There are reportedly differing assessments in Israeli military intelligence (Aman) as to whether Hezbollah will attack Israel in response to Israel and America destroying the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Why is this so? Iranian officials insist that they will “destroy Israel” in response to the destruction of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. This of course is a deterrence posture and if Iran did not intend to order Hezbollah to attack Israel would it still make sense to threaten Israel.
Why would Hezbollah not attack Israel? It could be argued that Israel has established an effective deterrence posture vis-a-vis Tehran regarding Hezbollah due to Israel’s threat of liberating Lebanon and Syria in order to destroy Hezbollah and subsequently establish an Aramean Christian state (Aram), annex Median Jewish (Alawite and Druze) regions of Syria and Lebanon and hand over most of Syria and the remainder of Lebanon to the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) of the AANES (Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria). This would mean war not only against Hezbollah but also against the LAF (Lebanese Armed Forces) and the SAA (Syrian Arab Army) as well as against Iranian military units stationed in Syria and Iranian-affiliated militias in the same country. All those enemies would have to be defeated by the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) before handing over the region to the SDF.
On the face of it, this appears as a closed case where it would be obvious for Tehran to order Hezbollah not to attack Israel. However on a closer look does Syria not appear deterred by this threat as there are no signs that Syria will expel Hezbollah from Syrian territory. The extensive presence of Hezbollah throughout Ba’ath-controlled Syria will be the casus belli for Israel liberating Syria once Hezbollah rains down rockets and missiles over Israeli cities, including projectiles fitted with chemical warheads.
Iran believes that Israel will be bogged down in Syria the way the United States was bogged down in Iraq. Tehran is convinced that Hezbollah and the Iranian-affiliated militias in Syria will be able wage effective guerrilla warfare against the SDF to the point of defeating the SDF. While such a reasoning does not seem entirely rational from a Western perspective (what is the gain in dragging Israel into Lebanon and Syria in the first place?) does this certainly make sense from a Jihadist perspective. Furthermore, Iran reasons that an Israeli war against Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, and Israel subsequently handing over the region to the SDF will happen even if Hezbollah does not attack Israel. This is so as Israel is obviously determined to change the face of the northern Levant and Hezbollah has for years been training for an Israeli occupation of Lebanon in being well aware that Israel intends to establish an Aramean Christian state.
Hezbollah fills an important function for Iran as a strategic deterrence against Israel destroying the Iranian nuclear weapons program. The Iranian rationale is that this may not work the first time, but Hezbollah causing extensive devastation in Israeli cities (including mass carnage with chemical weapons) would ostensibly deter Israel from destroying Iran’s nuclear weapons program a second time some two years or so later.
However, the notion that Iran would not unleash Hezbollah on Israel represents projective Western thinking. Holding back would make sense from a Western strategic perspective but this is not how Iran’s leaders think. The introduction of the concept of imposing a no-fly zone over the entire Iran by an international coalition that would provide air support to armed rebellions throughout the country represents a strategic gamechanger as for the first time there is a viable international option to implement regime change in Iran without an invasion.
While the Iranian regime is confident that the insurrections will fail as Tehran as usual trusts divine patronage, the regime is obviously unnerved – yet not deterred – by the prospect of a no-fly zone and this makes the regime even more prone to lash out against Israel through Hezbollah.
The truth of course is that the Khomeinist regime faces checkmate in both Syria-Lebanon and in Iran itself, yet from the perspective of the Khomeinist regime is backing down in the face of the threat not an option and this is due in part to Middle Eastern political culture and in part to the regime’s fanatical belief in Anti-Jewish conspiracy theory. Iran sees itself faced with “a Jewish conspiracy” to bring down the Khomeinist Empire and is determined to strike back with all its terrorist might. Iran’s strategic choice can be seen clearly in Vienna in the Raisi administration retracting the Rouhani administration’s “concessions”. Iran therefore prepares for an all-out confrontation with the perceived global American-Jewish “octopus”. Iran’s leaders believe that Allah will lead them to victory and “defeat for the scheming and cowardly Jews”. Therefore ordering Hezbollah not to attack Israel is certainly not an option for Khamenei and Raisi.