Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah made a rare trip some two months ago from his secure, secret location in Beirut to Tehran, where his Iranian backers impressed on him the expectation that the Lebanese terror group will respond militarily to any Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, Channel 12 News reported Wednesday.
Iran, which backs Nasrallah and Hezbollah, expects a return on its investment according to the report, which described the visit as “definitely unusual.”
The report, which did not cite sources, also did not say what the outcome of the meeting was or what Nasrallah agreed on with the Iranians.
Earlier this month, however, Nasrallah said Hezbollah would not necessarily become involved if Israel hits Iran’s nuclear sites, but also noted he didn’t think Israel was serious about attacking.
Israel sees Hezbollah, which controls a military more powerful than the Lebanese army, as a key strategic threat on the northern border due to its vast arsenal of rockets that can hit anywhere in the country.
An uneasy mutual deterrence largely exists between the two foes. However, Channel 12 said the Israeli defense establishment sees it as asymmetrical, with Nasrallah wary of striking Israel.
According to the station, which cited foreign media reports, over the past two years Israel has attacked Hezbollah operatives some 40 times, mostly in Syria and in some cases inside Lebanon, but Nasrallah has chosen not to respond.
Though rarely claiming responsibility, Israel has also carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria to prevent Iran from establishing a military foothold from which to attack the Jewish state. Most recently, an attack near Damascus on Wednesday night was blamed on Israel by Syrian state media. The strikes have also reportedly targeted shipments of advanced weapons and rocket guidance systems on their way to Hezbollah.
In an interview with Iranian state TV last month, Nasrallah appeared to attempt to assert Hezbollah’s independence from Tehran, also claiming Israel was afraid to go to war against either.
Amid domestic criticism that his group acts in Tehran’s interests and not Lebanon’s, he challenged anyone to “tell us about a single act that Hezbollah did for the sake of Iran rather than for the sake of Lebanon,” according to Naharnet.
The report on Nasrallah’s trip to Iran came amid ongoing multinational negotiations in Vienna to revive a 2015 deal that lifted sanctions on Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear program to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons.
The US under the Trump administration pulled out in 2018 and Iran has since eased some of its commitments, in particular by enriching uranium to levels that have raised concerns it is approaching the threshold to produce a nuclear weapon.
Israel has repeatedly declared it will not allow Iran to become a nuclear-armed state and that, if necessary, it will strike Iranian nuclear facilities. regardless of the outcome of the Vienna talks to save the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Agencies contributed to this report.