What is Hizbullah’s situation three weeks after the cease-fire, and where is it headed? The emerging picture is as follows:
It has, more or less, maintained a large portion of its military capabilities. Most of its medium-range rocket launchers (up to Haifa) and long-range rocket launchers (Hadera and southwards) were destroyed. On the other hand, it still has about 1,000 short-range rocket launchers (up to 30-40 kilometers) in southern Lebanon, with thousands of rockets. It lost about 500 fighters, out of a regular force of 1,500 combatants and about 4,000 reservists. Its chain of command has remained more or less intact. Together with the Iranians, it is now studying the lessons, with the aim of restoring the array of heavy rockets that were damaged.
It is imbued with a sense of victory, mainly as a result of the stationary and persistent defensive battle that it waged in southern Lebanon, and the high survivability of the short-range rocket launchers in southern Lebanon. It is taking care to cultivate the stories of its heroism in the Arab world.
The difficult problem which Hizbullah faces and will yet face in the future, is the heavy economic damage that the organization and the Shiite population have suffered in Beirut and southern Lebanon. It has already begun to quickly distribute about USD 150 billion to civilians for rebuilding their homes. This is a drop in the ocean. There is great expectation in the Shiite community to see how Hizbullah will succeed in rehabilitating the ruins. For this purpose, Iran is already preparing large sums of money, billions of dollars, to be channeled into Lebanon by various means.
As of now, Nasrallah’s standing among the Shiites is firm, and within Hizbullah there is unity around him. The question is how long he will be able to continue to hide like a mouse in a hole, and not be seen in public.
In southern Lebanon he has lost the status of sole “landlord.” He now has a roommate, in the form of the Lebanese army, and he will soon have another partner in the form of the multi-national force. This is a new and problematic situation for him, but he has at least retained his military power, most of which is underground in bunkers anyway, and cannot be seen.
He enjoys full support and backing from Syria and Iran, which will do a lot (and have already begun making efforts in this direction) to rebuild his military power. They also wish to strengthen him versus the Lebanese government and the international community, which seek to disarm him in the future and weaken him in the internal Lebanese system.
What does all this mean? That Hizbullah does not have an interest in entering into a conflict with Israel, at least not now or in the near future. It did not want this before the war either. It now needs a long period of time for the purpose of military and economic recovery, mainly of demolished southern Lebanon, to deal with internal Lebanese challenges and to erode the standing of its new partners in southern Lebanon. In other words, the cease-fire agreement is not as fragile as many people on our side say, and the renewal of the fire in the coming months, as military circles tend to predict, is not very feasible. Of course, a “mad foot soldier,” on our side or theirs, could set fire to the Lebanese front, but the real dangers are not there. They are in the east. Syria, perhaps as a preview of the real existential danger for which all of our national efforts should be mobilized-Iran.
This ran in Maariv on August 28th, 2006