Not long ago, I authored a column for The Boston Herald warning of yet another Middle East humanitarian crisis in the making. Sadly, that prediction appears well on its way to becoming reality.
Lebanon was once one of the most progressive and liberal countries in the Middle East. Beirut was a center of culture and finance and often referred to as the “Paris of the Middle East.”
Years of sectarian warfare and conflict resulted in weak, unstable governments that were held together by a delicate power-sharing arrangement among the various religious/political factions. One of those factions is Hezbollah, the radical Shia terrorist organization backed by Iran. Hezbollah has always held significant power in Lebanon, especially in the south along Israel’s northern border.
Sensing another opportunity to expand its dominance in the region, Iran has spent vast sums of cash to support and expand Hezbollah’s military capacity in Lebanon. In Syria, the terror group fights alongside Iranian and Syrian troops to support the murderous regime of Bashar Assad.
Iran’s objectives are clear — use Hezbollah to achieve complete control in Lebanon, create a land bridge under a Shiite Caliphate to the Mediterranean Sea, and threaten Israel with sophisticated weapons capable of inflicting massive destruction on Israel’s largest cities.
Hezbollah is armed with 150,000 missiles and rockets, effectively allowing them to saturation bomb Israeli population centers with 1,500 rockets and missiles per day for over three months.
The recent aggression launched by Iran against Israel on February 10 indicates that Iran is becoming more brazen and self-assured — a development that can be tied directly to the misguided Iran nuclear deal, which unshackled the regime in Tehran and filled its coffers with cash. It doesn’t require the services of a forensic accountant to see how the Mullahs are spending the money.
Worse, Iran and its proxies have structured their forces in Syria and Lebanon to guarantee mass casualties during the next conflict with Israel — a strategy meant to ensure swift international condemnation of Israel’s right to self-defense. Hezbollah’s military infrastructure is embedded in the civilian population. Rockets, bombs and rifles have been hidden in homes and under schools and hospitals — to ensure that any future war with Israel will be catastrophic and that Israel will be blamed for the consequences, regardless of the facts.
This latest attack is clearly a sign that Iran is testing Israel’s red lines in preparation for a new confrontation. It is important that Israel sends a clear message to Iran, Hezbollah and Assad: any attack on Israel comes with a terrible price.
Now that Hezbollah — and by extension, Iran — has achieved what amounts to complete political and military control of Lebanon, that message has never been more urgent.
Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said that Hezbollah will use its recently acquired advanced missiles against Israel’s nuclear installations and chemical facilities, triggering tens of thousands of casualties.
“Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, come from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Nasrallah said. “As long as Iran has money, we have money.”
The Iran nuclear deal was a good deal for terror and a good deal for Hezbollah. It was a bad deal for the United States, Europe, the West, Israel, and Lebanon.
The world must demand that Iran and Hezbollah cease their threatening and destabilizing behavior. A confrontation between Israel and Iran, whether directly or through proxies like Hezbollah, will be devastating.
Lebanon was once the jewel of the Middle East. It has been reduced to the status of a client state of an increasingly aggressive, intolerant, and totalitarian Iranian regime.
It is time to hold Iran accountable. Israel and the United States, along with Europe and allied Arab states in the region, must act together to eliminate Iran’s presence in Lebanon.
Joshua S. Block is CEO & President of The Israel Project