Lots at stake here folks, and the various players are hedging their bets in one way or the other, with rivals waiting on the sidelines to see which way the cards fall.
Read also: Will Syria Bleed Hezbollah Dry? (h/t: DM)
Militarily and politically, Hezbollah has much at stake in the Syrian conflict, but it is risking even more by attempting to save a pariah regime that may not be savable. The group has incurred hundreds of losses against Syrian rebels, including its valued special forces. Hezbollah cannot outmatch rebel manpower, and will need to commit its best fighters and most sophisticated equipment to cut rebel supply lines in the hopes of hindering a Damascus invasion force from gaining traction.
Hezbollah’s arsenal of nearly 70,000 rockets will likely remain pointed at the Israelis, but the squandering of its crucial elite units in Syria could deprive Lebanon’s Shiite community of protection from emboldened sectarian rivals in the wake of Assad’s ousting.
Syria Crosses Israel’s WMD Red Line
January 31, 2013 By Daniel Greenfield
On Sunday, Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom told Army Radio that the country’s top security officials had held a special meeting and warned that the transfer of Syrian chemical weapons to Hezbollah would be crossing a line that would mean action.
It was not the first time that Israel had warned Assad not to follow in the footsteps of his former ally, Saddam Hussein, but it was the sharpest warning to date. The warning was clearly meant to head off a specific course of action by Syria. But true to form, Bashar Assad did not listen.
Yesterday, it was reported that Israeli jets struck a convoy headed from Syria to Lebanon. The convoy reportedly contained SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles as well as some of the SSRC’s special toxic brew.
Syria is in no state for a war with Israel. And a new war with Hezbollah is a card that Iran is reserving for its own use against the threat of an Israeli strike on its nuclear program. That leaves Syria with few options. Its only real card is its WMD program. Syria can’t use chemical weapons on a large scale against its rebels without crossing NATO’s red line. And it’s afraid that if it doesn’t turn those weapons into an asset, it may lose them.
Putting WMDs in Hezbollah’s hands not only takes them out of the reach of the Sunni rebels, but allows Assad to indirectly threaten Israel. And while NATO may intervene in Syria in response to WMD use by the regime, it isn’t likely to try and intervene in Lebanon if Hezbollah makes use of them; not when the EU still refuses to put Hezbollah on its terrorist list. With WMDs in Hezbollah’s arsenal, Assad could try to duplicate Morsi’s farce with Hamas, by setting himself up as the only man who can prevent a truly catastrophic regional conflict.