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Hezbollah Getting Better, Israel Getting Worse?

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Hezbollah and Lebanese authorities continue to round up alleged spies for Israel.

One of the most recent persons arrested is a Lebanese Army Colonel in good standing.  His arrest might lead investigators to continue investigating up the ladder of Lebanese society into usually untouchable, un-prosecutable areas: the clergy, generals, members of parliament, government ministers, and feudal leaders.

These revelations created a national drama, and are giving a major boost to Hezbollah's electoral campaign just before the June 7 elections.

Hezbollah's International Operations

The Israeli spy round-up is occurring at the same time that Hezbollah networks are being rounded up and prosecuted in other countries.  The most public and politically charged arrests and prosecution of Hezbollah members and associates is happening in Egypt.  Part of a Hezbollah network and their Azeri associates face trial in Azerbaijan for allegedly plotting an attack on the Israeli Embassy in Baku.

Recent accusations in the press allege that Hezbollah is receiving weapons systems from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and that Chavez is also allowing Hezbollah to expand cells throughout Venezuela.

Hezbollah's reach is global.  Although a core plank of its agenda is the destruction of Israel, their global network serves to expand the reach of Iran and the Islamic Revolution.  These foreign networks cannot hide behind the fig leaf of providing social services and acting as a domestic Lebanese political party merely defending the interests of Lebanon.

Threat to Israel, Threat to Lebanese

Hezbollah's global network is a direct threat to Israel, and the round-up of Lebanese spies for Israel severely dents Israel's capacity to counter Hezbollah.  The arrests prove the limits of the Mossad's capabilities, and possibly also reveal the sophistication of Hezbollah and the Lebanese government.

Hezbollah argues that their military strength and rooting out the spy network makes Lebanon safer; a claim capable of swaying the electorate.  However, in at least the short term, the Lebanese could suffer dramatic consequences.

Without accurate intelligence, Israel will targeting a much wider range of territory during its next conflict with Hezbollah.  If the Lebanese people elect a Hezbollah led government, then the entire state of Lebanon would be Israel's target.  In 2008, Olmert's government attempted to interpret the post-Doha Lebanese government ministerial defense statement as providing cover for Hezbollah, and thus making all of Lebanon a target.  This effort failed because of language the March 14 coalition drafted to guarantee that there was no way for international bodies to interpret the statement as authorizing Hezbollah to attack Israel.

Hezbollah's strength domestically in Lebanon and the expansion of its global network will not lead to peace for the Lebanese.  Once again, Lebanon is a pawn in a much larger regional battle that the Iranians and Hezbollah are now taking into the international sphere.

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