A showdown with the terror group is therefore inevitable. The only question is “when,” not “if.”
Second, though Hezbollah has suffered substantial casualties since it began its military entanglement in Syria – at least 2,000 of its members have been killed – the group has emerged militarily stronger. It has been lavishlyequipped by Iran with modern weapons, including T-72 tanks, weaponized drones, Konkurs anti-tank missiles and Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles, and thanks to the Russians, improved its electronic warfare and special operations capabilities.
Third, in 2006, Hezbollah was believed to have possessed 11,000 rockets and missile of various calibers and guidance systems. Today, Hezbollah is believed to possess between 100,000 and 150,000 missiles and rockets. To place things in proper perspective, that figure is more than the combined arsenal of all NATO countries, with the exception of the United States.
Moreover, with Iran’s assistance, the terror group has managed to build subterranean factories buried 50 meters below ground. These factories are capable of producing everything from small arms to Fateh-110/M-600 surface-to-surface missiles, making Hezbollah partially self-sufficient in arms, a capability that it lacked in 2006. If Iranian claims are to be believed, the Fateh-110 has a range of 300km and carries a payload of 500kg. The missile is believed to possess an accuracy level of 100 m CEP, which means that there’s a 50/50 chance that the missile will fall within 100 meters of its intended target. Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah has made clear on numerous occasions that his missiles would target a vulnerable ammonia plant in Haifa, Israel’s nuclear research facility in Dimona and other critical civilian infrastructure in any war with Israel.
Fifth, while Hezbollah never felt constrained by UNSC resolution 1701 – which prohibited the group from operating south of the Litani River and called for its disarmament – it exercised some measure of discretion when operating near the Israeli border, alternatively known as the Blue Line. Today, that is no longer the case. Hezbollah terrorists brazenly operate right up to Blue Line, taking pictures and videotaping Israeli patrols, an ominous development mimicking the situation that existed before the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
Sixth, Hezbollah can no longer be viewed as merely a separate entity operating alongside the government of Lebanon. Hezbollah and by extension Iran, exercises near full control over Lebanese affairs and has fully absorbed Lebanese state institutions.
Lastly, Hezbollah has transformed south Lebanon into one large armament storage facility without regard to civilian infrastructure and population centers. Hezbollah is utilizing civilian housing to store its wares often providing homeowners with pecuniary inducements in exchange for storage space. This practice of shielding is a clear violation of the laws of war.
Armed conflict between Israel and Hezbollah is inevitable and can unfold in one of two ways. Hezbollah receives its marching orders from the mullahs of the Islamic Republic. If Iran orders its proxy to attack, it will dutifully obey. Iran would almost certainly employ the Hezbollah card if it is attacked by the United States or Israel.
In the next war, Israel will likely broaden the theater of operations to include Syria where Hezbollah maintains a significant presence.
It will also likely commit itself to boots on the ground in a more expeditious fashion so as to deny the enemy a platform from which it can fire its rockets. More importantly, Israel will commit itself to total war from the outset in shock & awe-like fashion with the aim of breaking Hezbollah’s back. This is a realistic goal that would have wide regional backing, particularly from Sunni states like Saudi Arabia, which views Hezbollah as a malign influence. Israel would also receive considerable political support from the Trump administration, which is far more sympathetic to Israel than the previous administration.
The next Lebanon War will be brutal and devastating but will be fought with the achievable aim of breaking Hezbollah’s back and degrading its military capabilities to the point where Lebanon can once again reassert its sovereignty. Hezbollah may have dodged a bullet in 2006 but in the next war, it will not be so lucky.