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Hanin Ghaddar

Hezbollah's new mission

The Party of God’s new role is beyond Lebanon

Kola burns

When Yabroud fell, Hezbollah celebrated its victory over Syria’s “takfiris, reassuring its constituency that its success will stop Al-Qaeda from sending suicide bombers to Lebanon’s Shiite-inhabited areas. Celebratory gunfire rang through Lebanese streets, and a widespread propaganda campaign in Party-affiliated media tried to convince Lebanese that Yabroud’s fall was to their benefit. Hezbollah invested much in this victory, but the cost will ultimately fall heavily on both Sunnis and Shiites.

 

The intimidation of the Sunnis

 

Mere news of victory was not enough: Hezbollah needed to prove that its conquest of Yabroud would bear fruit on the ground in Lebanon. The Lebanese people, mainly the Shiite community, had stopped buying into theatrical propaganda after the bodies of their friends, brothers, and children started returning from Syria. So the Party of God used its allies and gangs – the Resistance Brigades – to terrorize several Sunni-inhabited neighborhoods and towns that are described by Hezbollah’s propaganda machine as operational centers for the terrorists threatening Lebanon’s security.

 

As soon as Yabroud fell, Arsal was immediately besieged, later to be submitted to a scrutinizing security campaign. Tripoli simultaneously descended into yet another round of clashes that took more than 25 lives. And last but not least, Beirut’s Tariq al-Jadideh neighborhood witnessed an outbreak of violence between local residents and Hezbollah allies.

 

Whether intentionally or not, these recent incidents indicate two things: first, the victory in Yabroud – and any subsequent Hezbollah victories in Syria – will eventually lead to a sectarian war in Lebanon; and second, Hezbollah has transformed in the past two years from a Lebanese resistance group into a Shiite sectarian militia that could be deployed anywhere in the region to serve Iranian interests.

 

Hezbollah’s new mission

 

The moment it entered Syria to fight beside Bashar al-Assad, Hezbollah effectively accepted a new position as a regional force. It seems that the Party of God’s role in “resisting Israel” has become passé.  Evidence of this are leaked reassurances sent by Hassan Nasrallah to Israel last year saying that Lebanon's southern border is "the safest in the world," according to a Syrian document obtained by Asharq Al-Awsat.

 

That’s why Hezbollah did not retaliate when Israel hit one of its bases on the Lebanese-Syrian border last month, instead issuing a statement that the Resistance “will choose the time and place and the proper way to respond to it." Having repeatedly heard this exact line from the Syrian regime whenever an Israeli air strike hit Syrian targets, we all know what this means: an attempt to artfully avoid responding. Hezbollah did not and will not retaliate, and not only because it is too busy in Syria or because it cannot afford to open a front with Israel. Hezbollah did not retaliate because it does not want to. Regional dynamics have changed, and with them Hezbollah’s mission.

 

Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria is not a temporary campaign, and success will not result in the Party’s return to its old role in Lebanon. Instead, this is a new mission that places the Party at a crossroads as much as Syria is at a crossroads, as is Iran itself in light of its nuclear program and negotiations with the West.

 

Iran needs Syria as a bargaining chip in these negotiations, and insists on using it to gain regional power in return for any concessions on its nuclear program. The Islamic Republic is investing in Syria now to gain a better bargaining position, but it will not hesitate to involve itself anywhere else in the Middle East in pursuit of regional dominance. Hezbollah will serve this purpose whenever needed, whether in Lebanon, Syria, or anywhere else in the region.

 

Risks and repercussions

 

When Iran created Hezbollah shortly following the Islamic Revolution in 1979, its goal was to spread political Shiism in the region. It was never “resistance;” rather, resistance was a tool to achieve that goal. Hezbollah’s new mission is simply the next means to achieve the same ends.

 

But for Hezbollah to fulfill its new role, it needs an enemy to fight in order to maintain the support of the Shiite community, as it has lost the aura of heroic resistance it had gained in 2000 and 2006. By fighting this new enemy with such violence and ferocity, Hezbollah became the leading Shiite sectarian militia, working with other regional Shiite groups to kill and terrorize Sunnis, whether Islamists or non-Islamists, militants or civilians.  

 

Today, the only way Hezbollah can claim ultimate victory is if it wins against “the Sunnis,” not only in Syria but in the region as a whole. But in the long run, this is an impossible mission. The Party can live on temporary triumphs by winning battles in Qusayr and Yabroud, but it will ultimately lose the war. The longer their campaign in Syria continues, Hezbollah will find itself dragged steadily further into the sectarian mud. More minor victories will only lead to greater hostility, anger, and radicalism among the Sunnis in Syria and Lebanon, setting in motion a regional sectarian war that was foreshadowed in Beirut last week.

