Since its inception, Hezbollah has probably not experienced such a nightmare. Of course, the Syrian regime is crumbling, and that is the core of Hezbollah’s trouble, but locally, its aura seems to be fading as well. Without that appeal, the party cannot hold up. Is the end near?
There is no good reason why Hezbollah leaders should not be panicking. The winds of change coming from the northern borders are going to turn everything upside down for the Party of God. Its friends are either losing credibility or just moving away from the party of double standards. Meanwhile, the ludicrous stances and hasty behavior of its leaders are costing the party its main support base: the Lebanese Shia community.
Let’s take a closer look. In his many redundant speeches, Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah has been adamant about supporting the Assad regime of Syria. A few years ago, when Nasrallah made a speech, almost everyone in Lebanon would leave whatever they were doing to listen to what he had to say. His words made headlines and caused serious transformations on the Lebanese political scene. Today, we stopped bothering for two reasons. One, he says almost nothing new; and two, he does not seem capable of understanding the real transformations taking place in the region.
On a more crucial level, reports of Hezbollah fighters’ bodies being returned from doing battle in Syria over the past few months, although not technically verified till now, have caused a feeling of bitterness among the supporters of the “Resistance.” Resisting Israel is one thing, but killing innocent Syrian women and children is something else.
But that’s not all. As the Syrian revolution unfolds, Hezbollah’s main support base, the Shia community, keeps being reminded by the party that it is the most virtuous, most spotless and most righteous in the region.
The Party of God supports a dictator and his band of murderers. And recently, according to a number of emails revealed by the Guardian newspaper, Assad and his gang have outed themselves as stupid, corrupt and drowning in vanity. Assad, a “supporter of the resistance,” as Hezbollah constantly describes him to justify its backing of the regime, is spending his time shopping for extravagant stuff and looking at naked photos online.
Hezbollah members and their families are similarly being accused of corruption and abusing their power to get richer. Recently, Hesham and Jihad al-Moussawi – brothers of Hezbollah MP Hussein Moussawi – went into hiding after they were accused of producing and distributing drugs, according to Lebanese channel MTV. At the same time, in South Lebanon, people started referring to Hezbollah as the Taliban after it banned the sale of alcohol in many southern towns and cities.
On the political level, when the current cabinet was formed, everyone perceived it as Hezbollah-controlled. It was thought that the party controlled the PM and all ministers. Today, Prime Minister Najib Mikati cannot be considered completely under Hezbollah’s control.
Mikati’s under-the-table support for Syrian refugees in Tripoli and his recent stances in support of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon gave him a rather autonomous image, whether or not it is accurate.
As for Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, it is needless to say that his recent stances vis-à-vis the Syrian regime have gained him more credibility among the Syrian and Lebanese who are against both Assad and Hezbollah.
Jumblatt has certainly made a slow but complete turn against the Syrian regime, which means that, as one of the main politicians who determines the political majority in Lebanon, he is stepping outside the orbit of Hezbollah.
On the anniversary of his father’s death on Friday, Jumblatt made a move that won him a surge of support inside Syria and Lebanon. The act of placing the Syrian Revolution’s flag on the grave of his father, “who was assassinated by the Syrian regime… [relieved my] conscience,” Jumblatt told Al-Arabiya television station on Sunday. “The [Syrian] regime has come to an end,” he added.
The recent statement by the al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah al-Azzam brigade about Jumblatt also does not bode well for Hezbollah. Azzam said that the brigade, which the government has accused of forming a terrorist cell within the Lebanese Armed Forces to carry out attacks against the army, had received an offer by Hezbollah and the Syrian regime to “assassinate Druze leader MP Walid Jumblatt in return for the release of a number of jihadists in Syrian jails.”
So there goes Jumblatt, Hezbollah’s most precious win since the May events of 2008. In terms of the upcoming parliamentary elections of 2013, the future looks grim for the Party of God.
Hezbollah is less popular today, locally and regionally, than it was a year ago. It is corrupt and supports a dictator, and its leader is not as charismatic as he used to be. It is losing its allies and becoming the subject of jokes by its enemies. No one in their right mind wants to be close to Hezbollah now; it is like the bully at school who no one likes but fears. But eventually, the bully loses his aura and we move on.
Although Hezbollah’s own crumbling is going to take some time, due to its possession of arms and power over state institutions, there are undoubtedly a number of serious threats to its power.
Hanin Ghaddar is the managing editor of NOW Lebanon