Hezbollah will act strategically and play all of its cards in the face of a pending resolution to the bloodshed in Syria, a source close to the party told The Daily Star this week.
Hezbollah will remain undaunted in the face of attempts by regional and local rivals to drag it into a domestic conflict and will exhibit further endurance in dealing with the ever growing challenges ensuing from the crisis next door, the source adds.
But the source believes that Hezbollah’s patience has its limits, although the events of May 2008 – when Hezbollah and its allies took over swathes of west Beirut in response to a government decision to dismantle the group’s private telecommunications network – is unlikely to be repeated. The sectarian clashes that killed more than 80 were widely seen as a black mark in the record of the resistance movement that at one point vowed not to use its weapons on the domestic front.
The source also confides that Hezbollah is well aware that many local and regional players want its head on a plate and the only means to achieve that goal is igniting Sunni-Shiite strife in Lebanon.
Hezbollah also believes that the Future Movement, which enjoys huge financial clout, and Hezbollah, which wields huge military clout, will continue to be at loggerheads for the foreseeable future. This conflict existed long before the Syrian unrest erupted.
But according to the source, if Hezbollah is “intolerably cornered,” it will strike back.
“However, the 2008 scenario will not happen again,” the source says. “Or let’s say that this time Hezbollah will be much more careful.”
The powerful party also discerns the lack of enthusiasm displayed by Western powers for a conflict in Lebanon. This aversion to conflict is “definitely not out of courtesy,” the source explains, “but because a stable Lebanon works in favor of the turmoil in Syria.”
The source says Hezbollah foresees that the conflict in Syria will drag on, but is confident that the “terrorist groups” fighting the regime of President Bashar Assad will eventually surrender.
In addition, the source continues, the international community realizes that any confrontation with Hezbollah will automatically engender repercussions for Israel.
The source argues that the multinational United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon and, surprisingly enough, Israel are actually calmed by the presence of Hezbollah in south Lebanon.
“They will not be as serene if Salafist groups, which never officially declared Israel as an enemy, take over south Lebanon,” the source continues. “Hezbollah’s presence is a guarantor against the rise of extremism.”
On the domestic scene, the source argues that Hezbollah will also maintain the composure it has so far shown, even if that means centrist figures such as President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt gain ground at the expense of the party and its allies in the March 8 coalition.
The source describes centrist figures and parties as “buffers” rather than “decision-makers” whose role merely consists of either defusing tension or obstructing problematic issues that could lead to confrontations.
“When important deals are brokered, centrists no longer count,” the source says. “The biggest slices of the cake go to the biggest players.”