Will Hezbollah desert Assad before the end?

External pressure is building on President Bashar al-Assad. Along with the EU and US, key regional actors including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have taken steps to distance themselves from the faltering Syrian regime. Further, as Meir Javedanfar argues on this site, the Iranian clerical leadership will only support Assad to the degree that this support serves their ongoing Islamic revolution.

These states are calibrating their policies towards Syria with an eye on Assad’s potential fall from power and the consequences likely to follow. Hezbollah’s approach under leader Hassan Nasrallah is no different. As David Hirst notes, Nasrallah has made Hezbollah “the most influential political player in Lebanon and probably the most proficient guerrilla organisation in the world”. Nasrallah does not risk jeopardising these successes lightly.

Clearly, because of the major forms of support that Assad provides, Hezbollah has a vested interest in his political survival. This Syrian support includes the provision of material supplies and a relatively safe haven for Hezbollah leaders. Syria also acts as a reliable ally through which supplies of money and weapons can transit from Iran to Lebanon. And, as Randa Slim explains, Assad’s regime provides a legitimating and supportive Arab state to balance Iran. This complements Hezbollah’s intended appearance as a cross-sectarian liberation force, a force struggling not just for Shia Islam but for the subjugated “oppressed” in general.

However, as important as Assad’s support is to Hezbollah, the survival of his regime does not take precedence over Hezbollah’s objectives: the defeat of Israel, the marginalisation of American influence and the creation of a regional arc of Shia theocracies.

Accordingly, Hezbollah’s support for Assad is predicated on its perception of his political survival as both realistically possible and compatible with Hezbollah’s objectives. Hezbollah thus must consider the impact of its stance regarding Assad in the context of political environments in Syria, Lebanon and beyond.

Hezbollah knows that if Assad’s regime collapses, Syria will face a power struggle between factions of Alawites and Sunnis in which the outcome would be far from certain. As one example of potential situations that Hezbollah fears, the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, long abused by the Assad dynasty in such acts as the massacre by Hafez-al Assad at Hama in 1982, would be highly reluctant to accept the continued Iranian patronage and guidance that characterises the current Assad-Iran relationship.

If Nasrallah believes it necessary, he will quietly move to put Hezbollah’s support behind a successor to Assad. This individual will be the person that Hezbollah believes can best provide relative continuity of the Assad-Hezbollah relationship and marginalise the risk of a Syrian civil war.

Hezbollah must also consider Lebanese political realities. In Lebanon, Hezbollah’s current power has been won by blending occasional acts of coercive force with a remarkable cross-sectarian alliance supported by Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement and once-fierce Shia rivals, Amal.

Through this strategy Nasrallah has successfully developed Hezbollah as a flexible and tenacious political force – an organisation whose leadership power in the coalition vis-a-vis both domestic and foreign policy is supplemented by Amal’s corrupt and increasingly ridiculed leadership and Aoun’s domestic focus.

At the centre of Hezbollah’s domestic power, though, is the popular perception of the organisation as the victor of the 2006 war with Israel. The translated political import of this belief has been dramatic. As the Palestinian commentator Tamim al-Barghouti explains, the war fuelled the notion of Nasrallah (and by association Hezbollah) as a “de facto caliph, a spiritual and political leader of Arabs and Muslims across national borders … [By] the ideology of resistance he symbolises, [Nasrallah] represents an all-powerful example to Arabs and Muslims who have been longing to regain some of the dignity they lost at the hands of their leaders.”

Through the war, Hezbollah has successfully cultivated the priceless self-image of a cross-sectarian defender, not just of poor Lebanese Shia (long loyal to the organisation for its generous welfare provision), but of Lebanese and regional citizens in general.

Nonetheless, Hezbollah is well aware that its base of domestic support must constantly be reinforced. Syrian gunboats shelling Palestinian refugee camps and images of Syrian troops shooting unarmed protesters obviously do not gel with Hezbollah’s carefully constructed organisational narrative – a notion centred on the organisation’s members as the heirs of the battle of Karbala, struggling against the odds for emancipation, empowerment and Islamic justice for all.

At their core, these realities mean that Hezbollah will not risk continued support for Assad if the price of that support is a substantial undercutting of the narrative upon which the organisation’s power resides.

While the brutality of the Iranian regime against its internal dissenters is supported by Hezbollah under the excuse of revolutionary necessity against “secular infiltration”, Assad’s situation is different. While Assad provides highly valuable support towards the pursuit of Hezbollah’s objectives, the survival of his regime is not in itself an imperative Hezbollah objective.

