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Israel Attacked from the North

My colleague Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and I have a new piece out analyzing today's rocket attacks against Israel from Southern Lebanon. In part, we look at why Hizballah might be unwilling to engage Israel in conflict. Among our points:

HIZBALLAH'S RELUCTANCE TO ENGAGE? Hizballah's denial of responsibility for the rocket attacks is consistent with prior statements from the militant group indicating that it does not want to engage Israel in a full-out war. Even though Hizballah Secretary General Hasan Nasrallah described the July 2006 war with Israel as a "divine victory," the combat was in fact incredibly costly to Hizballah militarily. In a comprehensive article in the Winter 2009 issue of Middle East Quarterly, Professor Eyal Zisser of Tel Aviv University argues that Hizballah "suffered perhaps US$4 billion damage to its institutions and enterprises." Most significant from the perspective of Hizballah's military capabilities, Israel estimates that it "lost about a third of its elite fighting force." This harmed Hizballah because, while the group has no problem attracting new volunteers, "turning them into skilled military operators is a lengthy and complex process."

NASRALLAH'S CONCERNS. Nasrallah also has personal safety and political concerns that may be deterring him from engaging Israel. As Zisser notes, the February 2008 assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, for which Nasrallah blamed Israel (Israel has not publicly claimed responsibility) "shattered the legend of Hezbollah's invincibility." It made Nasrallah aware that he could meet with a similar fate. On a political level, Hizballah has become more involved in Lebanese politics since the 2006 war, and has gained significant power within Lebanon's government. It hopes to make significant gains in the June 2009 parliamentary elections. Dragging Lebanon into another devastating conflict could undermine the organization's political ambitions.

To read the full Intelligence Briefing, click here.

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