The Limits of Hezbollah in Syria
By: Wafiq Qanso
Published Wednesday, May 29, 2013
As Hezbollah’s role in Syria becomes more pronounced, Al-Akhbar examines the limits of its military intervention, asking how far it will go to defend the Resistance.
It is very unlikely, for instance, that we will see YouTube clips of Hezbollah fighters in such far-off, remote areas of Syria such as Raqqa or Hasakah. Hezbollah is aware of its restrictions in a vast country like Syria, the control of which requires huge armies not available to the party.
Hezbollah’s combat operations in Syria are therefore proportionate to the immediate threat. According to informed sources, its overall strategy is to “safeguard the Resistance and protect its supply lines.”
The party thus sprung into action, fearing that takifiri groups may be on the verge of controlling the Syrian provinces bordering Lebanon, as well as cutting off Damascus’ airport highway, which would create a “buffer zone” surrounding its strongholds in the Bekaa valley, and sever its supply lines. With the knife being so close to the Resistance’s neck, Hezbollah believed it had no choice but to become directly involved in the conflict.
The imminent danger on the northeastern Lebanese border coincided with what appears to be a confluence of interests among Arab, regional, and international players, including Israel, in seeking to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Indeed, given Egypt’s current retreat from the affairs of the region, Saudi Arabia – and Qatar to a certain extent – aspires to dominate the Levant region.
Meanwhile, there is no question that the US and Europe desire to topple the Syrian regime, especially in light of its role as a strategic backer of the Resistance in Lebanon and an ally of Tehran.
Sources that spoke to Al-Akhbar stressed that Hezbollah is not fighting on behalf of the regime, but alongside it, and only for as long as the battle serves to protect the party’s strategic interests. The sources said, “Hezbollah would not have become involved, to begin with, even in Qusayr, if the regime did not have a great deal of strength and popular support.”
Arguably, it is this cohesion that has prevented serious defections in the army, which would otherwise have neutralized its role in the battle to overthrow the Syrian president.
It is important to note here that the US administration is in a bind over this very issue. On the one hand, the administration would prefer to separate the army from Assad. But on the other hand, the administration does not want to see a repeat of Iraq, with the catastrophic disbandment of the armed forces.
To be sure, none of the opposition’s factions have the ability to impose their control on the ground, while the clout of al-Nusra Front and other al-Qaeda-aligned groups grows alarmingly.
With the sharp divisions in the Syrian opposition and the near-impossible task of uniting its scattered factions, the US administration is increasingly convinced that there is no military solution to the crisis. However, this does not mean that an end to the crisis is in sight, or that the proposed Geneva 2 conference will succeed in stopping the conflict.
For one thing, the regional actors are still betting on regime change. However, the progress achieved by the Syrian military on the ground – especially in crucial areas like Daria and Qusayr, as well as preparations
to dislodge the rebels from Aleppo – may prove to be a turning point in the course of the two-year war.
One consequence may be for the various parties to reconsider their calculations and attitudes in a way that – having finally despaired of the military option – finally favors a political solution.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.