During the ongoing war taking place in the Middle East between the Israeli Defense Forces and Hamas, the region has come close to a full-blown regional war, especially during the spring.

Israel and Iran, both of whom have been in a state of shadow war for four decades, have nearly come close to a full-scale conflict, especially as the Mullahs openly finance and back various proxies that are hostile to the former.

Under pressure to respond to a major Israeli assassination of key generals, the Islamic Republic’s large-scale retaliation achieved nothing. Instead, Israel would conduct an even shorter but decisive counterstrike. With their weaknesses exposed to the world, Tehran will now put all chips on the table to their most powerful proxy, Hezbollah.

Israel’s Strike in Damascus a Game-Changer

In the backdrop of the ongoing Israel-Hamas War, intelligence and coordination between various militias in the Middle East and the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) became more frequent. Already regional foes, Israel would find a key yet dangerous and calculating opportunity to hit the head of the snake.

On April 1st, 2024, Israel conducted an aerial operation on an IRGC command post located next to Iran’s embassy in Damascus. Seeing a window of opportunity to eliminate high-value targets gathered in one place, the IDF conducted the strike unilaterally, only informing Western allies a few minutes later of the attack.

The results were the liquidation of several high-ranking IRGC commanders who commanded and coordinated various Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian militant groups at the behest of the Mullahs—resulting in a decapitation strike of the Islamic Republic’s reach in the Middle East.

Israel’s decapitation strike not only affected external IRGC operations but also was too thorough to ignore, and the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, ordered a retaliatory attack at a time of his choosing.

Funeral of Iranian military officers killed by Israel in Syria via Business Insider

Iran’s Retaliation

The Iranian retaliatory attack would take place on the night of April 13th into the morning of April 14th. The IRGC would conduct the largest combined missile and drone attack against Israel, launching their stockpiles through Iraqi, Syrian, Jordanian, Kuwaiti, and Saudi airspace.

Despite the mass launches intended to overwhelm Israeli air defense, the Mullahs did not calculate the coalition of allies that would intervene on Israel’s behalf. American and British warplanes would take out numerous projectiles, with Jordan and Saudi Arabia using their missile defense systems along with France and the UAE sharing critical intelligence.

Israel’s Arrow-3, David’s Sling, and Iron Dome would finish the rest of the incomings—with a 99% interception rate that displayed the best multi-layered coalition air defense in modern history.

Instead of retaliating with the same or higher degree of intensity, the Israeli military opted for a short yet surgical strike at a radar battery of an S-300 located near one of Iran’s nuclear power plants in Isfahan. The brief but quick strike on Iranian territory showed that Israel maintains air and technological superiority and could’ve hit the power plant but opted towards a major warning attack against an important missile defense near the Isfahan complex.

Hezbollah Becomes Ever More Important to the Mullahs

Israel’s air defense and aerial superiority not only put the country over Iran, but the factor of having major backers and allies, particularly amongst Arab and Western states, prompts the Mullahs to rethink their strategy. Instead of facing Israel directly, the Mullahs, more than ever, will put priorities towards Hezbollah.

Hezbollah, created by IRGC operatives during the Lebanese Civil War, is not only the strongest of Iran’s proxies but is also considered a direct branch of the Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Acting as an arm of the IRGC, Hezbollah played a major role in keeping Bashar al-Assad in power in Syria, and their operatives have deployed in other conflicts in Iraq and Yemen. The militia also has a foothold to secure the black-market trade in Latin America and Africa.

Based in Lebanon, Hezbollah is a Shiite militia designated as a terror organization by the United States and most of the European Union and Arab League. The group is also Lebanon’s largest political party and the Lebanese government cannot form a coalition without their approval.

Hezbollah is far more powerful than the Lebanese army and is directly funded by the Islamic Republic. The organization controls the ins and outs of Lebanon, such as the ports and borders—allowing a steady stream of imports and exports of illicit trade, such as the stimulant drug captagon.

The 2006 War also saw the IDF fail at achieving any objectives of dismantling or destroying Hezbollah in South Lebanon, and the defensive terrain made tank maneuvering a nightmare, allowing the Shiite militia to disable and take out numerous equipment.

Funeral for a Hezbollah Fighter Killed in the Border Clashes with Israel via NYT

Hezbollah’s Capabilities are an Even Bigger Threat Than Iran

Iran’s ballistic and missile capabilities, though defeated, are still a major concern. Knowing that it would take hours even to prepare to launch them against Israel, which would have valuable time to prepare defenses, the IRGC instead transferred much of their missile stockpiles to Hezbollah.

Hezbollah currently has a rocket arsenal of anywhere between a minimum of 120,000 rockets to 200,000. Many of their missiles are short, intermediate, and long-range that can reach all corners of Israel.

The Shiite militia regularly has 20,000-50,000 full-time fighters and can call up 50,000 in reserves. Many of their fighters received combat experience in the Syria, Iraq, and Yemen wars.

Despite having global sanctions, the group can make a billion USD annually due to their illicit trade of captagon and helps the IRGC and Assad regime traffic it across the world. If another full-scale war were to break out with Israel again, Hezbollah could launch upwards of 2,000-5,000 rockets a day.

Whereas the United States would directly intervene on Israel’s behalf in a direct war with Iran, there is no guarantee of an American response to Hezbollah provocations, as seen in 2006. However, the Iranian-proxy militia has flaws that have been exacerbated lately.

Though the 2006 War gave Hezbollah a favorable position, their Secretary General, Hassan Nasrallah, was forced to apologize to Lebanon for its destruction as he admitted his operatives instigated a deadly conflict by kidnapping and killing several Israeli soldiers.

The group is becoming unpopular in Lebanon, especially with Christians, Sunni Muslims, and Druze, and now relies on keeping their Shiite Muslim population satisfied and brainwashed to continue holding power. Hezbollah’s once popular view in the Arab world after the 2006 War is now diminished as the group became a mercenary for hire for the Assad regime in Syria and took part in deadly sectarian violence.

Israel, learning lessons from the occupation of Southern Lebanon and the 2006 War, is now focused on GPS tracking and targeting key Hezbollah leaders and reiterating a new war could leave devastation upon their northern neighbor for decades.

Now, with Hamas degraded and their once vaunted ballistic missile program exposed to the world, Hezbollah and their growing capabilities become even more important to a growingly unpopular Iranian regime. The Mullahs, realizing their Shiite militia in Lebanon has far better capabilities to confirm Israel, will now put all chips on Hezbollah in an attempt to keep Israel away.

Disclaimer: SOFREP utilizes AI for image generation and article research. Occasionally, it’s like handing a chimpanzee the keys to your liquor cabinet. It’s not always perfect and if a mistake is made, we own up to it full stop. In a world where information comes at us in tidal waves, it is an important tool that helps us sift through the brass for live rounds.