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Israel-Hezbollah escalation could pull in Iran, US

Months of relentless exchanges between Israel and Lebanon’s militant group Hezbollah have seen mass civilian evacuations and widespread death, injury and destruction.

The violence has worsened since early June, accompanied by increasingly heated rhetoric. Both sides have prevented the tit-for-tat attacks from escalating into a full-blown war, recognizing the likely catastrophic consequences. The question is whether this fragile containment can hold in the future.

In ominous language, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested on June 23 that more of the country’s troops would soon be freed up to be transferred to the north to confront Hezbollah. A few days earlier, CNN reported that Israel was moving Iron Dome batteries from the south to the north in preparation for a possible war with Hezbollah.

As a scholar of Lebanon and Israel, I have closely followed the domestic dynamics in both countries.

What is at stake is enormous, with consequences that I believe far exceed the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. The tension between Hezbollah and Israel has exposed the basic fact that the war in Gaza is in many ways also a war over hegemonic power in the broader Middle East. It risks drawing the US further into this potential abyss, something that has nudged Washington into increasing diplomatic efforts to keep a lid on Israel-Hezbollah violence.

Regional dynamics

Iran’s regional rivals, particularly Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, are closely monitoring how Iran uses the Gaza conflict and growing violence on the Lebanon-Israel border to advance its regional interests. Russia, supported by Iran in its war against Ukraine, is watching, too, viewing this conflict as a means to weaken the United States.

Israel, meanwhile,