On February 18, the Palestinian-owned Al-Quds al-Arabi daily carried the following opinion piece by Chief Editor Abdel-Beri Atwan: “Now, after the dust has cleared out and after the funerary processions of martyrs Rafik al-Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, and Hajj Imad Mughniyeh, the leader of Hezbollah’s military wing, have ended one can say that these two assassinations - despite the difference in the method, the status and the sides that perpetrated them - could be the most costly in Lebanese and Arab history. A lot was written about the assassination of the late Hariri, the international tribunal..., the divisions it has entailed within the Lebanese community and its political repercussions locally and regionally.
“However, we would not be exaggerating if we said that the assassination of Hajj Radwan - that is, Imad Mughnieh - could lead to the changing of the political equation, and therefore the face of the entire region. The two Ehud’s, PM Olmert and Defense Minister Barak, did not conceal their joy when they learned that this assassination succeeded in hunting down the legendary man, allowing them to settle old scores with him that lasted for over a quarter of a century... The joy of the Israeli prime minister and his defense minister might have been hasty and revealed a political naivete and a complete unawareness of their rival’s capacity and determination to retaliate in the most painful and costly ways...
“Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah did not specify the number of retaliation operations it will carry out to avenge its martyr. He talked about an open war and held the Israeli leadership responsible for all the repercussions. This man neither lies nor exaggerates and he has a great ability to make difficult decisions. He was the only one who dared to bomb Israel's depth with four thousand missiles without blinking and the only one whose forces stood fast for 34 days without asking for the help of the Arabs and Muslims or calling upon the Security Council to convene. Three main sides might directly partake behind the scenes in the expected and quasi-confirmed retaliation.
“The first is Hezbollah, which lost its most prominent leader, the second is the Syrian government, whose security was breached... and the third is Iran, since the late leader was accused of carrying out many operations for it... The Israelis are carrying out a well-studied strategy to humiliate the Syrian government, provoke it and get it out of the shell in which it is seeking safety as it awaits the right moment [to exit it] according to the majority of its spokesmen. The first time, it [Israel] waged an attack on an abandoned military position belonging to the Popular Front - the General Command in Ain al-Saheb two years ago. The second time, it destroyed military facilities in the Syrian depth in Deir al-Zour last year.
“The third and last time, it assassinated Hajj Mughnieh in the most protected locations in the Syrian capital... Syrian patience vis-a-vis these American and Israeli provocations and blackmail could run out and is not now expected to last forever. The Syrian leadership has many influential cards that it could use, the least of which being the loosening of its grip on its border with Iraq in what would allow armed men to cross in. If this leadership becomes certain that the decision to change it was issued, and it seems to have, it will not go quietly to the detention camps of Al-Hariri’s tribunal, for it has learned a lot from the Iraq lesson, or so we believe.
“The open war that was announced by Sayyed Nasrallah might occur sooner than many think because this war was asked for by Israel, the US and some Arab governments, which are looking forward to the moment when American and Israeli aircraft and missiles will bomb Iranian cities, Hezbollah’s military positions, Hamas in Gaza and Damascus... The assassination of an Austrian prince detonated WWI which toppled empires and changed the face of Europe. The assassination of the prince of Hezbollah, Hajj Mughnieh, could be the detonator of a regional war that might annihilate countries and redraw the map of the region, a map in which Israel could be the biggest loser geographically and demographically.” - Al-Quds al-Arabi, United Kingdom