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Hezbollah has no plans to stop fighting in Syria

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)

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah will deliver a speech in the southern town of Bint Jbeil this weekend to mark Resistance and Liberation Day.

Many wonder whether he will make any announcements regarding the party’s military involvement in Syria, in light of recent speculation that Hezbollah is considering retreating from Syria, or at least suspending its military operations in Lebanon’s neighbor.

A high-ranking Hezbollah official confidently told The Daily Star that pulling the party’s troops from Syria “is unlikely and not on the table at all ... We will not withdraw from the Syria fighting at all because it is an existential battle in every sense of the word, and it comes with obligations and sacrifices as large as the danger.”

Hezbollah announced that it was involved in the neighboring conflict in May last year, the same month of the Resistance and Liberation Day, which celebrates the party’s triumph over Israel in 2000 when the country finally ended its occupation of south Lebanon.

According to the party’s opponents, Hezbollah has drowned due to its involvement in Syria, which has dented its popularity, and has also contributed to the incitement of strife between Sunnis and Shiites in the Arab world.

But Hezbollah does not seem too preoccupied with these readings, according to the official, and instead believes that the Syrian battlefield is the real decision maker.

In his speech this weekend, Nasrallah is expected to reaffirm that Hezbollah stands behind its decisions, especially regarding its military role in Syria, which is likely to be heavily discussed in the leader’s speech, including in terms of the party’s fighters’ achievements. Hezbollah does not necessarily feel that the Syrian crisis is a threat to its political agenda, but rather sees it as a real existential danger to essential components of the Arab world.

The official went on to justify the party’s involvement in Syria, saying that when the conflict began, Hezbollah had called for dialogue between the regime and the rebels and did not enter the battlefield.

“But when serious threat began, not to our political resistance program but to the coexistence of the people of the Arab region and with the unprecedented spread of the takfiri danger, there had to be a crucial decision to confront [this], whatever the sacrifices,” he said.

He went on to list the accomplishments on the field, saying that it was perhaps the battle of Qusair in the summer of 2013 that was the most effective. In November, the party, along with Syrian regime forces, attacked the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta and took control of the towns of Nishabieh, Blalieh and Otaibeh. The official said the operation foiled Saudi Prince Bandar Bin Sultan’s plan to topple the regime and led to the fall of the Qalamoun region despite its difficult geographical nature.

“But the party wanted to effectively eliminate the centers that were responsible for producing car bombs and suicide bombers as well as completely severing connection between Syrian rebels and their supporters in Lebanon,” the official explained.

After taking control of Qalamoun, the party’s greatest victory, fighting moved toward Jawbar and Mliha, eventually leading to the regime seizing the main portal to rural Damascus, eastern Ghouta.

According to the official, this further fixed the party’s understanding of the Syrian reality and the aims of the rebels. “ Hezbollah could not stand idly by,” he said.

The party’s battle was not only limited to the military and field operations, but also had political implications and reflections on Lebanon’s domestic political scene and, specifically, the presidential election.

Hezbollah’s victories in Syria are likely to bear numerous results that will emerge soon, according to the official.

First, President Bashar Assad is bound to win in the upcoming presidential election, giving him a mandate to reorganize the political agenda after the failure of Geneva I and II conferences and the retreat of the opposition on field.

Second, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is predicted to head the new Iraqi government.

Third, the U.S.-Iranian negotiations regarding Iran’s nuclear program is expected to bear fruit in June, which would lead to redrawing the political map of the region.

“We will not respond to simplistic and superficial invitations regarding the Syrian crisis,” the official concluded.

“We are engaged in the conflict there until the end, and our withdrawal from there is only a pipe dream as long as the other party has lost bets on the Syrian crisis once and for all.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 23, 2014, on page 3.

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Summary

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah will deliver a speech in the southern town of Bint Jbeil this weekend to mark Resistance and Liberation Day.

Many wonder whether he will make any announcements regarding the party's military involvement in Syria, in light of recent speculation that Hezbollah is considering retreating from Syria, or at least suspending its military operations in Lebanon's neighbor.

Hezbollah announced that it was involved in the neighboring conflict in May last year, the same month of the Resistance and Liberation Day, which celebrates the party's triumph over Israel in 2000 when the country finally ended its occupation of south Lebanon.

The official went on to justify the party's involvement in Syria, saying that when the conflict began, Hezbollah had called for dialogue between the regime and the rebels and did not enter the battlefield.

Hezbollah's victories in Syria are likely to bear numerous results that will emerge soon, according to the official.


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