July 12, 2006

And now Hizballah enters the fray....

This is a follow-up to my earlier piece "HAMAS, Israel, Syria, Iran - Pieces of the Same Puzzle."

On July 12, a group of Lebanese Hizballah crossed into northern Israel from Lebanon and captured two Israeli soldiers, exacerbating the already tense situation in the region. Israel is conducting operations in the Gaza Strip in an effort to free another Israel soldier taken captive by Palestinian HAMAS on June 25.

In an interview, an Israeli diplomat said that he did not believe the two groups were working together because HAMAS is a Sunni fundamentalist organization and Hizballah is a Shi'a group. I am not sure this is true - both organizations receive money, weapons and training from Iran via Syria (see earlier article). HAMAS has an office in Damascus - a coordination meeting there is quite feasible. Would they cooperate? Possibly - their hatred of Israel transcends their distrust and dislike of each other.

The question in the minds of many Middle East analysts - is Iran pulling the strings here?

The two Israeli soldiers in Hizballah custody will likely find themselves in front of much more capable Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) interrogators, either in the Biqa' Valley, or possibly in Iran. There is precedent - in the 1980's, the IRGC kidnapped the CIA's Beirut station chief, Bill Buckley, and moved him to Iran. The most likely route for that would be via Damascus International Airport, bring Syria squarely into this round of tensions.

Israeli forces now will have to conduct two-front operations in hopes of recovering their captured soldiers. While they might be successful in Gaza, the chance of success in Lebanon is doubtful.