From hero to zero

Members of Lebanon's Hezbollah carry the coffin of their comrade Hussein Ahmed Abul Hassan during his funeral in southern Beirut on May 21, 2013. (AFP PHOTO/STR)

Not long ago now, Hezbollah was claiming it was merely fighting in Syria to protect Shiite shrines and those Lebanese living across the border. Now that this is patently not true, and it is obvious the group is heavily entrenched in fighting the rebels, it also appears dangerously clear that Hezbollah is taking Lebanon into the unknown.

Once feted as heroes following its 2006 victory over Israel, Hezbollah is now putting its own future in jeopardy, just as it putting all Lebanese Shiites at risk, along with the country in its entirety.

The party once stood upon a pedestal, admired and revered even by Sunni countries around the region for its legitimate and admirable stance of resistance against an occupier. But now, as it sends its members into battle across the border in an attempt to rout the Syrian opposition from Qusair, it has become all too apparent that though comprised of Lebanese, the party is acting as little more than an extra military wing for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

As the civil war next door continues to destabilize Lebanon – a trend to which the ongoing internecine fighting in Tripoli testifies – Hezbollah’s role is only exacerbating this. Lebanese interests as far as the party is concerned do not trump Iranian interests.

Not only has Hezbollah now fallen from this pedestal, but it is now being viewed with much criticism, with its motives questioned and its principles under great scrutiny. As it claims to speak for and represent the Shiite community as a whole, this sect is also being endangered by its actions, implicitly pitted, as they have now been, against the Sunnis.

The news Tuesday that the EU is planning to blacklist Hezbollah’s military wing – as Israel has been urging it do for months – will also negatively affect the country’s Shiite community, and Lebanon as a whole.

Whether a supporter of Hezbollah or not, it would have been hard, yesterday, to find a Lebanese who had not backed the party’s struggle to liberate areas still under Israeli occupation. But with the laughable claims by the Syrian army that it is now willing and able to liberate the Golan Heights – when, even at the height of its military capabilities it was unable or unconcerned with doing so – the rhetoric used by both Hezbollah and its allies is being much more closely analyzed.

Despite all the Syrian army’s air power and Hezbollah’s extensive urban warfare experience on the ground, they have still had quite a fight on their hands to win back Qusair, a town of 40,000, where the rebels are largely limited to machine guns. And yet they claim to be able to liberate the Golan Heights from Israel, which boasts the strongest army in the region?

No one believes Hezbollah genuinely wants to render itself an enemy to much of the region, or be labeled as a group which sped up the demise of Lebanon. But the way things are going, it looks set to achieve both these things.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 22, 2013, on page 7.




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