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Hezbollah assesses its position after Yabroud victory

File - Hezbollah members parade in Teffahta during a ceremony commemorating three slain Hezbollah leaders, Imad Mughniyeh, Abbas Musawi and Sheikh Ragheb Harb, Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

An atmosphere of contentment has settled on Beirut’s southern suburbs as a result of the fall of Yabroud, especially among Hezbollah party leaders, cadres, and partisans, who stress the importance of the achievement on the field.

Hezbollah is now working on analyzing the results and consequences of the military operation on the political arena alongside the latest rushed government developments, which it says are no less important to the party than its fighters’ triumph in Yabroud.

For the party, the most pressing task is to give the southern suburbs peace of mind after the nightmare of rigged cars and suicide bombers, now that it has near-complete control of the terrorism’s Syrian source.

The party leadership feels it has overcome the pressures it has been under as a result of its participation in the fighting in Syria.

The latest information from the field made available to The Daily Star points out that Hezbollah’s fighters are still fighting alongside the Syrian army in an effort to control the entire border region to the east of Lebanon.

This is part of a greater plan by the Syrian army to take control of the border region, including the northern crossings into Syria, according to a high-ranking source in Hezbollah.

The source told The Daily Star: “The process of ending the development of [terrorist] cells and armed groups will keep going in the Qalamoun area until it is completely secured and is geographically linked with [Syria’s] Qalaat al-Hosn, which is close to Akkar on the Lebanese side.”

This field operation, like the political steps that will inevitably follow, is being undertaken by Hezbollah in order to deal with the deteriorating security situation in Beirut and Damascus now that most of the terrorist cells equipping and dispatching rigged car bombs are under control, and those that are not yet caught are being pursued.

Sources close to the party did not reveal much information in this regard but they expressed their happiness with what they called “declared and yet undeclared deterrent measures.”

They denied information about the rumored capture of Sheikh Ahmad Assir and others like him, dismissing such reports as nothing more than media stunts.

So what will the main consequences of the fall of Yabroud be for Lebanon?

Hezbollah cites two very important achievements that it secured before gaining control of the Syrian border area: the complete and public participation of the party in the national unity government, and the inclusion of a commitment to the resistance in the ministerial statement, even if the language was altered to appease the March 14 coalition.

According to Hezbollah, these achievements have set the stage for the party’s accomplishments on the ground, all of which have led decision-makers involved in the Syrian crisis – from the U.S. to the Gulf – to feel that the party and its fighters are on the verge of a new era of success.

The first step in this new era is securing control of the entire Qalamoun area, and then taking hold of the strip connecting Damascus and the strategic governorate of Homs.

According to Hezbollah, this is what forced the policy statement to be drafted as it was, something facilitated by communication between the Future Movement and U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale.

It remains too early to speak of the details of the presidential election and a possible vacuum, according to both Hezbollah and all March 8 parties, although there are rumors that the election will be postponed until September.

Whatever happens, the party’s allies within Lebanon will certainly want to take advantage of Hezbollah’s recent achievements in Yabroud.

Hezbollah believes that no president will be able to overcome Damascus, which is still a strong player in Lebanon, and that the Syrian regime’s achievements on the ground mean that any potential candidate will still have to be approved by the government there, despite the impression that they have left the country.

In light of this, Hezbollah has insisted on fortifying Lebanon through Salam’s prospective government as long as the option of extending President Michel Sleiman’s term has been completely forgone.

Developments in Syria appear to reveal an operation to lock in Assad’s regime through the Syrian presidential elections, which are due to take place this summer, and which will be decisive amid the retreat of French and some Gulf powers from the diplomatic scene after a series of setbacks.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 19, 2014, on page 3.

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Summary

Hezbollah is now working on analyzing the results and consequences of the military operation on the political arena alongside the latest rushed government developments, which it says are no less important to the party than its fighters' triumph in Yabroud.

The latest information from the field made available to The Daily Star points out that Hezbollah's fighters are still fighting alongside the Syrian army in an effort to control the entire border region to the east of Lebanon.

This is part of a greater plan by the Syrian army to take control of the border region, including the northern crossings into Syria, according to a high-ranking source in Hezbollah.

Whatever happens, the party's allies within Lebanon will certainly want to take advantage of Hezbollah's recent achievements in Yabroud.


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