Various experts have expressed admiration toward Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah. Senior military officers in uniform and retirement, researchers, and journalists analyzing every gesture, smile, outburst of anger and criticism, shout or laugh and attributing meaning to it all assert that Nasrallah is reliable. He makes promises and delivers. He is faithful to his patrons in Tehran despite Lebanon’s attempts to restrain him.
The picture is more complicated because of the bottom line: it can be said with certainty that Nasrallah is an actor and a liar who has turned manipulation into an art.
Nasrallah closely follows everything that is published about him and Hizbullah in Israel and primarily abroad. He attributes great importance to the words and commentaries of senior Israeli officers both present and past. The interpretation that he gives these reports is that Israel is afraid of Hizbullah’s military might and especially the precision missiles in Hizbullah’s arsenal with their ability to strike deep inside Israel and at strategic installations.
Nasrallah is particularly following those “experts” who provide details and outline the enormity of Hizbullah’s military threat, primarily those who mention the names of the most endangered places and sites inside Israel. Senior security officials assert that in the next war there will be no boundaries between the military front and the civilian home front due to the impressively accurate Hizbullah missiles, which blur this differentiation. The more details provided in Israel on these matters, the more Nasrallah derives more encouragement and pleasure. He believes that Israeli society is weak and unprepared for war, and it will do anything to avoid a confrontation with Hizbullah.
The Countdown Has Begun
The countdown toward a widespread confrontation between Israel and Hizbullah has begun. The critical question, based on the assumption that Israel will not allow the establishment of factories for precision missiles in Lebanon, is what would happen if the next (and third) time, instead of Israel revealing exact information about these precision missile factories, it would just strike at these operations? How would Nasrallah react?
Israel’s working assumption has to be that Nasrallah’s reaction would be more extensive, and he would not be satisfied with launching Kornet missiles at military installations and vehicles. Possible responses can range from sending suicide drones into northern Israel with the objective of striking military and civilian targets to firing rockets at military installations and towns close to the border fence.
Who Is the Boss?
This situation could develop into a broader confrontation if Israel escalates in its reaction even though Nasrallah does not want an all-out war with Israel.
It needs emphasizing that at the end of the day, Nasrallah does not set the strategic goals of Hizbullah, and definitely not those of the Shiite militias in Syria, many of which work without Nasrallah’s involvement. Their goals are set by Iran and carried out by the Iranian Quds Force commander, Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who is personally supervising Hizbullah’s military operations. It has been reported that Soleimani arrived in Beirut immediately after the Kornet missile strikes to meet with Nasrallah. The commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, representing Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, is the one who sets the boundaries of the conflict.
The Lebanese constraint exists, but it is meaningless to Iran’s strategic goal.