Hassan Nasrallah in a speech on the annual memorial day for the three high-ranking Hezbollah shahids (“the shahid commanders”) Sheikh Ragheb Harb, Abbas Mussawi, and Imad Mughniyeh. The figures of the three shahids, whom Hezbollah has turned into symbols of sacrifice, appear on the left (Al-Manar, February 16, 2017)
1. In his speech on the anniversary of the killing of Hezbollah’s three high-ranking shahids (Sheikh Ragheb Harb, Abbas Mussawi, and Imad Mughniyeh), and in an interview with an Iranian TV channel, Hassan Nasrallah referred at great length to the issues of war with Israel. According to Nasrallah, Israel considers Hezbollah a paramount strategic threat, and therefore it often threats with war and elaborates on the heavy damage that will be caused to Lebanese infrastructures in that war (the so-called Dahiya doctrine). Nasrallah says that threats of this kind have been made in the past, but they recently increased in number after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. Nasrallah notes that he doesn’t believe that Israel intends to go to war. He says once again that Israel is deterred from going to war because it is well aware of Hezbollah’s military capabilities, which will prevent it from achieving a decisive victory in the next war.
2. To demonstrate these capabilities, thereby strengthening the message of deterrence, Nasrallah emphasizes the ability of Hezbollah’s precision missiles to inflict heavy damage on Israel. He points out his own “contribution” to the transfer of the ammonia tank from Haifa Bay, and boasts (based on monitoring Israeli media) that even if the ammonia tank is transferred to another site, Hezbollah will hit it.Nasrallah adds that Hezbollah is able to hit the ship the carries the ammonia to Haifa Bay. In addition, he notes that Hezbollah is able to hit the nuclear reactor in Dimona and inflict heavy damage on Israel. As he points out, Israel is aware of the fact that “if [Hezbollah’s] missiles hit this reactor, it [i.e., Israel] will be hit, their entity will be hit”. To the Iranian interviewer’s question whether Hezbollah will really attack Dimona, Nasrallah replies, “We are ready to carry it out and we have the courage to do so…”
Analysis of the background and the significance of Nasrallah’s statements
3. In the ITIC's assessment, at the background of Nasrallah’s statements are the regional and international developments, which raised the level of fears of Hezbollah (and Iran, Hezbollah’s sponsor). In the United States, a new president came to power, who is perceived as pro-Israel and as one who may resort to a more vehement policy towards Iran. In Syria, Hezbollah carries on with its deep involvement in the civil war, while investing a lot of resources in it and sustaining many casualties, and is harshly criticized in Lebanon and in the Arab world. In the regional arena, a struggle is going on between the Shiite axis under the leadership of Iran and the Sunni axis led by Saudi Arabia. Hezbollah, which is Iran’s “long arm”, is involved in supporting Iran’s proxies in the various arenas (Iraq, Bahrain, and Yemen).
4. In the ITIC's assessment, the rising level of fear has caused Nasrallah once again to send messages of deterrence against Israel. Nasrallah’s statements on the heavy damage that Hezbollah is capable of inflicting on Israel, which he has repeated over and over again during the recent years, are based on the upgrade of Hezbollah’s military capabilities after the Second Lebanon War. Part of this upgrade is the supply of state-of-the-art weapons by Iran, including long-range precision missiles. In addition, Hezbollah possesses drones that can be launched against pinpoint targets in Israel. These capabilities allow Hezbollah to seriously hit strategic targets inside Israel, causing many losses among civilians in wartime.
5. The availability of these capabilities in Hezbollah’s hands allows Hassan Nasrallah in recent years to threat Israel over and over again in order todeter it from a military move against Hezbollah. In his statements he points out that Hezbollah has a pool of targets, the hitting of which “can turn the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israelis into hell.” This pool of targets includes, according to Nasrallah, targets of civilian, economic and industrial nature, including power stations and nuclear facilities (Al-Mayadeen Channel, September 3, 2012). One such statement was Nasrallah’s speech about a year ago, in which he threatened hitting the ammonia tank in Haifa, claiming that the effect of such hit will be similar to a “nuclear bomb”.
Cartoon of Hassan Nasrallah standing on coffins of Hezbollah’s operatives while saying, “We are in Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria” (Twitter account of someone calling himself in Arabic “ex-Hezbollah member”, February 16, 2016)
6. The ITIC believes that, given the regional and international developments, Nasrallah wishes to strengthen once again the message of deterrence against Israel. This message, from Hezbollah’s perspective, relies on Hezbollah’s advanced military capabilities, mainly its arsenal of rockets and missiles, which creates an “equation of deterrence” between Hezbollah and Israel.The main point of this equation is that both sides refrain from military initiatives against each other for fear from the damage that the other side can cause them. This “equation of deterrence”, from Nasrallah’s perspective, is the basis for the calm in the Israeli-Lebanese border, which allows Hezbollah to deepen its involvement in the war in Syria without having to fear that Israel would seize this opportunity to engage in an offensive initiative against Hezbollah in the Lebanese arena.
7. This document includes three appendices:
a. Appendix A:Reference to Israel in Hassan Nasrallah’s speech on the annual memorial day for the three high-ranking shahids of Hezbollah (February 16, 2017)
b. Appendix B:Reference to Israel in Hassan Nasrallah's interview with Iranian TV, Channel 1 (IRIB1) (February 20, 2017)
c. Appendix C:Commentary in the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, expressing Hezbollah’s positions (February 24, 2017)
According to an article in the Israeli daily Haaretz, Israeli Army Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot said in the Israeli Knesset’s Foreign Relations and Defense Committee that Hezbollah had had 1,700 dead and over 6,000 wounded in the war in Syria (article by Amos Harel, Haaretz, February 24, 2017).
See the ITIC's Information Bulletin from February 25, 2016: “Hassan Nasrallah’s “Ammonia Speech:” The Threat for Israel and its Significance.”