The Israeli army carried out a military operation in the heart of the southern suburbs of Beirut by two remote-controlled drones on the 25th of August and a few hours before, a raid on the Damascus suburbs resulted in two of Hezbollah members killed...

Ahmad Kilani (Lebanon), exclusively for IAC

The Israeli army carried out a military operation in the heart of the southern suburbs of Beirut by two remote-controlled drones on the 25th of August and a few hours before, a raid on the Damascus suburbs resulted in two of Hezbollah members killed. On the next day, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasr Allah announced in his speech that “The Israeli drones will no longer be safe in the skies of Lebanon anymore; the resistance will respond to the Damascus countryside raid across the Lebanese-Palestinian border”. This attack is the first act of aggression since the end of the 2006 war. Most of the Israeli media are talking about Netanyahu’s investment of this strike to his election campaign, whereas the Israeli government admits that they carried out the raid to halt the Iranian expansion in the region. This was a violation of the rules of engagement established after the July war.

On the same day in Iraq, Israeli drones attacked The Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in the Anbar resulting in two kills. There have been several mysterious blasts in the PMF bases, training camps, and ammunition depots; only until the last strike, they have publically announced the Israeli responsibility on theses blasts. This generated apprehension of a conceivable proxy war between Iran, the US and Israel on Iraqi soil or in its airspace.

Statements from both sides

On the announcement of the Israeli bombing a center of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, on the outskirts of Damascus on Saturday night, Nasr Allah revealed that “Netanyahu is lying to the Israelis. The air force raided a house belonging to Hezbollah”. Nasr Allah added in a direct speech to the Israelis that “Netanyahu is running an election. Usually, he has tried to win elections with the blood of the peoples of the region, now it is with your own blood, you Israelis. It brings fire to you from everywhere. He leads you to the edge of chaos, because he is afraid of the election results, and is involved in corruption charges”.

Netanyahu declared that “It is an initiative of Iran, led by Iran and sent by Iran. However, with a courageous decision and a full operational and intelligence execution by the IDF, we pre-empted them and thwarted this attack, preventing cruel attacks. We will uncover every Iranian attempt to attack us and every attempt to hide behind various pretexts. Every country that will allow an attack against Israel will bear the results. I will stress the consequences”.

In addition, military correspondent Alon Ben-David discussed the situation and told Channel 13 “If Israel has already conducted intelligence work in Beirut; it can be assumed that this is a goal of strategic importance. I recall that in the past the Prime Minister referred to Hezbollah’s attempts to establish missile factories in Beirut. If there is indeed such an Israeli attack, this is the first time since the Second Lebanon War that Israel has acted against a strategic objective in Lebanon. This means changing the rules of the game with Hezbollah. Understanding in Israel is that Nasr Allah will respond against a military objective, not civilians, and will not risk with kidnapping. But he will look for a resounding move, something that will be a painful element for Israel. This response will come. Not today, not tomorrow, but in the near future”.

On the other side, Israeli opposition parties have showed support for the Israeli attacks and to accuse Netanyahu of trying to use national security issues for electoral interests. “The countries of the region must understand that Israel will not allow it to threaten its sovereignty and security, and we will act against you in every sector and against every threat,” Gantz said. In contrast, former security minister Avigdor Lieberman criticized Netanyahu, calling on him not to brag and continue to adhere to ambiguity. In the same context, the leader of the Blue White party, Moshe Ya’alon, confirmed that he participated «in a lot of such operations, and did not sprinted to tell friends. In the recent period they are using it for political purposes, and this saddens me”.

The US-Iranian reproaching 

Within all these activities, we should not disregard the Israeli drones’ strikes concomitantly with the Iranian foreign minister arriving to the G7 meeting in France upon an American consent for this surprising meeting. This raises concerns whether the Israeli strikes are an attempt to create confusion in the region to prevent any US-Iranian bargain. On the 26th of August, the French president announced in the summit that there might be a meeting between Trump and Ruhani to discuss several difficulties particularly the sanctions and the nuclear program. Israel has objected several times to any US-Iranian rapprochement, and sternly criticized the Iranian nuclear deal.

