Brent Scowcroft Center Resident Senior Fellow for Middle East Security Bilal Y. Saab cowrites for Foreign Affairs with Daniel Byman on the Syrian conflict and Hezbollah:
Israel’s killing this week of six Hezbollah fighters and a top Iranian general in a helicopter raid in Syria is the latest and boldest attack by the Jewish state against the Shia party in recent years. Hezbollah has vowed to retaliate, and many of its supporters, urging the party to respond swiftly and forcefully, have advised Israel to “prepare its shelters.” If the three-decade history of confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah is any guide, the latter is likely to strike back to protect its credibility. But that is not inevitable. The Syrian conflict has transformed Hezbollah, arguably turning it into a more cautious foe of the Jewish state.
Hezbollah is a survivor. Since its formation in the early 1980s, the Shia party has made it through three high-intensity military conflicts with Israel, the assassination of several of its top leaders, the departure of its Syrian patron from Lebanon in 2005, and significant political crises in Beirut. Power, money, and performance, chiefly enabled by Iran and Syria, have allowed Hezbollah to become the dominant group in Lebanon and a key player in the high politics of the Middle East.