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It’s the Terrifying Question: Will the War Spread North?

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Recent developments in the Hamas-Israel conflict have raised concerns about the potential for a regional conflagration. Israel's plans for a ground offensive against Hamas have sparked fears of the conflict spreading to involve other players in the region, supported by Iran.

Israel's apprehension is evident in its warnings to Hezbollah in Lebanon and reports of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant advocating a preemptive strike against Hezbollah. The US has deployed naval forces to deter Hezbollah and Iran from getting involved, given their capability to escalate the situation.

The involvement of pro-Iranian groups in the conflict, including attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria, adds to the complexity. The greatest concern lies in the possibility of Hezbollah, with its formidable military capabilities and extensive support from Iran, entering the conflict.
The recent unrest along the Israel-Lebanon border and skirmishes have further heightened tensions. While the current limited fighting remains within the tacit understanding between Israel and Hezbollah, increased Israeli warnings and threats indicate a growing unease. The US's deployment of military assets serves as a clear warning to Hezbollah and Iran, signaling its readiness to intervene if necessary.
Despite these developments, Hezbollah has its own reasons for avoiding a war with Israel, particularly considering Lebanon's dire socioeconomic and political situation. The organization's embeddedness in the Lebanese context and its accountability to the broader society make it cautious about initiating a major conflict. While Hezbollah may face pressure from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force to join the conflict, its own interests and the fragile state of Lebanon suggest a reluctance to escalate the situation further.

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The reluctance of Iran to involve Hezbollah in a major conflict with Israel over the Gaza war is underpinned by strategic considerations. Hezbollah serves as Iran's formidable deterrent against Israeli military strikes on Iran and its nuclear facilities. Iran is unlikely to deploy this potent deterrent for Gaza, which holds marginal strategic interest. Iran views Hezbollah as a crucial defense against Israeli attacks on its key assets and is cautious about expending it elsewhere.

Although Hezbollah may be drawn into the conflict due to smaller groups attacking Israel from Lebanon, the current skirmishes are manageable. However, the situation could escalate if the fighting spreads to the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, igniting global passions. This escalation could prompt Hezbollah or Iran to unleash Hezbollah's capabilities in the name of defending the faith.

While the conflict's spread is not inevitable, the rising tensions increase the likelihood of a broader regional explosion. Despite mutual agreement to contain the conflict to Gaza and Israel, the involvement of the U.S. remains a possibility. The current situation suggests containment, but the potential for rapid change exists.


Source: The New Republic