Folks in Israel are pretty much done celebrating the death of Imad Mughniyeh and are now preparing for the inevitable backlash. That backlash was the subject of an op-ed in today's New York Times by Ronen Bergman, a columnist for Yediot Aharonot. The op-ed is worth reading until you get to the end:
As Hezbollah draws no fine distinctions between the United States and Israel, both nations, along with Jews around the world, might well have to pay the price for the loss of the man whose mystical aura was as important as his operational prowess.
In the immediate aftermath, Hezbollah has chosen not to respond with volleys of rockets aimed at Galilee, as many Israelis feared. But an inkling of how the group might respond can be found in the July 2007 statements of Michael McConnell, America’s director of national intelligence, expressing grave apprehension about Hezbollah sleeper cells in the United States that could go into action should the Americans cross the organization’s “red line.”
This line has now been crossed.
Hmm. You honestly think Hizbollah is going to carry out an assassination operation or terror attack within the United States? Really? Let's go over several of the reasons why this could happen but is decidedly not likely:
1. Hizbollah is not al-Qaeda. They are rooted, like Hamas, in a constituency. Hizbollah has approximately 1.4 Lebanese Shia who depend upon them and upon whom they depend. One of the reasons the 2006 war was such a boneheaded war on Hizbollah's part was because it brought so much pain and suffering down upon the Lebanese people, including those upon whom they depend for their legitimacy. That's probably why Hassan Nasrallah admitted it wasn't such a hot idea, knowing what he knows now. So having admitted that taunting the IAF wasn't too smart, Hizbollah would provoke a response from the world's most powerful nation (and an Air Force with, frankly, nothing better to do than bomb Beirut)? The last terror group with a return address to be implicated in attacking the United States was the Taliban. How did the rest of their year go after 9/11?
2. America is not Israel. It is far away, and thousands of Lebanese Shia -- including some with relatives in Hizbollah -- have established successful, peaceful lives here. U.S. government officials and military personnel outside the United States should consider themselves fair game. But inside the U.S.? Again, Hizbollah is smart enough to understand the consequences of such an attack.
Abu Muqawama had coffee today with a Lebanese friend who used to work in one of Hizbollah's non-military enterprises, and we were discussing what the aftermath of this Imad Mughniyeh assassination will be. He said it will be as big as Hariri's assassination was, and that 2005 assassination:
a) brought down the government
b) ended the 30-year Syrian military occupation of Lebanon
c) led to Michel Aoun returning from France
d) led to Samir Geagea being released from prison
Pretty big. What will the Imad Mughniyeh assassination lead to?
Abu Muqawama has no clue. Maybe some kind of retaliatory strike against an Israeli diplomat or public official? In Israel? Another war along the lines of Harb Tammuz? Honestly, he has no idea. But he does not think this assassination will lead to open war between Hizbollah (pop. 1.4 million) and the United States (pop. 300,000,000 -- with 380 F-22s on order as of this week).
In fact, some might say Mr. Bergman is trying a little too hard to convince gullible Americans that Israel's enemies pose the exact same threat to Americans as they do to Israelis. This, Mr. Bergman, is what we call fear-mongering, and it's irresponsible. Is it a threat? Yes. Is it a likely threat? No. So unless you live in northern Israel, go get your kids back out of the bomb shelter. This is the kind of stuff that really annoys Abu Muqawama. There are enough real threats and enemies out there -- we don't need to go inventing more or inflating others.