Hanin Ghaddar

A history of blood and death

As Nasrallah declared a new victory in Syria, expect more bloodshed to follow

Nasrall in the Dahiyeh.

Hezbollah’s history has been marked by blood, and each achievement marred with death. Each victory – divine or not – has been commemorated despite its heavy price. This week, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah appeared twice – in flesh – to declare a new victory, marked yet again not only with blood, but more importantly with intense sectarian animosity.


Nasrallah, confident in a diplomatic breakthrough between the US and Iran, seemed sure his party’s strength in the region will only grow. He denied that a nuclear agreement between Tehran and the P5+1 powers would force Iran to abandon Hezbollah in a quid-pro-quo deal, stressing that any diplomatic measures would not only prevent war, but also strengthen Hezbollah’s regional influence.


Nasrallah’s repeated public appearances also suggest a growing confidence in his safety and in Hezbollah’s survival, guaranteed by a potential US-Iran deal. He is saying to all his opponents that Iran – and now the US more indirectly – will protect Hezbollah.


Recent diplomatic breakthroughs, however, are anything but a success. They will entail more death in Syria, starting from Aleppo, Qalamoun, and eventually spreading to the Damascus suburbs. Nasrallah only cares about his party’s interests first, which is an unceasing control over Lebanon and Syria. Unfortunately, his ambitions will only entice more sectarian hatred.


Let’s say for argument’s sake that the Syrian revolution fails. It doesn’t mean that Assad will win. Instead, it will mean more sectarian war and bloodshed. But of course, this is not the US’s main priority, which is stopping Iran’s nuclear program despite all the terrible repercussions of Iran’s hegemony in the region, and the sectarian wars it is creating.


If Iran becomes America’s friend, the need for revenge against Iran for its role in Syria might not spare the US. Nor will it spare the region’s Shiites, either, and Hezbollah’s quarters and constituency in Lebanon stand to suffer most.


Let’s do the math. 20.8% out of 814,000 Syrian refugees registered with the UNHCR in Lebanon are males between 18 and 59 years old. This is around 170,000. Even if only 10% decide to take matters in their own hands following Hezbollah and Assad’s victory in Syria, that’s 17,000 mostly Sunni men ready to carry arms and fight Hezbollah and the Shiites. Recruiting them won’t be difficult, especially as living conditions are poor and continually deteriorating.


All of this is a recipe for civil strife.  


Already, past Hezbollah victories bore major consequences. In 2006, a war with Israel led to a significant loss of life and immense infrastructure damage. In 2008, even though Hezbollah may have kept its arms and telecommunication networks after the May incidents, the party lost its credibility as a resistance movement in the process. In each instance, Hezbollah’s victories have come at the expense of Lebanon’s stability and state institutions.


And so, even if the US-Iran deal bears fruition, the US must pay attention to the regional implications of a diplomatic move. With Hezbollah in power, peace is a far-fetched option.


For a party that has depended on blood and war, how can it be satisfied with a peaceful and diplomatic outcome? Hezbollah, without the prospect of war, will lose its raison d'être, its justification for arms, and the core purpose of its existence.


Clearly, Hezbollah isn’t interested in peace. The party knows that it has aroused hatred from Sunnis across the region after getting involved in Syria. And with the prospect of a US-Iran deal, the party knows the West may no longer check Hezbollah’s regional sway.


Now that Hezbollah is fighting al-Qaeda in Syria, the party may seem more favorable to the US. But as long as Hezbollah and Iran back the Assad regime, more al-Qaeda fighters and support will prop up across the country. A Hezbollah-Iran-Assad victory in Syria will therefore only lead to stronger al-Qaeda networks in both Lebanon and Syria.


How is this not a greater concern for the US?


Hanin Ghaddar is managing editor of NOW. She tweets @haningdr

Nasrallah gives a speech in Beirut's southern suburbs to commemorate Ashura. (AFP photo)

"as long as Hezbollah and Iran back the Assad regime, more al-Qaeda fighters and support will prop up across the country."

