After the killing of Major General Qassem Suleimani the loudest voice (After Ayatollah Khamenei) threating United States came from Hezbollah. Secretary General of Hezbollah Sheik Hassan Nasrallah in his public speech said the US military in the Middle East would pay the price for the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, warning that American soldiers and officers would return home in coffins. Nasrallah even said responding to the killing was not only Iran’s responsibility but the responsibility of its allies too. It shows that Hezbollah will take its own revenge as well. Founded by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in 1982, Lebanese group Hezbollah is a critical part of an Iranian so, called Axis of Resistance. Some analysts even believe that it’s an extension of Iranian Revolutionary Guards and they take direct orders from Tehran. Taking revenge for Suleimani killing is not about pleasing Iran for them its personal loss too. As the primary architect of Iran’s strategic efforts to promote its expansion and undermine U.S. influence, Suleimani was particularly beloved by Hezbollah. One thing is also evident that Hezbollah don’t make empty threats. It has killed highest number of Americans after Al-Qaeda. In October 1983, Hezbollah carried out suicide bombing killing 241 US servicemen that destroyed U.S. Marine headquarters in Beirut. That was the biggest terrorist attack on US before 9/11.
If you see track record of Hezbollah, they have always retaliated the killings of its leaders and senior cadres. In 1992 Sheikh Abbas Musawi, the then secretary-general of Hezbollah was assassinated by Israelis in an airstrike. Musawi was a revered figure among Hezbollah’s cadres and his death was a major blow to the organization’s morale. Initially it appeared that Israel had scored a major achievement in dispatching its Lebanese enemy. But a month after Musawi’s assassination, however, a vehicle-borne suicide bomber attacked the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 people and wounding more than 200. The message was loud and clear that revenge will be taken and they have capability to attack Israeli interests around the world. After all, in 1992, the then relatively small Hezbollah was able to exact vengeance against Israel for Musawi’s death in South America, far from the Middle East. So now Hezbollah is much stronger it will definitely attack United States forces and interests spread across the Middle East. Hezbollah has been preparing for this day for decades, building up military, terrorist, and cyber capabilities in Lebanon and the Middle East in order to strike back at the United States and anyone else who might threaten Iran.
Iranian missile attack on two Iraqi bases that host U.S. forces was Tehran’s initial, symbolic, and overt response to Suleimani’s death. The full response will unfold in the coming months and years and will definitely feature Hezbollah in a starring role. Iran can’t afford a full fledge conventional conflict with United States as its bound to lose that. So best way to bleed US is through its most potent proxy i.e. Hezbollah as any asymmetric attack by proxy will be covert and can always be denied. The United States has troops currently staged throughout the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, including in Iraq, Syria, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. With so many targets to choose from Hezbollah can attack at place of its choice. Specially in Iraq America still has 5,000 troops and Hezbollah has its Unit 3800, which spearheaded arming and training the Shiite militias that may soon launch bloody insurgency against American forces.
To counter this potent threat to the security of US forces and interest in the region a comprehensive hybrid strategy is required which include both defensive and offensive measures. Defensively US should ensure greater security cover for all its bases in the region even host countries should be requested to provide greater security to US embassies and consulates. In offensive strategy focus should be on eroding the military capabilities of Hezbollah by attacking its arms shipment, arms depot, senior operatives. In addition to this military pressure should be built up in the core territory of Hezbollah which is the South Lebanon. So that Hezbollah get busy in defending itself rather than attacking US. American policy makers should not differentiate between Iran and Hezbollah as they are one entity. Joint strategy should be formulated to curtain Iran and Hezbollah simultaneously.
(Author is a columnist for Middle-East and Af-Pak region and Editor of geo-political news agency ViewsAround can be reached at email@example.com)
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