Hezbollah Without Syria
The obituaries of Hezbollah are being printed as we speak. It is being assumed that the “inevitable” fall of the Syrian regime will “inevitably” end the career of Hezbollah. Enemies of Hezbollah in Israel and its clients in the region are already popping the champagne bottles. But this is a premature obituary. You are not there yet – far from it.
There are many wrong assumptions and generalizations about Hezbollah. Hezbollah emerged and spread during years of enmity with the Syrian regime. In 1982, when Hezbollah was born, it basically (a main branch of it) split off from the Amal Movement.
Amal was a client of the Syrian regime, and Hezbollah and Islamic Amal – the name of the organization that split off from Amal under the leadership of Hussain Moussawi – was a client of a radical branch of the Iranian regime. The Syrian regime was very unfriendly toward Hezbollah and the party was only able to operate in West Beirut because the Syrian regime had left the city. It was only in 1987 that the Syrian regime re-entered the city and it inaugurated its entry with a massacre of Hezbollah fighters in the Fathallah barracks.
The enmity between the two sides never stopped although Nasrallah and Bashar al-Assad improved relations. But the Syrian regime always pressured Hezbollah to not win outright the parliamentary seats in elections and Hezbollah always grumbled about that.
But as you can see from the historical chronicle, Hezbollah could and did survive without Syrian regime support. If the Syrian regime falls – and it will for sure if only because such a prediction is made at least once a week for over a year – Hezbollah will survive and may grow to be stronger and even more dangerous.
Hezbollah will lose the support of an important regime that did its best to bolster its military organization, while still favoring – politically speaking – the Amal Movement. But it retains a vast organization that – at least as the enemies of Hezbollah say – spans the globe.
The collapse of the Syrian regime may remove restrictions and prohibitions from the activities and movement of Hezbollah and may increase its freedom of maneuverability. Without the Syrian regime, Hezbollah will no longer have to worry about embarrassing or displeasing the Syrian regime. To be sure, Hezbollah will continue to be loyal to the Iranian regime, but will enjoy – certainly under Nasrallah – a great deal of independent decision making powers.
Without the Syrian regime, Hezbollah may be compelled to focus on its military (resistance) branch, and to perhaps marginalize its political branch. But enemies of Hezbollah forget an important part of the puzzle: when the Syrian regime falls, it won’t be replaced overnight with a central power that merely keeps the state intact under a firm security control. Far from that, the fall will result in geographic fragmentation and political decentralization that won’t completely cut off Hezbollah’s links to parts of Syria.
Furthermore, when the regime falls, Hezbollah and its allies won’t watch the developments on TV. The Syrian conflict at that point will inevitably – that word again – result in important political reconfiguration in Lebanon, and not necessarily in favor of allies of US and Saudi Arabia. If the Syrian regime (or even Syria itself) falls, the order of US-Saudi Arabia in Lebanon will fall with it as well, but not swiftly. That will come through a long period of internal conflict – the same can be said about Syria.
Hezbollah has been preparing for the eventuality of the collapse of the Syrian regime. It now has a vast organization and its own resources and sources of funding. People forget that the Syrian regime has been known for being very stingy. It rarely if ever supplies its allies with money. Hezbollah will survive without the Syrian regime, but it will be a different organization. And that won’t be to the liking of Israel and its friends in the region.
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