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Cyril Widdershoven

Cyril Widdershoven

Dr. Cyril Widdershoven is a long-time observer of the global energy market. Presently he works as a Senior Researcher at Hill Tower Resource Advisors. Next…

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What’s Hezbollah’s Next Step?

  • Recent missile and drone attacks by Houthi rebels in Yemen, believed to be backed by Iran, have placed regional armed forces on high alert.
  • The unusually low profile of Hezbollah leader Nasrallah left many to speculate about the organization’s real intentions.
  • In the coming days, the path to potential escalation will become clearer. 

The ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas is currently viewed by oil and gas markets as a contained regional issue. However, concerns persist regarding the potential for escalation, particularly if other parties like Hezbollah in Lebanon or Iran become directly involved. Recent missile and drone attacks by Houthi rebels in Yemen, believed to be backed by Iran, have placed regional armed forces on high alert. Simultaneously, Iranian-supported militias in Iraq and Syria have been targeting American forces, adding to the regional security concerns.

Under the radar of international media, analysts are growing increasingly concerned about the role of Hezbollah leader Nasrallah in the Gaza crisis. Nasrallah has maintained an unusually low profile, leaving many to speculate about his true intentions, likely to avoid triggering a Western response prematurely. Without any clear indications, Nasrallah, known for his aggressive speeches and strategies, remains an enigmatic decision-maker concerning the conflict's future. As reported in recent days by Arab, Israeli, and Western military sources, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) leaders have been observed moving toward the Israeli border in Syria and Lebanon. Key IRGC military figures are currently engaged in discussions with Hezbollah and other proxies, preparing a military strategy if the situation demands. As Iran intensifies its pressure on American forces in the Middle East, Iranian proxies have officially aligned with Hamas, as evidenced by the Houthi rebels and others, heightening the anticipation of an imminent threat. The main cliffhanger of all is the whereabouts and intentions of Sheikh Nasrallah.

In the coming days, the path to potential escalation will become clearer. According to the pro-Hezbollah news site Al Mayadeen, Sheikh Nasrallah is expected to deliver a speech on Friday at 3 PM Israeli time, officially during a ceremony honoring the "martyrs who died on the road to Jerusalem." The fact that Nasrallah has refrained from addressing his militia since the beginning of the Gaza conflict suggests that a significant decision has likely been made. The increased presence of IRGC personnel and leadership in Lebanon is a matter of concern for Israeli and U.S. authorities. Simultaneously, there are substantial military movements occurring on Syrian territory toward the Israeli border and the Golan Heights. U.S. intelligence has also warned about growing activities and significant movements between Iraq and Syria-Lebanon involving militias and IRGC operators. Related: Oil Inventories Rise As Gasoline, Diesel Inventories Fall

Thus far, the situation along the Lebanon-Israel border has been heating up, with border clashes increasing in scale. While it has not escalated into a full-scale war with Hezbollah, the level of engagement is intensifying. Recent actions by both sides have extended beyond the 2-4 kilometer border regions on both sides. Reports from Al Jazeera indicate that Israel has targeted locations up to 16 kilometers inside Lebanon, while Hezbollah has been active up to 14 kilometers inside Israel. Both sides have primarily employed a restrained approach, with Hezbollah using drones and anti-tank guided missiles. However, in recent days, Hezbollah and its proxies have escalated by utilizing surface-to-air missiles. Lebanese government officials are deeply concerned about the country becoming embroiled in a conflict with Israel. While most Lebanese citizens do not support Hezbollah, Iran, or even Syria, the Shiite group holds greater military power than the Lebanese armed forces and all other militias combined.

Disturbing signs on the horizon include meetings between Hamas leaders, other Palestinian groups, and Hezbollah, held to discuss "an all-out victory" over Israel. The current silence of Hezbollah is not a sign of weakness, but rather an indication that the extremist group has been taken aback by Hamas's actions and is now considering how to regain its leadership in the anti-Israel coalition. Recent online videos featuring Nasrallah seem to suggest that something significant is unfolding. Hezbollah cannot afford to remain passive, as its position as the primary adversary to Israel is eroding, a development that Iran is unlikely to tolerate.

It is highly probable that Hezbollah will increase its attacks on Israel in the next 48 hours. However, the decision to escalate into a full-scale conflict will ultimately rest with Nasrallah. This decision should not be underestimated, as it could involve opening a major third front and mobilizing Hezbollah's proxies and the existing Hezbollah-IRGC international network throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. Iran's involvement is almost certain if Hezbollah, which serves as Iran's main power base in Lebanon and Syria, comes under fire. Given Israel's ongoing operations in Gaza, the timing could be tempting for anti-Israel extremists. These parties must demonstrate their power, particularly since Hamas has already questioned their resolve. Arab sources have even claimed that Ahmed Abdel Hadi, Hamas's representative in Lebanon, recently stated, "Iran betrayed the Palestinians and Hamas." This has added pressure on Tehran to consider further actions.

As noted in a recent analysis by Benjamin Allison of the University of Texas in The Lawfare Institute, "the most dangerous regional militant group is the Lebanese Hezbollah." The group possesses an extensive arsenal of rockets, missiles, drones, and some highly accurate systems, unlike most of Hezbollah

By Cyril Widdershoven for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on November 01 2023 said:
    While Hezbollah is the most influential national political group in Lebanon, it is supported financially and militarily by Iran. Therefore, it wouldn’t take any action against Israel without a nod from Iran.

    This begs the question as to whether Iran is willing to risk a wider war against Israel by getting involved in the Hamas-Israel conflict.

    The decision for war is entirely in the hands of Iran unless war is forced upon it by both the United States and Israel seeking to take advantage of the current situation to attack and destroy Iran’s nuclear installations.

    If reports that Hezbollah has been taken aback by Hamas's attack on Israel are correct, then it means that Iran didn’t know about the attack either and therefore it wasn’t involved in planning it as was suggested by some Western and Israeli sources.

    I tend to suggest that Iran has no plans to get involved as this gives the United States and Israel the justification to attack it.

    And without Iran’s involvement, its allies of Hezbollah in Lebanon, its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Syria and Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen wouldn’t get involved either. Hezbollah may only limit itself to the less risky actions of of harassing Israeli forces on the border with Lebanon with the IRGC continuing to attack American forces and positions in Iraq and Syria for the more important strategic goal of ejecting US military presence from both countries.
    .
    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Global Energy Expert

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