Hanin Ghaddar

The imminent Hezbollah-Nusra war

Lebanon will become al-Nusra’s alternative battlefield


The Syrian Salafist group Jabhat Al-Nusra declared in Jordan that it has set the confrontation with Hezbollah militants in Syria as a top priority. Jordan-based al-Qaeda-affiliate Mohammad Al Shalabi, alias Abi Sayyaf, said that Jabhat al-Nusra has taken a decision to fight Hezbollah militants, who have become "our Jihadists’ main target" across Syria.


This came after Hezbollah’s secretary general Hassan Nasrallah declared last week that Hezbollah will stand by Syria and help it become a state of resistance. He announced that Hezbollah is ready to receive any sort of qualitative weapons even if it is going to disrupt the regional balance.  


For the Syrian rebels, al-Nusra and others, this is a declaration of war against them, knowing that what Nasrallah really means is that Hezbollah is now in charge of Syria, upon Iran’s decision. Hezbollah and Iran are running the show and if the Syrian rebels want to prevail, they need to target Hezbollah, not Assad or the Syrian regime.


Assad has been pushed to the background to make way for Hezbollah. Therefore, it is not strange that Al-Nusra has decided to shift its priority to fighting Hezbollah as its main enemy.


Al-Nusra’s main mission is not to free Syria of its dictatorship and move to build a modern democratic state. Their goal is the umma and they will fight the enemies of the umma wherever they are. Therefore, their fight against Hezbollah will not stay in Syria and will eventually move to Lebanon. They do not differentiate between Hezbollah and the Shiite community just as they do not differentiate between Assad and Alawites. 


This will lead to two dangerous consequences for Lebanon.


One, Shiites will be targeted by al-Nusra and other Sunni jihadist groups, especially that the sectarian tension among Lebanese Sunnis and Shiites has already reached unprecedented levels. In fact, while Hezbollah sends its fighters to Syria, many Lebanese Sunni groups are also moving to Syria to fight alongside the rebels.


What’s happening is that the Lebanese Sunni-Shiite civil war is already taking place, but in Syria. It is only a matter of time before it moves to Lebanon. These fighters will return to Lebanon with increased hatred toward each other; hatred rigged with blood and a desire for revenge.


Al-Nusra are not organized enough to fight against Hezbollah in a conventional war, but they could cause great damage by organizing bomb attacks and suicide bombers against Hezbollah’s bases and public squares in the southern suburbs of Beirut or the South.


Their fighting tactics are usually based on bomb attacks, not bombing cities with rockets. They are an al-Qaeda-affiliated group, and they don’t usually dissociate between a militant and a civilian. They just target a place aiming at the maximum damage. Therefore, Hezbollah’s supporters and the Shiite community in general will be in danger.


Also, there are plenty of Lebanese jihadist and al-Qaeda-affiliated groups that had a presence in Lebanon before the Syrian conflict and can now be mobilized to target Hezbollah. Organizations like Fatah al-Islam, Jund al-Sham or Osbat al-Ansar have had bases in Lebanon for years, but they never engaged Hezbollah in direct confrontations. However, after the beginning of the Syrian conflict, jihadists reportedly regrouped in a new radical organization inspired by the emergence and successful military operations of Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria.


Two, Lebanon will become al-Nusra’s alternative battlefield. There are no state institutions to control their growing presence in Lebanon or the spread of arms. The current void in government is not helping and Prime Minister designate Tammam Salam seems to be incapable of forming a government that does not meet Hezbollah’s conditions, one that facilitates its involvement in Syria.


So how can we protect Lebanon and the Shiites from the looming disaster?

Let’s start with the reality that the Shiite community in Lebanon is not one single bloc that supports Hezbollah. The diversity among the Shiites is wider than it is among other sectarian communities, for religious reasons related to the diversity of religious references (Marja’) and different interpretations of the Qur’an. On the political level, this community has never been as divided over Hezbollah as it is today. The feeling that Hezbollah is dragging them to hell is translating into serious discussion and refutation inside the community.


There is an urgent need to repeat this over and over. Every Lebanese official and media outlet should aim to highlight this diversity. Hezbollah will not save the Shiites. They have already determined that Lebanon and all the Lebanese will have to sacrifice their lives for their mission to serve Iran and its interests in the region. The Lebanese need to save themselves.


That’s why it is also important to safeguard Lebanon today by fighting Hezbollah’s hegemony over state institutions. A government that empowers Hezbollah and maintains Iran’s control over state institutions should not be an option. PM-designate Tammam Salam and President Michel Suleiman should not succumb to any threats. A government to save Lebanon is urgently needed now, more than ever.


