Is Hezbollah Supporting Syrian Regime?
Shi’a Islamic militant group Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah has said this week “If there ever comes a day when our responsibility demands that we fight in Syria, we will not conceal that.”
Hezbollah was formed by Muslim clerics and funded by Iran following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, which helped drove Israel’s soldiers out of Lebanon. It is an armed group as well as a political party that was established primarily to offer resistance to the Israeli occupation. Since then it has been receiving funds and support from Iran and Syria, hence its willingness to help Assad’s brutal regime in return.
The US State Department claims, Hezbullah is not fighting alongside Assad’s men, but it has assumed “security” duties on the Syrian side of the Lebanese border, preventing creation of a Lebanese-Syrian frontier for the opposition forces. It also provides intelligence services for the Assad’s regime.
Contrary to popular belief, Hezbollah is not recognized as a terrorist organization by most of European countries. This is partly because of its size and capacity to carry out terrorist attacks in Europe and other countries.
It is not clear yet what role Hezbollah wants to play in any future Syrian government. Unlike its presence in Lebanon, Hezbollah is not a Syrian entity and for now its role seems to be limited to protecting Assad and the Alawites.
Hezbollah’s support for the regime further complicates the conflict and makes victory more difficult for the opposition groups. An Iran, Russia and Hezbollah coalition would be difficult to defeat without foreign intervention and without the risk of a wider conflict. Yet, more than 21 months after the uprising began in Syria, the opposition remains fractious and deeply divided.
In October 2012, former Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, a Sunni and a fierce Hezbollah opponent, said political leaders must take a stand to halt Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria, stating “This military involvement in the fighting … would expose Lebanon to unforeseen dangers which it cannot bear and would threaten coexistence in Lebanon, as well as Muslims and Arabs, with unprecedented strife.”
Hezbollah’s opponents claim the organization has been losing supporters, especially from leftist circles, because of its position on Syria.
Hezbollah is extremely organized and well funded. It has heavy weapons and is unlikely to be willing to give them up without a fight. There are calls for it to move under state supervision and allow Lebanese government to control its weapons, but it is doubtful that Hezbollah will ever comply as its power is unassailable, even by the Lebanese army.