 

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

Sunni demonstrators took to the streets last week to protest the siege of Arsal.

"Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria is not a temporary campaign in which success would cause it to return to its old role in Lebanon."

  • hussein.karhani

    I don't believe in all these things you said about Hezbollah you are really wrong sir and you will remember one of these days that what I said that it is and will be true you are waisting -westing your time in saying all these things about hisbollah I'm not from hisbollah party but I know after all the news I heard about them they are really strong party of God one of them is like twenty(20) soldiers from anywhere in this world they have strong heart courageous even the Angels fight with them against any enemy and their are proof that in 2006 war with Israel that the Angels were fighting with Hisbollah which they are called honestly party of God sincerely I heard that from too many people because they are the real worshipers of God I heard from too many people in Lebanon that this is what happened the Angels were fighting with them can you fight against God or against his Agels sure and certainly you cannot and nobody can at all sir why they call themselves Hesbollah party of God because they know really they are and God is with them and you are free to believe it or not but even that I'm not from Hesbollah party but I believe that they are from party of the only creator Allah soub7anahou ta3alah this experience I have in my mind because I follow all the time all the world news and what I've heard in the 2006 war between Hesbollah and the Israelis . it is not because I love Mr president Bashar al Assad that I'm saying these things but I believe all these things that they've got the power from the only God the only Creator sincerely I believe that and who ever will fight against them it does not matter any country in this world they will win the war it's not just because Iranians only are helping them and giving them weapons but, like I said it is from God the only creator who created seven (7) Skies-Sky if you believe it or believe in it or not this is your problem and who ever does not believe in these things and my best wish to you and who ever don't like them.

    March 28, 2014

  • Fenrir | No God but (...)

    You're really reaching again there girl. We know a Hezbollah man once broke your heart and you've become a woman scorned ever since. I won't break your heart, trust me.

    March 28, 2014

  • COLDAN

    Hanin; an excellent review of where Hezbollah may be heading. As a person who has dealt with and studied events of that region for many years now, I appreciate your candor and simplistic approach to covering Lebanon and Hezbollah. Keep up the good work and realize, as I have, more people need to understand not just what is taking place in the region, but why! Dan S

    March 27, 2014

  • Metnman

    Populist nonsense, lacking any insightful substance, structure or analysis.

    March 26, 2014

  • YoMamma

    Thank you for another wonderful article Hanin. This piece was informative and articulate. You have truly earned your title as the Head Salafist Cheerleader.

    March 26, 2014

  • kohankilletz.segal

    Lebanon needs to get rid of filthy monotheist shit and beg Ba'al and Eshmun for forgiveness.

    March 26, 2014

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    Hezbollah has always been a sectarian Shiite militia and remains so to this date. It was never a Resistance because it lacked national character and because its fight against the so-called Israeli occupation was a facade, a fake cause, invented by the Lebanese Sunni sect to justify conceding Lebanese sovereignty to the PLO, Syria and Egypt ever since 1969. The Sunnis of Lebanon bear a greater responsibility for the Lebanese quagmire today than any other sect. They continued to enable Lebanon's Arab enemies from the late 1960s through 2004. It was only when Assad dragged Hariri to Damascus like his maid, then assassinated him, that the Sunnis suddenly discovered their still-suspect Lebanese nationalism, after having sold Lebanon to every other Arab merchant for 50 years, and after having enabled the creation of Hezbollah and after supporting it for 30 years. As a Lebanese, I consider that both Lebanon's Shiites and Sunnis have destroyed the country for the sake of all other non-Lebanese causes. The only Lebanese to have genuinely tried to preserve Lebanon were the Christians. The Christians first made the Lebanon of the glory days, the envy of the Arabs, the jewel of the region...Just look at the place from the 1930s through the 1960s (under Christian rule), then compare and contrast with the 1970s through today (under Muslim rule), and you'll know who first built Lebanon, and who then "re-educated" it back into the filth of Arab brotherhood.

    March 25, 2014

  • YoMamma

    Shutup racist. The only people who destroyed the country are moron's like you.

    March 26, 2014

  • samuel

    Another biased article. Complete lack of any credibility. Its actually laughable.

