Friday, April 16, 2010

No need for toothless allies

A report in Ha'aretz today quotes sources as saying that Hezbollah has acquired SCUD missiles from Syria. These weapons would provide a significant boost in Hezbollah's firepower. In fact, the report says that Israeli officials have suggested that SCUD's could "alter the strategic balance." SCUD's pack significantly more explosive capacity, and greater range, than the Katyusha rockets used extensively by Hezbollah in the 2006 war.

For its part, Syria has denied any such deal and claims that Israeli is manufacturing the story in order to deflect from recent criticisms of its own purported nuclear weapons capabilities.

It makes sense that Syria would provide all the help it can to Hezbollah. The regime of Al-Assad isn't particularly strong, and Hezbollah provides a useful ally, as they can wage a continuous, low-level intensity conflict with Israel. Meanwhile, Syria will align itself with the plight of the South Lebanese and the Palestinians and restate its claims to the Golan Heights. Syria could never hope to confront Israel directly, and by using a non-state proxy Assad gains the ability to influence the conflict and further a Syrian agenda, while simultaneously gaining legitimacy and prestige in terms of Syria's regional profile.

For Israel, the possibility of SCUD missiles in Hezbollah hands is highly problematic. The danger is obvious. However, this may move President Obama to rethink his current strained relationship with Israel and Netanyahu. In as much as Israel plays the role of an American client state, it's security will remain a singular priority, as the U.S. President has stated on numerous occasions. It is no good to have a toothless ally, and increased Hezbollah strategic and military capacity means that the IDF Garrisons must be fully supported.

It bodes badly fore Palestinian aspirations hoping to see a halting of settlement activity in East Jerusalem. If Hezbollah makes moves along the border, Israel will most likely raise the red flag, and while international heads are turned, the settlers will be quietly encouraged to take the backdoor out to the West Bank.

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