Huda al-Husseini

Will Iran Succeed in Changing How Hezbollah Operates?

Contradictory reports have been circulating amid the ambiguity around why rockets were fired at Israel from Lebanon and who launched them. Hezbollah sources have said that it had not been informed about the operation, claiming the rockets were fired by Hamas in retaliation to Israel’s assault on worshipers in Al-Aqsa Mosque and that the incident does not change the rules of engagement in South Lebanon.

Despite Israel retaliating in Lebanon and escalating its daily strike on the Hezbollah bases in Syria, the party kept quiet and avoided escalation. In turn, Al-Manar TV defended Hezbollah’s silence as the correct course of action. It argued that keeping tight-lipped is a strategy of psychological warfare that intimidates the Israel enemy as they sleep in shelters in anticipation of what the party might do.

Everyone knows that Hezbollah has total, unfettered control over South Lebanon. The party even determines the scope of the United Nations Multinational Force In Lebanon’s (UNIFIL) field of operation. When the UNIFIL goes beyond the boundaries set by Hezbollah, the party incites attacks by its supporters, as happened in January 2022, when unidentified men intercepted a UNIFIL patrol in Bint Jbeil, beating UNIFIL forces on patrol and setting fire to their vehicles.

They justified the assault with claims that the patrol was filming in the area. Meanwhile, UNIFIL Command said that the patrol had accidentally strayed from its course. And a similar attack was witnessed last December, when an Irish member of the UNIFIL forces was killed. Once again, the pretext was that his patrol had been filming - a claim the UNIFIL spokesperson denied.

It is also a well-established fact the Lebanese army coordinates all of its operations in the South with the military leadership of Hezbollah. Indeed, the Lebanese remember very well the martyrdom of First Lieutenant Samer Hanna. The party shot a rocket at the pilot’s helicopter because it was passing over the town of Sujud, which lies within an area that Hezbollah has declared off-limits to aircraft. Former President Michel Aoun justified the attack egregiously, asking why the martyred First Lieutenant had been flying over this area.

Thus, claims that Hamas or any other group could have fired 34 rockets at Israel without Hezbollah’s knowledge are untenable. Hezbollah was either implicated in the attack or, if its claims are to be believed, suffered a serious security breach.

Here, we should keep in mind the reports that Haniyeh’s decision to launch Hamas rockets from Lebanon followed a meeting with Nasrallah over iftar that brought them together with Quds Force Commander Esmail Qaani and the Iranian Ambassador to Beirut, Mojtaba Amani. So, what does Hezbollah hope to achieve from this incident?

Sources in contact with the Axis of Resistance in Lebanon have stressed that the party is apprehensive about the rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The party leadership had not been informed about its imminence, and Hezbollah is alarmed by the pace at which events have been unfolding since the two countries agreed on the principles of their new relationship under the auspices of China.

Although both Saudi Arabia and Iran are both primarily focused on Yemen, as there is much to be resolved there, we have seen the agreement swiftly precipitate developments on other fronts. There are signs that Syria’s isolation from the Arab world is coming to an end, and all of this inevitably implies scaling down the expansion of Hezbollah in Yemen and Syria.

Hezbollah is aware that in this event, Iran will probably change the nature of the party’s operations after having used it to fight for the Velayat-e Faqih across the region. The reason is simple. There will be no Iranian-Saudi conflict, and a great power, China, will guarantee this peace. Thus, Hezbollah wanted to send messages to its leaders in Iran. It let them know that it would not pay the price for the Saudi-Iranian agreement and that, at any moment, it could turn the tables and set the region alight by sparking a war with Israel, whose outcome and repercussions would be impossible to predict.

Media outlets associated with the Axis of Resistance depicting images of Hassan Nasrallah receiving Ismail Haniyeh signaled that the Hamas missiles were his. However, Benjamin Netanyahu hit back at Haniyeh and Nasrallah swiftly. On Monday evening, Netanyahu warned that he would not allow Hamas to establish a base in South Lebanon.

Will this threat be enough for caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who merely assured the Lebanese that the faction behind the rockets fired from the Lebanese Qulaileh region is not Lebanese, without telling us who had informed him of this fact? Was it a Lebanese party? Did boy scouts, for example, inform Mikati of who had been behind the missiles? Did pigeons land, fire the missiles, and fly away?

Najib Mikati tasked Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib with filing a complaint with the Security Council against Israel for attacking Lebanon! In this sense, it was Israel that informed Lebanon of who had fired the missiles, cornering the caretaker prime minister. He and the “republic’s policeman,” Abdullah Bou Habib, did the right thing; when Israel bombards the country, the solution will be in their pockets.

For his part, Hassan Nasrallah should know that the region will inevitably change and that it will do so very rapidly. Meanwhile, Hezbollah cannot wrap its head around these changes, let alone prevent them. Accordingly, its confusion will continue to engender blunders domestically.

Tehran will probably not account for the repercussions, as a burden has been removed from its shoulders. Indeed, Iran is now looking forward to a new stage, which it hopes will see sanctions scaled down.

In fact, this new stage has already begun. According to recent reports, Iran and Russia are in discussions to increase trade through the Caspian Sea, with senior officials from both countries exploring different options for increasing the volume of goods shipped through .

During a meeting held in Tehran last Sunday, the Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mehrdad Bezrpash and Russia’s Igor Levitin, an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, discussed bilateral cooperation to boost trade by air, sea, land, and rail. Discussing the long history of cooperation in maritime trade between Iran and Russia, the Iranian minister underlined the need for both countries to benefit from other countries’ ports to facilitate their bilateral trade as well.

He also said that, for the first time in 21 years, the massive Russian Ro-Ro ship docked in the Port of Nowshahr (northern Iran) last April, adding that he believes this is a major step in augmenting maritime trade between the two countries.

Earlier on in his stay in Tehran, Levitin held a meeting with the Iranian First Vice President, Mohammad Mokhber. On Saturday, they discussed work on the strategically significant International North-South Transport Corridor.

During this meeting, Levitin said that Iran and Russia could be turned into regional centers for the export of foodstuffs through joint projects between the countries. Will Nasrallah dare to put a stick in the wheels of these Iranian-Russian initiatives to please Ismail Haniyeh, or is he being asked to do so?!