    March 25, 2014

  • mjay

    another horribly biased piece. there have actually been multiple border attacks on IDF patrols since the alleged airstrike (which nobody took responsibility for, except for an almost laughable claim by Daesh), information that you chose to ignore. And there's no such thing as a Lebanese resistance. it's a shia resistance through and through. do you think the shia are dumb to trust their fellow Lebanese with their security and safety? Lebanese have a worse history of sectarianism than any other group of middle easterners. The South Lebanon Army was more treacherous than the IDF, eager and willing to torture and subjugate their fellow Lebanese during the occupation of South Lebanon. During the 2006 war, many Lebanese were cheering the IDF silently, despite the fact that more than 1,000 civilians (mostly Shia) were killed in just a month. And now you have takfiri cheerleaders, who try to justify every car bomb in Dahieh with the Syria argument (funny, most of the suicide bombers have been Lebanese and Palestinians, not a single Syrian). So not surprisingly, the shia community will continue to insulate itself from the rest of Lebanese society and continue to operate semi-autonomously. despite all the hate from the rest of Lebanese society, however, the shia have historically always focused their attention on external enemies, real or imagined. that's why a civil war is unlikely to happen, because no matter how many bombers the salafists send to dahieh and hermel, the only response will be heard in Syria.

    March 25, 2014

  • keti.raicheva

    HEZBOLLAHS DIRECTION MUST GOING TO THE PRISON ! HEZBOLLAHS DIRECTION MAKE SO MUCH CRIMES- KIDNAPPING, TORTUTE AND KILL PEOPLES ! HEZBOLLAHS DIRECTION KILL BULGARIAN PEOPLES IN BURGAS ! CONGRATULATION FOR HARIRI AND GEAGEA !CONGRATULATIONS FOR PRESIDENT OF LEBANON SULEIMAN! CONGRATULATIONS FOR PRISONERS!!! LEBANESE INSTITUTIONS NO SAVE HUMAN RIGHTS OF THE ALL PRISONERS IN LEBANON!!! Lebanese Institutions must SAVE HUMAN RIGHTS TO ALL PRISONERS IN LEBANESE PRISONS!!! Lebanon is CULTURAL ARABIC CENTRE OR NO? WHY LEBANON INSTITUTIONS NO SAVE HUMAN RIGHTS TO PRISONERS? Our relative Talal Khalil-63 years old stay INNOCENT AND VERY ILL IN PRISON "ROUMIEH" in Beyrut, Lebanon! My husband Talal Mohamed Khalil with heart hit and with Bronhopneumonia in Prison Roumieh! Talal must goo faster to the hospital!!! Talal Khalil MUST SAT AT LIBERTY! Talal Mohamed Khalil is INNOCENT AND MUST BE A FREEDOM! Hezbollahs Direction make LEBANON TO BIG PRISON!!! Hezbollah kidnapped Talal Khalil on the 25.11.2012y. Hezbollah maked 65 DAYS TORTURE to MY BULGARIAN HUSBAND TALAL MOHAMED KHALIL!!! Hezbollah has NO RIGHTS KIDNAP AND TORTURE PEOPLES! Why Lebanese Institutions ALLOW to Hezbollah make so much CRIMES! Hezbollahs Direction MAKE SO MUCH CRIMES IN LEBANON!!! Hezbollahs Direction must FASTER GOO TO THE PRISON!!! HEZBOLLAH IS NO LEBANESE COURT OR POLICE! WHERE IS STATE LEBANESE INSTITUTIONS THAT MUST SAVE HUMAN RIGHTS IN LEBANON? Talal Khalil stay in Prison Roumieh ONE YEAR AND THREE MONTHS WITHOUT EVIDANCE OF CRIME! HAVE NO JUSTICE IN LEBANON! We continue make PROTESTS ON THE FRONT LEBANESE EMBASSY IN BULGARIA AND GERMANY!!! EVRY DAY WE WRITING TO EUROPEAN MEDIA AND INSTITUTIONS FOR UNJUST ACTS IN LEBANON! We continue OUR STRUGGLE EVRY DAY FOR TALALS KHALIL FREEDOM!!! European Citizens :Katy Raytcheva Khalil- Talals Khalil wife, Cristina Borisova, Anelia Ruseva, Nicolay Grigorov ,Daniel Grigorov,Kamelia Borisova ,Jordan Kirov and another Europeans Bulgarian Citizens February 28,

    March 24, 2014

  • YoMamma

    Can you stop typing the same garbage over and over. Talal is a criminal and that is why he is in prison.

    March 26, 2014