Who’s involved: Hezbollah, Iran’s IRGC (Islamic Republican Guard Corps), Syria’s president Assad, the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces), Lebanese government.
Hezbollah, a Shi'ite terrorist organization operating from Lebanon and sponsored by Iran and Syria, has been actively seeking to increase its influence in Lebanon and the broader region.
Hezbollah holds considerable influence over Lebanon's political system. Without a president since October 2022, Hezbollah has obstructed parliament’s attempts to elect a president by casting blank ballots in parliamentary sessions.
Hezbollah has placed two tents and ten men on Israeli controlled soil in the North of Israel. The IDF has not yet responded to the incursion and there is a discussion on whether or not to bomb the tents or just leave them be, since they pose no threat to anyone. The leader of Hezbollah announced on 12/07/2023 that Israel risks an all out war if it attacks the tents.
Beirut international airport seems to be coming more and more under control of Hezbollah. They have plans to build a second terminal that will function as a hub for Hezbollah related transport of drugs and weapons. Drug smuggling is the main income of Hezbollah next to its financing by Iran. Weapons coming in from Iran also have to come through Beirut airport.
According to estimates done by the IDF, Hezbollah has upscaled its capacity of being able to fire rockets and missiles at Israel. The capacity has gone from 90 rockets per day to up to 4000 rockets per day.
Hezbollah has given Palestinian terrorist groups approval to fire rockets at Israel from Lebanese territory. This is a significant change in policy from Hezbollah.
In May 2023 Hezbollah organized an event in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon where they showed off their military skills, weapons and training to the international press. Hezbollah spokespersons then emphasized that they were ready for war with Israel.
During the recent protests in Iran, after the killing of a woman by the religious police Hezbollah has been volunteering soldiers to help put down the protests. These soldiers are known for their brutal attacks and violence against protestors.
It is likely that Hezbollah will get a greater grip on Lebanon if it manages to get a president-elect that is loyal to the organization. There have been 12 votes on electing a president since elections in 2022, but no candidate has had the majority support from parliament, which is divided across sectarian lines, with Hezbollah being one of the bigger, if not the biggest, players in the system.
If the IDF decides to attack the two tents that have been placed by Hezbollah on Israeli territory it is reasonable to assume that Hezbollah will retaliate by firing rockets at the North of Israel in a bid to start a war with the country. This will lead to an extensive military operation from the IDF into the South of Lebanon, which in turn will lead to large numbers of casualties on both sides, including many civilian deaths.
If the IDF chooses not to attack or remove the two Hezbollah tents there is a chance that Hezbollah will send in more troops into Israeli territory in order to provoke a military incident.
With Hezbollah taking control over Beirut International Airport it is likely that its drug smuggling operation will develop into a bigger operation and will then be an even bigger source of financing and make Hezbollah less dependent on money coming from Iran and Syria. But there does not seem to be a reason for Hezbollah to be more independent since the organization seems quite content with its connections to Iran and Syria.
The IRGC (Islamic Republican Guard Corps) will be able to deliver more weapons to Hezbollah if the organization takes more control over Beirut International Airport. Flights from Iran to Lebanon are already quite frequent but with its own terminal at the airport Hezbollah will be even more blatant about the weapons coming in from Iran.
If Israel gets into some form of conflict with Iran, maybe over the possible manufacturing of a nuclear bomb, Hezbollah will form a front in the North from where it will attack Israel on Iran’s behalf.
With Syria’s president Assad being reintroduced into the Arab League recently there is a chance that Hezbollah will open more bases in Syria in order to help Assad with putting down the rebellion in the country. There will be no backlash coming from other Arab countries if Syria intensifies its repression of rebel forces. This will give Hezbollah a bigger footprint in the region and it could use Syria as an Eastern front if it wants to attack Israel.
It seems that Hezbollah is trying to regain its status as a major player in the region. Hezbollah is putting pressure on Lebanon’s domestic politics to extend its influence in the country. Externally Hezbollah is putting pressure on Israel by illegally placing militants inside Israel’s borders and calling for a war if the IDF does something about it.
With Syria back in the fold of the Arab League, Hezbollah has more space to assert itself since it does not have to fear a backlash from other Arab countries. With the backing of Assad and the IRGC Hezbollah feels it can challenge Israel and any other adversaries in the region.
Hezbollah’s drug and weapon smuggling operation will be expanded by creating its own terminal at Beirut International Airport. This will probably mean a spike in finances coming in for the terrorist group that has traditionally had ties with, for instance, the Irish Mafia.
The coming weeks will make clear whether or not Hezbollah, or Israel, is ready for a physical confrontation instead of just a propaganda war.