Hezbollah and the Future of NATO

Vladimir Putin wants to end the “New Cold War”. If that is so, the place to begin is the Middle East. The Russian-Iranian-Assad-Hezbollah alliance is a severe threat to the future of both Israel and the entire Arab Sunni state system. But Russia is not in the Middle East to advance the quest of Iran for an empire. On the contrary, Russia has positioned itself within Syria and Lebanon as a lever against NATO’s blind expansion eastward toward Russia’s border.

Why use the terminology “blind expansion”? Because the integration of the countries of the old Warsaw Pact into NATO has now created a more unstable crisis than the “Old Cold War” itself. During the time of the Soviet Union, at least both Russia and the US felt a significant degree of strategic security. Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) worked because Germany had been contained through Soviet and American occupation. Let us never forget that it was Germany who invaded all of Europe and sent tens of millions to their death by violent aggression and genocide.

Now, however, Germany is united and not occupied. The NATO alliance and its intentions might be deemed “good” in Berlin, Warsaw and Washington; but in Moscow the advancement of NATO force eastward will always be viewed through the prism of history and WWII. Here lies the crux of the “New Cold War”. Russia saw the old Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe and the Baltic nations as a solution for the German imperialism of the Third Reich. Now, however, all that has changed.

The new eastern NATO states (the states of the old Warsaw Pact) envision their incorporation into NATO as a dramatic US-led curb against both German and Russian expansion. But this new system is completely unbalanced. Europe doesn’t end at Poland’s eastern border. Russia has been a part of Europe since Peter the Great, and unless everyone feels secure in Europe, no one will be secure. Over the course of the last decade, this imbalance within Europe has become very dangerous. In other words, a proper and full European security system (including Russia) has yet to be achieved.

It is within this context (and this context alone) that Russia pursues its pro-Iranian and Hezbollah policies in the Middle East. Russia is in the Middle East for one purpose only: To seek leverage against NATO in any way it can, even if such leverage means support for Iranian imperial designs. This includes the one hundred thousand advanced Iranian missiles pointed (by Hezbollah) at every possible civilian and military site — including nuclear — within the small confines of Israel. In the final analysis, Israel and the Jewish people continue to remain hostage to the problems of Europe and especially Germany’s relationship with Russia and Russia’s relationship with its immediate western neighbors.

The Middle East has become the world’s biggest quagmire, and Russia and all of NATO are stuck within its vortex. The next Lebanon war will be nothing like the last one. Iran will have to be in at full force to protect its proxy Shiite army in southern Lebanon. So too will Russian air power. Because once Israel and the Shiites engage, what is to stop the hundred of thousands of Sunnis in Lebanon from advancing against Hezbollah themselves? Because as Lebanon goes, so too might Syria. If Russia can’t control Iran, then the situation could easily spiral out of control.

The Syrian army no longer exists. It is dependent on both Hezbollah, the Russian Air Force, Iranian trained militias, and the direct forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The next Lebanon War (or an Iran-Israel war on the Golan) will mean an Israeli attempt to destroy as many of these forces as possible. In the process, such a war could escalate into a direct Israeli-Russian confrontation. Because in order for Israel to stop an unprecedented Hezbollah missile attack, the IDF will be forced to engage at maximum strength for however long it takes. This is because the next Lebanon war (with the possibility of Iranian forces in combination with advanced missiles) will gravitate quickly toward full force in order to secure Israel from a crisis with existential potential for the Jewish state.

Because of the nature of the Iran nuclear deal — it legitimizes an industrial level nuclear program in Iran within a decade — the sooner the war against Hezbollah, the better for Israel. The same is true for Israel’s potential Sunni allies. Why wait for Iran’s nuclear program to be up and humming? Such a scenario could only complicate Israel’s freedom of action. From a strategic point of view, sooner is better than later. If Iran’s goal is to dominate the Middle East, Hezbollah’s missiles must come down at some time; why wait until Tehran has a nuclear breakout time measured in mere days?

What are NATO’s goals? Do they make sense? And what about Russia’s ill-conceived response in the Middle East? Could it eventually backfire into a major war involving Israel? What would be the US reaction to an Israeli-Russian confrontation? Would it be similar to the Obama administration’s tepid lack of resolve with regard to Russian threats against Turkey (a NATO member) in the aftermath of Ankara’s shooting down of a Russian warplane? Do Obama or Hillary really have Israel’s back?

How long can Israel live with Iran being within striking distance of its border? If the rebels continue to be weakened in Syria, what would prevent a further attempt at an Iranian buildup on the approaches to the Golan? Does Russia have the power to veto such an action? Russia doesn’t own the ground in Syria, Iran does. Russia only owns the air. In Syria, Moscow is as dependent on Iran as Tehran is dependent on Russia. Unless Germany and the nations of NATO can find a blueprint and begin a dialogue to integrate Russia into an all-European security architecture, Russia will continue to use its leverage in the Middle East. This can only mean that Moscow will be further pushed into an expanding Iranian theatre of operations.

