Iran is Hezbollah’s principal supporter and financier in Lebanon. Israel is one of Hezbollah’s main adversaries. So it should have come as no surprise when, in November 2011, the leader of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, announced that Hezbollah would support Iran if it were attacked by Israel , as reported by The Daily Star in Lebanon:
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah warned the United States and Israel Friday that any war on Iran or Syria will engulf the entire region, in a clear signal that his party will join the fight against the Jewish state by opening the south Lebanon front which has been dormant since the devastating 2006 conflict .
However, a surprise did come the other day when Nasrallah recanted his earlier announcement. While couched in diplomatic language, the meaning is clear: Hezbollah no longer intends to support Iran if Israel attacks it. According to Asharq Alawsat:
“There is speculation about what wound happen if Israel bombed Iran’s nuclear facilities,” Nasrallah said. “I tell you that the Iranian leadership will not ask Hezbollah to do anything. On that day, we will sit, think and decide what we will do.”
Given the relationship between Iran and Hezbollah, it is interesting to speculate why Nasrallah would flipflop on this issue. (Perhaps because an Israeli attack on Iran would be a fait accompli; or because such an attack would not change the facts on the ground?) Another good question is why Nasrallah picked now to make his announcement. (International sanctions implemented over the last several months have demonstrated that much of the world has aligned against Iran’s nuclear program; if Israel attacked Iran, escalating the crisis further would make Hezbollah’s position vis-a-vis the rest of the world significantly worse? Also, is Hezbollah concerned about the deteriorating situation in Syria, its local benefactor?)
But an even more interesting question is why Nasrallah announced Hezbollah’s intentions on this matter publicly. How does a public announcement that Hezbollah no longer intends to support Iran serve Hezbollah’s interests?
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