A former US military intelligence analyst warned that Israel risks igniting a war with Hezbollah to ensure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political survival. This potential conflict could lead to unprecedented civilian casualties in both Lebanon and Israel and draw the United States into a regional war.

Harrison Mann, a former major in the Defence Intelligence Agency, resigned last month in protest over US support for Israel’s war in Gaza. He shared his concerns that Israel might engage in a reckless war with Hezbollah for internal political reasons. Despite the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) announcing completed plans for a Lebanon offensive rhetoric from Israeli politicians, US officials privately claim that Netanyahu’s government understands the dangers and is not actively seeking a fight.

The former intelligence officer believes Netanyahu’s political career hinges on maintaining a wartime posture, which shields him from corruption charges. This political dynamic could push Israel towards a dangerous conflict with Hezbollah, which the Israeli military sees as an escalating threat.

The former intelligence officer contends that Israel has severely underestimated the potential costs of such a war. He questions the accuracy of Israeli assessments regarding the destruction they might face and their chances of success against Hezbollah. The entrenched nature of Hezbollah’s weaponry in the Lebanese terrain makes decisive pre-emptive strikes unlikely. Instead, Mann suggests that Israel would resort to decapitation strikes against Hezbollah leaders and bomb residential areas to undermine the resistance group’s support base, a tactic known as the Dahiya doctrine. However, he warns this approach could backfire, revealing the limitations of Israel’s strategic thinking.

Mann predicts that if Hezbollah perceives an existential threat, it could launch a massive rocket and missile attack, potentially overwhelming Israel’s air defences and causing unprecedented destruction. An Israeli ground offensive into southern Lebanon would likely result in significant Israeli casualties.

The shelling of Israeli cities, Mann argues, would compel the Biden administration to support Israel more actively, especially in the lead-up to a US election. This involvement might include targeting supply lines or associated sites in Iraq and Syria, increasing the risk of a broader conflict in the region. Mann believes that while the Biden administration would seek to avoid direct confrontation with Iran, the risk of escalation remains high.

Mann’s resignation was influenced by his Jewish heritage and the belief in bearing responsibility for preventing ethnic cleansing. His resignation letter, published on LinkedIn, criticised US support for Israel’s war on Gaza, which he said enabled the killing and starvation of innocent Palestinians. He received a largely positive response from colleagues, indicating a shared discontent among some within the military.

UN humanitarian coordinator for Gaza, Sigrid Kaag, highlighted the insufficiency of aid entering the besieged territory and called for better mechanisms to facilitate aid delivery. She emphasised the need to reopen the Rafah border crossing and for increased international funding to prevent a humanitarian disaster.

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza continues to worsen, with 1.9 million people displaced by the ongoing Israeli attacks. In its war on Gaza, which was launched on October 7, Israel has so far killed at least 37,925 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and wounded 87,141 others, while blocking the entry of aid and starving the 2.5 million people in the besieged enclave.