Israel has always said that it doesn’t have a preference within the Syrian civil war. Only on the surface does this position appear correct. But in reality, such a policy is absurd. Israel has been allied (tacitly) with the Sunni Arab world since its war with Hezbollah in 2006. It was at that time that Saudi Arabia refused to criticize Israel over its actions in southern Lebanon. In fact, Riyadh probably would have wanted the IDF to do a much more intensive job.

Of course, Israel cares who wins in Syria. The years of a quiet Israeli-Syrian border under the firm hand of Hafez al-Assad (the father of Basher) are now clearly over. Like in Biblical days, the imperial eastern enemy is now approaching the very gates of Zion. Of course, Israel has a dog in the fight over Syria and Lebanon. Iranian hegemony in the Middle East must be stopped because it is clearly a long-term strategic threat to both Jews and Sunni Arabs.

But thanks to Obama and Clinton, within ten to fifteen years Iran will become a nuclear power. The Clintons should know better. Bill Clinton’s nuclear deal with North Korea didn’t stop that country from going nuclear. And the present arrangement (supported by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) won’t stop Iran either. In fact, the current deal with Iran not only legalizes its long-term nuclear infrastructure, but its so-called “negotiated success” was designed by Tehran (as blackmail) to dissuade Washington from interfering against Iranian interests within the Levant.

However, even with a strong Russian-Iranian presence in Syria, it’s Washington and Berlin that have a lot to answer for, especially Berlin. German-Israeli relations since the 1950s have been predicated on a special post-Holocaust status. Germany has stated that Israel’s future must never be threatened by annihilation, but that is exactly what Iran posits. The question is: How can Germany turn Russia away from its current Middle East policy? Because only a dramatic German move within Europe can begin to create the political environment necessary to de-escalate Moscow’s current support for Assad and the possible trajectory of an Israeli-Hezbollah-Iran conflagration. Make no mistake, Iranian hegemony could easily become the trigger for the escalatory ladder of another world war.

Germany remains immobilized by its past, and rightly so. Europe’s last three major wars have been German inspired. NATO and the EU were structured to overcome German singularity. But NATO in its new asymmetry has become anachronistic, while the EU (as a product of global capitalism) has begun to fail politically within a systemic crisis of weak demand and over indebtedness. Geopolitical asymmetry and capitalist systemic crisis are a very bad combination. Added to this toxic brew is the colossal paranoia present within two of the greatest victims of the last world war — the Jewish and Russian people.

No nation can live with an arsenal of missiles pointed at all its population centers while, at the same time, propaganda from the other side threatens genocide. Global political cooperation must be achieved in order to remove the Iranian missiles from southern Lebanon. Also, no nation can live with an alliance on its borders whose reason for expansion can legitimately be perceived as offensive in nature. Both Hezbollah (Iran’s proxy) and the NATO expansion of the last two decades can be characterized in such a manner. If the US, Germany and Russia can’t solve their problems with each other, then Europe and the Middle East will continue to remain dangerously deadlocked. This also means the prospect of hundreds of thousands of more Middle Eastern refugees pouring into Europe.

This is the reality of our new geopolitical situation. Obama’s foreign policy has created a huge vacuum within the Middle East that has partially been filled by Russia and Iran. At the same time, Obama’s European policy objectives have blindly followed the conventional approach of his predecessors. It is for these reasons that Obama’s foreign policy has failed dramatically. But the old Europe (pre-WWII) — the Europe of singular nation-state instability — can hardly be conceived as an appropriate answer.

Europe needs a modern and peaceful security dimension within the context of an all-European, unified military command structure. Meanwhile, the Middle East needs an institutional Zone of Peace as a bulwark against empire and all forms of hegemony. Such a Middle East structure must also contain a nuclear-weapons-free zone in conjunction with its permanent balance-of-power institutional framework. For the Middle East, peace, regional economic development, and interfaith goodwill must overcome its drift toward state failure and war.

Both these multilateral blueprints (Europe and the Middle East) must begin to be publicized soon in order to avoid the dangerous escalation of war. The current global political situation risks becoming dystopian because the conventional problems of the nuclear age have not been eclipsed. On the contrary, the world has now entered a “New Cold War”. Unless the UN Security Council can include such important countries as Japan, Germany and India — and unless such a new Security Council can rededicate itself to a true age of world peace — a nuclear tragedy is certainly not outside the bounds of reality.

Humanity must finally find a true semblance of unity. All the nations of the world must perceive peace as the vital and historic enterprise of our shared destiny. If we can envision it, and with G-d’s help, we can make it happen. The choice is ours to make.

About the Author
Steven Horowitz has been a farmer, journalist and teacher spanning the last 45 years. He resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. During the 1970's, he lived on kibbutz in Israel, where he worked as a shepherd and construction worker. In 1985, he was the winner of the Christian Science Monitor's Peace 2010 international essay contest. He was a contributing author to the book "How Peace came to the World" (MIT Press).