a few days old, but looks like his assessment was correct:
09 November 2023
Previous piece about the day after of current crisis generated many questions and one question was asked about potential widening of theatre especially Iran/Hezbollah role.
My response below;
I short and medium term, Hezbollah, Iran, Israel & USA have no interest in expanding the conflict. Operationally, Israel can not conduct a northern front large scale operation at this stage. Major factor is that Israel has used large stocks of Tamir missiles of Iron Dome interceptors and major threat from Hezbollah is its expanded rockets arsenal. To give an example of cost ratio, average cost of long-range rocket used by Hamas and Hezbollah is $300-400 while each Tamir interceptor missile of Iron Dome costs $40’000. Of 500’000 mobilized troops, 60% on Southern front in Gaza and 40% in West Bank and Israeli cities with large Arab population to keep lid on restive Palestinians. Expanded northern front will require mobilization of additional reserves putting more strain on already stretched economy. In addition, over 200’000 Israelis are displaced from southern and northern border areas. All this points to Israel’s preference to focus on south and keep all other fronts quiet. This does not mean that Israel’s hands are completely tied. Hamas rocket threats are markedly reduced by ground operation in Gaza, ten Israeli Iron Dome batteries with two batteries from US currently in transit although whole inventory of Tamir interceptor missiles in US inventory have reached Israel that can tackle Hezbollah rocket threat although interception rate may not be over 98% in view of heavy barrage. (US army has no role for Iron Dome as it cannot be integrated into American anti-missile system. They never requested it but Congress as a favor to Israel approved $373 and told Pentagon to buy it. Pentagon complied but parked it at Joint Air Force Base in Washington as it had no use of the system ). Air Force though not a perfect instrument to tackle rocket threat can be used to keep heads of Hezbollah down in Lebanon. In my view, northern front will remain quiet unless a major unintentional mishap occurs on either side.
US armada is a signal only for Iran/Hezbollah (you don’t need a nuclear submarine and aircraft carrier for action against Hamas fighters in a tunnel) and Hezbollah and Iran have no wish to commit suicide. Small rockets from Lebanon to keep area warm but no action to start a fire. Iran is very happy with this situation and ayatollahs are savoring the return on their investment.
US and Iran in back room negotiations to keep things limited to Hamas. Iran promising to keep Hezbollah and other proxies in Iraq and Yemen on a tight leash and promise of getting some hostages especially with US and European passports get released in return for US not doing anything about the $ 6 billion in escrow account in Qatar that was put there recently after last round of prisoner swap deal between Tehran and Washington.
I’m working on a piece about role of regional players. It is all Byzantine deals and nothing about peace or morality. I’m aware of UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan quietly supporting the effort to completely demolish the spoiler Hamas this time ( they expected the same in 2006 that Israel will demolish Hezbollah). Their only condition is to keep casualties low and allow pauses for humanitarian efforts (Jordan airdrop, UAE planning a field hospital in Gaza) so that their angry streets don’t cause domestic problems.
Iran’s general strategy is to keep small fires in the ring around Israel so that it cannot concentrate efforts to directly threaten Iran especially attack on nuclear facilities. Hamas is one piece of the puzzle and other two are Hezbollah and some activity on Syrian front where Israeli air force busy in interdicting weapon shipments and attack storage facilities in Syria.
Tehran was already diversifying the portfolio by increasing support to Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in Gaza and some towns of West Bank (PIJ head Ziad Nakhle is parked in Damascus). Hamas has served their purpose to keep Israel busy enough so that they do not fully concentrate on a major action against Tehran. October 7 crossed a certain threshold as far as Israel is concerned. In long term, it depends how Israeli strategic community comes out of this crisis. It is a game changer and much bigger than Yom Kippur trauma of 1973. In October 1973, Israeli strategic calculation changed to making peace with Egypt. October 2023 may do the same to make peace with Palestinians but I don’t have hope for that outcome. More likely strategic decision will be that Iran is the root cause of Israel pain and historian may record this conflict as first Israeli-Iranian war. The project will be to bring down the very regime of ayatollahs and Iranian response will be to shift to West Bank and possibly Arab citizens of Israel to start the fire in Israel’s backyard that is ripe for such efforts. Israel’s efforts will mirror image that of Iran and concentrated in Iraqi Kurdistan and Azerbaijan that already serve as major bases for Israeli operations against Iran.
“History tells us that it gets worse before it gets better”. Iraqi Shia seminary student