Four Hezbollah members were recently killed in Syria “while carrying out their sacred Jihadist duty,” according to claims posted Saturday to a website aligned with the Iran-backed militant group.The declarations come amid reports that Hezbollah is taking the lead in organizing what is expected to be a massive campaign on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime to secure Qalamoun, a strategic corridor between Damascus and Lebanon.
“If we don’t defend the Syrian regime, it would fall within two hours,” said Ali, a 27-year-old Lebanese fighter who has served with Hezbollah for more than 10 years. He requested that only his first name be used. “Our leadership [in Lebanon] took the decision that it would not be acceptable for Syria to fall [to the Sunni-dominated rebels] because we would be encircled by enemies in Syria and Israel.”
The Syrian army, says Hezbollah field commander Abu Jihad, will assist with shelling and air strikes where appropriate, but there is no doubt who is in the lead. “Everything will be under our commandment. The Syrian army will operate according to our plans,” he says, going by his nom de guerre. If true, it represents a striking evolution that reveals the true disarray of Assad’s forces. A Syrian officer in the presidential guard, reached by phone and speaking on condition of anonymity, concurs. “Whenever we are fighting with Hezbollah, they take the command and we provide logistics.”
Hezbollah fighters have in recent months in allowing the regime to steadily erode nearly two years of rebel gains, and more specifically in enabling the regime wrest control of what had been the rebel stronghold of Qusayr. USA Today late last week published analysis outlining how Hezbollah is “expanding networks and deployment of fighters from Lebanon to the entire Middle East as part of its deepening alliance with Iran,” and how that expansion is being done for sectarian reasons and justified in sectarian terms. The BBC over the weekend quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif warning that sectarian strife between Sunnis and Shiites “probably the most serious threat to world security.”
Photo: Funeral of Hezbollah fighters killed in Syria. Thousands of Hezbollah fighters are assisting the Syrian regime against the mostly Sunni rebels who are trying to topple the Iranian backed regime.