Old ligaments of entanglement are unwinding; 'Israel' should ‘Keep Out’
Change is ineluctable. If "Israel" intervenes -- imagining it to be helping America -- it is likely to prove to be a strategic mistake.
Just last week, a US Democratic Congressional Delegation (organized by AIPAC) toured an Iron Dome battery and what they called Hezbollah’s “terrorist tunnels in northern Israel.” The visit reflects rising tensions in the border regions of occupied Palestine and Lebanon. Do they reflect the immanence of war, or are they symptom of "Israel’s" crisis at home?
It doesn’t matter; either way, they carry serious risk of escalation.
The immediate cause has been Israel’s July de facto annexation of the northernmost part of the border village of Ghajar that is internationally recognized as being located on Lebanese territory.
The move drew widespread condemnation and exacerbated the existing tensions on the border. In turn, Lebanese villagers have continued to protest, with Hezbollah earlier this year erecting tents in the Israeli-controlled Shebaa Farms area, on territory that also lies within the recognised sphere of Lebanese territorial claims.
For the moment, "Israel" has not attempted to remove the tents in which several Hezbollah personnel continue to reside. However, the reality, as General Assaf Orion of the Institute for National Security Studies at "Tel Aviv" University warns, the recent move of personnel from Hezbollah’s elite Radwan unit to south Lebanon and the establishment of dozens of observation lookouts by Hezbollah near the border all point to the firing-up of the Hezbollah ‘war machine.'
“Two war machines are now deployed on the ground, ours and theirs. When units of Radwan position themselves in south Lebanon … one needn’t be surprised that their fighters are approaching the border with firearms. Militarily, the tendency is to always act, to strive for contact. Whether war breaks out is no longer decided from the highest ranks. It depends on how accurate the [Hizbullah] anti-tank unit is in firing missiles at the IDF, and on how many casualties it causes. Dilemmas are liable to be immediate, and to trigger decisions made at a moment's notice. It’s possible to be dragged into a war, even if that's not what you want”.
General Orion argues that whilst the conventional assumption is that neither "Israel" nor Hezbollah have a strategic interest in another war, the ‘other’ reality is one of "Israel’s" need to divert attention from the mass protests facing the government, and the crisis within the IOF.
To compensate for the poor optics at home, Defence Minister Gallant, during a visit to the northern front, not far from the tent that Hezbollah erected in an area under Israeli control, warned (using the time-worn adage last deployed during "Israel’s" failed 2006 war) that "Israel" would “send Lebanon back to the stone age” should Hezbollah make a mistake. Gallant it appears, may have been needled by Sayyed Nasrallah’s comment that "Israel", "once a formidable power, has eroded – thus leading to its current crisis."
Last week, an extensive aerial attack near Damascus, killing at least 4 Syrian soldiers, was attributed to “Israel.” That too, General Orion suggests, is seen in "Israel" as a way to send a ‘message’ -- one delivered by depriving Hezbollah of ‘assets’, and thus “[to] signal to Nasrallah, that its actions near the border will come at a cost.”
This may seem straightforward to the IOF thinking: If it is too risky for "Israel" to start a war on "Israel’s" northern border, then impose costs -- if not directly on Hezbollah, then indirectly on Iran and on its Iraqi allies in the north-east of Syria, as a means of ‘deterrence’. No doubt, within this calculus lies the idea that in doing this, "Israel" will please and impress the Americans too.
However, what "Israel" does ‘do’ is not deter, but entangle itself in a series of smouldering regional brush fires that can burst into flames with one single spark -- singeing powerful regional actors, and upending the region.
It may appear to "Tel Aviv" that their latest bombing in Syria sends a succinct message to Sayyed Nasrallah. But this is typical linear Israeli thinking. And the region no longer responds in extension to Beltway discourse; others have more substantive agency now.
On August 12, rockets rained down on US troops at the Conoco gas field in Deir Ezzor. Conoco field is Syria's largest natural gas field and is one of several fields occupied by US forces, who regularly conduct oil smuggling operations to the Kurdistan region of Iraq, where Syrian oil and gas are then sold to fund the activities of US proxies.
Long story short, Russia and Syria both are determined forcibly to expel the American occupation from north-east Syria -- and to liberate Syria’s energy resources.
But the ‘entanglement’ is yet more complex: The attack on the Conoco field also comes just two days after ISIS conducted its deadliest attack on the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) this year, killing 33 soldiers in the same region (Conoco) where the US has reinforced its presence.
This marked the fourth ISIS attack in Syria in less than a month, and just days after a massive explosion near the Shrine of Sayyida Zaynab on the outskirts of Damascus left over two dozen casualties.
What is the nature of ‘entanglement here’? Well, the Al-Tanf base is another occupied US enclave - known as the “55-km” area near the Syrian-Iraqi-Jordanian border triangle in south-eastern Syria. And the entanglement here runs deep: There are the American forces supposedly orientated to fighting ISIS, yet radical Islamist forces are embedded in much of this US ‘safe zone’. In June, the headquarters of the Maghawir al-Thawra was bombed inside the 55-km area. US statements were opaque, but implied a Russian role. Russia in turn pointed to Maghawir al-Thawra fighters planting a roadside bomb that resulted in Russian military casualties.
Syria, it seems, finally feels in a position to ‘clean the Augean Syrian stables’ from its extremist insurgents. They want them cleaned out from Al-Tanf and from Idlib -- and are acting on this with Russian and Iranian support.
The complication here is that Turkey has supported the radical groups in Syria -- particularly in Idlib Province -- and it has its own forces on the north-eastern frontier of Syria, combatting the Kurdish PKK militants.
Yet "Israel" imagines that by hitting Iranian ‘assets’ in Syria, it can deter Hezbollah in the Sheba’a Farms area of occupied Lebanon. "Israel’s" assumption is wrong – and its actions trigger anger amongst this trifecta of big players. It hardens their determination to retaliate. The region is dry tinder. One spark would be sufficient.
Both Syria and Iraq are on the cusp of metamorphosis in the wake of the tectonic shift sweeping the Region, as well as the fusion of BRICS, SCO, and Eurasian Economic Community into a single massive bloc -- heralded for later this August.
Change is ineluctable. If "Israel" intervenes -- imagining it to be helping America -- it is likely to prove to be a strategic mistake: theirs could be precisely the spark to set this entangled transition on fire. Any conflict will not spare "Israel".