Hezbollah and the Future of Syria

The author is a PhD historian, writer and journalist living in Israel.


Despite Hezbollah’s proven record of terrorism, the European Union and most of its member states refuse to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. The reason is that they are afraid of provoking terrorist attacks against themselves and their interests around the world. Their fear is realistic and understandable, although morally and strategically questionable.

Those who believe that Hezbollah – at least its “political wing” — can be pacified and even reconciled fail to comprehend that this is not a case of buying off the bad guys. Hezbollah is an ideological organization; they have a goal and they are committed to it. They may agree to shift, if convenient, but they will not abandon their Jihadist vision and plan.

So far the US and EU have decided to back the radical Sunni-led Islamic opposition. But Hezbollah’s support of President Assad in the Syrian civil war makes that decision problematic, since Assad is fighting not only for himself but for the Alawites and others who would likely face slaughter and/or expulsion under Sunni rule.

As long as Hezbollah supports Assad, and behind them stand Iran and Russia, defeating them would be difficult without foreign intervention and the risk of a wider conflict. Assad knows this and he also knows that he can’t win; he is fighting for a draw, one that will allow him and his followers to survive. Hezbollah is probably the only group that can offer some kind of reliable guarantee.

Hezbollah is fighting not only for a role in any future Syrian government, but also for its status in Lebanon and a wider Iranian presence in a Syrian-Lebanese format. It is not seeking to take over a state, but for a foothold in Syria.  Unlike its presence in Lebanon, Hezbollah is not a Syrian entity; it is protecting Assad and the Alawites.

The question is how much Hezbollah and its patron is willing to invest in order to sustain its position in Syria. Even with a political settlement, non-Sunnis (Alawites, Shiites, Christians and others) will remain a minority; the Kurds will take care of themselves. Despite deep and reasonable mistrust and animosity, however, the stand-off is an opportunity to end the fighting.

Hoping for Assad’s downfall, therefore, is wishful thinking and bad policy. The alternative is to accept Hezbollah as the key to a negotiated settlement. That acceptance would require a change in US policy. It also means giving Hezbollah legitimacy and recognition, at least de facto.

The civil war in Syria may end on the surface, but it will continue underneath. Either Syria will break up into autonomous regions, or it will remain under a divided central government.  Alawites and other minorities may be tolerated, meanwhile, but that seems unlikely in the long run as radical Sunni Islamists become more powerful and depending upon Hezbollah’s role.  Regardless of the final configuration, one issue looms over everything else: the vast stores of chemical and biological weapons.

As long as WMD remain in Syria, there is a potential for enormous tragedy.  Those weapons must be eliminated as a prerequisite for any political settlement.  Ending the civil war must be linked to eliminating stockpiles of those weapons.

Moshe Dann is a PhD historian, writer and journalist living in Jerusalem.

  • http://www.adinakutnicki.com AdinaK

    Not to be lost in the discussion, the region would hardly be on fire, at least to the extent that it is, sans Barack HUSSEIN Obama's footprints. In fact, without his "leading from behind" in Libya (bent on ousting crazy Qadaffi, in favor of his MB Mafia), and his unleashing of said Brothers in Egypt (via the "Arab Spring"), Al Qaeda fronts would not be loose in Syria's opposition, nor lording over Egypt's Sinai.
    http://adinakutnicki.com/2013/02/22/cias-panetta-
    http://adinakutnicki.com/2012/08/13/coming-full-c

    So, the remaining question is:will Assad's Shia patron come out on top, or will the Brotherhood Mafia? Each one a regional nightmare!

    Adina Kutnicki, Israel http://adinakutnicki.com/about/

  • Johann

    "Those weapons (WMDs) must be eliminated as a prerequisite for any political settlement. Ending the civil war must be linked to eliminating stockpiles of those weapons." – Moshe Dann

    I am sorry, but this is not in America's best interest. America has been poisoned and more than once. The Soviets poisoned American political discourse especially at universities. Radical Muslim like CAIR, the PLO, Hamas have followed the lead. There simply not the political capital to do anything constructive even if there were no other problems facing Americans such as the deficit/debt, immigration et al.

    The Israeli air strike that stopped the mass transfer of chemical weapons to Lebanon (for a time) was a beautiful work of military tactics & probably much more. As much as I would like to bask in the glow of that achievement & feel safe, it is not enough.

    Let me spell it out. At the library the other day I say the cover of the magazine "The Nation". They were going after Romney hammer & tongs. In political forums the Iraq war was an illegal war based on lies. Even the Afghan War is illegal (yes the left is becoming braver).

    What we need is one act. One act to change the political discourse and change who has political capital & is willing to spend it to make more.

    We need to know that a substantial quantity of WMDs came from Iraq to Syria. This information needs to be multi-sourced & nigh unimpeachable. It cannot be a lie.

    You want what you want? Then you have to engage in regime change in the U.S.

    You do not have to invade. You do not have lobby. You do not even have to be here. Just the truth will do.

    Is regime change wrong? President William Jefferson Clinton sent his campaign advisors to Israel to affect the Israeli elections. Turnabout is fair play.

