Afghanistan Development Bolstering Iran and Hezbollah to Increase Provocations and Test US Resolution

By Arie Egozi

Foreign Affairs

Tel Aviv: The hasty withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan is encouraging Iran to act in a way that will increase the tension with the US.

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah announced last week  that an Iranian fuel tanker would soon sail to Lebanon, and warned Israel and the United States not to interfere in its path. Nasrallah’s warning stems from the fact that the shipment organized by Hezbollah and the Iranians is a violation of the US imposed sanctions against Tehran.

Operating a maritime link between Iran and Lebanon may enable Teheran to step up its effort to upgrade the 140,000 rockets in the hands of the Hezbollah. In recent years, Israel has performed hundreds of attacks on convoys and shipments of upgrading kits sent by Iran through Syria to Lebanon.

Lebanon, has been dealing for more than a year with a huge economic crisis, the most severe in its history, in which it suffers from a huge shortage of basic products – from fuel and electricity through food and medicine to baby products.

In recent weeks, Nasrallah has promised to get Lebanese fuel and other basic products from Iran, which is the patron of the Shiite organization. In a televised speech this morning, Nasrallah said that the tanker, carrying diesel, would depart from Iran within hours, and that more tankers would follow it in order to alleviate the fuel crisis that paralyzed Lebanon.

In a message to the United States and Israel, Nasrallah said: “I want to say that once the tanker sails and moves at sea, it will be considered Lebanese territory.” He did not say explicitly what his organization would do if the two intercepted the ship.

Israeli sources say that the warning is a result of the “weak” attitude of the US towards Iran, that according to Israel takes advantage of what is called the nuclear talks with Iran to rush towards the bomb. Lebanon is in total chaos and the sources say that Iran is waiting for “a few more days” to order its main proxy in Lebanon, the Hezbollah to take over the control of the ruined country.

According to Col. (ret.) Dr Jacques Neriah, a researcher in the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, “Lebanon has reached the abyss, and at present there is no safety net to prevent the fall.”

Israeli defence sources say that the taking over of Lebanon by the terror organization will create a situation that cannot be accepted by the US and Israel. “Israel does not want to start a war with the Hezbollah equipped with 140.000 Iranian made rockets and therefore expects the US and some European governments to act in order to prevent such a takeover”.

In recent years, Israel has performed hundreds of air attacks on Syrian targets, to foil the Iranian effort to equip the Hezbollah in Lebanon with accurate missiles. The targets were convoys and storage places for the shipments from Iran through Syria to Lebanon.

Israeli sources said on August 19 that Iran and the Hezbollah have been encouraged by what they call the “total defeat” of the US in Afghanistan. “What happens in Afghanistan will bring more such provocations that will test the American resolution to bring Iran to stop its accelerated military nuclear program,” one of the sources said.

-The writer is an International Roving Correspondent of the publication.