Smoke rises, amid ongoing cross-border hostilities between Hezbollah and Israeli forces, in Kiryat Shmona, northern Israel, June 14, 2024.

Top US General Warns Israeli War on Hezbollah Could Involve Iran

Monday, 06/24/2024

Any Israeli offensive in Lebanon would risk a broader conflict that draws in Iran and Iran-aligned militants, particularly if Hezbollah's existence is threatened, the top US general said on Sunday.

Air Force General C.Q. Brown, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff acknowledged Israel's right to defend itself, but indicated that given the location of the conflict, it would be more difficult for US forces to help Israel against massive drone and missile attacks.

"From our perspective, based on where our forces are, the short range between Lebanon and Israel, it's harder for us to be able to support them in the same way we did back in April," Brown said. He was referring to a massive Iranian missile and drone attack against Israel from Iranian territory on April 13 that failed to inflict any serious damage as Israeli and allied forces downed almost all projectiles. Last week, Washington voiced concern about Hezbollah’s large arsenal of rockets overwhelming Israel’s air defenses.

Brown did not predict Israel's next steps and acknowledged Israel's right to defend itself, but he cautioned that a Lebanon offensive “can drive up the potential for a broader conflict."

As Hezbollah’s missile and drone attacks and Israel’s targeted strikes in southern Lebanon have increased, the Biden administration has been trying to prevent an all-out Israeli incursion into Lebanon. This has increased diplomatic tensions with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu whose government has signaled its intention to launch a major land attack against Hezbollah.

"Hezbollah is more capable than Hamas as far as overall capability, number rockets and the like. And I would just say I would see Iran be more inclined to provide greater support to Hezbollah," Brown told reporters before stopping in Cape Verde on his way to regional defense talks in Botswana.

"Again, all this could help to broaden the conflict in the region and really have Israel not only be worried about what's happening on their southern part of the country, but also now what's happening in the north."

Iran's mission to the UN in New York warned Israel on Friday about the consequences of waging a full-blown war on Hezbollah. A statement posted on the Iranian mission's X account said Hezbollah "has the capability to defend itself and Lebanon."

"Perhaps the time for the self-annihilation of this illegitimate regime has come," it said.

"Any imprudent decision by the occupying Israeli regime to save itself could plunge the region into a new war, the consequence of which would be the destruction of Lebanon's infrastructure as well as that of the 1948 occupied territories," the Iranian mission warned.

It also called Israel the "ultimate loser" of the possible war.

Brown's comments came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that a coming end to the intense phase of fighting in Gaza would allow Israel to deploy more forces along the northern border with Lebanon.

Iran-backed Hezbollah began attacking Israel shortly after Hamas' Oct. 7 assault sparked the war in Gaza, and the sides have been trading blows in the months since then. Hezbollah has said it would stop until there is a ceasefire in Gaza.

Earlier in June, Hezbollah targeted Israeli towns and military sites with the largest volleys of rockets and drones in the hostilities so far, after an Israeli strike killed the most senior Hezbollah commander yet.

Brown's remarks came as Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant headed to Washington on Sunday to discuss the next phase of the Gaza war and escalating hostilities on the border with Lebanon.

Brown noted that the United States could be more limited in its ability to defend Israel from attacks by Hezbollah than it was helping intercept Iran's April missile and drone attack on Israel, which was largely thwarted.

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