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Israeli self-propelled howitzers fire towards Lebanon from a position near the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona following rocket fire from the Lebanese side of the border, on August 6, 2021. - Lebanon's Hezbollah movement said it fired "dozens" of rockets Friday at open areas of the disputed Shebaa Farms district, drawing retaliatory Israeli strikes for a second straight day. It is the first time that Hezbollah has directly claimed an attack on Israel since 2019, as tensions boil along the border following a week of tit-for-tat exchanges. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP)

Experts and analysts have linked the recent escalation of Hezbollah against Israel with the oil tanker incidents in the waters of the Persian Gulf, in which Tehran was accused in conjunction with the inauguration of the new president, Ibrahim Raisi.

This morning, Hezbollah announced its adoption of a missile attack on Israel, justifying this as a response to Israeli airstrikes on Lebanon‘s open lands in the Al-Jarmaq and Al-Shawakir areas last Thursday night.

This comes after a day of exchanges of statements between Israel and Iran, as Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that his country is ready to launch a military strike on Iran if necessary, and the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman responded: “We declare clearly: any foolish move against Iran will face a firm response. No. Test us.”

Israel and other countries accused Iran of carrying out the first deadly attack against an oil tanker in the Arabian Sea, where Mercer Street, run by an Israeli businessman, was attacked by a drone that killed two of its sailors. The attack was followed days by a failed attempt to hijack the oil tanker “Asphalt Princess” off the coast of Fujairah, of which Iran was also accused.

Analysts agreed that what happened today in southern Lebanon is a continuation of the increasing tension between Iran and Israel.

Mobilize the international community

Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Paris, Rami Al-Khalifa Al-Ali, believes that Iran worked to “transfer the battle to the borders of Israel after it “realized that it crossed the drawn lines,” in reference to recent ship accidents.

Al-Ali said in an interview with the Arab media that the confrontation between Israel and Lebanon witnessed a “great development” recently, after a deadly drone targeting an oil tanker owned by an Israeli businessman.

In turn, Meir Masri, a professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told Arabi media that “Hezbollah does not have an independent personality, but rather is an obedient follower of the Iranian regime, which funds it and gives it orders.”

Masri also believes that the messages from the attacks on Israel serve Iran with the aim of “delimiting the international community that the conflict is confined between the two countries, while Israel wants the targeting of oil tankers to make the case international on the grounds that the Iranian regime represents a threat to international navigation and global trade.”

He pointed out that “Israel is working to mobilize world public opinion against the Iranian regime by issuing an international resolution condemning Tehran” in targeting ships.

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement that his country was “working to mobilize the world” in response to ship accidents in the Gulf waters, but warned: “We also know how to act on our own.”

For his part, Hani Suleiman, a researcher in Iranian affairs, says that “Iran is trying to keep pressure away from it, not only at the external level but even internal pressure” resulting from the US sanctions.

In an interview with an Arab media channel, Suleiman added, “The Iranian regime is trying to move the battle to marginal locations to relieve pressure on it, especially after the crisis of tankers and shipping lanes, which is a challenge to the international community.”

Political researcher Tony Abi Negm goes in the same direction, saying that “the hard-line group in Tehran is seeking to escalate on the grounds that the Biden administration wants to return to compliance with the nuclear agreement and does not want more escalation in the region.”

Abi Negm said that the recent Iranian escalation in the region was “not a coincidence.”

On the other hand, Hussein Roeran, a professor of political science at Tehran University, believes that Israel is the party that benefits from the escalation in the region with the aim of sabotaging the nuclear negotiations, he said.

Roeran told the media that the aerial bombardment that took place is a change in the rules of engagement on the part of Israel. It is natural for the party to restore the equation to what it was,” he said, ruling out linking the events in Lebanon with ship accidents in the Gulf waters.

He continued, “It is not necessary for Hezbollah to seek permission from Iran for any step. Hezbollah did not start the attack, but rather responded to the Israeli bombing.”

“buy time”

As for the future of the conflict, analysts rule out the possibility of the confrontation developing into a full-blown war with the Lebanese Hezbollah, considering that it is a war that is not in anyone’s interest and its results remain uncalculated.

Al-Ali says that “Israel has no interest in a comprehensive confrontation with Hezbollah during this time. It is true that there are wars in secret, including the war of spies, electronic warfare, assassinations, and ships, but the issue of a comprehensive confrontation is excluded.” He explained that the results of any comprehensive confrontation are not settled.

In turn, Masri rules out escalation from the Israeli side, saying: “Israel is trying to restrain itself.” But the Israeli political science professor says that his country “gives the international community an opportunity to act” against Iran and relies on it to issue a resolution condemning Tehran, noting that “the international community’s lack of response makes Israel obliged to take unilateral action.”

In this context, the Israeli army said, on Friday, that it does not wish to escalate, but is “ready” to do so.

The last military tension between Israel and Hezbollah dates back to 2019 when the Lebanese group targeted an Israeli military vehicle in an attack that the party said was a response to two Israeli attacks against it in Syria and Lebanon.

Abi Negm attributed the reasons for the new Iranian escalation to “the hard-line wing buying time in the nuclear negotiations,” explaining that the Iranian regime wants to go to negotiations beyond returning to the original 2015 agreement.

He added: “(Iran) wants to change the rules of negotiations after it becomes a nuclear power, and then negotiates with the international community on these new bases.”

Tehran and Washington engaged in indirect negotiations to lift sanctions in exchange for the two parties’ re-commitment to the 2015 nuclear agreement, from which former US President Donald Trump withdrew, and who reimposed severe sanctions on Iran.

But the negotiations taking place since April in the Austrian capital Vienna have been stalled since June, after 6 rounds in which the two parties did not reach an agreement to revive the deal between Iran and the major powers, in which President Joe Biden seeks to re-commit the United States.

The new Iranian President, Ibrahim Raisi, confirmed, after taking the constitutional oath before the Shura Council, Thursday, his support for diplomatic steps aimed at lifting US sanctions on his country, but he also stressed that Tehran would not give up its “rights” under pressure.

Roeran says that “some party wants to escalate to push the United States to confront Iran and thwart the Vienna negotiations,” adding: “Those who are trying to escalate is Israel, which has a negative position on the negotiations, whether in the incidents of the Arabian Sea or Lebanon.”

© The Eastern Herald