Israeli attack on Lebanon risks Iranian response: Top US army leader

AP , Monday 24 Jun 2024

The top U.S. army officer warned on Sunday that any Israeli army offensive into Lebanon would risk an Iranian response in defense of the powerful Hezbollah group there, triggering a broader war that could put U.S. forces in the region in danger.

A smoke plume billows during Israeli bombardment on the village of Khiam in south Lebanon near the border with Israel June 2024. AFP


Air Force Gen. CQ Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Iran “would be more inclined to support Hezbollah." He added that Tehran would give greater backing to the Lebanese group “particularly if they felt that Hezbollah was being significantly threatened.”

Brown spoke to reporters as he traveled to Botswana for a meeting of African defense ministers.

Israeli officials have threatened a military attack on Lebanon if there is no negotiated end to push Hezbollah away from the border. Just days ago, Israel’s army said it had “approved and validated” plans for an offensive in Lebanon, even as the U.S. works to prevent the months of cross-border attacks from spiraling into a full-blown war.

Netanyahu said Sunday he hoped a diplomatic solution could be achieved but said he would solve the problem “in a different way” if needed. ″We can fight on several fronts and we are prepared to do that,” he said.

U.S. officials have tried to broker a diplomatic solution to the conflict. The issue is expected to come up this week as Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant visits Washington for meetings with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other senior U.S. officials.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s senior adviser, Amos Hochstein, met with officials in Lebanon and Israel last week in an effort to de-escalate tensions. Hochstein told reporters in Beirut on Tuesday that it was a “very serious situation” and that a diplomatic solution to prevent a larger war was urgent.

Brown also said the U.S. won’t likely be able to help Israel defend itself against a broader war as well as it helped Israel fight off an Iranian barrage of missiles and drones in April. It is harder to fend off the shorter-range rockets that Hezbollah fires routinely across the border into Israel, he said.

Asked if the U.S. has changed its force posture in the region to better assure troops are protected, he said the safety of the force has been a priority all along and noted that no U.S. bases have been attacked since February.

Brown said the U.S. continues to talk with Israeli leaders and warn against widening the conflict. He said a key message is “to think about the second order of effect of any type of operation into Lebanon, and how that might play out and how it impacts not just the region, but how it impacts our forces in regions as well.”

Pentagon officials have said that Austin has also raised concerns about a broader conflict when he spoke to Gallant in a recent phone call.

“Given the amount of rocket fire we’ve seen going from both sides of the border, we’ve certainly been concerned about that situation, and both publicly and privately have been urging all parties to restore calm along that border, and again, to seek a diplomatic solution,” said Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, last week.

Israeli strikes have killed more than 400 people in Lebanon, including 70 civilians since Israel launched its war on Gaza in Ocrtober. On Israel’s side, 16 soldiers and 10 civilians have been killed.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech last Wednesday that militant leaders from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and other countries have previously offered to send tens of thousands of fighters to help Hezbollah, but he said the group already has more than 100,000 fighters.

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