TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran’s president said on Sunday the Lebanese and the Palestinians had pressed a “countdown button” to bring an end to Israel…
“With God’s help, the countdown button for the destruction of the Zionist regime has been pushed by the hands of the children of Lebanon and Palestine,” Ahmadinejad said in a speech.
“By God’s will, we will witness the destruction of this regime in the near future,” he said. He did not elaborate.
It’s interesting to speculate about what he gets from this bellicose language. I presume it’s done to help promote Iran as leader of the Muslim world, which is almost synonymous with ‘biggest enemy of Israel’.
This time the threat is not of an Iranian attack, but of a proxy war involving clients Hezbollah and Hamas.
Comparing the situation to that of the 1960’s and 70’s, we have Iran playing the role of the Soviet Union as the sponsor of Arab confrontation.
On the one hand, Israel’s position does not appear any worse than it was. The US appears to be supporting Israel at least as much, and possibly more, than in the past. Although it is bogged down in Iraq, it was no less bogged down in Vietnam then. Iran is no Soviet Union militarily. And Hamas and Hezbollah cannot theselves constitute an existential threat to Israel.
The greatest danger comes from a war with Hamas and Hezbollah escalating to include missile attacks from Syria and Iran. Such attacks could cause large numbers of casualties, even without nuclear involvement. But Israel’s powerful second-strike capability should deter this kind of escalation.
So what I expect, and what Ahmadinijad seems to be threatening, is a two-front war with Hamas and Hezbollah, waged by means of short-range rockets and infiltration of terrorists. Sort of a 2006 war on steroids, with the Arabs going for limited goals and, despite the threats, not the destruction of Israel.
On the one hand, Hamas is much more prepared than last summer, and Hezbollah is no less so. The presence of international forces in Lebanon may or may not deter Hezbollah, but will certainly constrain Israel’s response.
The IDF has learned some lessons, but it’s not clear if it has any more of an answer to short-range missiles than before. Another unknown is Israeli strategy: how close to Syria and Iran will Israel take the fight?
Nothing will be more important to Israel in this coming struggle than leadership.