Sunday, May 26, 2013

Nasrallah commits Hizbullah to all-out war for Assad in Syria


From today's New York Times:
BEIRUT, Lebanon — The leader of the powerful Lebanese [Shiite] militant group Hezbollah decisively committed his followers on Saturday to an all-out battle in Syria to defeat the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad. [....]

“It is our battle, and we are up to it,” the leader, Hassan Nasrallah, declared in his most direct embrace yet of a fight in Syria that Hezbollah can no longer hide, now that dozens of its fighters have fallen in and around the strategic Syrian town of Qusayr. Outgunned Syrian rebels have held on for a week there against a frontal assault by Hezbollah and Syrian forces.

Hezbollah has essentially become the ground assault force for the Syrian Army, an unprecedented role for the group, in the battle for Qusayr and Homs Province, which links Damascus with the government’s coastal strongholds. [....] Hezbollah is also fighting near Damascus, Mr. Assad’s other top military priority, around the Sayida Zeinab shrine, a holy site particularly revered by the group’s Shiite Muslims. [....]
The fighting in Syria has already begun to spill over into Lebanon, as part of a region-wide sectarian polarization over the Syrian civil war.  Hizbullah's increasingly open and active involvement in Syria has accelerated this process. In Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli, for example, there have been growing clashes between Alawite militias sympathetic to the (Alawite-dominated) Assad regime and Sunni militias sympathetic to the (overwhelmingly Sunni) Syrian rebels. Today there was a warning shot in Beirut:
Two rockets crashed into southern Beirut suburbs controlled by the Shiite militant group Hezbollah on Sunday, wounding four people in what appeared to be the first attack on the group’s Beirut stronghold in more than two years of sectarian tensions here over the civil war next door in Syria.

It was unclear who fired the rockets, which Lebanese authorities said came from the hills southeast of the city. Syrian rebel leaders denied involvement. But some rebel commanders threatened last week to hit the area in retaliation for Hezbollah’s growing role in the fierce battle for the strategic Syrian town of Qusayr. Just a day before the rocket attacks, Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, declared that his forces would fight to the end to support their allies in the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. [....]

Reflecting Lebanon’s deep divide over Syria, some mainly condemned Sunday’s attack, while others blamed Hezbollah’s plunge deeper into Syria. [....] “Lebanese citizens and leaders should be awakened by this warning before Lebanon explodes,” the country’s mufti, Sheik Mohammad Rashid Qabbani, a Sunni, told Lebanon’s LBC television. [....]
Nasrallah is unabashed. It's clear he believes that keeping the Assad regime in power, preventing the emergence of a Sunni-dominated Syria, and thus preserving the key supply route from Iran to Hizbullah add up to a life-and-death matter for Hizbullah. Here are selections from a longer report on his speech in Lebanon's Naharnet::
Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah stated Saturday that the resistance will win the battle against the “United States, Israel and the Takfiris just like it emerged victorious in previous wars,” assuring that he will not allow the “breaking of its backbone.” [....]

Nasrallah remarked: “The Takfiris are the most prevailing group in the Syrian opposition.” [....]

[JW: Technically, "takfiris" are Muslims who accuse others of not being real Muslims. Nasrallah is using that term here to refer to radical Sunni jihadists, such as al-Qaeda, who are anti-Shiite as well as anti-American, anti-western, anti-secular, anti-modern, anti-Israel, and anti-semitic. At the height of the fighting in Iraq during the past decade, for example, Sunni jihadists murdered tens of thousands of Iraqi Shiite civilians as part of an unsuccessful effort by the so-called "insurgency" to restore the dominance of the Sunni Arab minority over Iraq.]

Nasrallah considered that what is happening in the neighboring country is very crucial for Lebanon, explaining that through the stand his party is taking, it is defending Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. [....]

“The events in the last couple of years have proved that there is an axis led by the United States while the rest are working under its orders. Everyone knows this axis is supported by Israel while al-Qaida and other Takfiri organizations from around the world were paid to take part in it,” he detailed.

[JW: That's a ludicrous idea, of course. But whether Nasrallah is being simply dishonest when he makes this claim, or genuinely delusional, is an open question.]

Hizbullah denied its involvement in Syria for some time, quietly burying fighters killed in the fighting there.

But the movement stopped hiding its dead when its leader Sayyed Nasrallah on April 30 paid homage to fighters killed across the border.

"Syria has true friends in the region who will not allow Syria to fall into the hands of the United States, Israel and Takfiri groups," he said in a televised address. [....]
In short, according to Nasrallah, over the decades:
"We have lost thousands of martyrs and we consider that through our stand we are defending Lebanon, Palestine and Syria."
=>  Hussein Ibish's tart retort on Facebook: "Nasrallah lies".

Precisely. Nasrallah's claim turns reality upside down. And the fact that it sounds even half-plausible to many Lebanese only shows how easy it can sometimes be for societies in distress (and I don't just mean Lebanese!) to get suckered by flagrantly dishonest propaganda. The unaccountable state-within-a-state that Hizbullah has been able to build up and maintain, with a militia more powerful than the Lebanese Army, actually poses great dangers for Lebanon. Among other things, it means that Hizbullah can, on its own initiative, drag the whole country into wars that most Lebanese don't really want to fight. Hizbullah did that in 2006, when it dragged Lebanon into a destructive and totally unnecessary war with Israel. (I suspect some people may have forgotten who started that war.  It wasn't the Israelis.)  And Hizbullah is now doing its bit to embroil Lebanon in the Syrian civil war.  Stay tuned ...

 —Jeff Weintraub