Experts suggest that the situation on Lebanon’s southern border is quite complicated. Despite this, it has somewhat faded into the background due to the recent Israeli massacre in the Gaza Strip. The current situation can be described as a conflict with an escalation of rocket attacks between Israel and Hezbollah. According to official figures alone, the clashes have resulted in the deaths of over 100 Lebanese civilians and more than 200 Hezbollah fighters. The Lebanese Army has suffered the least casualties despite repeated attacks by the IDF. Israeli casualties are often overlooked.
Approximately 75,000 Lebanese individuals have been displaced, along with the closure of schools and the transformation of much of the southern region into a closed military zone. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah stated that the latest missile strikes were aimed at “strengthening the balance by dissuasion.” However, in open conflict, there can be no balance, only countless casualties and escalating cycles of revenge on both sides.
Nasrallah’s recent sermons have featured increasingly aggressive rhetoric about war, more so than at any other point in the conflict. He spoke, as always passionately, of the “historic opportunity” to liberate the lands occupied by Israel. “Today’s war,” he said, “is being fought not only for Palestine, but also for Lebanon and its south, in particular the region south of the Litani River.”
Many leaders in Israel have advocated for a decisive confrontation with Hezbollah since the October 7 Hamas attack. This has caused concern for the Biden administration, which has used diplomatic leverage to prevent such a development. Washington is aware that the United States and its allies may become involved in a broader conflict with various Iranian militias throughout the region. Hundreds of thousands of Syrian and Iraqi fighters are expected to join the battle directly. Additionally, US troops in Syria and Iraq experience constant missile attacks. Iran launched a missile and drone strike on the city of Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, in a covert operation. Arab media reported that missiles and UAVs from the IRGC struck the local headquarters of the Kurdish security service, as well as the private residence of businessman Peshwa Dzai, owner of Falcon Group and Empire, which is directly linked to the Mossad.
The US Defense Intelligence Agency’s latest assessment, as reported by The Washington Post, suggests that Israel may struggle to gain an advantage in the ongoing conflict due to the concentration of many of the IDF’s elite units in Gaza. The latest partial withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, ostensibly for recreation, is somewhat calculated to take into account the likelihood of fighting in the north.
As tensions continue to rise, the US has engaged in new diplomatic activity in recent days. This includes another regional trip by Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The Department of State stated that it is not in the interest of anyone, including Israel, the region, or the world, to prolong the conflict beyond Gaza. King Abdullah II of Jordan has cautioned Secretary of State Blinken about the potential disastrous consequences of the conflict if the United States fails to exert pressure on its Middle Eastern ally. There is only one example. On January 29, an attack on a US base in northeastern Jordan resulted in the deaths of three US troops and injuries to over 30 others. The information was confirmed by the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) after being reported by the Qatari TV channel Al Jazeera.
During his visit to Lebanon, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell emphasized that “no one is in favor of a regional conflict.” French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna told her Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian that the risk of “regional conflagration has never been so great. Iran and its associates must immediately stop their destabilizing actions.” However, it is important to note that Tehran has not initiated any attacks, while Israel’s actions against Palestinian civilians in Gaza have been investigated by the UN International Court of Justice in The Hague. The court ruled that Israel must cease any actions that may violate the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. All of this, however, has had no impact on Israel’s Prime Minister and his extreme right-wing ministers, who simply ignored the court’s ruling and resumed their arbitrary activities in Gaza with even greater rage and vengeance.
The killing of Saleh al-Arouri, the senior Hamas official to Hezbollah and Iran, in an Israeli drone strike on Beirut, according to world media, can be seen as the moment when the provocation crossed the point of no return. Hezbollah described its subsequent rocket attacks as an “initial response” to al-Arouri’s death, which Nasrallah said was “a major, dangerous crime about which we cannot be silent,” adding that Lebanon as a whole could fall victim to Israeli aggression if the killing goes unpunished. Just days prior, an Israeli airstrike in Syria resulted in the death of Sayyed Razi Mousavi, a high-ranking general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Additionally, a US strike killed a commander from Hezbollah’s al-Nujaba faction in Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary forces. Although Nasrallah and some of his associates have a reputation for making empty threats in response to such assassinations, it is important to objectively analyze the situation and avoid speculation. The current situation is rapidly evolving and requires careful monitoring.
Around 200,000 Israelis have been displaced from various regions in the north and south. Israeli officials are currently considering the possibility of establishing buffer zones under Israeli control, which may include parts of southern Lebanon and multi-kilometer areas in Gaza, despite its narrow width. However, these options would likely worsen the conflict, in addition to being illegal under international law. It should be noted that southern Lebanon was occupied by Israel from 1985 to 2000, which provided Hezbollah with an opportunity to gain combat experience and achieve a significant symbolic victory when the IDF was eventually forced to withdraw from the occupied territories.
Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri emphasized the importance of implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1701. The resolution obliges both sides to establish a buffer zone under UN control and requires Hezbollah to withdraw beyond the Litani River. In his latest speech, Nasrallah suggested that he may be willing to engage in discussions regarding border demarcation after the fighting ceases. This seems to be a behind-the-scenes negotiation between the West and Hezbollah.
Iraq and Syria are currently experiencing a tense situation of reciprocal retaliatory skirmishes between the militias backed by the US and Iran. Since October 7, Iraqi militias have launched approximately 140 attacks on US facilities, prompting an increasingly aggressive response from the US. Western leaders are struggling to find a solution to the Houthis’ attacks on shipping in the Red Sea without exacerbating political tensions. Over 20 nations have officially joined the coalition, which the Pentagon describes as a “highway patrol” to aid commercial vessels in the Red Sea. However, currently only one British poodle is assisting the US in their unsuccessful efforts to defeat the Ansarullah (Houthis).
As the missiles fly, hopes are fading that the world can survive this conflict without a major regional conflagration, which would be a catastrophic failure of global diplomacy and mediocre leadership that allowed events to reach such a terrible stage. However, despite the long-evident strategic threats posed by huge transnational militias and a stalled Middle East peace process, Nasrallah, Benjamin Netanyahu, Joe Biden, and Ali Khamenei have not given much consideration to the apocalyptic implications of this scenario. When Netanyahu threatens to turn Lebanon and other states into Gaza, the world should take him seriously and consider the potential devastating consequences. According to the Middle East Institute, Lebanese casualties could reach up to 500,000, and residents of northern Israel may need to be evacuated.
According to Al-Ahram, Israel and its Western allies may be able to weaken the capabilities of Hezbollah, Hamas, and their Iranian supporters. However, this may not happen before significant damage is inflicted on Israel and the surrounding region. It is unfortunate that millions of lives will be lost in the impending horrors of the old colonial world created by the West for its own benefit but no longer under its control.
Victor Mikhin, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”