U.S. Military Faces Challenges in Defending Israel Against Hezbollah

By Yoni Weiss

A fire that started from missiles and drones launched from Lebanon near the Israeli border with Lebanon, Sunday. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

The United States may face significant challenges in defending Israel against a wider conflict with Hezbollah if tensions in Lebanon escalate, warned Air Force Gen. CQ Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This comes amid growing concerns about a potential Israeli offensive in Lebanon and its broader implications for regional stability.

Gen. Brown noted that the U.S. would likely struggle to assist Israel in countering Hezbollah’s short-range rockets as effectively as it helped repel Iran’s missile and drone attack in April. He made these remarks while traveling to Botswana for a meeting of African defense ministers, according to the Associated Press.

Brown also cautioned that an Israeli offensive into Lebanon could provoke an Iranian response in support of Hezbollah, potentially igniting a wider conflict that would put U.S. forces in the region at risk. He stated that Iran “would be more inclined to support Hezbollah,” particularly if Tehran felt Hezbollah was under significant threat.

Israeli officials have recently threatened military action in Lebanon if negotiations fail to push Hezbollah away from the border. The IDF has reportedly “approved and validated” plans for an offensive in Lebanon, even as the United States works to prevent the ongoing cross-border attacks from escalating into a full-scale war.

U.S. diplomats are actively seeking a peaceful resolution to the conflict. This issue is expected to be a key topic during Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s visit to Washington for meetings with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other senior officials.

Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser to President Joe Biden, met with officials in Lebanon and Israel last week to ease tensions. Hochstein emphasized the urgency of finding a diplomatic solution, describing the situation as “very serious” during a press briefing in Beirut on Tuesday.

Pentagon officials have reported that Austin has expressed concerns about a potential wider conflict in recent communications with Gallant. Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, stated last week, “Given the amount of rocket fire we’ve seen going from both sides of the border, we’ve certainly been concerned about that situation, and both publicly and privately have been urging all parties to restore calm along that border, and again, to seek a diplomatic solution.”

A full-scale war between Israel and Hezbollah could have devastating consequences for both countries and result in significant civilian casualties. Hezbollah’s rocket arsenal is believed to be considerably larger than that of Hamas.

The current tensions stem from ongoing exchanges of fire across the Lebanon-Israel border, which intensified following Hamas’s attack on southern Israel in early October. The situation further escalated this month after an Israeli airstrike killed a senior Hezbollah military commander in southern Lebanon, prompting retaliatory rocket and drone attacks from Hezbollah.

According to the AP, Israeli strikes have resulted in over 400 deaths in Lebanon, including 70 civilians. On the Israeli side, 16 soldiers and 10 civilians have lost their lives.

An escalation of the conflict could potentially draw in other Iran-supported groups in the region, leading to a more widespread war. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah claimed in a recent speech that while leaders from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and other countries have offered to send tens of thousands of fighters to support Hezbollah, the group already possesses a force of more than 100,000 terrorists.

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