Hezbollah’s large-scale involvement in the Syrian conflict on the side of Bashar al-Assad has revealed the terror group’s true nature: it is aiding the violent repression of the Syrian people, while jeopardizing the stability of Lebanon. Though Hezbollah claims to be the protector of the Lebanese people, now more than ever the terror organization has revealed that it is a proxy of Iran, more interested in staying in power than helping ordinary Lebanese.
Nasrallah Tries to Justify Involvement in Assad’s Brutal Crackdown in Syria
On May 25th, 2013, after keeping their activity in Syria a secret – an implication of their own shame and guilt – Hassan Nasrallah declared that Hezbollah was indeed abetting the Assad regime’s brutal crackdown. To legitimize his organization’s involvement, he made two absurd assertions.
- First, he claimed Hezbollah backs the Assad regime in order to protect the Palestinian resistance. According to Nasrallah, “If Syria falls, Palestine will be lost. The resistance in Palestine will be lost. Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem will be lost.”
- Second, Nasrallah claims that the popular resistance in Syria against the brutality of Assad’s regime is the work of the Western powers, Israel and global terror groups, and that ultimately Israel aims to conquer Lebanon:
“My brothers and sisters, if Syria falls into the hands of the U.S., Israel, the people who accuse others of heresy, and all of America’s pawns, which purport to be leading countries in the region, the resistance will find itself under siege, and Israel will invade Lebanon, in order to impose its terms on the Lebanese people, and in order to revive its aspirations and schemes. Then, Lebanon will embark upon another Israeli era.”
What is truly behind Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria?
Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria has nothing to do with protecting Lebanon and defending Palestinians. Hezbollah is in Syria for three main reasons: self-preservation, the sectarian-religious divide, and loyalty to Iran.
I. Self preservation
The preservation of Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria is of vital militarily importance to Hezbollah. It is from Assad’s arsenal that Hezbollah receives much of its advanced military capabilities. Furthermore, Syria also acts as a transit port for weapons sent from Iran. The Hezbollah arsenal includes: Iranian-manufactured Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 rockets, Iranian-manufactured Fatah 110 missiles, Iranian-manufactured Zelzal missiles, and Syrian-manufactured 302mm rockets.
II. Sectarian-religious divide
Where Hezbollah has chosen to fight (or not fight) indicates that one one of its prime motivations for aiding Assad is the protection of Shi’a interests.
Hezbollah’s largest contribution to defending the Assad regime was in the important battle over the city of Qusayr, which turned the tide of the conflict in favor of the Syrian dictator. The city of Qusayr controls the road from Homs to the Beqa’a Valley – the heartland of Hezbollah. Moreover, around 30,000 Shi’a live in an area surrounding Qusayr, with whom Hezbollah feels religious-sectarian solidarity. This is why Nasrallah’s men can be found fighting in Qusayr rather than Aleppo.
III. Loyalty to Iran
The continued existence of the Assad regime is of crucial importance to Iran: the theocratic republic has aided Syria militarily, economically and politically, and in return the Syrian regime acts as an Iranian foothold in the Middle East.
Revolutionary Guards commander Mahmoud Ali Jaafari admitted that Iran was supporting the Syrian regime. At a press conference in Tehran on September 16, 2012, he said: “We are proud to defend Syria, which is a cornerstone of the struggle against Israel. We are contributing advice and our experience.” To coordinate their joint effort and to discuss strategy, Hezbollah and the Iranian leadership occasionally visit one another.
Furthermore, Iran, with the help of Hezbollah, is developing a Shi’ite-Alawite “people’s army.” According to a lecture given by the Head of the Intelligence Corps Major General Aviv Kochavi (March 14, 2013 at Herzliya Conference) the people’s army has about 50,000 men with plans to increase to 100,000. According to the Lebanese newspaper Al-Hayat, the popular army currently has 67,000 fighters, trained by Tehran in urban warfare (Walid al-Shukeir, “After Al-Qusayr. What Next,” Al-Hayat, Lebanon, June 7, 2013). Moreover, on August 14, 2012, American Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Iran was organizing and training a militia to support the Syrian regime (Telegraph.co.uk and Military.com websites, August 15, 2012)
The large militia is being created for fear of the morning after the fall of Assad regime. Iran and its proxy Hezbollah are hoping to protect their Shi’a allies against the backlash of the Assad regime’s brutality.
Hezbollah’s regional fallout
Nasrallah and his organization have lost favor in much of the Arab world’s eyes because of their defense of the Assad regime. To many Arabs, the “Party of God” has become the “Party of Satan.” It is their native Lebanon, however, where Hezbollah’s actions have endangered a fragile balance, damaging their image there the most.
Lebanon has already seen the violence spill into its own borders, with Syrian rebels assaulting Hezbollah strongholds within Lebanese territory. Lebanese President Michel Suleiman has called on Hezbollah to remove it fighters from Syria. “If they take part in a battle for Aleppo, and more Hezbollah fighters are killed, it will lead to more tension,” he said (June 22, 2013, in Lebanese newspaper As-Safir).
Former Lebanese Prime minister and current leader of the parliamentary opposition Sa’ad al-Hariri, expressed the sentiments of many (May 1, 2013) in response to Nasrallah’s April 30 speech:
“Nothing keeps him from turning Lebanon, at any moment, into a front line in the war alongside the Iranian regime in the name of defending religious sites…the country is captive in the hands of Hezbollah, and with it other Lebanese groups and sects. All that in the name of pleasing Bashar Assad and implementing fatwas originating in Tehran…Hezbollah is playing with Lebanese fate, and as its secretary general [Nasrallah] says, he is not lighting the fire in Syria alone, but threatening to bring the fire into the heart of Lebanon…”
The thin veil over Hezbollah has been lifted by the terror organization itself.
More about Hezbollah in this declassified report.