of Hezbollah’s ability to strike Israel’s strategic targets will be disastrous for Iran. As Ron Ben-Yishai, the defense correspondent for Yedioth Ahronoth and Ynetnews wrote on July 31, such an outcome “ will deprive Iran of the ‘second strike’ force which Hezbollah [through its rockets arsenal] was meant to provide so as to punish Israel in case it attacked Iran’s nuclear installations….instead of Hezbollah aiding Iran [in its time of need] Iran would need to come to Hezbollah’s aid.”
By assuring punishment, Hezbollah performs as another layer of Iranian deterrence vis-a-vis Israel and risking a substantial portion of its arsenal for a few days of fighting with Israel undoubtedly makes little sense for Tehran.
Third, how would an Israeli-Hezbollah flareup serve Iranian interests if indeed a ( mini) nuclear deal between Tehran and Washington is in the works? While it is possible to argue that Iran may see such a scenario as piling pressure on the Biden administration to reach an agreement, it is equally possible that such a course will backfire and make such an understanding even more unlikely than it is currently assessed.
One thing is certain Iran could not see the recent beefing-up of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf as the outcome it was hoping for in response to its growing regional assertiveness.
Source » ynetnews