ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I spoke to two experts, Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel. He’s the director of the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution. I also spoke with Bob Baer, a former CIA officer based in Lebanon, author of the book “Blow the House Down.”
Both joined me earlier.
COOPER: Bob, why do you think Hezbollah has acted now?
ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OFFICER: I think it is at the behest of Iran. We can’t be certain about that, but this — it was such a provocation against the Israelis, crossing the border — they had to have done it in force — taking two guys, killing seven other guys, soldiers.
They did this on purpose. And I think they were counting on the Israelis coming in, hoping to get them bogged down in southern Lebanon once again.
COOPER: Ambassador Indyk, I mean, Bob is basically saying that Hezbollah does nothing without Iran.
MARTIN INDYK, DIRECTOR, SABAN CENTER FOR MIDDLE EAST POLICY, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Bob is right on this.
I think that — that the Iranians will find it very convenient to shift the focus from their nuclear program in the run-up to the G8 Summit to — in Russia to this crisis — escalating crisis. So, I think it serves their purpose very well.
Hezbollah also has its own motivations here. They have actually been trying to kidnap Israeli soldiers for more than 18 months. They had three other unsuccessful efforts at it. With Hamas succeeding, I think Hezbollah is probably under a bit of pressure from their own families to do something to try to get the Hezbollah prisoners out of Israel, which they haven’t been successful at doing in the past.
COOPER: So, there is sort of this — this race to kidnap Israeli soldiers?
And that is why it is so complicated for the Israelis. You will know that the Israelis have, in the past, swapped prisoners for soldiers.
COOPER: Right. January 2004, there was a — a big swap.
But now, in these circumstances, to — to do that kind of deal will only encourage further kidnappings. So, they have to try to find a way to reestablish the deterrence, make the Hezbollah and Hamas militants understand that they will pay a very high price for kidnapping the soldiers, before they can do a deal.
The objective of this kind of [safe zones] project may be described as fundamentally humanitarian, but the reality is that any number of parties, starting with the Assad regime and the Islamic State, are going to see it as a threat, and that’s going to make it a target instead of a safe place.
No vetting system is perfect, but if you look at those who have been arrested for suspicions of being linked to the Islamic State, for example, the vast majority have been American citizens.