    You do what you can. You cannot get the goods on the Iraqi WMDs then I say FU. We cannot help. We are bailing here in America as fast as we can & it is not enough. Myself I have considered stealing records, to publish them, to show what reprobates some politicians are, to try to affect things.

    You are a PHD. You buttonhole some Israeli politician(s) & Git 'r done.

    • Johann

      Mossad has done amazing things.

      They have had high ranking spies in the Syrian hierarchy.

      I believe it is near impossible to get near the WMDs in Syria. The Russians were are are guarding them. Some have been transported to Lebanon.

      The left in the U.S. pummels the body politic with the concept of original sin of the Founding of the U.S. Since then the American conduct of foreign affairs has been abominable according to the left.
      Not one thing will erase these stains according to the left except for the left being in charge.

      One of those stains is Bush lied about the WMDs. It colors the discourse on how to cope with Islamic terror or if we should fight back.

      The left will continue to hamstring the U.S. in this fight until we change the narrative (to the truth) & politically defeat the left. Economical issues can only be addressed by domestic politicians & parties.

      Foreign issues can be affected by outsiders. To show the "Bush lied" narrative is false would win 1/2 the battle.

      Now Baruch Obama will not order anybody in the U.S. military to get hold of the Syrian WMDS & publish the truth about the Iraqi origin of a great many of them.

      It must come from outside the U.S. system.

      If Israel wants to keep the U.S. as an ally, they must make their own luck.

      Otherwise it is all spitting in the wind. $crew U.

  • Indioviejo

    I'd say the professor did not explore further the dismemberment of Syria, and even Iraq and Turkey with its large Kurdish enclave. Is it viable? Is it helpful? I am not an authority in anything, but on the surface I believe the breakup would bring further conflict among the factions, and that has to benefit the world at large.

    • John

      I believe that the creation of a Kurdish state would be a benefit to the Kurds & the world in the long run.

      In the short run it would mean more bloodshed.

      In the long term by sticking up for themselves the Kurds could make sure the Middle East remains to multi-ethnic and therefore tolerant to some extent.

      • defcon 4

        It might remain "multi-ethnic" but it wouldn't contribute a whit to a religious plurality, the vast majority of kurds are muslims and the kurds in Turkey were complicit in the genocide and enslavement of some 2.5 million Armenian and Assyrian Christians there.

        • John

          Yes the vast majority of Kurds are Muslims & are complicit in Genocide.

          I won't deny that.

          I should have written more carefully and said may instead of would.

          It may be no more difficult than the Turks, Kurds & Arabs all hating each other taking time out to kill all non-Muslims & then go back to hating each other.

          I was just thinking if the place was not monolithic it might allow indigenous minorities to flourish. But that does not necessarily follow from the psychology of groups.

          I will admit your scenario is MUCH more likely than mine.

          Islam is not the answer. There are royal tribes with in the Muslim community that are more Muslim than thou. Even without that the Arabs are always more Muslim then thou.

          Knowledge without wisdom is a waste.

          Apes (I include nonMuslims in that) with tech is a recipe for a Dying Earth.

  • UCSPanther

    I view Hezbollah's flag in the same light as the swastika…

    • John

      Actually about 2006 Time (it could have been Newsweek or U.S. News & World Report that I viewed waiting in the dentists office) magazine ran an article on Hezbollah including their youth camps that showed them wearing arm bands reminiscent of the NAZIs & Hitler Youth.

      So liberal journalists & photographers researched it, photographed it, published & promptly developed collective amnesia.

      Along with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem meeting with Hitler this should be enough to convict in any court of public opinion.

  • κατεργάζομαι

    ~ "The land of Israel belongs to God, and He has decided to give it to the Jewish nation,
    in accordance with the covenant sealed on Mount Sinai, a covenant that no other nation
    was willing to undertake. After a long exile, we've returned home. We bear no malice toward anyone
    and seek no harm to anyone. But we will not surrender any portion of our land to foreign powers,
    and if foreigners rise up against us to destroy us, we will fight against them and,
    with God's help, we will destroy them."

    ~ Martin Wasserman

    Hezb'allah terrorists have assisted President Assad's forces in the Syrian civil war almost from the beginning.
    .
    Hezb'allah is taking a calculated risk in openly joining the fight for Assad's survival. Given the stakes for their paymasters in Iran, it's hardly surprising.

    Until a nation has embraced Islam, it is legally considered a battlefield (Dar-ul-Harb).

  • κατεργάζομαι

    RE: INFILTRATE, OVERWHELM, SUBJUGATE AND THEN DEVOUR…….

    Today It's the Gun and the Qur'an (Koran)…
    Tomorrow It Will Be Nukes and the Qur'an

    Over the last 1400 years, 270 million non-believers were murdered by Muslim jihadists.

    Islam destroyed the Christian Middle East and Christian North Africa. It is estimated
    that upwards of 60 million Christians were slaughtered during this conquest.

    Also, half the Hindu civilization was annihilated and 80 million Hindus murdered.
    Islamic jihad also destroyed over 10 million Buddhists.

    In other words, Islam is a killing machine.