The battle for psychological ascendancy between the Iran-Syria-Hizbollah alliance and Israel escalated sharply on Friday after Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened punishing missile strikes deep inside Israel in case it attacked Iran.
Invoking imagery possibly resulting from counter-strikes against Israel’s nuclear facilities, Mr. Nasrallah said that retaliation by his battle hardened organisation would kill thousands and make life “hell” inside the country. “I tell the Israelis that you have a number of targets, not a large number ... that can be hit with precision rockets ... which we have,” said Mr. Nasrallah.
The Hizbollah Secretary General’s harsh warning follows advocacy by influential sections in Israel for air strikes that would impair Iran’s nuclear facilities. Mr. Nasrallah said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak were the chief advocates for a war against Iran, despite massive opposition from the military generals, security veterans and senior figures from the past and present administrations.
Mr. Nasrallah’s remarks appear to have a more immediate and specific context. Richard Silverstein, a blogger with a reputation of revealing information that is censored in Israel, has posted details from an alleged “briefing document” about Israeli war-plans against Iran.
These plans have at their core a massive cyber-assault that would cripple Iran’s communication systems and impair the country’s electricity grid. Israeli missile strikes would then destroy key elements of the nuclear establishment, including residences of top atomic scientists. “The missiles will strike their targets — some exploding above ground like those striking the nuclear reactor at Arak — which is intended to produce plutonium and tritium — and the nearby heavy water production facility; the nuclear fuel production facilities at Isfahan and facilities for enriching uranium-hexafluoride. Others would explode underground, as at the Fordo facility,” says the blog. Speculation was also rife on Saturday about the alleged defection to Jordan by Syrian Vice-President Farouk al-Shara, an icon of the Assad regime for the last 30 years. But quickly denying the defection, which would have been a big blow for the regime, Syrian state-television said Mr. Shara “has never thought about leaving the country or going anywhere”. The statement also hailed the appointment of Lakhdar Brahimi as the new U.N. Syria envoy.
The speculation about the Syrian Vice-President’s defection followed reports on Saturday that Syrian soldiers had killed a large number of armed fighters who had taken control of a weapons depot in the western city of Homs.