Navigating Tensions: Assessing Iran's Control Over Hezbollah and the Risk of Escalation

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2023-11-03 | 02:11
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Navigating Tensions: Assessing Iran's Control Over Hezbollah and the Risk of Escalation
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5min
Navigating Tensions: Assessing Iran's Control Over Hezbollah and the Risk of Escalation

Amid the military escalation in southern Lebanon and the anticipated speech of Hezbollah's Secretary-General today, Friday, the US network "CNN" published a report from the American intelligence community, discussing the likelihood of Iran and Hezbollah avoiding direct war with Israel or the United States shortly to avoid the hefty costs they might incur in a similar war. Questions arise about Tehran's ability to control the behavior of its allies, especially Hezbollah.
 
This conclusion, excluding a violent expansion of the war at least in the current stage, aligns with the US understanding, according to the US network, that Iran does not have complete control over its proxies, especially Hezbollah, the largest and most capable among its various arms.
 
In this context, Jonathan Panikov, a former senior official in US intelligence, says, "The problem we face in the assessment is that the proxies do not respect Tehran equally, so their reactions cannot be expected to be equal. And here, the question arises: If Hamas appears to be truly in trouble, will Hezbollah and Iran reach an agreement for Hezbollah to launch a wide-ranging attack to save Hamas, or will they differ? I don't think we know the answer yet."
 
 
In response to this, a US official who requested from the network to remain unknown emphasized to the US network that Tehran knows that Hezbollah's escalation of the conflict with Israel or the United States could provoke direct counterattacks against it, which could be devastating.
 
Preparing for escalation, the US network indicates warnings from many US officials that the strategy between Iran and its allies could lead to unintended consequences, even if none of the parties desires it. 
 
The network recalls the statement of Christie Abizaid, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, before a committee in the US Senate last Tuesday, saying, "The strategy pursued between Iran's allies is an extremely thin line to walk. In the current regional context, their actions may result in misjudgment."
The network quotes a US intelligence official as saying that intelligence officials will closely monitor Nasrallah's speech to glean signals about his party's intentions in the coming days. The network suggests that the series of teaser videos released on social media before Nasrallah's appearance may indicate the party's readiness to escalate the fight against Israel.
 
According to the network, Hezbollah has shown some restraint despite possessing an arsenal of up to 150,000 rockets, in addition to precision-guided ammunition, content with exchanging missiles and artillery fire with Israel across the borders. However, with the ongoing Israeli massacres, the party may find itself caught between two conflicting options: maintaining its legitimacy as a stronghold of resistance against Israel and not dragging Lebanon into a possible destructive war.
 
Based on the above, some intelligence analysts for the American network say that Tehran itself faces a similar dilemma, highlighted in its contradictory positions. It praised the attack on Israel on October 7, but its officials now openly say they do not seek to expand the scope of the war and warn of the danger of worsening the situation. The report in our possession includes a statement from the Iranian Foreign Minister to CNN earlier this week, saying, "We do not want this war to expand. Connecting any targeting of US interests by any group and any attack carried out in the region to the Islamic Republic of Iran without providing any evidence is completely wrong. They do not take orders from us. They act according to their own interests."
 
Regarding Iran's control over its allies and its influence on developments on the ground, the network quotes a statement from a US official, "Given that the Houthis and Lebanese Hezbollah receive their most advanced weapons, such as drones, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles, from Iran, this will always be a strong incentive for them to continue following Iranian directives."
 
However, the US network concludes by noting that groups loyal to Tehran maintain varying degrees of independence. The Houthis in Yemen enjoy a fair degree of independence from Tehran. In Iraq and Syria, where Iran provides the majority of support to a series of groups, all focused on expelling the US presence, Iran's authority has become stronger.
 
 

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