A U.S.-based think tank has issued a report saying that a new Middle East war may be looming on the horizon.

If hostilities do in fact break out, writes David Schenker of The Washington Institute, “fighting could take on a regional dimension not seen since 1973.” The prediction comes in response to reports that Syria has supplied the Lebanon-based Hizbullah terrorist organization with advanced Russian-made 9K38 Igla-S anti-aircraft missiles. Transfer of the shoulder-fired ordnance to the terrorist group has previously been marked by Israeli officials as a “red line” issue.

Syria appears to be in a position where it can cultivate its ties with the West without sacrificing its support for terrorism.

Schenker also cited pronouncements posted in late February on the internet by the Lebanon-based Hizbullah terrorist organization hinting the group might renew its aggression against the Jewish State. The statement followed an unprecedented trilateral summit / dinner meeting on February 26 in Damascus between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah.

A new development

Meetings between the Syrian and Iranian presidents have become very common in the past several years; however, Nasrallah's presence at the table marked a new chapter in the development of the Evil Axis. Little was publicized about the discussion, other than what was later posted on the Hizbullah website, said Schenker, noting the account recounted “the escalating strategic response of the axis of the confrontationist, rejectionist, and resistance states” to the so-called U.S.-Israeli threat.

Schenker also noted Nasrallah's sabre-rattling earlier in February, during a speech delivered on Hizbullah's Martyred Leaders Day, in which the terrorist laid out the new strategy for reprisals against Israel:

“If you [meaning Israel -ed.] bomb Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut, we will bomb Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. If you bomb our docks, we will bomb your docks. If you bomb our oil refineries, we will bomb your oil refineries. If you bomb our factories, we will bomb your factories. And if you bomb our power plants, we will bomb your power plants,” Nasrallah declared.

Recent reports that Syria has provided the terrorist group with Scud missiles capable of reaching deep into Israel's central and southern regions have supported and underscored Nasrallah's threats. The U.S. State Department summoned the Syrian Ambassador, Imad Mustafa, to “inform his government about the level of danger if the missiles crossed the border” but did little more.

Syria 'broke the code'

The Institute has also concluded that “Damascus has finally broken the code to Europe, and appears to be on the verge of doing so with the Obama administration as well. Currently, Syria appears to be in a position where it can cultivate its ties with the West without sacrificing its support for terrorism.”

In addition, the report noted IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi's testimony in mid-March before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Hizbullah was “building up its forces north of the Litani [River].” Ashkenazi reported at the time that the northern border was secure and calm, but that “this can change.”

The fact that Hizbullah continues to stockpile weapons in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, the ceasefire agreement that ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War, and that Iran and Syria continue to provide the group with illegal arms, observed the Institute, has contributed to the deterioration of the security situation in the north.

“Hizbullah retaliation against Israel for the 2008 assassination of its military leader Imad Mughniyeh could spark a war,” writes Schenker. “So could Hizbullah firing missiles in retribution for an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. The transfer of sensitive Syrian technology to [Hizbullah] could also prompt an Israeli strike. Regrettably, even if Israel continues to try and defuse tensions in the north, given the central role Tehran has in determining Hizbullah policy, a third Lebanon war may be inevitable.”