Iran is not shy about its aim of spreading influence abroad, nor its apparent success with establishing a “visible presence … just a stone’s throw from Israel,” The Jerusalem Post’s Seth J. Frantzman reported Wednesday.
Just meters from the fence that separates Israel and Lebanon, where the Israeli community of Metulla is located, Iranian, Hezbollah, and Palestinian flags are provocatively displayed on the Lebanese side of the border.
“On a hill overlooking new houses being constructed in Metulla is another huge poster with a photo of the Dome of the Rock. The face of Ayatollah Khomeini glowers down over the dome and Hezbollah has written ‘we are coming’ in Hebrew and Arabic,” Frantzman reported. “They’ve put a giant Palestinian flag next to the poster.”
According to Frantzman, the flags are symbols of the changing political situation on the border and increased Iranian influence nurtured by the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, where the regime in Tehran has consolidated power with the help of its proxies.
The message is clear. Iran is looking down on Israel from the north. “It’s purposely done so Israeli residents can see the flags and the billboards next to them. In Metulla there is a memorial for the 12 Israeli soldiers killed in the 1985 suicide bombing, while just across the border a huge billboard celebrates the same killing,” Frantzman explained.
While the threat from Iran is not new, the geopolitical situation in the region has changed its nature. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened on Friday that thousands of Shiite militia fighters could join forces with Hezbollah in a future war with Israel.
Hezbollah has reportedly constructed observation posts near the Israeli border under the cover of charitable work, in what appears to be an attempt to restore the situation to what it was before the 2006 Lebanon War.
Meanwhile, Iran is closing in on Israel from the Syrian side of the border, too. The Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militia has recently reached a strategic corridor along the Iraq-Syrian border near Sinjar. With the Syrian regime simultaneously advancing along the other side of the fence near al-Tanf, the two Iran-backed parties could physically link the territory to form a corridor between Iran and Lebanon, through northern Iraq and Syria.
For all the posturing and boasting that is coming out of Tehran, the threat is real and multidimensional. “Traversing the border, in the shadow of the flags, is the Israeli army, its Humvees and other vehicles, watching for threats,” Frantzman concluded.