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Hezbollah tells Iran it would fight alone in any war with Israel

Lebanese sources say Nasrallah met with Iranian Quds force commander Esmail Qaani in February where he called clashes against Israel 'our fight'
With ally Hamas under attack in Gaza, the head of Iran's Quds Force visited Beirut in February to discuss the risk posed if Israel next aims at Lebanon's Hezbollah, an offensive that could severely hurt Tehran's main regional partner, seven sources said.
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In Beirut, Quds chief Esmail Qaani met Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the sources said, for at least the third time since Hamas' deadly October 7 attacks on southern Israel and Israel's ground operation in Gaza.
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חצאים: נסראללה  / קאאני
חצאים: נסראללה  / קאאני
Esmail Qaani, Hassan Nasrallah
(Photo: AP, AFP)
The conversation turned to the possibility of a full Israeli offensive to its north, in Lebanon, the sources said. As well as damaging the Shi'ite Islamist group, such an escalation could pressure Iran to react more forcefully than it has so far since October 7, three of the sources, Iranians within the inner circle of power, said.
Over the past five months, Hezbollah, a sworn enemy of Israel, has shown support for Hamas in the form of volleys of rockets fired across Israel's northern border.
At the previously unreported meeting, Nasrallah reassured Qaani he didn't want Iran to get sucked into a war with Israel or the United States and that Hezbollah would fight on its own, all the sources said.
"This is our fight," Nasrallah told Qaani, said one Iranian source with knowledge of the discussions.
Calibrated to avoid a major escalation, the skirmishes in Lebanon have nonetheless pushed tens of thousands of people from their homes on either side of the border. Israeli strikes have killed more than 200 Hezbollah operatives and some 50 civilians in Lebanon, while attacks from Lebanon into Israel have killed a dozen Israeli soldiers and six civilians.
In recent days, Israel's counter-strikes have increased in intensity and reach, fuelling fears the violence could spin out of control.
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יואב גלנט
יואב גלנט
Yoav Gallant
(Photo: GPO)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant indicated on Sunday that Israel planned to increase attacks to decisively remove Hezbollah terrorists from the border in the event of a Gaza cease-fire, although he left the door open for diplomacy.
In 2006, Israel fought a short but intense air and ground war with Hezbollah that was devastating for Lebanon.
Israeli security sources have said previously that Israel did not seek any spread of hostilities but added that the country was prepared to fight on new fronts if needed. An all-out war on its northern border would stretch Israel’s military resources.
Iran and Hezbollah are mindful of the grave perils of a wider war in Lebanon, two of the sources aligned with the views of the government in Tehran said, including the danger it could spread and lead to strikes on Iran's nuclear installations.
The U.S. lists Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism and has sought for years to rein in Tehran's nuclear program. Israel has long considered Iran an existential threat. Iran denies it is seeking a nuclear weapon.
For this story, Reuters spoke to four Iranian and two regional sources, along with a Lebanese source who confirmed the thrust of the meeting. Two U.S. sources and an Israeli source said Iran wanted to avoid blowback from an Israel-Hezbollah war. All requested anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.
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נפילות בגולן
נפילות בגולן
Hezbollah missiles falling in the Golan Heights
(Photo: Shimon Ben Gida)
The U.S. State Department, Israel's government, Tehran, and Hezbollah did not respond to requests for comment.
The Beirut meeting highlights strain on Iran's strategy of avoiding major escalation in the region while projecting strength and support for Gaza across the Middle East through allied armed groups in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, analysts said.
Qaani and Nasrallah "want to further insulate Iran from the consequences of supporting an array of proxy actors throughout the Middle East." said Jon Alterman of Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, responding to a question about the meeting.
"Probably because they assess that the possibility of military action in Lebanon is increasing and not decreasing."
Already, Tehran's carefully nurtured influence in the region is being curtailed, including by Israel's offensive against Hamas along with potential U.S.-Saudi defense and Israel-Saudi normalization agreements, as well as U.S. warnings that Iran should not get involved in the Hamas-Israel conflict.

'First line of defense'

A war in Lebanon that seriously degrades Hezbollah would be a major blow for Iran, which relies on the group founded with its support in 1982 as a bulwark against Israel and to buttress its interests in the broader region, two regional sources said.
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כוח רדואן של חיזבאללה
כוח רדואן של חיזבאללה
Hezbollah terrorists simulating attack on Israel in combat drill
(Photo: AFP)
"Hezbollah is in fact the first line of defense for Iran," said Abdulghani Al-Iryani, a senior researcher at the Sana'a Center for Strategic Studies, a think tank in Yemen.
If Israel were to launch major military action on Hezbollah, the Iranian sources within the inner circle of power said, Tehran may find itself compelled to intensify its proxy war.
An Iranian security official acknowledged however that the costs of such an escalation could be prohibitively high for Iran's allied groups. Direct involvement by Iran, he added, could serve Israel's interests and provide justification for the continued presence of U.S. troops in the region.
Given Tehran's extensive, decades-long ties with Hezbollah, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to put distance between them, one U.S. official said.
Since the Hamas attack on Israel, Iran has given its blessing to actions in support of its ally in Gaza: including attacks by Iraqi groups on U.S. interests. It has also supplied intelligence and weapons for Houthi operations against shipping in the Red Sea.
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עלי חמינאי
עלי חמינאי
Ali Khamenei
(Photo: AFP)
But it has stopped well short of an unfettered multi-front war on Israel that, three Palestinian sources said, Hamas had expected Iran to support after October 7.
Before the Beirut encounter with Nasrallah, Qaani chaired a two-day meeting in Iran in early February along with militia commanders of operations in Yemen, Iraq and Syria, three Hezbollah representatives and a Houthi delegation, one Iranian official said.
Revolutionary Guard's Commander-in-Chief Major General Hossein Salami was also present, the official said. Hamas did not attend.
"At the end, all the participants agreed that Israel wanted to expand the war and falling in that trap should be avoided as it will justify the presence of more U.S. troops in the region,” the official said.
According to the Iranian insider, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is not inclined to see a war unfold on Iran, where domestic discontent with the ruling system last year spilled over into mass protests.
"The Iranians are pragmatists and they are afraid of the expansion of the war," said Iryani. "If Israel were alone, they would fight, but they know that if the war expands, the United States will be drawn in."
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