If this is not achieved, Lebanon will be naturally linked to Hezbollah and the Hezbollah-Nusra war will not spare anyone. If we lose this chance, we lose everything.


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


Read this article in Arabic

Jabhat al-Nusra fighters at a rally in Syria. (AFP photo)

"The diversity among the Shiites is wider than it is among other sectarian communities, for religious reasons related to the diversity of religious references (Marja’) and different interpretations of the Qur’an."

  • Lil Asaf

    From your comment, I gather that you are assuming I am uncivilized while you believe yourself as blessesd with this quality. I also understand that I just might want to learn how to reach that high status with your help. Thank u very much, Mr. hate Moslems and blame them on all thats messed up in the universe? And please dont insult my intelligence or memory! I was living in Lebanon during all the recent wars and I do recall quite well how the "civilized" Christians, sorry creators of the Jewel of the East, behaved during the civil war! All tbose heavily involved in that or in any war cant remain "civilized", even if they dont belong to a religious sect you favour. And again, please stop blaming Palestine and the Palestinians for all ur woes. The Lebanese were bound to slaughter each other with or without the Palstinians' meddling, which should never have happened, or by supporting or not supporting the Palestinian cause. As long as there are people in Lebanon who are unwilling to learn how to be objective, empathic and smart then this scenario will be repeated every few years with minor changes in plot, cast and setting! N.B. Thank God not all humans are defeatists or we would be having this "civilized" argument either in Turkish or in a totally different manner altogether!

    May 31, 2013

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    Those who find nothing better than repeat the decades-old "blame Israel" game are the ones burying their heads in the sand. Blaming Israel is the easiest cop out to avoid assuming your own responsibility for the destruction of your country. It is the mantra of all the dictators in the Arab-Muslim world: I need to oppress you and deny you your human rights and jail your dissidents etc... because I am standing up to Israel. I need to destroy Lebanon in order to liberate f------ Palestine. All the horrendous things that Arabs and Muslims do their themselves and to their own people are justified by the need to "fight ISrael". Meanwhile, Israel has been around for almost a century, the dictators are still in power, Palestine is gone for ever, and the only one suffering are us, the little ordinary people and citizens tof the Arab world, while the dictator is making deals under the table with Israel itself. The Assad regime is the perfect example of what I just described. Stop blaming Israel, and start blaming yourself if you ever want to become civilized.

    May 21, 2013

  • Lil Asaf

    Again, I read the comments here and I feel what a great loss! People, wake up and smell the stench of your pathetic bigotry! As I recall, the destruction of Lebanon was done by the collective and joint effort of all the present sects and religions of its people. Surely Moslems were not the only group to blame. The Maronites and Druze have done a great job themselves. Really I feel obliged to give them all a standing ovation. But lets not forget the outside forces who have always meddled in this country's affairs due to the power hungry Lebanese leaders who are clueless to the meanings of patriotism and morality and to the whole relgion based system that none of them really wants to change. And please let us all try to remember one crucial truth, the State of Isreal! When u mess with life, when u mess with nature, when u mess with karma, u must know in advance that you're going to breed a monster and/or a deadly type of cancer! Burying your heads in the sand and seeing part of the picture if any at all does not allow you to make sound judgments and/or logical comments!

    May 20, 2013

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    The only ones to blame for this situation in Lebanon are the Sunis of Lebanon. The first phase of the Lebanese War (1973-1990) was itself a Lebanese Sunni war (using the PLO as their army, the Arab Army of Lebanon of defector Ahmad Al-Khatib, etc) against the State. The second phase began with the signing of the Taif Accord in which the Sunnis gained preeminence in the Lebanese system. From that point on, it was the Sunni Saudi-Lebanese hybrid Hariri and his empire that backed Hezbollah, waived the disarmament and dismantling clause of Taif for Hezbollah, worked hand in hand with the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, and enshrined the platform on which the Lebanese state operates today: Sacrifice Lebanon for all other Muslim-Arab causes. Had Hariri stood on national and patriotic principles, had he had the foresight to really salvage his country (instead of merely refurbishing a few buildings downtown), he could have saved it from its torment today. Hariri is to blame for our dire conditions because he empowered Hezbollah and the Syrians. He did pay the ultimate price of the collaborator when his masters killed him after he realized his mistake. Looking forward, the Sunni fundamentalists, hand-in-hand with SHiite Hezbollah, will continue the destruction of Lebanon, thanks to the "moderate" Sunnis of Lebanon. Lebanon was the jewel of the Middle East when the Christians ran the place. Look at it today, run down by the Muslims. What a pathetic history.