  • Vlad Tepes

    This is all just speculation. If Assad wins (and he will), we are talking about a great transition of power. A middle east where the powers that once were are no longer as credible. A place where the oil giants are pissing their pants, and where al-Queda is not the force to be reckoned with that it once was. Syrian refugees will return and face either judgment for being calaous enemies, or seek greater prosperity. Hezbollah will be rejuvinated to take it's place among the greatest of fighting forces, right up there with Sparta and Rome. They will no longer hate the US but have a respect for the powerful nation for it's steadfastness in not becoming a Zionist sideshow. Lebanon willl also prosper as the fighting factions will stand together to remove the terrotist entities hiding in their midst. it won't all be peaches and cream of coarse, but it is a more likely possibility than the drivel you just spewed through your computer screen.

    November 20, 2013

  • Metnman

    dude! what have you been smoking?

    November 21, 2013

  • koukijack

    well said beiruti : it is time the lebanese get ready for lebanon liberation battle to excise the cancer , enough intimidation nd pointing fingers ..

    November 16, 2013

  • Beiruti

    This is all very speculative, whether there will be a negotiated settlement to the Iranian nuclear issue; whether Hezbollah's survival is made a part of the deal, or will be the price paid to get the deal; and whether the regime wins the Syrian war. All very speculative. More than likely, the Obama Administration will go for a negotiated settlement with Iran, but the US will, in order to placate the pro-Opposition camp in the US Congress, extract as a cost of the deal that Iran end its support of Hezbollah. Iran, let us remember, keeps Hezbollah and Assad as strategic assets, military trip wires to be used in the event of confrontation with Israel over its nuclear development program. If the program proceeds to development in an environment of conflict, these two assets are essential for Iran to maintain strategic leverage over Israel. But, if the Iranian nuclear program can find a path forward through negotiated resolution, then Hezbollah and Assad are bargaining chips to be sold in order to cement the deal. Nasrallah is well aware of this and so he keeps saying that Iran will never sell him and Hezbollah, because he knows down deep that this is not the truth. However, this makes Hezbollah even that more dangerous for Lebanon. Hezbollah will not go away if it loses its Iranian umbilical cord, rather, it will need to sustain itself directly off of the life blood of its host state, Lebanon. Hezbollah will move to supplant and replace State Instutitutions in Lebanon in order to survive, post Iranian tutilage. Unless the other 75% of the Lebanese want to live under this regime of death and blood, it best get ready to exise the cancer in the near future.

    November 16, 2013

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    ...and how do you propose that a failed, divided state like Lebanon excise the cancer? It is doubtful that the Lebanese army will ever be used willingly for that purpose: the norm has been that you never use the army in any inter-sectarian conflict because that will doom the country as a whole. The army has always been used, if ever, against foreign armies and groups: The PLO in the 1970s, only when the traitor Lebanese Sunnis allowed it; the Syrian army a few times; the Islamic fundamentalists of Nahr El-Bared, many of whom were Syrians and Palestinians. This leaves us with another civil war in which the Sunnis and Christians (what odd bedfellows), and maybe the Druse, will coalesce into a militia to fight the Shiites. Or the Lebanese army may be shoved headfirst deliberately to force its breakdown along sectarian lines, which would then enable some of its brigades to fight Hezbollah, until such time as circumstances allow it to be reassembled (as was done during the army split of the 1970s and its reassembly in the 1990s.) My guess is that Hezbollah will (under some of the scenarios) surrender its weapons in exchange for a higher position in the Lebanese state structure: They may ask for the premiership on demographic grounds. I wager that the Sunnis stand to be the biggest losers in the next battle, just as the Christians were in the pre-Taif battles.

    November 16, 2013

  • koukijack

    great article , thank you ... i hope one day we will get rid of this party that is taking lebanon to the stone age ... i wonder why they are not called " traitors" , they dont hide the fact , they get orders directly from from Iran ,? isnt this , admitting that they are committing the high treason ?

    November 16, 2013

  • Metnman

    If anyone can make any sense of this article they are a genius? I could not understand a word of Ghaddar's poor English ("in flesh"????). It was just another hastily typed out anti-hezbollah rant, which I wouldn't mind...if I could just understand it.

    November 16, 2013

  • Vlad Tepes

    Well said METNMAN, well said.

    November 20, 2013