Hezbollah’s Future in the Middle East
The Middle East continues to show its unstable character in its refusal to adopt a status quo. The Syrian Civil War, despite its tragic loss of life and mass displacement of the nation’s population, has shifted the entire region’s power dynamics. Hezbollah’s participation in its neighbor’s conflict has failed to awaken the international community’s concerns of Iranian supremacy in the region as well as the threats posed by the Shiite terrorist organization. Hezbollah is no longer behaving as an existential threat to Israel, but it has opened a free-flowing corridor between Tehran and the Mediterranean Sea. This strategic accomplishment has affected the region in the three following ways.
- Hezbollah’s ability to open a corridor between Iran and Lebanon has allowed the Persian power to become profusely involved in Syria but the region’s affairs. The Sunni Gulf powers have become weary of this developing threat and have commenced preparations for any diplomatic or political blow that might be thrown by the Shiite crescent forming through Damascus. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are highly concerned with the developing cooperation between the Alewite regime, Iran, and Russia. Hezbollah’s investments in the battle for Syria have severely hurt its favors in the region as a force aiming to “Liberate Palestine” and has contributed to its recognition of an emerging political force in the Middle East. Gulf countries have also found themselves sharing security concerns with Israel.
- The second consequence of Hezbollah’s construction of a Shiite corridor is the Israeli perceived threat. With a growing number of revolutionary guards stationed along the Israeli-Syrian border, Tehran’s presence feels stronger than ever. The discussed plans between Iran and Moscow to build long-term bases in Syria has alarmed security services in Israel as well as the IDF. Netanyahu has established clear red lines to Iranian presence in Syria’s Golan Heights and the IDF’s giant drill in the north reflects Israel’s commitment to preemptive strikes if necessary. The growing tensions in the Golan Heights continue to pressure the Israeli cabinet to respond accordingly and have the potential to damage its positive relationship with Moscow. In addition, Hezbollah’s participation in the Syrian civil war has provided its fighters with the experience and skills. The Shiite terror organization has undergone massive reforms, turning from a terrorist organization building booby traps and quick raids to a potent offensive force with a well-structured command chain. Israel’s concerns are not just with the tens of thousands of rockets aimed at her, but with the potential risk of Hezbollah being able to carry out offensive operations throughout the north.
- The third major consequence of Hezbollah’s operations in Syria, is the development of the organization’s expansionist ideology. Due to Hezbollah’s unpopularity in the region, it has sought a support elsewhere. Gaining increasing support from Tehran and Damascus, Nasrallah has found common points of interest with Moscow and Beijing which could develop into potential partnerships. Hezbollah has drastically increased its operations in Latin America recruiting fighters, funds, and instructing drug cartels how to carry out offensive operations. Hezbollah no longer aims to just liberate Palestine of Jewish presence, but rather expand its operations as a prominent criminal cartel and targeting Israelis abroad as was done in Bulgaria and Thailand.
Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria has indicated drastic changes within the organization and massive impacts on the balances of power in the Middle East. UNIFIL continues to show its incompetence and Europe remains uncommitted to the full designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. It is clear that this is not Israel or the region’s problem. What is not clear is how much longer is the institutional bias against Israel going to stand in the way of producing strategic policy aimed at dismantling this terrorist organization.