The increasingly open threats made by Syrian leaders and members of the Hizbullah terrorist group in Lebanon have led analyst David Schenker of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) think tank to warn that war may be on the horizon. In addition, he noted, a future war could include Syria and not only its proxy Hizbullah: in February, Syrian leaders said Syria would not “sit idly by” in case of another war with Israel.
Hizbullah, for its part, declared open war on Israel following the 2008 assassination of senior Hizbullah terrorist Imad Mugniyeh. While Israel has not claimed responsibility for the killing, Hizbullah leaders say they are certain that an Israeli agency was behind the operation.
According to Israeli estimates, Hizbullah has managed to not only recover from the hit it took during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, but has gathered an even greater number of rockets than it possessed prior to the war. Current estimates put Hizbullah's arms supply at more than 40,000 missiles and rockets.
Syrian officials have spoken publicly about their support for Hizbullah, and have urged other Arab countries to support “the resistance” as well.
Another sign of Syria's increasingly open hostility came in late February, when Assad invited Hizbullah head Hassan Nasrallah and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to dinner. At the meeting, Assad described support for anti-Israel terrorism, which he termed “resistance,” as “a moral and national duty in every nation” and talked with Ahmadinejad about “confronting Israeli terrorism.”
Schenker noted that Syria has some reasons to avoid war, such as its apparent desire to cultivate ties with the West. However, he said, Syria may not be able to avoid joining a war if Hizbullah attacks. “After so much crowing about its support for Hizbullah and its regional ilk, could Syria sit out yet another fight?” he asked.
In a recent interview Syrian President Bashar Assad warned that “the state of 'neither war nor peace' is temporary,” and said that despite Israel's growing military prowess, Israel is weaker than ever due to Arab “resistance.”
The interview was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).