Via (of all places) the New York Times:
These should be heady days for Iran ’92s leaders. Hezbollah, widely regarded as its proxy force in Lebanon, continues to rain down rockets on Israel despite 17 days of punishing airstrikes. Hezbollah ’92s leader is a hero of the Arab world, and Iran is basking in the reflected glory.
Yet this capital is unusually tense. Officials, former officials and analysts say that it is too dangerous even to discuss the crisis. In newspapers, the slightest questioning of support for Hezbollah has been attacked as unpatriotic, pro-Zionist and anti-Islamic.
As the war in Lebanon grinds on, Iranian officials cannot seem to decide whether Iran will emerge stronger ’97 or unexpectedly weakened.
They are increasingly confident of an ideological triumph. But they also believe the war itself has already harmed Hezbollah ’92s strength as a military deterrent for Iran on the Israeli border…
Iranian experts (who refuse to be identified for their own safety) are fairly open and honest about Hezbollah’s strategic value to Iran.
…Iran ’92s relationship to Hezbollah is both strategic and ideological. The Islamic Revolution in 1979 was viewed by its clerical leaders as a part of a pan-Muslim movement. Linking up with the Shiite Muslims of southern Lebanon was part of Iran ’92s efforts to spread its ideological influence. But in building up Hezbollah, the ideological motivation fused with a practical desire to put a force on Israel ’92s northern border.
No matter how this conflict is resolved, Iranian officials already see their strategic military strength diminished, said the policy experts, former officials and one official with close ties to the highest levels of government. Even if a cease-fire takes hold, and Hezbollah retains some military ability, a Lebanese public eager for peace may act as a serious check…
Shiite Iran’s strength is being built at the expense of their Sunni rivals:
…Iran is the only nation in the Muslim world controlled by members of the Shiite sect of Islam, and its push to be a regional leader had raised concerns among the area ’92s Sunni leadership.
Iran has used the war in Lebanon to try to prove that talk of a Shiite threat is a fiction created by Arab leaders and Americans seeking to maintain power in the hands of American friends in Cairo, Amman and Riyadh.
It has pointed to Israel ’92s destruction of Lebanon ’92s infrastructure to promote the idea that this war is not against Hezbollah but against all Muslims. And Iran ’92s leaders have sought to burnish their own image, at the expense of their Sunni rivals…
Of course, their Sunni rivals aren’t really friends of ours either. If the al Qaeda-supporting Sunnis gained power over the Hezbollah-supporting Shiites, what, exactly, would we gain from that? Both sides have used terrorism against us, neither side is an ally. Whichever side wins, we lose.
So how can we ensure that both of our enemies lose?
Michael Totten has said that “Hezbollah is the most effective Arab fighting force in the world”, a statement that Iran’s leaders seem to agree with. Hezbollah is probably the most effective non-Israeli fighting force in the Middle East. This doesn’t mean that Hezbollah is unbeatable. It means that Hezbollah is weak, and most of the non-Israeli forces in the Middle East are weaker. In the land of military mice, the Hezbollah rat is king.
Apparently, Israel has seriously injured the best and the brightest of their opposition, leaving the opposition somewhat defenseless.
…He said that Iran does not have the military ability at home to fight an aggressive offensive war against Israel from so far away. He said its only offensive tool would be a missile, which he said would be of limited effect and accuracy.
“If Israel attacked us tomorrow, what are we going to do?” he said.
Right now, our enemies in the Iran/Syria/Hezbollah group are stronger than our enemies in Riyadh – but, since our government is still pretending that the KSA and their ilk are allies, Iran is more vulnerable. If Iran was allowed to become a little stronger, if it were allowed to become a regional leader, then the entire region becomes more vulnerable. With a little patience, we could create a win-win situation for us.
In this case, Hezbollah and Iran’s cheerleaders in the UN and the press would actually be working in our favor. Finally, a way to make them useful.