If Assad’s actions begin to affect Hezbollah in a powerful way, the organisation will abandon its useful but not existentially contingent ally. For Hezbollah, while allies and supply lines can be replaced, the organisation’s continued accumulation and preservation of power is crucial.

Guardian

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_B2K4S23OFZLXG7ETRIUO4RSLOM Joey

    waw what a report full of it they making hizballah bigger then syria and they are few koukou thieves once the syrian regime goes they will follow faster then the litani waters lates wait and see what goes rounds comes rounds they have there good days they look strong and full of it now it look like pay day coming round lets see how the will deal with it they can not stay undergrounds for ever

    • 7akibalash

      lets hope whoever takes over the helm in Syria isnt into taking Lebanon over like his two predessessors, we are in desperate need of a break from the syrians and their plots of taking over Lebanon whether in the open or by using proxies like hizbilkhara, SSNP etc… when the funds and arms run out for the SSNP and hizbilkhara what will they do? manufacture their own tanks and rockets? and with what money? Syria also needs a leadership that will build and improve the lives of the syrians, this is easy to do, all they have to do is open their doors to the world and be a legitimate peace loving country, the middleast is a tourism gold mine, which is better? to squabble over a bigger portion of the pie (meanwhile the pie goes rotten, and no one wants to eat it anymore)? or to accept your portion and even offer it to others? syria has wanted to take over lebanon(a tourism heaven) for a long time now but meanwhile syria (another tourism heaven) remains closed for tourism(relatively speaking/they dont have an open door policy)… stupid assads always wanted what wasnt theirs but never apreciated what was. syrians deserve better than holes in the ground to crap in.

      • 5thDrawer

        And after Assad, they better make sure the Taliban don’t come over … they like to blow up all the tourist sites.

        • 7akibalash

          you aint kiddin!!!

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_B2K4S23OFZLXG7ETRIUO4RSLOM Joey

          don;t you worry my friends there is worth then taliban are taking refuge in syria just waiting there time to become actives

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_B2K4S23OFZLXG7ETRIUO4RSLOM Joey

        whatever happen in syria its in syria i blame us the lebanese we did not take a good care about lebanon we let such scams rule our country and divide us so they could stay forever in power they are talking about egpyt and libya the where in powers for donkey they need to take a closer look in here we have an army of papers bunch of looser with fat big wage and do heck all syria and the syrianne always want to take over lebanon and we simply did open the door for them

    • 7akibalash

      lets hope whoever takes over the helm in Syria isnt into taking Lebanon over like his two predessessors, we are in desperate need of a break from the syrians and their plots of taking over Lebanon whether in the open or by using proxies like hizbilkhara, SSNP etc… when the funds and arms run out for the SSNP and hizbilkhara what will they do? manufacture their own tanks and rockets? and with what money? Syria also needs a leadership that will build and improve the lives of the syrians, this is easy to do, all they have to do is open their doors to the world and be a legitimate peace loving country, the middleast is a tourism gold mine, which is better? to squabble over a bigger portion of the pie (meanwhile the pie goes rotten, and no one wants to eat it anymore)? or to accept your portion and even offer it to others? syria has wanted to take over lebanon(a tourism heaven) for a long time now but meanwhile syria (another tourism heaven) remains closed for tourism(relatively speaking/they dont have an open door policy)… stupid assads always wanted what wasnt theirs but never apreciated what was. syrians deserve better than holes in the ground to crap in.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_B2K4S23OFZLXG7ETRIUO4RSLOM Joey

        whatever happen in syria its in syria i blame us the lebanese we did not take a good care about lebanon we let such scams rule our country and divide us so they could stay forever in power they are talking about egpyt and libya the where in powers for donkey they need to take a closer look in here we have an army of papers bunch of looser with fat big wage and do heck all syria and the syrianne always want to take over lebanon and we simply did open the door for them

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_B2K4S23OFZLXG7ETRIUO4RSLOM Joey

    waw what a report full of it they making hizballah bigger then syria and they are few koukou thieves once the syrian regime goes they will follow faster then the litani waters lates wait and see what goes rounds comes rounds they have there good days they look strong and full of it now it look like pay day coming round lets see how the will deal with it they can not stay undergrounds for ever

