Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Israel may be facing a totally different more immediate threat than Iran if today’s bombing of the Iranian embassy in Beirut is any sign of forthcoming rebel, al-Qaeda, anti-Assad activity now spilling into Lebanon in a big way. As most observers suggest, this bombing was the work of Islamic radicals who are opposed to all the Shiite forces which are backing President Assad including Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas. They are also virulent enemies of Israel.
Clearly the war in Syria is not going the rebels’ way. The casualties on all sides mount and the rainy winter season commences with all the concomitant consequences which it brings to all the combatants and civilians. The U.S.-Russian dismantling of the chemical weapons appears to be proceeding, although there remains here serious skepticism as to whether it is really the success it is being touted to be so far.
What is clear is that the clean-up forces are becoming exceedingly nervous about transporting the materiel from its locations. There is a concern about sabotage, theft, ransom, and kidnapping of both the staff as well as the chemical materiel by various forces from all sides. Today’s attack, assuming it is indicative of radical Islamic infiltration into Lebanon, is a signal that any thought of bring the materiel across Syria to a Lebanese port may expose it to seizure in Lebanon by radical forces, as well as by Hezbollah.
Hezbollah reportedly already retains a larger (70,000 rockets) and more sophisticated missile arsenal than it possessed in 2006; ready to use against Israel. Both Israeli and Lebanese press have been speculating for several weeks about various scenarios and activities which might be developing in South Lebanon near the Israeli border. These have ranged from fear of underground tunnels now coming into Israel on one extreme to a sense of long-term quiet present along the border; all this despite underlying hostilities, fears, as well as preparedness. Today’s Beirut bombing is such a clear anti-Iran/Hezbollah statement, that it must give pause for Israel to consider the precariousness of its situation in the North should the Syrian hostilities spill over into Lebanon in a meaningful way.