Both positions in Tehran and Paris agree that positivity still governs President Emmanuel Macron’s initiative on the Iranian dossier, allowing the initiative to continue its work. According to the French Foreign Ministry, “within the framework of completing the efforts of the President of the Republic for weeks, and continued during the summit of the Group of Seven in Biarritz, talks continue with Iran aimed at easing tension in the region.”

In parallel, an Iranian delegation arrived to Paris on the 2nd of September, headed by Assistant Foreign Minister for Political Affairs, Abbas Araghchi, and many experts in numerous fields (assistant of the central bank governor, assistant of the minister of oil, and an economic delegation from various sectors in Iran). The Iranian Foreign Ministry said that “the talks, which lasted more than 10 hours, were reviewed possible scenarios to advance the initiative put forward between the Iranian and French presidents in detail.” The nature of the Iranian delegation visiting Paris and the statements made by both sides indicate that the talks are progressing, but the chances of these negotiations remain uncertain whether it will stop on the borders of the EU only, the issue of maintaining the nuclear agreement, and whether the negotiation would spread to Washington as well.

Trump’s aim to make a deal with Iran is purely local. Within the next year, the US presidential elections is due, and Trump needs to provide an achievement if he wants to be elected again. The Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said that “serious negotiations have taken place in the past few weeks; fortunately, our views have converged in many areas”, hinting at the possibility of a meeting between Macron and Rouhani, but said “In my opinion, the goal of the US President to meet Rouhani is different from ours. Trump’s goal is internal, while we aim to restore our neglected right”. Nevertheless, an US-Iranian meeting might lead in the future to lifting economic sanctions on Iran which gives the latter more power in the region; and this what Israel is concerned about. 

Hezbollah’s vengeance and the Israeli election predicament

On the 1st of September, Hezbollah fulfilled his promise of retaliation against the Israeli assault one week before, targeted a military vehicle «Wolf» with anti-armor missiles, wounding a number of Israeli soldiers, according to the Hezbollah statement. On the same day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu smiled and showed the Israelis after the end of his government meeting, that there are no deaths among his soldiers. Was the smile a result of avoiding casualties or a diminished prospect of confrontation with Hezbollah, which he worked so hard to avoid?

Questions related to the impending Israeli elections, as a factor in the decision-making process in Tel Aviv to launch the recent attacks in Lebanon, are an integral part of the endless analysis. Where are the elections going from the initial Israeli escalation in the Lebanese arena? Indeed, most analyzes of the role and impact of elections in Israel, as a leading factor in the considerations of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu based on the historical view that controls the awareness of the Israeli capacity and its potential in achieving what they want without any price. Historically, the same view is seen in Lebanon as an arena that receives and submits Israel’s will.

Anyone who considers that the elections are the factor in Israel’s initiative to attack Lebanon, should find an explanation for the following: By refraining from the initiative and confrontation in the Lebanese arena for fear of consequences, despite all the motives and incentives based on considerations of national security interests, while they risk taking what was deterred and the rush to attack, against the background of elections and personal interests?

Yes, Netanyahu is benefiting, in the context of the act of aggression initiated by him, after the complete success, imposing the will and changing the rules of engagement, which necessitates the resumption of aggression and entrenchment with the Lebanese arena, and perhaps beyond the date of the elections itself with the initial uncertainty about the response of Hezbollah . This is a different approach, certainly not the place or building of the prevailing analysis of the Israeli elections and their role in the Israeli attacks on Lebanon.

With the approaching period of elections in Israel, all sides believe that the drone strikes in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq are used as a tool by Netanyahu to increase his election chances. As for the consequences of the Hezbollah attacks on the military vehicles is still ambiguous and waiting more evidence from both sides. In the same time, the Israeli government announced that it will defend itself against any Iranian force in the targeted areas whereas the strikes were against Iran’s proxies which are raising an army in the region to overthrow the state of Israel. Or could it be hitting two birds in one stone? 

Only times would divulge the Israeli meanings for these consecutive drone attacks. Notwithstanding the military tenacities, the political motives could be elections, dispense security threats from Iran, or amputate US-Iranian reconciliation. Regardless of these variables, the region is witnessing an increase military tensions that could break into a regional war.