    • Anonymous

      lets hope whoever takes over the helm in Syria isnt into taking Lebanon over like his two predessessors, we are in desperate need of a break from the syrians and their plots of taking over Lebanon whether in the open or by using proxies like hizbilkhara, SSNP etc… when the funds and arms run out for the SSNP and hizbilkhara what will they do? manufacture their own tanks and rockets? and with what money? Syria also needs a leadership that will build and improve the lives of the syrians, this is easy to do, all they have to do is open their doors to the world and be a legitimate peace loving country, the middleast is a tourism gold mine, which is better? to squabble over a bigger portion of the pie (meanwhile the pie goes rotten, and no one wants to eat it anymore)? or to accept your portion and even offer it to others? syria has wanted to take over lebanon(a tourism heaven) for a long time now but meanwhile syria (another tourism heaven) remains closed for tourism(relatively speaking/they dont have an open door policy)… stupid assads always wanted what wasnt theirs but never apreciated what was. syrians deserve better than holes in the ground to crap in.

      • Anonymous

        And after Assad, they better make sure the Taliban don’t come over … they like to blow up all the tourist sites.

        • Anonymous

          you aint kiddin!!!

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_B2K4S23OFZLXG7ETRIUO4RSLOM Joey

          don;t you worry my friends there is worth then taliban are taking refuge in syria just waiting there time to become actives

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_B2K4S23OFZLXG7ETRIUO4RSLOM Joey

        whatever happen in syria its in syria i blame us the lebanese we did not take a good care about lebanon we let such scams rule our country and divide us so they could stay forever in power they are talking about egpyt and libya the where in powers for donkey they need to take a closer look in here we have an army of papers bunch of looser with fat big wage and do heck all syria and the syrianne always want to take over lebanon and we simply did open the door for them

  • guss043

    nice pic ,look like assad giving nasrallah a good bj !!!

  • guss043

    nice pic ,look like assad giving nasrallah a good bj !!!

  • Patience2

    Does a good son desert his father??

  • Anonymous

    Does a good son desert his father??

  • Adam Yonatan Ben Yoel

    Yes they will. They will then establish relations with his successor based on mutual hatred of Israel.

    • 7akibalash

      we dont all hate Israel adam, but to be safe you can assume we all do cause it seems no one can get into power without professing their hatred of Israel.

    • 7akibalash

      we dont all hate Israel adam, but to be safe you can assume we all do cause it seems no one can get into power without professing their hatred of Israel.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=565030528 Adam Yonatan Ben Yoel

    Yes they will. They will then establish relations with his successor based on mutual hatred of Israel.

    • Anonymous

      we dont all hate Israel adam, but to be safe you can assume we all do cause it seems no one can get into power without professing their hatred of Israel.

  • andre2011

    The Iranian regime does not hate Israel. The Iranian regime was geting full support from Israel during the Iranian -Iraqi war. The Iranian Regime is just putting plans how to invade the Arabian Gulf. The Iranian Regime Hates The Arabs and his dream to divide Muslims. Bachar and his Father protected Israel. The Father was a close friend of COHEN.

    • 7akibalash

      yes, it is all the jews’ fault….
      yet another brainwashed donkey, we never run out of them it seems!!!

  • Anonymous

    The Iranian regime does not hate Israel. The Iranian regime was geting full support from Israel during the Iranian -Iraqi war. The Iranian Regime is just putting plans how to invade the Arabian Gulf. The Iranian Regime Hates The Arabs and his dream to divide Muslims. Bachar and his Father protected Israel. The Father was a close friend of COHEN.

    • Anonymous

      yes, it is all the jews’ fault….
      yet another brainwashed donkey, we never run out of them it seems!!!

  • antar2011

    i don’t care if he will desert the butcher or not…i hope to see the end of both criminals.

  • Anonymous

    i don’t care if he will desert the butcher or not…i hope to see the end of both criminals.

  • antar2011

    i am though more interested to see if the syrian poeple will accept Nasrullah as a supporter of Bashaar’a replacement….i highly doubt that.

  • Anonymous

    i am though more interested to see if the syrian poeple will accept Nasrullah as a supporter of Bashaar’a replacement….i highly doubt that.

  • Beiruti

    Syrian Civil War = Lebanese Civil War II

  • Anonymous

    Syrian Civil War = Lebanese Civil War II

  • 5thDrawer

    “Hezbollah as a flexible and tenaciously brainwashed political force…”

  • 5thDrawer

    “Hezbollah as a flexible and tenaciously brainwashed political force…”

  • Anonymous

    “Hezbollah as a flexible and tenaciously brainwashed political force…”