The linkage between Hezbollah and North Korea

A poster of Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in southern Lebanon
(photo credit: ALI HASHISHO/REUTERS)

The bottom line is that North Korea and Hezbollah pose ongoing and serious challenges to their rivals. Both sides in both cases are trying to avoid a war, but it still might happen.

There is a certain link between Hezbollah and North Korea, particularly considering the possibility of a war with one or both of them. There was, in the past, both a war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006, and a war between North Korea and other states including the United States, in 1950-1953.
North Korea is a state, while Hezbollah is a non-state organization, yet the latter is a powerful group that does whatever it wants in Lebanon.
It’s also part of the government.
Furthermore, the leaders of both North Korea and Hezbollah are dominant in calling the shots for their people and they have an influence on the situation in their region.
In both Lebanon and Korea, a war may start at any time due to several reasons. First, any side could consider launching a preventive war or preemptive strike, particularly if it suspects its foe plans to attack, following ongoing tensions.
The borders between North Korea and South Korea, and between Israel and Lebanon, are quiet, but each side watches its enemy closely, trying to detect any change and especially a sign of an upcoming offensive. Each side tries to deter the other by investing in its military buildup, and also by demonstrating its military might by openly showing its weapons and troops in drills, parades etc. In both cases, the two sides have been preparing for the next war. They don’t want a war, but a confrontation might occur due to miscalculations, an incident on the border that will get of out of control etc.
The United States, with the help of other states, tries to contain North Korea, as an alternative to war. Yet this policy causes friction with North Korea, which increases the chances of a confrontation.
Israel strives to contain Hezbollah, including by force. Since 2012, Israel has carried out more than 100 air strikes, which destroyed advanced weapons before they reached Hezbollah in Lebanon.
By that Israel reduced Hezbollah’s ability to harm Israel in time of war. Yet each Israeli strike raised the probability of an escalation that might have led to such a war.
NORTH KOREA, in a way, has China – a global power – as a patron. Hezbollah too has a patron, Iran, a regional power. It will be very difficult for both Hezbollah and North Korea to survive without their patron. China does not want North Korea to collapse, but China will hesitate about going to war to defend North Korea, if it means confronting the United States. Iran, as much as it needs Hezbollah, including against Israel, will probably stay out of the war between two countries, as was the case in 2006.
Sunni-led Arab states like the ones in the Gulf, particularly Saudi Arabia, are against Hezbollah, a Shi’ite organization.
Those Arab states have disputes with Israel but they endorse Israel, indirectly and unofficially, against Hezbollah. States near North Korea, particularly Japan, have disagreements with the United States, but they all oppose North Korea.
The United States sees North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.
The United States, Israel and other states as well, including Arab ones, consider Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization.
Both Hezbollah and North Korea are destabilizing factors in their regions, following their radical approach.
Hezbollah has been fighting for Bashar Assad, which helped him to stay in power. North Korea’s nuclear capability is supposed to ensure that its regime will not be toppled, by deterring its foes. The same could have been the case if Assad had produced a nuclear weapon, as it was building a nuclear reactor in cooperation with North Korea. Such an edge would have also allowed Assad to give much bigger support to Hezbollah, against Israel. The latter therefore wiped out that reactor in 2007.
Hezbollah and the North Korean military possess quite significant firepower, which is based on artillery and/or rockets that could inflict major casualties and cause serious damage. This fire could be suppressed, at least partly.
The South Korean military, with the support of the US military, is stronger than its North Korean counterpart. The IDF has clear superiority over Hezbollah.
Both Hezbollah and North Korea are aware that a major war might bring their downfall.
Yet Hezbollah and the regime of North Korea might believe they can survive a full-scale war. Hezbollah is willing for Lebanon to absorb huge damage and massive loss during such a war, and the same goes for the regime of North Korea and its country.
During a war, the United States might have to seize part and even all of North Korea. Israel will capture territory in Lebanon but the goal of such offensive, in either case, would not be to conquer land but to defeat the enemy and then to withdraw.
The bottom line is that North Korea and Hezbollah pose ongoing and serious challenges to their rivals. Both sides in both cases are trying to avoid a war, but it still might happen.
The writer is an analyst of Israel’s national security and used to work for the IDF.

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