    May 20, 2013

  • Zionix

    Nasrallah made the right choice, as always... If Nusra wins in Syria, Lebanon will be next in line for their attacks anyway, since they're Israeli proxies bent on detabilising the enemies of Israel... Hezballah is far better off to be proactive and fight Nusra in a position of force with the help of the Syrian army outside Lebanon than wait for them to be attacked on Lebanese soil with all the weapons captured in Syria... Without Hezballah, Lebanon would still be under the boot of Israel: all clear thinking Lebanese should be grateful to Hezbollah and support its actions, instead of complaining, bitching and moaning...

    May 20, 2013

  • Big Dog

    Many years ago, Lebanon used to be a majority Christian nation, and if I'm not mistaken, it was know as "the jewel of the Levant". That ended when Shia woman started having 8 babies , the Sunni 5 and the Christians 2. Did'nt take long for Christians to become a minority and the country went to hell in a handbasket.

    May 20, 2013

  • jossef.perl

    The ability of the Arab countries to hold themselves together and cover over the internal conflicts between Suni, Shia, Druz and other sects, by diverting everyone's attention toward the common cause of fighting Israel, has lasted 65 years. But all lies have limited life spans; eventually lies are exposed. Hezbollah was successful in driving Israel out of south Lebanon, but Nassralah and his minion got addicted to power and refused to declare victory and work toward a unified proseperous Lebanon; instead they decided to become a tool of Iran's Republican Guard against the interest of their own country. Now, even Shia Lebanese are seeing Hezbollah for what it is. Unfortunately, it is too late to prevent Lebanon from becoming the battleground between Sunis and Shias. This battle will take decades and will end only when Sunis, Shias and other muslim sects will learn to resolve their differences peacefully (as Christians learned 250 years ago during Reformation); then the world will be a better place for everyone.

    May 19, 2013

  • Lil Asaf

    The funny or maybe tragic thing here is reading ur comments and I mean All the comments. All those eloquent "commentors" were so busy expressing their hatred, born and bred by preconceived ideas, that none really had anything helpful to offer and all missed the big picture! Its really a pity reading such comments coming from people obviously well educated and well versed yet closed minded and immature. We have saying in Arabic that fits the situation here to a T, those who are fortunate or maybe unfortunate enough to know our tongue, the saying goes something like this: ya raytkon.... wala 7keetou. Those who dont know Arabic, Im sure you have other pressing matters in ur own countries to worry about or if ur really that concerned about our issues which are mostly caused by your own countries, learn Arabic and while ur at it, learn a bit of our history, the real events that is!

    May 18, 2013

  • saynotosectarism

    Lebanon is a sovereign state internally? Certainly not. The internal sovereignty exists only when the State is the sole holder of power. The existence of a parallel military force like Hezbollah is a threat to all Lebanese society and its institutions. But there is hope .... the strategic mistake of Hassan Nasrallah to support the criminal regime of Bashar al-Assad may be the end of Hezbollah. Hezbollah is no longer seen as a righteous force but as Syrian babes killers.

    May 17, 2013

  • samuel

    Sam from Boston... Your comments are foolish. No one said they support those religious bastards you speak of.... that rape their daughters. Stop mixing things together. You are simply unable to support a strong Lebanese state - one that doesn't succumb to a military party (no matter how divine their cause was) or another state. Debates are useless with people like you.

    May 16, 2013

  • ACraigs

    Sam from Boston is an idiot who does not represent American interests. Ms. Ghaddar has written an insightful piece, but, unfortunately, the message will be lost. Hezbollah will reap for Lebanon what they have sown, and Lebanon will suffer yet again for having failed to contain and moderate Hezbollah. When will the rest of Lebanon realize that Iran is their worst enemy? Lebanon used to be the jewel of the Middle East and could be yet again. The Hezbollah/Iran/Syria "Resistance Front" aimed at Israel brings only misery to the rest of Lebanon. Make peace with your neighbors and keep your enemies (Iran) far away.

    May 16, 2013

  • Tony-Farris

    Sam from Boston... Aren't you one of hizbCocaine sleeper cell? How about your mutt3a, isn't that worse than Wahhabi ?

    May 16, 2013

  • Tony-Farris

    To all those idiot who commented against the author of the article. We're do you think hizbCocaine is taking you? A terrorist organization following the mullah of Iran, is not a Lebanese patriots. They're Farsi scumbags like you all.

    May 16, 2013

  • sam from boston

    what a loser u r, keep dreaming for savior from ur bin ladens of z world or ur wahhabi masters, z ones that rape their 5 year old daughters & say its his religious duty, yeah those bastards.........

    May 15, 2013

  • sam from boston

    what a boat load of crap ur imagination dreams.

    May 15, 2013

  • markd

    In the paragraph before last, you mean a "A government that empowers Hezbollah and maintains Iran’s control over state institutions should [NOT] be an option." You forgot that part.

    May 15, 2013