Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah told Iranian state TV this week that the Jewish state was not serious about its multiple warnings of potentially striking Iran’s nuclear sites.
However – surprisingly – Nasrallah also said that Hezbollah would not necessarily join the fight in a scenario where Israel does strike Iran.
“Iran itself and not its allies will forcefully retaliate against any Israeli strike,” Nasrallah told the Iranian Arabic news channel Al-Alam News. “Iran is a strong regional state and any war with it will blow up the entire region.”
The pro-Iranian Hezbollah leader’s statement likely comes as a surprise to Iranian and Israeli leaders who have both long assumed that Hezbollah would automatically come to Tehran’s assistance in the event of a potential war between Iran and Israel.
While flattering the Iranian regime by praising Iran’s military capabilities, Nasrallah’s statement was likely meant to highlight Hezbollah’s independence from Iran in the Middle East. The alliance between Iran and its terrorist proxy remains strong, but has been tested by an ongoing severe socio-economic crisis in Lebanon. Hezbollah has come under heavy criticism in Lebanon for serving Iran’s interests at the expense of Lebanon’s future. While Tehran can afford to ignore this distant Lebanese anger, Hezbollah cannot.
In a comment likely meant to strengthen Hezbollah’s Lebanese credentials, Nasrallah denied that the Iranian embassy in Lebanon was in charge of local policies and challenged people to “tell us about a single act that Hezbollah did for the sake of Iran rather than for the sake of Lebanon.”
Turning to its foe, Israel, the Hezbollah leader claimed that the Jewish state would have already attacked Hezbollah if it had been certain of victory.
"If the Israeli entity was certain of victory over Hezbollah through the war, it would not have hesitated for one moment," Nasrallah told Iranian media.
“We do not seek or dislike war, and we understand its dangers and challenges, but we do not fear it,” Nasrallah added.
Over the years, Hezbollah has accumulated a considerable arsenal of more than a hundred thousand missiles, capable of striking any point inside Israel. In hindsight, the inconclusive and controversial Second Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006 seems to have had a deterrent effect on Hezbollah’s motivation to launch a new military attack against the Jewish state.
Following the war in 2006, which was especially devastating for Lebanon, Nasrallah told Lebanese media that he would not have launched the attack against Israel or ordered the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers if he had known the outcome of the war.
“We did not think, even 1%, that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me, if I had known on July 11... that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not,” Nasrallah stated.
ISRAEL REMAINS ON ALERT ON NORTHERN BORDER
Across the border, the Israeli army is preparing once again for a potential winter war against Hezbollah in the north.
Lt.-Col. Ofer Tchorz, commander of the Israeli military’s 74th battalion, told The Jerusalem Post that weather conditions during the winter created additional challenges for the Israeli military such as tanks getting stuck in mud during exercises.
“We are preparing for war with Hezbollah in all weather conditions,” Tchorz stressed.
Middle East pundits have been warning for years of an imminent new war between Hezbollah and Israel. However, the Lebanese-Israeli border has been largely quiet for the past 16 years since Hezbollah attacked Israel in 2006. A new generation of Israelis and Lebanese has been born since the previous intense fighting between Hezbollah and Israel in southern Lebanon and northern Israel.
In the highly combustible Middle East, anything could happen including the eruption of a potentially devastating war that neither Israel nor Hezbollah want. In the turbulent region, preparing for a war is often the best way of ensuring one will not erupt.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.